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Saturday 27th October – Eric Smith (1922 – 2012)


It is with great sadness that we have to advise of the death of Eric Smith, a founding member of Otley Athletic Club and Honorary Life Vice President.

Born in January 1922, Eric began running whilst seconded to the RAF in World War Two and represented his unit at cross-country.

In January 1952, aged 30, he joined the local Leeds Harehills Harriers and was running alongside several county and international runners and this team won Yorkshire and Northern Cross-Country Championship medals during the decade.

Eric also represented Yorkshire in the Inter-County Cross-Country Championships and at the National Cross-Country Championships, in long races over ten miles and with large fields, he finished eigthteenth in 1953 and 25th in 1955.

At a time when road-running was very limited to a handful of races each year in comparison to today, he recorded a ten mile Personal Best at Roundhay in August 1954 with 50.32.

There were only four Marathons a year in the UK at that time, the most important being the Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick Stadium with the best field in the country. Eric finished third there (recording 2.27.03) to Jim Peters in 1954. Eric’s Personal Best at the distance also came there two years later in June 1956 when he finished in 2.22.32.

Eric also had International representation for the Marathon, running in the 1954 European Championships in Bern, Switzerland, the 1956 Košice Peace Marathon, Slovakia finishing third (2.25.11) and the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff.

Retiring from competitive running “at the top” aged 37, he returned to running in 1978 and at the age of 58 in 1980, ran round the Three Peaks course ahead of the actual race in a time of 3.42.

In 1983, he became the Yorkshire Veterans mv60 Champion and completed the challenging Bradford Marathon in 2.58.05, finishing 75th overall and first mv60.

Also in 1983, following the first Otley Half Marathon, a meeting was held in the town and Otley Athletic Club was formed with the Rugby Club acting as the new Club’s Headquarters.

In 1984, aged 62, Eric won the Yorkshire, Northern and British mv60 Cross-Country titles and ran 61.45 at the Thirsk 10 Miles, 80.05 at the York Half Marathon and 2.58.05 in the Bradford Marathon.

In 1987, aged 65, he ran the Barnsley 10k in 38.30 and won 27 out of 28 various races that year in the mv60 category.

Since the beginning ot Otley Athletic Club, Eric has always been an enthusiastic and highly supportive member of the Club and its runners.

There will be many current and former members who can remember how Eric with his late-wife Joyce and in recent years Sylvia have been there at races to give a cheer at the most opportune moments, generally at the tops of hills, and it is with fond memories that we can reflect on a good friend, his life in running and his association with Otley Athletic Club.

Eric’s obituary has also been published in the Wharfedale Observer.

  1. #1 by Chris Carver on October 28, 2012 - 10:51 am

    Very sad news to read of the passing of a great runner who was an inspiration to many who knew him, myself included.

  2. #2 by Simon Anderson on October 28, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    Can we please have his funeral details published on the site as I for one would like to pay my final respects if possible.

  3. #3 by Richard S on October 28, 2012 - 3:03 pm

    Eric sounds absolutely inspirational and a real role model. RIP Eric and condolences go out to his family at this difficult time.

  4. #4 by mick jeffrey on October 28, 2012 - 3:56 pm

    Eric was inspirational and extremely supportive. I am pleased that the club was able to recognise and celebrate his many achievements at the Annual Presentation before last. Many condolences to Sylvia.

  5. #5 by Trevor Lambert on October 28, 2012 - 4:33 pm

    Eric was a wonderful man. I have many fond memories of him. Here are a few examples
    1.Having had a reasonably good run in a half-marathon I was surprised to be told that I’d been beaten by a 62-year-old. I didn’t feel so bad when I discovered who the 62-year-old was!
    2. (About 1988? Possibly later) Arriving at the top of a long muddy hill in a cross-country I received the encouragement “Get on with it; there are three from Ilkley in front of you.” I managed to pass two of them but the third escaped.
    3. (Comment to me) “By ‘eck, you’ve had more comebacks than I ‘ave!”
    4. (Noticing my – not unusual – late arrival for training) “Anybody know who this old man is?”
    (He was my senior by nearly twenty years.)

    They were good days. A most dedicated supporter of the club, he will be sorely missed.

  6. #6 by Matt Broughton on October 28, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    I never had the fortune to meet this legendary figure, but from what I am told he was a great man and an exceptional athlete who we all have a lot to thank him for. Deepest condolences to his family.

  7. #7 by Jan Allaway on October 28, 2012 - 5:05 pm

    RIP Eric you were a lovely man

  8. #8 by Howard on October 28, 2012 - 6:21 pm

    I would like to echo Mick’s, and other’s sentiments: Eric was inspirational and extremely supportive, I heard “come on the brothers” at many a race. Condolances to his relatives.

