24 March 2018 - By David Jobling
Sadly we have just learned of the death of John Roberts, aged 85.
Probably one of Witham Running Club’s finest runners, John posted many impressive times and PB’s and still holds 18 club records to this day over many distances, 6 in the men’s 55-59 age group, 6 in 60-64 & 6 in 65-70 – just have a look at the Club Records section on our website, simply amazing.
His distinguished running career, almost impossible to cover all here, included many excellent race times and achievements notably representing Northern Ireland in international competition of which he was immensely proud and, in what he considered to be his finest year in 2002, competed at international age group World Championships in Rimini, Italy where he won gold, silver and bronze medals in a number of distances. He also had other fond memories of racing abroad, particularly the New York City Marathon and the Comrades Marathon in South Africa.
John started a running career in his 50’s after relocating to Heybridge and was one of the early members of Witham Running Club. John will be known to many of our recent and current members by the John Roberts Summer 5k series, which he was delighted to attend with his wife Ann, start for us and award prizes for (pictured). The series was named in recognition of his significant contribution and the introduction of regular internal 5k races and time trials into our training schedule. He was for many years our only qualified coach and was instrumental in introducing regular Thursday night efforts sessions and speed work, which have been a mainstay and bedrock club meet for over 30 years and the basis of improvement for many of our runners.
Of the longer standing members among our regular runners, Colin and myself I know have many individual memories of racing and training with John and I can only say on a personal basis he was a great influence on my running and training – his technical advice to drive arms on hills still rings loud in my ears to this day and he introduced a number of us to early sports nutrition developments and benefits. He also was a great advocate of cross country running and it’s complimentary benefit to a training schedule, particularly marathon training.
All our thoughts are with Ann and family at this time.
John Roberts, an inspiration and example to us all. DJ