It is with huge regret that I have to announce the death of Keith Wesson, long term member of Elvet Striders, Cestria cyclist and regular Waldridge Warrior. Having undergone successful cancer surgery Keith was re-admitted into hospital where he died on Thursday. Our thoughts and condolences go to Gill and the family at this difficult time.
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 Teeside.
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