Andy Holden - Remembered 1 (06/01/2014)

News of Andy's passing has rapidly spread around the athletics world.

From New Zealand Trevor & Mary Wright sent this message "It is with enormous regret we learn of Andy's passing. Our thoughts go to his family. We both have very fond memories of Andy. He was often the fun loving member of a team when we travelled overseas to compete. Sad we will not be able to attend the funeral. However we will be with you all when the service takes place."

Brendan Foster who ran against Andy both individually and within many Gateshead Harriers teams recalled "He was a great bloke as well as an outstanding athlete who had the respect of all his contemporaries. He will be sadly missed."

Ron Bentley, President of Tipton Harriers and life long friend, summed up Andy up perfectly "He is the greatest club man Tipton has ever seen," 

Allan Rushmer, international athlete, friend and team mate. "It brings great sadness that we have lost a great athlete, team mate and above all friend. We share such great memories of the times we have spent both on and off the track with Andy.

Every Wednesday evening I would meet Andy on our routes home from work and head out on a 14 miles run before heading back to my house for Omelette and chips – a true International athlete's diet! Always willing to offer a helping hand to humans or otherwise, when Andy was once out training along the canal he rescued a drowning dog who became a great training partner and would accompany us for many years on our weekly 20 miles Sunday morning run.

Tipton Andy_Holden_Dog

We not only trained together but we often raced against each other. On one occasion in the 1980's we ran the Sandwell Marathon leading together all the way, such was our friendship that we decided to cross the finish together in equal first place, however, Andy the true gent insisted I take the prize for first place - This quite simply sums up his generous personality.

Although one thing we weren't so evenly matched on was our drinking – Andy could beat me by a Country mile! On Friday evenings I would pick Andy up and we would go on a pub crawl of the Birmingham and Black Country pubs, we have such fabulous memories of the many evenings spent at The Gun Barrels, Tipton Harriers Bar and post-race drinking in just about every other running club bar around the UK as well!

We are so sad at the loss of such a great fun and loyal friend and our thoughts are with Paula and Family." 

Ian Tempest from the NUTS recalled "I was very sorry to hear about Andy Holden.  He was a great steeplechaser (certainly better than our current ones!) and very competitive over XC and marathon as well."

Brian McAusland from Scotland, where Andy ran a record in the Two Bridges Race, said "Very sorry to hear about Andy. I was talking to John Anderson about him just last week - New Year's Eve in fact - and he was an admirer of his talent.   Did he not have a wee bear marker for the water-jump take-off or something" 

Tom Morris of MMAC said "Very sad news indeed, Andy always remained a loyal member of MMAC."

Paul O'Callaghan, former Irish International and one time member of the Harriers "I am very saddened to hear of Andy's untimely passing. Andy had a big influence on me as a young athlete both as a top class runner who I wanted to emulate and as a gracious, caring and generous man. I was employed by Andy and Paula when they ventured into retail opening Runners Rendezvous during the early 1980's. I ran a good few miles with Andy as well as the post run refreshment in the bar. It goes without saying that he is is a true legend of the sport. My thoughts are with Paula and his family."

Bernie Jones, Wrexham A.C. recalled "A great runner and servant to Tipton but more importantly a great man - and there aren't many of them about."

Tom Pollak, respected commentator and reporter on athletics, said "Very sad news. Andy was such a bubbly character and always a pleasure to meet."

John Bicourt sent this image (John on left & Andy on the right) and message "He was a great bloke, a quintessential club man and a brilliant all round athlete from 1500mts to marathon and of course one of our best cross country, road runner and steeplechasers. I had huge respect for him and have many good memories of our steeple races together"
Tipton -_Andy_Holden_Chasing

Joan Allison (Commonwealth Games Medallist 1974) "How dreadfully sad, what a wonderful character he was."

Stan Eldon, International XC Champion 1958, "A great athlete who put something back into the sports he loved"

Wayne Morgan recalled one special training run written up in his training diary "Eye balls out Tuesday nights I ran stride for stride with Andy one night .We got clear of the pack (I wrote in diary up with Andy Holden all way won,t sleep tonight). The same night in the bar Andy asked me to join the squad track sessions I was overwhelmed. He wrote a lovely letter to my boss helping me leave work early to join in, I still have the letter to this day. A great inspiration to us all. So sad for Paula and all the family." 

Bill Adcocks, the great Coventry Godiva Harriers marathon runner wrote "Our competitive paths didn't really cross although we were both on the England team in Edinburgh 1970 but Andy was legendary. His running and drinking exploits were well known. Andy was one of the athletes who pushed to be as good as he could be but never lost his loyalty to his club, Tipton Harriers. This continued right up to the end."

Dave Long, leading marathon runner from the 1990's and one time member of Tipton, "Only met Andy a few times but an absolutely cracking bloke."

Paul Davies Hale, international steeplechaser and road runner, "Very sad news. I will always remember Andy as a great athlete and a wonderful servant for Tipton Harriers."

Steve Griffiths "Baby Geno" (Pete's brother) recalls a yarn "First met Andy in 1960's told me he had been out training one Christmas, on his third session of the day, in a gale force wind on the Lancashire hills when a dustbin flew passed him. Response - I'm going to beat that dustbin next week. That was Andy, very determined, a great mate ,superb clubman, but dangerous drinking partner. He will be sorely missed by many in the world of athletics. My thoughts are with Paula and the family."

