ATHLETICS: IT’S 50 years, on Friday, since Thurrock Harriers’ Mel Batty set the athletics world alight by setting a new ten mile world record.

And this week the borough is celebrating Grays-born Batty’s achievement which brought recognition to the Thurrock sporting scene in 1964.

The Harriers’ David Staines, who was a friend of the runner up until Batty’s death in August 2011, said he believed it was important to celebrate the anniversary of the record which put Thurrock on the map.

Staines said: “The record was incredible.

"But many local people also remember Mel’s spectacular runs to and from work along the London Road, when he was able to put his kit on a bus in Grays and then wait for the bus’ arrival at Purfleet to pick it up. Not only did Mel outpace the motor traffic he also had to combat pollution from factories, cement works and petrol fumes.

“Mel was a key figure in Thurrock’s sporting history and his a breakthrough came in 1962 when he finished third in the international cross country championship and he also qualified for the Commonwealth Games in Perth.

“He would have gone to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, but illness prevented this. But then he bagged his world record at Hurlingham and became a household name.”

Batty’s other achievements included coaching Eamonn Martin who broke the British 10k record and won the London Marathon under Mel’s guidance. Mel was press liaison officer at major international meetings from 1980 to the late 90s.