RIP Ron Bentley (23/02/2019)

SWScan00229 Bentley In Action

Tipton Harriers are deeply saddened to report the death of Ron Bentley on Friday 22nd February 2019 at the age of 88 after a long illness.

Born in November 1930 Ron became a member of the club in 1951 continuing right through to the present day. He was a Life member of the club this being awarded in 1972 some twenty years after he joined.

He was born in the heart of the Black Country. Proud of his Gornal roots he helped put Tipton Harriers on the map again in the late 60’s and early 1970’s following the earlier exploits of another Tipton Harrier Jack Holden during the period 1930 to 1950.

Ron’s work ethic was forged in his upbringing. From a humble & simple background he became one of the most respected men of his era in the area. He could mix with anyone.

Outside the world of athletics he worked in the metals industry for most of his life. A grafter in so many ways. He worked his way from loyal employee through to owner of a company. He & Eva, his wife, enjoyed dancing, he baked, and he enjoyed films. He played table tennis to a high standard. He loved his wife, his family, friends and athletics. He was a proud father of his two children Jane & Ron and their children.

Ron’s life spanned many generations of athletes and athletics. Athletes were his friends, inspirations, mentors and provided an extended family. He learned from those that had gone before absorbed their strengths and understood their weaknesses and set standards for those that followed after. He forged himself into being one of the clubs greats.

Ron was known around the country and around the world. His name and that of Tipton Harriers were inseparable. From the UK to South Africa, the USA & Scandinavia, from Brighton to Rosyth, from Exeter to the Isle of Man Ron carried the colours and hopes of the Harriers. A true ambassador.

He became a natural leader, someone people looked to for direction and inspiration. He took groups training, far and wide. He cover thousands of miles on the roads, footpaths & canal towpaths across Staffordshire & Worcestershire.

He provided an important focal point for hundreds of runners not just from Tipton Harriers but from Dudley Harriers, Halesowen AC, Oldbury AC, Wolverhampton Harriers, Bilston AC and West Bromwich Harriers to name but a few. Many eventually joined Tipton Harriers at some point in their careers.

Engaging and mercurial he could encourage with a look, a shout or a simple firm handshake. His energy was infectious.
For over sixty years he dedicated himself to the club and our sport. He served the club as an athlete, volunteer, officer and President. For many generations he became simply the heartbeat of the club.

If Ron was going to be at a race or an event you knew it was worth entering or going to watch. You were in for good racing, good friendship and good fun. Many remember the antics and adventures when taking part in the old point to point road relays in the 50’s & 60’s like the London To Brighton and the Manchester To Blackpool.

He led by example in his training, racing and helping the club establish its base at Gospel Oak. He adored the club, its history, its future and above all its people. He helped raise thousands of pounds to establish our sport in the Tipton area. He helped promote many events both for the club and other organisations in our sport such as the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League. Midland Counties Cross Country Association or the Midland Masters Athletic Club. He was often first there and last to leave.

He laid foundations we see today in the spirit within the club, the work ethics and an integrity we aspire to. He saw countless athletes of all abilities come and go in over sixty years of our sport.

SWScan00238 National 12 Stage Team

Ron was proud of the club, its athletes and its achievements.

He was also a pioneer in our sport in so many ways from his exploits in ultra distance running in the 1960’s through to the formation of the Master’s or Veteran’s athletics movement in the Midlands. He was an ambassador for the club and all that is good in our sport.

At Sutton Park each spring from the 1970’s onwards he would oversee the road relays marshalling his teams, the supporters and the race. He was part of that special day that witnesses racing, friendship, success & failure in equal measures.

Greats from our sport from so many different eras would seek Ron out. Stan Long, Basil Heatley, Jim Alder, Brendan Foster, Bill Adcocks, Dave Moorcroft, Ron Hill are just some of the names he could count on as lifelong friends.

Around the course you would often hear him before you would see or meet him. He covered almost as many miles as the race itself. As the years went by and he was increasingly physically restricted he would park at the “top of the hill” and watch the race unfold from that area. Content at his continued involvement and support of a race he loved.

He was encyclopaedic in his knowledge of the sport. He would be able to watch a race, encourage all and sundry and be computing the team result in his head like a bookie calculating his odds. He was gracious in both victory and defeat.

We have not dwelt on his many athletic achievements. Winners’ medals & world records came his way from many events as both athlete and team manager. He raced regularly always giving it his best. He won medals at county, area and national levels over road and cross country. His personal crowning glory was in November 1973 when he set a world record for the 24 hour race notching up 161 miles 545 yards.

SWScan00200 Bentley Wins Accolade 100

Tipton teams have a lot to be thankful to Ron for. He galvanised teams to victories in the RRC London To Brighton, The Comrades Marathon, The Two Bridges Race, The National 12 & 6 Stage Road Relays, The Veterans National Road Relay, The National Cross Country Championships and of so many others.

He managed Tipton teams at home and abroad and also helped with Staffordshire squads. These were often trips with adventures for the mind, body and soul.

He helped so many people within athletics. A lift here, an opening to a job there, a meal and a drink when needed or a bed for the night when racing in the area. You name it Ron delivered it at some point. Ron helped people become better people.

For many he will be remembered for his staunch friendship, love and loyalty. Many will count their friendship with Ron as one of their most significant. He outlived many of his closest friends.

Tipton 200909 00051 Rushmer Bentley

He faced his mortality with typical pragmatism. He moved house from Gornal to Wall Heath a few years ago to reduce the workload on the family and to be nearer to his daughter Jane.

When he realised late last year his future was to be limited further he was typically honest and wanted to savour what time he had left. He encouraged and enjoyed visits from friends and former athletes to chew over old times and they would laugh at their shared adventures. His mind was as sharp as ever though his body often dulled and frustrated with pain.

At Christmas (2018) he was able to enjoy one last activity with the Harriers. Jane, his daughter, took him down to the club’s Boxing Day Handicap. This is an event that is embedded within the fabric of the club and Ron had run it many times. He enjoyed the day making presentations and renewing friendships.

SWScan00179 Bentley Sutton Park

With his passing we have lost a major connection with our heritage. Those who knew him will be better people for the privilege. He was, to use a phrase of his, “a beauty”. We shall not see the likes of him again.

He set us all an example for life, rest in peace Ron your race is done.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

An extract from the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling