Category Archives: In Memoriam

Obituary notices and tributes.

Mike Hall (1930-2011)

Dave Shipman writes…

This tribute is based on comments from a number of people from both Elvet Striders and Durham Triathlon club, along with snippets from various articles about Mike’s amazing history as a runner and triathlete. These messages to Kim and her family have come in from people all over the country. They are from those who knew them well and over a long period of time, and from others who met them briefly during sporting events, when out training, or at related social gatherings. Regardless of how long you knew Mike he still made a big impression because of the kind of man he was.

Common themes from everyone include his overall enthusiasm, warmth and kindness, his modesty, despite his own incredible athletic success, and his friendship and supportive nature with all other club members. Mike showed a real interest in what others were achieving rather than focusing on his own efforts, and this was all backed with a dry, cheeky sense of humour.

Nice picture of Mike featured by 220 Triathlon for a World Championships Preview in 1999.

Once at the North-East Harrier League, in the days before the Striders had a club changing tent and sometimes struggled to turn out the required six male club members, we were all standing at the edge of a muddy field in pouring rain, getting our kit on, discussing the course and generally having a good moan. Mike said he had ‘just the equipment’ for the course conditions in his bag, he scrabbled around for a while then turned back to the group with a big grin, wearing his swimming cap as protection against the downpour. Sometimes we never knew if we had the numbers to make up a team but inevitably Mike would arrive at the start, enthusiastic and raring to go – Mike was always reliable like that (that’s if he was in the country and not away doing an international event or halfway across Europe in the caravan – he once towed it from an event in Portugal to one in the Czech republic, arriving just before the event, having driven for days, with no training along the way!!). Even in the later years when he felt he was off the pace he would still turn out to make sure we had a team. Kim says he loved cross country, a love which he passed on to his daughter Jan, who now runs cross-country and fell races.

Then at times when it came to the competitive ‘crunch’ Mike could display a determination, commitment and bravery which made some of his competitors and club members see him as ‘Mr Reliable’, an ever-present at events, ‘Mr Invincible’, ‘A hero’ and an ‘inspiration’ to many. He has even been referred to as ‘A genuine legend in his own lifetime’. Along with many north east athletes, Mike’s daughter Carol was inspired to take up triathlon after seeing the success of her mum and dad. Carol too went on to represent Great Britain, competing in the world triathlon championships in New Zealand in 1994.

Over the years many have admired Mike as a great athlete “for his age” but the truth is he was a superb athlete throughout his life. It didn’t matter whether it was an international or championship event or a local race or club handicap, from Blyth to Mexico, from Snods Edge to Lausanne, Mike loved competing and gave every event his all. Like most athletes and many folk here, he often played down or moaned about his current fitness, but there was usually some sort of plan involved, an eye to the next world finals perhaps, and when you got the chance of a quiet, longer conversation with him he might identify which of his rivals he thought he could beat if he just improved on … or when he moved up an age category … or when a new bike would save him a few seconds … or because it wasn’t a rough sea swim (which was Mike’s least favourite element). Modest and canny, yes, he was those things, but he was actually an extremely effective and successful Durham athlete for over 25 years.

In contrast, at times when he wasn’t competing, maybe recovering after a major championship or a hard training spell he would be equally happy jogging round at the back of a club handicap or monthly club social run, looking resplendent in brightly coloured or harlequin-patterned running tights. He would often volunteer to take the role of ‘sweeper’, staying at the back to make sure all the runners completed the run safely and didn’t get lost along the way. Newer members would not know that they were training with an international as he hardly ever boasted about his success, content to chat about all aspects of training and racing and listening as much as talking.

Examples of his success are many and I won’t go through the long list of his event and championship activities now, but they include running, triathlon and duathlon all over Britain and Europe and winning medals of all colours at several world championships. ( His records are held in files in his study and hopefully will be turned into a future website article at some stage). However I will pick out a couple of examples which typify his approach. At a South Coast triathlon one year the sea swim off Dover was particularly rough, but Mike battled on to get to the end, despite officials suggesting he might want to pack in. Kim actually thought he was going to drown on that day!!

At the European duathlon championships in 2004 he was knocked off his bike by another rider and after an ambulance trip to the hospital the docs suggested that perhaps he was getting too old for this kind of activity, to which Kim replied that it was much better for them than sitting in an arm chair!! That response typifies their attitude and why together they have inspired so many and achieved so much.

