On 11 May 1985, a tiny trail of smoke started rising from the front of the rear section of Valley Parade's G Block, in which 12 year old Martin Fletcher, sat, with his Dad, John, 34, Brother, Andrew, 11, Uncle, Peter, 32 & Grandad, Eddie 63 - Five minutes later, all but Martin would be dead, as the Bradford Fire Disaster that followed claimed 56 lives.
Remarkably Martin escaped a smoke filled corridor to reach the front of the stand, but by the time he reached its pitchside wall, his cap started burning, as his tar splattered jacket and scarf started smouldering - Only the quick brave actions of police officers and supporters, who threw him over the wall, before dragging him onto the pitch, where they knocked off his blazing cap, before twice rolling over his smouldering body, allowed him to escape with minor burns.
In tribute to his family, in memory of the 56 that died & in gratitude to his unknown rescuers, 25 years on Martin will return to Yorkshire from London to run the Bradford City half marathon for the Bradford Burns Unit on 17 October 2010, 9 days after what would have been his Dad's 60th birthday.
The Bradford Burns Unit, established to treat survivors in the immediate aftermath of the Bradford fire disaster has been responsible for pioneering research work relating to burns victims who total 10,000 annually, with a 70% fall in the death rates of children since Martin was a boy. To allow such work to continue £100,000 of fundraising efforts are taking place to ensure the Unit has sufficient funds to avoid closure and build on its quarter century of work. http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/lifesci/plastic/history.htm
Martin thanks you for taking time to visit his JustGiving page and would be most grateful if you could donate to the survival of the Burns Unit. As regards its work he is reminded of the words of John Bradford - There but for the grace of God go I...
As all of you who know Martin knows he remains an avid sports fan, regularly watching Arsenal, Nottingham Forest, Northampton Saints RFC & England - He has provided a series of photos to show him not only in the 80's, but in recent years, with his 2010 shots showing what a challenge the half marathon will currently be!
The Bradford Fire
(Warning - Although these contain upsetting scenes of a graphic nature, for those of you too young to remember, please find a link to images of 11 May 1985, with image 2 of link 1 showing the stand as Martin is rescued from it) -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIxN3ypB3rw (Full Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFg-aMe3HfI&feature=fvw (ITN 25th Anniversary - The Aftermath)
The Bradford Burns Unit/Skin Centre
Having been in denial for months, Saturday 16 October became a day of worry, as having driven round a course where at times it felt like we'd fall off the edge of Planet Earth as a 3 litre car audibly laboured to get up the hills that I'd have to run up the following day.
Later, the manager of Sportsshoes Unlimited one of the events main sponsors not so reassuringly told me "Aye a lot of customers think they've picked the hilliest course they could find!" & "It'll be like a marathon - They used to offer a marathon years ago, but too many people failed to finish" As I looked on the route on the Adidas Micoach app I remembered what my Dad had always told me on looking at its Western Loop, that other than a few villages there's nothing West of Bradford till Lancashire!
Thankfully race day was the next morning and having been suitably carb-loaded the night before from the lively and friendly Ital Restaurant, it was great to have a few words with someone who'd read my message on the Bradford City messageboard who then introduced me to Wayne Jacobs, who played for the club 10 years & was Stuart McCall's assistant manager, who was running. Stood outside the Alambrha Threater it seemed cold, with that little give away sign of mist coming from outward breath, but little did I realise what a blessing that would soon be.
The first 3 miles were very deceptive & as the pack raced away from me and I hung at the back at a steady pace thinking this is a race that was all about energy conservation before the beastly hills of Bradford lay in store.
By the time we'd reached the 3 mile mark of the New Tyke pub on Thornton Road, where the water station had run dry and the hills began the carnage that I'd expected would follow, did, as over the next mile or two we started passing people who'd failed to take the option of 3 free easy miles as I'd called them & at this stage were already walking as we kept up our earlier pace.
As our steady pace continued unabated we passed a succession of people we would not see again before reaching the peak at Hill Top, & to earn that name in Bradford is really going some(!), when it became apparent that as we slowly chalked the miles off that with the distance that I knew was in the legs even with our lack of hill training meant that as long as we attacked the following hills steadily but surely we'd comfortably make the finish.
At the end of the run my trusty Adidas Micoach would show we'd made an ascent of 404 meters over the course, which was of course followed by an equally big descent - To put that into its proper perspective that's 40-50% of way towards the summit of two of the three peaks (Snowdon & Scarfell Pike) with the small matter of a 13.2 mile run thrown in for good measure - No wonder it seemed there was such a scarcity of fun runners in a serious field, although this was more than made up for by such supportive well lined crowds through the villages where they must have thought we were all a little mad as many of the anmials seemed to as they looked at us from the fields too!
Needless to say the 30-40 minute handicap that I'd predicted on Friday came to pass & given the nature of this course I was happy to finish with a sub-3 hour time, coming in at 2 hours 49 minutes, which was going some considering I'd managed to balloon up to over 17 stone on 11 May this year & am still a good stone or so over my PB weight.
After our finish at Lister Park, which was not helped by a steward who prematurely declaring it was all downhill to the finish when we still had another large uphill from the Manningham Road gates to come, we walked 5-10 minutes down to Valley Parade via Thorncliffe Road, where we'd parked our car on 11 May 1985, before I then tied my medal onto one of the footballs on the memorial & left it with my Dad as his 60th birthday present telling him that he'd made the long distance runner he'd always told me I could be & it was great to prove him right on such occasion in his home city.
As I did so it was difficult to think in the 25 years that had passed, which would have left Dad still a few years from retirement, but that had left me a few years older than he was when he died, that the work done by the Bradford Burns Unit over the last 25 years had bought such advancements in burn & skin research that the permanent disfigurements that were taken for granted in the world before the pioneering work of Professor Sharpe have been so overcome in the years since.
For all of who were present at Valley Parade that day the mental scars from 11 May 1985 will never disappear, but it is nice to think that because of what we suffered that day that the physical scars that people face in similar situations have been lessened so much thanks to that day & it was this that had made it such an honour to raise money for this cause.
Whilst on the winners blog .... "I heard that there is no more than 200 metres of flat running (I sincerely don’t remember there being 100 metres of flat running) so I decided it probably wasn’t very smart to do... I figured, “I can handle it.” ... The view was breathtaking and the hills were heartbreaking...I’ve never run anything like it" http://mpdelmonte.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/the-view-was-breathtaking-and-the-hills-were-heartbreaking/