Olympian Billy was a real hero of the local athletic community

The local athletic community has lost one of its heroes of yesteryear with the passing of Billy McKim aged 81, writes John Montgomery.
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Born in Corby, Billy was good enough as a centre-half in football to get a trial for Leicester City.

And although the Foxes wanted to sign him, he chose a running career with his finest achievement coming when, aged 22, he was chosen to represent Great Britain over 1500m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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Billy joined Kettering Town Harriers as a youngster and soon established himself as their leading runner, winning titles at county level and above.

Billy McKim pictured in his GB kit at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964Billy McKim pictured in his GB kit at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964
Billy McKim pictured in his GB kit at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964

On the country he won the county youths title in 1959 with his first senior title coming in 1961 which was the first of eight consecutive victories.

However, it was on the track that he really excelled and a structured programme of good mileage and punishing track sessions saw him improve to national level which resulted in him being chosen to represent England and Great Britain.

All his hard work paid off and in 1964 he became the 10th British and 50th runner worldwide to break four minutes for the mile.

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This was at the City Charity Mile at London’s Motspur Park where he recorded a winning time of 3.59.4 to become the first man to go sub-four minutes in an event organised by the British Milers Club.

That time put him in contention for the Tokyo Olympics later in the year and although he made the team he was a late addition and struggled once there with the required inoculations affecting him.

He finished fifth in his heat in 3.46.8 but gained so much from the whole experience.

The following year, Billy ran another sub-four minute mile when he again won at Motspur Park in 3.59.5.

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He continued to perform at a high level and got himself into contention for the Mexico Olympics in 1968 but a foot injury hampered his selection.

In 1966 he left his job as a tube inspector at Stewart and Lloyds and joined Staffordshire Police.

Then, in 1969, he helped Tipton Harriers to the National Cross Country team title.

Soon after, he moved back to Corby and then went to Thetford before taking up the post as manager of Lings Forum in Northampton, living in Moulton.

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Still running in 1978, he ran 2.26.24 in the New York marathon while also making a name for himself as a coach with among his successes being sub-four minute miler Steve Flint and Corby’s Martin Green.

When he retired he took up trekking with the Himalayas being one of his favourite destinations.

By his side all the way was his devoted wife, Brenda, who he married in 1963.

He is survived by Brenda and their three children Andrea, Graeme and Scott.