Once at the Cleveland Tri relays a fellow team member dropped out injured after the bike ride, so Mike then volunteered to run twice and subsequently ran two 3-mile legs for the team, in identical and very respectable times.

Mike at Snods Edge in 2009.

Mike did the World Hill Running Championships in the Lake District in 2006. At that event Mike was frustrated because there was no age category for seventy-five plus so he had to compete against the youngsters in the sixty-five to seventy-five categories.

Even after a period of ill health he asked the consultant how soon he could run again and when given a firm “NO” he asked whether swimming or cycling was a better option then? At his birthday party last year Mike was still scheming to get out and run the Coniston 14, a tough course and one of his favourites, but only when someone pointed out it had been lengthened to over 16 miles because of flood damage did he conclude he’d give it a miss this year.

However people saw Mike and however they described him he has certainly done more than most to promote and develop triathlon in the North East region. He did his first triathlon in 1986 at Wansbeck, was a founder member of the Durham tri Club, starting with once a month meetings at a pub in Hett Village, and went on to be a North-East region official and events sanctioning officer and regional rep for the national Tri association. Significantly, because he was competing all over the world he brought that experience back into the emerging races in the North East, so helped them to develop and improve.

At many events Kim and Mike’s caravan was a familiar sight, sometimes as the race HQ, sometimes just as a place to rest and change kit, but always as a place where they both displayed their warmth and hospitality, making a brew and feeding tired, cold competitors. Over the years that warmth and friendship has also included numerous parties at their home, post-run feeds, and general chat. From that perspective its not possible to comment about Mike without mentioning Kim, as they were nearly always together, socially and in competition at events and in conversation, club members would often report the fact that ‘Kim and Mike were there’, ‘Mike and Kim are back from their travels’ ‘saw Mike and Kim in Durham’ etc. They really were a team and supported and encouraged each other to compete as often as they could. Certainly, their post-retirement lifestyle together (some would see it as the life of fulltime athletes) has been the envy of many of us and we all hope we get to compete for as long as they have.

So, one last comment to end on, I am not sure that Mike was fully aware of how much we all thought of him as a fellow athlete and as a friend. We sometimes get too tied up in things to let people know don’t we? But, if he is sitting somewhere on his turbo trainer looking down on us then I hope he realises what impact he has had on our lives. Just as Kim and the family are so proud of him, we are all very proud of the fact that Mike was a member of our two clubs. He will be greatly missed by club members and fellow competitors past and present – far too many to mention. Mike has given us all so much, his contribution to both clubs is greatly valued and will continue to inspire all who met him for a long time to come.

David

You may also like to read a nice article on Mike here, reproduced with kind permission of 220 Triathlon.

 

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Paul Gibson (1953-2019)

Pam Kirkup writes…

Harrier League, circa 2008 – With top L-R: Shaun, Nigel, Geoff, Dave and Will

Yesterday some of our members attended the funeral of Paul Gibson who died after a short illness on April 2nd, aged 66. Paul had been a founder member of Durham City Harriers in 1971; he subsequently joined Elvet Striders, a member for several years, but in recent times he was doing more cycling and so joined the tri-club, Paul was a committed and accomplished athlete with a passion for XC. I first met him in 1982 when I joined DCH with Jan Young. Paul was one of small group of elite runners, arguably one of the best in the club. That group made new runners like us feel welcome although we were nowhere near their quality. Paul has always been a very warm and sociable guy. He joined us in various pubs after training or races for some food and a few drinks, and was very entertaining company. He had a great sense of humour and a very engaging personality. He will be sorely missed by his friends from all his clubs and the ‘affable cyclists’ ( they know who they are!). I for one am honoured to have known him.

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Allan Seheult (1942 – 2019)

This eulogy was read out by our club Chairman, David Shipman.

A tribute to Allan Seheult

Runner, triathlete, cyclist and coach

Carole has asked me to talk about some aspects of Allan’s sporting life: as a runner, cyclist, triathlete and coach; but it goes without saying that I am also describing a much-loved friend. Put simply, Carole, we loved him to bits and we will miss him terribly. 

Allan enriched our sporting lives with his humour, friendship and enthusiasm. In his modest and unassuming way, he would share his expertise, give advice and support, encouragement and direction.  Whether you were a novice beginner or serious competitor, it was always about you, not about him.

Later in the day you might hear about his life, what Carole and the family were doing or what events and targets he was focussing on. That’s a very special quality in an environment where most of us, let’s be honest, are almost entirely focused on ourselves.

Allan came to running from a background of football, a keen and skilful goalkeeper. He always said he was more of a sprinter by physique, and avoided anything over 10k if he could; he saw himself as determined rather than talented.   Don’t be fooled by his modesty; he ran for the Striders in relays, cross-country and road races all over the UK.

In his 50s he applied his systematic approach to marathon running, grinding out 10 milers and half marathons, successfully completing 3 London Marathons in total.

Throughout his time running, behind the scenes, he gave a great deal to the development and success of the Striders; he was an active club member for 35 years and there are a number of Club Captains and Chairs here today who are very grateful for his support.

As a cyclist Allan showed that same determination and enthusiasm, enjoying regular cycling with groups of friends here and abroad. He completed the Coast to Coast, made several trips to France to watch the Tour, did hundreds of training rides and participated in a number of organised sportive and charity rides.

Certain features always stood out: using the latest technology and upgrades to improve his performance; wearing very smart cycling kit; seeking out good places for coffee and cake; taking ages to get ready for a ride!

In the last couple of years Allan’s enthusiasm for cycling, which had waned after a period of ill-health, was re-ignited when he purchased his Orbea carbon e-bike. It gave him a new lease of life, allowing him to resume riding with the Sunday morning tri-group.  With the additional electric power, Allan took great pleasure in beating everyone to the top of the hill, where he would take photos and jokingly insult the stragglers.

Aged 60, Allan shifted his focus to triathlon, applying the same thorough approach to conquering the 3 disciplines. Allan would say he never quite got there with his swimming, holding a diagonal position in the water at times. He said he had heavy legs from years of sport!

Building on regular training with the TRI club in Durham, he attended training camps in Sardinia and Majorca for several years. He competed in 3 World Championships: Lausanne, Hamburg and Vancouver, where he won a bronze medal.

As a coach Allan combined his sporting experience with his statistician’s mind for detail and precision. He developed equations and spreadsheets for absolutely every distance or event. A conversation with Allan would go something like this: ‘Take your PB for 10k, multiply it by your V2 max, divide that by a factor of 3.25 then run two laps of Maiden Castle at 70 seconds per lap.  If you can do that and the weather forecast is ok, you can run a PB at London next year!’ Don’t ask me how he worked it all out!  Seriously, he drew on a lifetime of training and competition experience, backed up with extensive reading and research.

But he wasn’t some sort of robot coach, because his approach also featured a healthy dose of aspiration and admiration for his sporting heroes.  Mohammed Ali and Pele have already been mentioned.  I could add in Coe, Ovett, Usain Bolt, George Best, Geraint Thomas and many others.  His starting point might have been the science, but he was also a great dreamer, moved and motivated by the drama of sporting achievement.

He knew that success depended on a combination of head and heart, physical effort and commitment.

Many individuals here today have benefited greatly from Allan’s personable approach. He believed that everyone could improve, achieve and succeed.

In the last few years, working closely with Ian McKenzie, Allan refined and shared his approach, running duathlon events at High Shincliffe and turbo sessions at Coxhoe Sports Centre and, most significantly, weekly track sessions at Maiden Castle. Typical Allan, inclusive, supportive he would turn out in all weathers at all times of day and night. He also supported and encouraged other coaches and was a great sounding board for new coaches, helping them to overcome barriers to success.

I would like to give you a flavour of Allan’s last week.

– A Sunday bike ride with the tri-club, coffee and cake at Betty Bees.

 -Track sessions on Monday and Wednesday, with Christmas Food and drink trackside afterwards.

– A Turbo session followed by Costa Coffee on Thursday

– Individual training on Friday

-Triathlon coaching, followed by a debrief in Betty Bees on Saturday.

I think we can tell from that, a typical week, that Allan was doing what he loved doing right to the end.

