So in a barren era for UK men’s endurance, we’d like to acknowledge Jim Alder, the Scot who holds the most durable world record, and who epitomises the spirit of the marathon.

His world track mark for two hours was set in 1964, and he’s embarrassed to learn he still holds it. “They don’t run the distance very often,” he said by way of justification.

Yet there’s more to it than that. Between 1964 and 1972, Alder set six Scottish records from 20,000 metres to two hours. They survive today. His 30,000m and two-hour marks are still British bests. He also holds the Scottish native record for the marathon, 2hr 12min 04sec. That won silver at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh where he was defending champion. Alder will be 70 next summer.

He makes erstwhile Victor comic legend Alf Tupper, aka the Tough of the Track, seem inadequate.

Three of Alder’s siblings died in childhood. His father, a dispatch rider, was killed in Berlin on the last day of the second world war. His mother succumbed to tuberculosis in 1947. They had lived in Glasgow’s Gorbals and the west end.

There were several attempts to foster Jim, his brother, and sister. “One lasted 12 days, another less than a week,” he recalls. “There were lots of orphans after the war.” Eventually, he was fostered to Morpeth, where he remains today.

Alder had already won Empire Games bronze over six miles in Kingston when he lined up for the marathon in 1966. He led on reaching the stadium, but ended up in the car park because marshals had gone inside to see the Duke of Edinburgh.

Scottish official Dunky Wright, who had won the inaugural Empire Games marathon in 1930, set him back on course, but when Alder reached the track, England’s Bill Adcocks was nearly 50 metres in front with 300 metres left. Alder caught him some 30 metres from the line. “I shouted ‘Geronimo’ as I passed him,” he recalls.

He revealed that he was asked to run for England in Jamaica. “When I qualified at the Poly Marathon, Arthur Gold, the England selector, told me I’d a place in England’s team. They obviously thought I’d take it, because they sent only two marathon men.”

In an era long predating the lottery, Alder worked as a bricklayer. In 1970, after a 10-hour shift, he took an overnight sleeper to London and broke the world 30-kilo­metre record the next day.

Because timekeepers did not tell him, he missed the 20k world record by 12 seconds, and the 15-mile mark by two. “I caught the train home to Morpeth, and celebrated with a few beers.”

Life, too, has been a battle against adversity. His sports shop business went bust in 1996, costing him the home he built with his own hands. He went back to brick-laying. “I have my own building company now. I’m 69, and still working.”

That 45-year-old world two-hour best was on an ash track at Walton-on-Thames, wearing a pair of Dunlop Red Flash shoes. Injury had kept him out of the Olympic marathon trial.

“Though I was seventh in the world, I was non-travelling reserve, so on the day Abebe Bikila won Olympic gold in Tokyo,
I covered 37.994km in
two hours.

“It’s the closest I could get to a marathon on the day. I was inside world- record pace for 23¾ miles [just over nine laps short of a marathon]. Bikila won in 2:12.12.

“I can’t say I’d have won gold, but I’d have been in contention. I had the right fitness at the right time, but in the wrong place . . . I remember I cried in the showers afterwards.”

He says today’s UK marathon men don’t train hard enough: “They pick races for the money. You’re not remembered for winning money, but for winning championships.”

He still runs most days. “I can manage only about a mile, in 10 or 11 minutes. I’m barely a jogger now. It’s pathetic. Since 60, my decline has accelerated. People my own age can now beat me easily. I’ve too many miles on the clock.

“I never really made money from running, though I’d earn fortunes now. I’m not resentful – envious perhaps, but not jealous. That’s a nasty, bitter word.”

And so, Jim Alder endures.