The banner at the Mountbatten Centre said it all in two simple words: Gerry – Legend.
It greeted Gerry North as he crossed the finish line one final time, in yesterday’s moving service at the Mountbatten Centre.
The athletics world turned out in force to pay their respects to North, after he lost his fight against cancer on April 1.
People travelled from across the country to be present at the funeral of one of Britain’s greatest-ever runners at Portchester Crematorium.
First, North was carried the final 100m of the running track which had been his home since joining City of Portsmouth AC in the late 1980s.
Representatives from North’s clubs, friends and those he coached were his pall bearers as the theme to Chariots of Fire was played. Each pall bearer wore a bandage around their hand – North’s running trademark.
The esteem North is held in both locally and nationally was seen with people unable to fit into the crematorium for the service.
Inside, a tribute from friend and business partner, Malcolm Hargraves, raised laughs and smiles as North’s enthusiasm and loveable nature was remembered.
City athlete Jayne Anscombe then read a poem which charted North’s stellar running career which saw him win national cross country titles at junior, senior and veterans’ level.
North’s achievements in representing England and Great Britain on the world stage were also recognised.
So was his attention to detail in organising races, and the knowledge he passed on to athletes who have gone on to enjoy national and international success.
But the overwhelming sentiment was of North’s enthusiasm and zest for life.
More memories were then shared at North’s wake at the Mountbatten Centre.
Footage was also shown of North, including when he carried the Olympic torch in the relay building up to the London Games in 2012.
Karrie Blake, who became a close friend to North when he started coaching her, was moved by the number of people who turned out to pay their respects.
Blake said: ‘There were so many people who came from all over the country to be present.
‘There have been representatives from his clubs Blackpool and Belgrave Harriers among others.
‘There were lots of memories, smiles and laughs.
‘It’s the way Gerry would have wanted it.’