Finally, for the athletes in the room, some advice from Allan himself, comments which have served us all well over the years or which may be useful for your next event. You may have heard Allan shouting these out on the side of the track or when watching you in an event:

‘Don’t go off too fast!’- ‘Stay comfortable!’- Stay relaxed!’- ‘Don’t forget to drink!’ – ‘Save your effort for the final phase!’ – Remember the iron bar!’- Remember the crisps!

And lastly, ‘FINISH STRONG!’

David Shipman

President of Elvet Striders   20/1/2020

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Keith Wesson Remembered

Dave Shipman writes…

Following on from the announcement of Keith’s sad and far too early death, it occurred to me that many club members, especially newer ones, will not know Keith or be aware of his contribution to the Striders over many years. Due to Covid restrictions we won’t be able to give him the send off he deserves and because of his shyness and modesty it’s also a chance to share a bit more of Striders history too.

Keith took to running at school in Middlesbrough, combined with a serious and successful road cycling career, including with Cleveland Wheelers on Teesside. 

When he came to Durham he ran with Durham City Harriers and later Chester le Street AC, riding the wave of the running boom in the early 1980s, including the emerging popularity of London Marathon and Great North Run .By the time he joined the Striders quite frankly he had done it all, including a sub 2.30 marathon, 6 and 12 stage relays, National Cross Country several times and all of the established track, road, fell and cross country races.

With that pedigree Keith, along with the likes of Dave Jenkins (Sunderland) Mickey Page (Houghton le Spring AC), John Marshall and  Barrie Evans (Durham Harriers) was part of a small experienced group who trained with the Striders in the early days and passed on their experience of the running world ,helping to establish the Striders as a new club in the North East, while still competing seriously for other NE clubs.

Keith’s racing experience, advice on targeted training, his careful approach to injury management and peaking for specific races proved invaluable to all of us as we naively explored the running world by doing as many races as possible. His long Sunday runs and hill sessions around his home area of Esh and Cornsay were legendary.

Eventually Keith realised that he could run seriously and also have more fun so left Chester le Street to become a regular with the Striders, turning out for over 20 years at races, relays, Harrier League and the gamut of club events. He was also one of the many club members who gravitated to the Saturday morning runs on Waldridge Fell, where he became a key part of the social off road running there.

Together with his wife Gill he was also a regular at most social functions, parties, fancy dress runs and Christmas handicaps. There was a great deal of truth in the story that most of his costumes were directly from his current wardrobe!!

As a club member Keith was always reliable and committed, a creature of habit who did the races he knew and loved, dragging Gill and his family around the country, often disguised as holiday destinations or weekends away. For 20 years or so when the Calderdale Relay came round he would say ” Put me down for leg 6″ and he would guide his relay partner round, always saving energy for a fast last mile to overtake competing pairs and ensure we weren’t last!!

As an individual Keith often presented as a complaining, Victor Meldrew-like personality, known for a time as Grumpy of Esh, a title bestowed on him by Mudman and Mudwoman, Geoff and Susan Davies. For those who got to know him over the years he was a funny, kind, devoted family man who had a huge amount of detailed knowledge about running, athletics and cycling. If you ever did a long run with him you might also benefit from his more specialist subjects, including cars, aeroplanes, motorbikes (anything with wheels and/or an engine), wartime airfields of Lincolnshire, Polish steam engines, the journalistic skills of Suzannah Reid, or the well-hidden musical talents of the Pussycat Dolls.

Post-running on Wednesday nights, refuelled by a pint and his staple chips and gravy, apart from talking about the races coming up in the near future his regular lectures on how not to parent three teenage girls or how to prevent them from ever getting a boyfriend were legendary.

Keith made a significant contribution to the club, especially in the early days, then wearing the Striders vest in races for many years. He will be sadly missed by many friends in the club and our thoughts are with Gill and family after his sudden and unexpected death.

David Shipman, President – Elvet Striders,  August 2020

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Alan Purvis (1938-2017)

Alan Purvis: 17th February 1938 to 30th June 2017

David Shipman writes …

This is a tribute to Alan,on behalf of the Elvet Striders running club, which was read out at his funeral on Friday 7th July. It was compiled from comments, conversations, messages and memories from Striders who have run with him and enjoyed his company and friendship for over 30 years. Alan was held in high regard by the club and as a mark of that respect a minute’s silence was held in his honour at the club’s annual trail race on Wednesday 5th July. The race was attended by runners from clubs all over the North-East.

