John Tasker
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John Tasker - Aberdovey, Wales, 1955

My story goes back before I went to Outward Bound but it is very relevant.

At the age of three I was evacuated from central London when the Blitz started. My sister and I were located in a private hostel with around 15 other children. Although not ill treated we were far from well treated. We were given minimal, poor quality food that we had to eat or go without; we certainly were not given enough for growing children. Returning to London after the war I was immediately sent on convalescene as I was dangerously emanciated. The situation was better on my return but food was rationed and rationing continued into my teens. The result was that when I started work as an apprentice engineer I was very much under weight, short and under developed. The company was in the process of moving out of London to Crawley New Town and a year later I moved there. We London apprentices then met the locally recruited boys and were overawed by them. War had not touched them and neither had rationing for they were generally great, strapping lads who towered over us. I certainly felt intimidated in my emanciated state.

Soon after I moved there the company decided to send their apprentices on Outward Bound courses. I was chosen to go to the Aberdovey Sea School with another apprentice. It was just my luck to go with one of the biggest of the country lads. I found that most of the instructors there were ex paras, commandos or marines. I very much looked up to them; they were our war heros. Not long into the course we had to go for a long run. As the run developed I found that I was not far behind my fellow, strapping apprentice and I seemed to stay there. One of the instructors came up alongside me and asked how I was doing.
He then said 'Why are you not going past that guy in front'?
I replied 'I can't go any faster'.
He was houghtful for a moment and then said 'Does he work with you'?
'Yes' said I.
He then said 'Do not be intimidated just because he is bigger than you. You are a far better athlete than him. Now get going and get past him'.
I felt a surge of pride and elation from those words. I sped up and caught the lad. He saw me come alongside him and tried to run faster, but the words of my instructor hero echoed in my mind. I increased speed and left him far behind.

Those words of encouragement changed my life. I trained hard and with improved food I put on weight and height. No one intimidated me after that. When I was called up for National Service I wanted to be like my Outward Bound instructors. I became a para and whilst serving ran cross country for the army. After National Service I missed the life and became a member of the Territorial Army's elite Special Forces.

I have run many races since that day in with the Outward Bound, including 20 marathon; half under 3 hours. I still run mountain marathons in my middle seventies.

None of this would have been possible it it had not been for the Outward Bound Sea School at Aberdovey and those few timely words of encouragement.