John Henry Linaker, b. Southport, England, 16 November 1939. Club: Pitreavie AAC. Commonwealth Games steeplechaser and winner of six Scottish titles.
The 3,000 metres steeplechase was very much a cinderella event in Scotland, gaining recognition and popularity when Chris Brasher won the gold medal in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The event was introduced to the Scottish National Championships in 1955, replacing the 2 miles steeplechase held since 1934, but was not regarded as a race for an athlete to specialise in. However, John Linaker, English-born but resident for most of his life in Scotland, decided to concentrate on the testing track event with its twenty-eight hurdles and seven water jumps.
Winning his first Scottish title in 1960 at the age of twenty-one years, Linaker recorded 9 minutes 03.2 seconds for a new championship record - which he reduced a further twice in his six championship wins between 1960 and 1966. This series of six Championship wins made him the most successful competitor in the history of the event until his series was equalled by Graeme Croll in the nineties. Linaker had topped the Scottish rankings for the four preceding years when he bettered 9 minutes for the event in 1965, recording 8:56.2 in Birmingham.
In the 1966 championship he faced a new challenge from versatile Lachie Stewart who set a Scottish native record of 8:59.0 in May with Linaker responding just two days later with a personal best of 8:50.2 at the White City Stadium. The championship race was a classic duel between the runners with both locked together well clear of their rivals throughout the race. Linaker, the more accomplished hurdler, would gain ground on the hurdles and water jump clearances with Stewart, the faster runner, regaining lost ground rapidly between the hurdles. The race tempo quickened on the final lap and Linaker’s technique over the final water jump enabled him to take the lead in the final straight to set a new All-Comers’ record of 8:48.8 with Stewart’s time of 8:49.4 gaining him national and native records.
Linaker was selected for Scotland’s team to compete in the 1966 Commonwealth Games at Kingston, Jamaica. There, in the sweltering heat, he finished 7th with an excellent run of 8:41.38 in the steeplechase and also ran in the mile where he finished 6th in his heat in 4:14.44. His excellent steeplechase runs gained him a Great Britain international vest in 1966. His run in the Games remained his lifetime best and, though bettering 9 minutes in 1967 with a time of 8:51.6, he met up with the next generation of Scottish steeplechasers, Bill Ewing and Gareth Bryan-Jones, and never won another national title.
A strong, determined distance runner, Linaker had great success on road and cross country as well as on the track. He won the national cross country title in 1963, defeating Scottish 3 miles title holder Alastair Wood, and was in the Motherwell winning team which won the prestigious Edinburgh to Glasgow relay race on three occasions during the sixties.
In 1965, Linaker married Scotland’s leading sprinter Esther Watt, winner of two Scottish 100 yards and three 220 yards sprint titles and the 100 yards record holder (11.2). He coached his daughter Isabel to Scottish under-15 age group records at 800 metres (2:09.6) and 1500 (4:23.45) and both he and his wife compete with enjoyment in veteran athletics competition, with Esther winning extensive age group sprint titles in both the European and World Veteran championships.
|One Mile||4:09.5||Pitreavie||8 June 1966|
|2 Miles||8:59.1||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||18 August 1962|
|3 Miles||13:40.6||Scotstoun, Glasgow||30 April 1966|
|6 Miles||28:17.2||Grangemouth||21 June 1968|
|Marathon||2:21:19||Chiswick||15 June 1968|
|3000m S'chase||8:41.38||Kingston, Jamaica||6 August 1966|
|3000 METRES STEEPLECHASE|
|Commonwealth Games||One Mile||Heat||4:14.44||Kingston (JAM)||1966|
|Commonwealth Games||3000mSC||7th||8:41.38||Kingston (JAM)||1966|
|GREAT BRITAIN & NORTHERN IRELAND INTERNATIONAL APPEARANCES|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:03.2||New Meadowbank||25 June 1960|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:26.6||New Meadowbank||24 June 1961|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:02.2||New Meadowbank||23 June 1962|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:24.6||Westerlands||22 June 1963|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:17.0||New Meadowbank||26 June 1965|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||8:48.8||New Meadowbank||25 June 1966|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||3:47.71||New Meadowbank||27 June 1959|
|Scottish Championships||6 Miles||29:11.4||Westerlands||21 June 1963|
|Scottish Championships||6 Miles||28:17.2||Grangemouth||21 June 1968|
|Scottish Championships||3000mSC||9:04.6||Grangemouth||24 June 1967|
|SCOTTISH ALL-COMERS' RECORDS|
|3000m Steeplechase||9:03.2||New Meadowbank||25 June 1960|
|3000m Steeplechase||9:02.2||New Meadowbank||23 June 1962|