Alan joined the club in the 1980s, along with friends and fellow triathletes, Mike and Kim Hall and Eric Short, coming to running from a background of cycling and rugby. From then on he was a constant presence in club activities, a determined and reliable team member who would have a good go at any race suggested. He also really enjoyed the social aspects of the club, with him and his wife Beryl attending many parties and celebrations. At such times he demonstrated what a smartly dressed, sharp and dapper man he could be when not wearing his Striders kit.

Club members have spoken about various aspects of his personality, including his modesty, his kindness and his humour. His enthusiasm for others deserves a special mention as Alan would often enquire about what other runners had been doing, responding with phrases like “Get Away” “Never in the World” or “Did you really.” Only later would you find out that Alan had done something equally of note, but he hadn’t mentioned it as he was much more interested in others than talking about himself.

When you did get him talking about his own activities you discovered and enjoyed the company of an intelligent, thoughtful and well-informed man. He talked knowledgeably about running, training and racing, but also about a wide range of other activities in his life, including family, theatre trips and fine food. Alan was passionate about gardening, growing vegetables and the environment long before such things were trendy and made into TV programmes!!

Alan could be quiet and modest but he wasn’t afraid to express himself. For example he wrote to the press complaining when police support for a local race was withdrawn. He complained to the council when the new Milburngate Bridge failed to safely accommodate cyclists. He always had a view on how things should be and would let the authorities know if they were getting it wrong.

From a running perspective Alan had a determined and structured approach to getting the best results he could, combining weight training and circuits with his regular swimming and running routines. When training hard or racing Alan had a distinctive, almost steam-engine like breathing pattern – Phew, Phew, Phew out breaths – and when you heard that coming up behind you knew he would be hard to shake off. Many club members recall seeing him out training, getting in a few more miles or extra hills before the next big race. Always he had his stop-watch in hand, keeping a close check on how he was going.

In various ways Alan shared that structured approach with the club, encouraging others to push themselves by organising the Kepier Hill Climb or the cross-country handicap at Pittington. Both challenges became annual events in the club calendar, with the cross country having the added bonus of an invite back to Alan and Beryl’s for food and a prize-giving. There we got the chance to see Alan’s pond and wetland area, set in their beautiful garden, created from scratch over several years.

Once in the Rose Tree pub after a run Alan shared how his determined and focused approach got the better of him. Having a slight injury, but not wanting to lose fitness, he decided to go out on his bike and ride as fast as he could. Pedalling hard, head down, he ran straight into the back of a parked car near West Rainton, went over the handlebars and was very lucky not to be seriously injured.

Over the years Alan did many different races, individual and team events, everything from track to marathon, but his love was off-road running. He was the first Strider to run in what is now the Harrier League, reported back in the pub the following Wednesday and – pre-internet and Facebook – wrote a report in the club magazine proposing a Striders team. From then on he was a regular member of the cross-country team and was awarded the Striders “Golden Shoe” award at the first cross country curry night. Alan was sometimes only one of a handful of stalwarts at those races, he was old school in shorts and vest whatever the weather. He continued to run cross-country for over 20 years, seeing club turn-out and performance improve significantly over that time.

As an example of his kindness and enthusiasm, in the days before Sat Nav and Google Maps, a new club member said they didn’t know where the course at South Shields was. Alan went home, photocopied his A-Z, added written directions and then posted it to the new runner to ensure he made it to the race on the Saturday.

After stopping competing Alan’s love of cross country continued and he funded a trophy, to be awarded to the Strider making the most effort and determined contribution over the Harrier League season. He first presented the Alan Purvis Quaich – a silver, two-handled whiskey drinking vessel – in 2015 and it is now presented annually, as a fitting memorial to a man who gave a great deal of passion and commitment to the Striders and to cross country running specifically.

Alan has also left us one other lasting contribution. Building on his ability with the pen, Alan established the Striders website and then contributed many articles and race reports, all well-worth a read.

Finally, it’s clear that Alan, supported by Beryl and his family, has made a significant impact on the Striders, as a competitor and as a friend and running companion. His commitment and enthusiasm over many years have helped shape the club as a whole, he will be greatly missed by us all.

