Award a bolt from the blue for Mr Running

Gerry North

Gerry North

Heather Cubbage. Picture: Paul Smith

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Gerry North may be one of the most respected and decorated people in sport.

He may have been one of the most highly-regarded and cherished international athletes of his era.

And he may be one of the most loved and lauded coaches of his time, after dedicating his life to running.

But it still came as a bolt from the blue for the City of Portsmouth legend to be named The News sports lifetime achievement award recipient.

The 75-year-old admitted he was stunned to receive the honour at the climax of a memorable evening at Fratton Park.

He shouldn’t have been, though, because North is quite simply Mr Running.

Asked why he continues to show the drive, passion and commitment he does for the sport, North replies modestly: Running is my life.

And his life it most certainly is.

For over 60 years since he took up running in his school days, the City coach has known nothing else.

His class was soon obvious and North went on to represent Great Britain on the track and road as well as cross country in a decorated national and international career.

The esteem his running prowess was held in saw him named the most consistent runner since the war.

And if there was a vote now there’s little doubt he’d be regarded as one of the most loved people in sport.

As a organiser of over 200 races, he has proved crucial in keeping City afloat.

And the club’s brightest talents are safe in his hands as he oversees the progress of the likes of Karrie Blake, Jess Chen and 2011 sportswoman of the year Cassie Thorp.

As a proud Englishman, his country have utilised his class in managerial positions.

And there has been recognition from his country for his services to athletics.

Such is North’s standing in sport, he has also been chosen as one of the area’s torch bearers for this summer’s Olympic preparations.

Now he follows in the illustrious footsteps of the likes of Harry Redknapp, Milan Mandaric, Chris Davies and Jack Bishop by becoming the worthiest of lifetime achievement recipients.

Such is North’s unassuming and humble manner, you would never know just what an impressive CV he possesses, though.

North admitted he never expected to be acknowledged for his efforts and, in typical fashion, admitted being honoured came as a total surprise.

‘It was a complete shock,’ said North. ‘I never thought for a second I would receive the award.

‘It was a great night and I was really surprised by what took place.

‘It was all such a blur. I can’t really remember what happened!

‘When I was on the stage I spoke a few words – but can’t remember what I said!

‘It is lovely to be recognised, though.

‘I don’t get paid for what I do. It’s all voluntary.

‘I do it for the love of it, and I still enjoy it as much as ever.’

North’s award led the way on a night to remember for City at the Sports Awards.

They were honoured in a number of categories, with Bronwin Carter the winner of outstanding contribution to sport, Chris Tollet winning outstanding contribution to disabled sport and Richard Shuttleworth named young sportsman of the year.

City’s men’s team were runners up in team of the year, Thorp won sportswoman of the year on top of North’s success.

North said: ‘It was a good night for the club.

‘Cassie was over the moon at her win and couldn’t get the smile off her face.

‘She’s a lovely girl.

‘There was a lot of recognition for the club. It was a night to remember.’

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