It’s a running anniversary of sorts for me tomorrow (more of later). For that reason it seems like a very opportune time to remember an old friend and fellow runner who is sadly missed by all that knew him. This was my humble tribute to him at the time. Two and a half years on, this gentleman still remains an inspiration to me…
Les Skinner ,who passed away on the 6th September 2005
A celebration of my friend Les.
It was with great sadness I heard the news of the passing of Les Skinner recently, an old friend of mine and a great friend to many at Redhill Road Runners and of the club itself. I felt it important to write a few words about him at this time and although this is a sad occasion, I shall attempt to relate some of the lighter times with Les – just as I believe he would have wanted.
Many of you will know that Les was a founding member of Redhill Road Runners, having begun running with a group of colleagues from his then place of work, Jessops, in the city of Nottingham. The rest is history as they say with the group evolving into a genuine and successful running club over the years and into the present day.
I was first ensnared by Les’s powers of persuasion in the early nineties. I would notice him when out running through our favourite woods at Bestwood, we’d shout a cheery hello when passing each other and on one particular day I saw him in the distance and actually managed to catch up with him, (no mean feat in those days!) We chatted a little, running alongside, and he duly invited me along to the Redhill Road Runners club. So numerous were the occasions when out running afterwards with Les I would observe him doing this with other runners. It was at this time I first realised his great pride in the club that he had been a founding member of.
One of the many reasons I enjoyed running and training with Les was simply because he was great company. Out there on the country lanes and through the fields and woods, a tough fifteen-mile run would seem to pass in the blink of an eye with him chatting away and laughing together with you. All that knew Les will recount his mischievous but good-natured humour. One of the attributes I always loved about him was his bright-eyed enthusiasm he brought to everything, it was impossible not to be motivated by him when he spoke, he was one of those rare people who make all things seem possible.
Les, back row, 2nd left, with his beloved Redhill Road Runners
Although Les lived away from his native Cornwall for many years his love for his home county never diminished. He remained very much a Cornishman and proud of it. One of the many yarns he would relate would be the story of him being born in a castle down there in that loveliest of counties – it was true too!
There were so many humourous times with Les, to recount them all would take up pages and pages, from the Nike ‘Shoe Mountain’ which was his pride and joy at home to the story of when he broke ranks, leading at the very vanguard of the London Marathon at the mass start. Perhaps he would be inclined to inform you about the latest of his many and varied ‘injuries’ which would thwart his latest plan for world veteran running domination! Les told me once he ran part of a marathon with Australian champion Steve Monaghetti and I believe him. Make no mistake though and casting jokes aside for a moment, Les was a special and gifted runner. Those who ran with him like I did knew that.
It seems almost churlish to mention facts and figures in the context of a light-hearted man like Les but I would just like to add that his best time for a marathon was no less than 2.49 – almost international class. Without being dramatic many of us will remember him as being a tough and determined character, well suited to the rigours and hardships of long-distance running. He also had a great, natural inbuilt talent for the sport too, of that there can be no doubt.
Latterly after Les contracted his illness I would still see him out on the roads and trails, not running but power walking (probably faster than many could run actually). This to me was the mark of Les Skinner – a true warrior athlete who NEVER gave in.
I’d like at this point to acknowledge all the considerable work and dedication that Les and his wife Sheila, who I am proud to also call a friend, have offered to the Redhill club over the years. I’m sure that you will all share this moment with me to offer our condolences to Sheila and his two daughters Tina and Kerry who Les leaves behind.
No more shall I see that familiar running style of Les with that distinctive left arm curling outwards as he raced along – was this man one of the most easily recognised runners from a distance you have ever seen?
What’s more I’m going to miss it.
Thanks for being a friend Les, you will be very sadly missed.
For anyone interested in joining the club that Les helped found, please go to:
Redhill Road Runners