What you see is what you get with me. If you don’t like it – tough luck

FITNESS FAMATIC Stan Spooner is Portsmouth's very own Mr Motivator
FITNESS FAMATIC Stan Spooner is Portsmouth's very own Mr Motivator
Portsmouth & Southsea railway station by Andy Cooper

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Trying to pin down Stan Spooner for a couple of hours is not easy.

If he is not out leading a walk, he’s taking part in a Tai Chi class, singing, attending a plethora of committee meetings or organising coach trips.

Or he might just be darting around Portsmouth on one of his latest crusades, alerting the over-50s about the risks of bowel cancer.

Occasionally he does find time to relax. When we meet he is looking tanned and fitter than ever for he has just returned from a holiday – a walking trip on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.

As we sit chatting and sipping apple juice in his immaculate courtyard garden tucked behind Portsmouth Grammar School in Old Portsmouth, he also casually drops into conversation that he has recently completed the energy-sapping, 105-mile walking tour of the Mont Blanc massif.

He is a pocket human dynamo. This week he will have organised and led six walks in different areas of the city and a coach trip to the Olympic village in Stratford, east London.

He shrugs off a dodgy knee and shoulder as ‘those things which come with age – you just get on with life, don’t you?’.

For Stan, who is on the cusp of his 71st birthday lives to walk. In fact, for many years he lived to walk, at speed.

For the past four years he has been the creator and driving force behind Walking Friends Portsmouth, a band of largely over-50s which has seen its membership rise to 150. They have the opportunity to get together several times a week to walk or take part in the group’s numerous social events.

Its ethos, according to Stan, is to promote the health and wellbeing of Portsmouth people through walking, exercise, healthy eating, music and friendship.

But it all started through Stan’s passion for putting one foot in front of the other, his deep concern for social justice and an ability to ‘get things done’ born out of his 24 years in the RAF.

‘I’m a doer,’ says Stan, of Halfpenny Lane, whose volunteering in many diverse fields led to a community service volunteers’ medal in 2005.

‘I like to be organised, but I hate meetings. I just want to get things done quickly.

‘What we’ve been doing for years is the Big Society thing, but like so many things in the voluntary sector, we were doing it long before David Cameron came up with the idea.

‘What you see is what you get with me. If you don’t like it – tough luck.’

For seven years he was a volunteer walks leader with Portsmouth City Council’s Walking for Health project. He broke away from that to create Walking Friends Portsmouth largely because of what he perceived as the authority’s inertia in promoting some of the health aspects of the scheme.

‘I wanted to develop further the concept of linking walking to living healthily and the interest just didn’t seem to be there.

‘So I formed Walking Friends and when you’re on your own, away from officialdom, you can do things a lot faster and a lot easier.

‘There are many, many people who want to improve their general health, but I’m a firm believer that the individual must take responsibility for their own health, but the last thing I ever do is go around lecturing people about it.’

The walking started at the old Portsmouth Technical School (now the city of Portsmouth Boys’ School) which he represented at athletics.

‘When I went into the RAF they obviously encouraged a healthy lifestyle, after all, in the services if you’re not fit, you’re dead.

‘They wanted someone to compete in race walking and because I’d already done some at school it seemed the natural thing to do. As a result I ended up taking part in events all over the place.’

He represented the RAF (with the fourth fastest time in its history) and Hampshire at race walking.

From 1977 until 1980 Stan ended up commanding the RAF recruitment office back in his home city. ‘That was something of a challenge in the home of the Royal Navy, but it was a challenge I relished,’ he says.

He competed twice in the legendary Nijmegen March in the Netherlands – 100 miles in four days carrying equipment, and from 1960-1962 was responsible for the fitness of the RAF mountain rescue team in Aden.

In the 1968 New Year honours list he was awarded an Air Officer’s Commendation for services to training.

His expertise in working with young people continued when he left the RAF and became training manager at Marconi Underwater Systems until redundancy in 1992.

‘I really enjoyed working with young people and that year I set up my own education, training and outplacement business. One contract I had involved recruiting and managing volunteers in schools to improve their understanding of science and engineering.’

He was a governor at three schools, including Cowplain Secondary School for a decade.

‘But there came a point when I decided that I’d done my bit for helping young people and I wanted to put my energy into doing something for the over-50s,’ adds the man who played a Mr Motivator role twice a week for eight years for Portsmouth Joggers’ Club.

‘I don’t want to sound cocky but I’ve always wanted to be the best at everything I do and always want to get better at it.

‘Yes, I suffered for it a bit when I was in the RAF – I got tipped out of bed a few times – but at the end of the day God put us on this earth to achieve everything we can.

‘Everyone has something to offer, but we can all do better.’