  9. #9 by Antonio Cardinale on October 28, 2012 - 7:32 pm

    It is a sad day for Otley ac because the good Eric is gone. Eric was an elite runner very competitive and in every race . Eric will be missed by the all the athletes in the district. Condolances to his family and to Sylvia as well . Rest in peace Eric.

  10. #10 by Julian on October 28, 2012 - 7:35 pm

    So sad to hear this news.
    Looking back so many happy and great memories. One memory in particular, Eric was always a constant at the Burnsall 10, the many times I ran the race, always positioning himself strategically at the top of the hill in Threshfield. “Ian’s miles ahead, keep going for the team!” was the normal and highly accurate shout from Eric.
    He will certainly be missed by his family and friends, everyone at OAC and all in the running fraternity.

  11. #11 by Andrew Robertshaw on October 28, 2012 - 7:58 pm

    I am proud to have known Eric, always an inspiration & very supportive, in a true Yorkshire manner. I will always remember his advice at the last presentation night he attended. Although he was an elite competitor at a senior & veteran level, the support of the Otley AC’s Handicap championship showed his interest of all levels of ability at the club. RIP Eric.

  12. #12 by Colin Best on October 29, 2012 - 10:15 am

    Very sad to here about Eric I know life was difficult for him recently, but he lived life to the full and was always they to tell you to try to keep going strive harder and not give in.
    A real pleasure to have known him.

  13. #13 by Liam Dunne on October 29, 2012 - 10:57 am

    Having only got to know Eric in his latter years, he was a pleasant and full of life character who loved to talk about running. I’m sure he will be sadly missed by all that knew him. RIP Eric.

  14. #14 by Hugh_P on October 29, 2012 - 11:15 am

    It was always good to see Eric cheering the Otley runners on in the Chevin Chase. Usually staitoned on East Chevin Road he’d offer words of encouragement to everyone in a black and white vest. Sorry he has passed away.

  15. #15 by REID HADDOW on October 29, 2012 - 12:48 pm

    “COME ON REIDY LAD,” SO MANY TIMES I HEARD THE ENCOURAGING CRY, AS YOU WERE STRUGGLING AT SOME RACE OR OTHER, “TIME YOU PACKED UP LAD” ITS GOING TO KILL YA!, ALWAYS THERE TO ENCOURAGE ANY BODY ERIC NEW, HAPPY TIMES RUNNING ROUND TENERIFE, IN THE WINTER TIMES.
    A TRUE “BLACK AND WHITE” OF THE HIGHEST CALIBRE,WILL BE SADLY MISSED, REST IN PEACE ERIC !

  16. #16 by tim agar on October 29, 2012 - 2:54 pm

    Rest in Peace Eric.
    Thanks for all those words off wisdom over the years,from my first 1/2marathon at otley with you.
    Will be sadly missed.

  17. #17 by Billy Rayner on October 30, 2012 - 3:34 pm

    What more can be added to the above?
    It was an honour to have known him.
    RIP Eric

  18. #18 by Tony Gill on October 30, 2012 - 7:36 pm

    RIP Eric
    very sad news a gentleman in every aspect
    will be sadly missed

  19. #19 by Martin Butterworth on November 1, 2012 - 10:25 am

    The top of those hills will never be the same again. I have treasured memories of Eric’s special type of encouragement and know he will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. My condolences and sorry not to be with you. Eric’s contribution to running and OAC has been an inspiration to us all.

  20. #20 by Naomi Smith on November 1, 2012 - 11:44 am

    Wow I never realised how many people my Grandad inspired, I have never been a more proud Granddaughter 🙂 He will be missed!

  21. #21 by Antonio Cardinale on November 5, 2012 - 7:07 pm

    On friday i am going to Erics funeral to pay my respect , if anyone from the club needs a lift , just email me .

  22. #22 by Pat Brew on November 7, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    Although I did not know Mr. Smith personally, I read with great interest your tribute to him. Runners in our district owe much to people like him who helped make possible what we have today.

  23. #23 by Nick Hodgkinson on November 7, 2012 - 9:54 pm

    Somewhat belatedly, I have just read the very sad news about Eric. He was always so encouraging to all of us (no matter how far down the field) and I always put in an extra effort when I saw him lurking at the top of a hill. I was inspired by Eric to do my first marathon and 18 years later I am still dragging myself around the 26.2 miles, albeit slower and slower. Regrettably, I cannot now get back for Erics funeral, as I am stuck in Devon, until Saturday. However, a private run on the Chevin at the weekend in Erics memory is on the cards. RIP.

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