The Tough of the Track © DC Thomson

Athletics Weekly revives Alf Tupper, “Tough of the Track” for London Marathon

The Tough of the Track © DC Thomson
The  new-look Tough of the Track in Athletics Weekly. Alf Tupper © DC Thomson

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.

Alf Tupper hits the tape. Art © DC Thomson
Alf Tupper hits the tape. Art © DC Thomson

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

• Alf Tupper has his now fan site here, and you can listen to the Tough of the Track theme song here, composed by Near Death Experience

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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