David Shipman 6.7.17

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Geoff Simpson (1952-2006)

Dave Shipman writes …

What follows is a snapshot of memories taken from conversations held over the last week or so, since the very sad news of Geoff’s death spread around the club. Geoff is fondly remembered by many people in the Elvet Striders Running Club as he was a popular lively club member from the early 1990s until his business priorities took up most of his time. For those of you who don’t know it, the Striders is a running club containing people from all walks of life, with almost as much emphasis on eating, drinking and socialising, as there is on athletic effort and competition. Because of his personality Geoff fitted well into that social mix, as he was always very sociable, witty and knew a lot about many subjects especially music so was always good company on long runs and long journeys to races. Not only was he positive, lively and great to be around he was always very supportive and interested in the lives of others, encouraging and congratulating them in their running efforts and bringing new, hesitant or less confident runners to the club from amongst his colleagues.

Geoff has a fairly unique approach to running, in the sense that he was honest! Ask most runners how they are going and they reply with all the excuses in the book … they’ve been injured, … only trained sporadically, … out late last night. And so on. In Geoff’s case, when he said he had not run for two months he meant it, his weight and fitness did tend to yo yo a bit but fuelled by his famous mars bar training diet, he would turn out and race whenever he could. He was always an extremely determined runner, and when he had the time and motivation he was able to get fit very quickly and could perform well after only a few weeks of serious training.

For a while Geoff took responsibility for organising club transport and travel, with bus trips to all the major races, Brampton to Carlisle, Blaydon, Morpeth, as well as to the more exotic destinations like France for Kit and Blondiene’s wedding and to Lanzarote and Portugal for Strider’s Training camps!!! As the horizons broadened Geoff joked that he should set up his own travel business, the Strider’s Intergalactic Travel Company, though I don’t think we ever had a bus that went quite that far …

On such trips Geoff’s qualities and enthusiasm for life were apparent to all; with his love of music and dancing, often taking up as much energy as his running. In Lanzarote the regimen was an early morning run to avoid the heat and the many dogs, followed by a long breakfast. Then, ever the Adventurous Englishman Abroad and a Spanish Linguist to boot, dressed in his shorts and white hat, Geoff would head off to find the best restaurants, tapas bars and cafes. He and Jane hired a motorbike and toured around the island, with the rest of the group benefiting at night when Geoff would lead them to a great place to eat.

One year; the New Years Eve before the Morpeth to Newcastle race,- a daunting 14 miler, Geoff and Jane hosted a fantastic party with much drinking and dancing, and some special pre-race preparation ‘Geoff style’, – a late night marshmallow eating competition. The next day he completed the race in an astonishingly good time even though his running mate had agreed to carry a ten pound note in case a taxi was needed to get them to the finish.

Finally. Like many of us Geoff occasionally liked to over indulge but there was much more to him than that. He had a real energy and concern for people and he would never let running get in the way of all the other things that mattered to him and the other interests in life that he wanted to pursue. In his time as a club member he contributed significantly to the success and the whole ethos of the club as it has continued. He will be greatly missed by us all because of that vitality, fun and enthusiasm which it is not possible to do justice to in the few anecdotes I have shared with you today. As one club member said a few days ago ‘you always felt better for having spent time with him’.

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John Hampson (1942-2011)

Paul Smith writes…

John was indeed a character making him a most likeable running friend even though he wasn’t a County Hall employee he loved to regularly meet up with us runners at Aykley Heads awaiting for one of us to sign him in. He enjoyed taking part in many handicaps and indeed was a regular competitor at Northeast Harrier League XC and was a very fit fella indeed I’d be interested to know his pbs I’m sure he has told me many times before as he menacingly swooshed THAT flannel around in the showers! John was also a regular sight down at Maiden Castle trackside coaching the kids with Durham City Harriers!

Since his illness the changing rooms have not quite been the same, it has certainly missed his banter including, his holiday adventures, his race horse tips/bets (most of them are still running) his injuries (strangely always his glutes or his groin) of course his splits and everything you needed to know about lactic acid, his ancient tracksuits/tee shirts that were indeed older than some of us younger and of course that bloomin’ flannel!

No doubt The Hamp will be up there now explaining lactic acid up above at those pearly gates and will be arranging the Heaven 10k gripping onto his faithful stopwatch!

John Hutchinson adds…

Sad news about John Hampson. Some of the ‘older’ members will remember when he used to work at the Graham Sports Centre.

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