Athletics Weekly – the world’s only devoted weekly track and field magazine better known as AW – has revived DC Thomson’s famous fish and chips-eating runner Alf Tupper, “The Tough of the Track“, who featured in comics such as The Rover and The Victor.
While Mo Farah, Wilson Kipsang and Tsegaye Kebede sip their isotonic drinks and feast on pasta on Saturday night, a certain working-class hero from the north of England will be gulping down his fish ‘n chips and finishing off a spot of welding before getting an early-morning train down to the capital to take them on in the London Marathon,” the magazine enthuses in a news item about his return, promoting his revival in their 10th April cover dated edition.
“Yes, as can be seen in the latest issue of Athletics Weekly, Alf Tupper is back! Athletics’ answer to Superman has dug out his Greystone Harriers vest and dusted off his racing shoes and is ready to race 26.2 miles this weekend.”
Known affectionately as ‘the tough of the track’, Alf Tupper, first brought to life by artist Pete Sutherland, featured in boys’ comics such as The Rover and The Victor over a forty year period from the 1950s onwards, and last appearing regularly in 1992, a demise of the character widely reported in the national media. Typically, he would join a race half a lap late and overcome massive odds before enjoying a last-gasp victory against the snooty upper-class twits from a nearby university.
Forever the underdog, Alf seemingly survived off a diet of fish and chips and no comic strip tale was complete without his catchphrase: “I run ‘im!”
Indeed, such was his popularity, those words are enough to put a chill of excitement down the spine of anyone who grew up reading about him.
Athletics Weekly notes that despite being a fictional character he was adored by many real-life athletes. Ron Hill, for example, was inspired to start running after reading about Alf’s exploits and he went on to win European, Commonwealth and Boston marathon titles.
Brendan Foster, the European and Commonwealth champion, was also a fan and wrote the foreword for The Best of Alf Tupper collection published by Prion. He told AW last week that if Alf’s race goes well in London this weekend then he is welcome to tackle the Great North Run in September.
• To read the about Alf Tupper’s latest adventures, see the 10th April issue of Athletics Weekly in newsagents now