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Mourners in tracksuits for final farewell to running club founder

Around 100 mourners arrived donned in tracksuits to say goodbye to a local “leading light” in athletics.

Inspirational sportsman John Walker has sadly died aged 66
Inspirational sportsman John Walker has sadly died aged 66

Around 100 mourners arrived donned in tracksuits to say goodbye to a local “leading light” in athletics.

John Walker, 66, was founder of the popular Centurion Running Club and was a well-known figure in the north of the borough where he helped to significantly improve sports facilities. He also inspired the next generation of athletes through talks at schools.

More than 200 people attended his funeral at Woodland Cemetery, with half arriving in their best sports gear – as per John’s wishes.

Fellow Centurion member and friend Tom O’Reilly said: “That was John all over. He was always a man of high ideals.

“He didn’t take no for an answer. It didn’t matter if there was a brick wall in the way, he’d go over, under or smash right through it.

“When it came to organising one of his events, if he wanted to do something he would do it.

“And his ability to talk the hind legs off a donkey stood him in good stead in trying to persuade others that they needed to help him.”

A CTC Kingshurst Academy spokesman added: “He was an inspirational figure for staff and students at the academy.

“He’ll be a massive loss to the community, however his legacy will live on because he has brought the sport of athletics back to prominence in this area – where it should be.”

A keen runner, John is believed to have organised more than 1,000 races, raising an incredible £1.8 million for various charities. He also organised local athletes to run a lap with the Olympic torch around the North Solihull Sports Centre’s track for charity in the run-up to London 2012.

“He had a lasting impact on the north of the borough,” added Tom.

The father-of-two, from Cooks Lane in Kingshurst, was such a fan of sport that at 52 he gave up his career as an engineer to retrain as a physical therapist, working at the North Solihull Sports Centre.

He also ran several London Marathons, co–founded the People’s Marathon in Chelmsley Wood and the Centurion Grand Prix Series as well as being a successful coach to champion runners including Gloria Dourass who competed in the 1970 Commonwealth Games 800m.

John leaves behind wife Janet, daughters Julie and Marie and two grandchildren.

 

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