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.