Don Fairclough remembers Andy as follows :"Shocked and saddened to hear of Andy's death. We first met competitively in National Youth and Junior Champs and were members of the England Junior Team in 1968 that won the Intermational Cross Country Champs in Tunisia. A fun loving but when needed very serious and successful athlete. As fellow team members in Edinburgh 1970 I remember to this day him at the closing ceremony pedelling a toddlers 3 wheeler bike around the track. Also him coming down south and beating me in the Belgrave 20 which was the Inter-Counties Champs that year. My condolences to his family, friends and Club."

Paul Allen, once of Tipton Harriers now of Halesowen, "A great team mate well respected by all at Halesowen athletics club. One of the few blokes I knew who would have a pint before a race and many afterwards. A true legend" 

Paul Venmore, one time Tipton team mate, "I will always remember Andy as a great athlete and a good all round gentleman."

Vic Fear recalls "Just had to say how very sorry I am to here this sad news. I had the very good fortune to train with Andy at tipton, never raced with him I just wasn't good enough but that never stopped Andy having time for a skinny sixteen year old like me. Andy you made a lasting impression for all the right reasons, thank you for a lot for good memories."

David Denton, one time member of Tipton Harriers, former ECCU President & prolific race promoter, sent in this "I do hope that the Club produce a suitable tribute of the life of Andy Holden and my thoughts are with Paula and the family at this sad time. A week today, Sunday 12 January, I shall be flying to my home in India and sadly may miss the funeral.

I first came to know Andy when he was a Preston Harrier and I was one of the English Cross Country Union (now the EECA) team managers and he arrived at my Shropshire home on Boxing Day to come on a trip to one of the regular European cross country may have been to Schifflange in Luxembourg. A few years later, when I was manager of Hadley Stadium in Smethwick, I well remember the door bell ringing at about 10pm only to find Andy in his kit and almost forcing me to run a steady 10 miles with him. For most of today's runners/joggers, it would have easily given them a significant PB. That was typical of the lovely Andy Holden. May he RIP."

Sharon Greenwell (ex Milovosorov) recalls "So sad to hear of Andy Holden's passing. Andy was a lovely man and I have great memories of being at many races where Paula and I would be on the side lines with their 4 children and my 4 children. My thoughts are with Paula and children at this sad time. (Sharon ex Milovsorov)." 
Warren Harrison, one time Tipton Senior Men's Track & Field Team Manager and sprinter - "With regard to Andy Holden, enjoying running/athletics is one thing, the people you compete with and for is another. Always a privilege to see Andy Holden. He taught me a great lesson, humililty in a sportsperson. He was great athlete but would never make anything of it. He taught me that I am the same/equal to the next person! Miss you Andy!"
Phil Nicholls, Tipton Harriers / GB International, coached previously by Andy - "I write this with a very heavy heart and after a day of sitting alone reminiscing about the good days. Andy was my first real coach, he took me from a club runner who liked to an international over 6 amazing years. We chatted over many a session, met up for some gruelling workouts and worked through ideas over a meal- no matter where we were, he gave his athletes everything, he was passionate and loved to pass on his experience to us. As a group back then we were part of a special era in the club, one where families would travel the country for races, share picnics at races and provide an extended family for many of the clubs runners. Andy was key to this and this is one part of my life I look back on and smile. I never really told him, but I am so thankful for the part he played in my athletics career, his advice, time and words of wisdom will always be special to me. We have lost a true legend, a man who I will miss greatly... Rest in peace my friend, I will never forget the influence you have had on me and the club and those days will be talked about for years to come. For now, that's all I want to share...sad day for Tipton and the people whose lives he was a great part of." 
Nigel Stirk, Tipton Harriers - "Many of you don't need me to tell you that we have just lost a true legend and gentlemen in Andy Holden. Couldn't quite believe the news I heard today...I am so privileged as a long standing Tipton lad to have known Andy. Modest gent beyond belief and always and inspiration at races where he was always there to give us a kick up the backside. A Tipton great and a one hell of a nice bloke....we will all miss you Andy. All the very best and god bless to Andy's wife, the lads and all the family"
Steve Abrahams, Tipton Harriers - "I was u17s and i was a little late getting down the club, I arrived but Andy had already sent the rest of the group on their warm up, I ran up to "central drive" with Andy which was where we was doing the session. I remember at this age I was beginning to doubt whether I had enough talent to be the runner that I dreamed of. being the nice person he was he looked at me and said, 'Look Steve; You have so much potential, i see it in the way you run and talk that this is the sport for you, your at the bottom age and it will take time, but we will get there, I have know doubt in telling you that you are good enough and if we can get you believing in yourself, you could go really far, just do what i ask and you will be there'  Ever since then I was hooked on running he inspired me by not just his own performances and achievements but his passion for coaching and giving each individual the confidence and the belief that they are worthy and they are good enough.  I know I am babbling but remember this, as if I ever feel down about running or anything in general I think of this occasion and it gives me the strength and courage to think I can conquer anything, thank you so much for the memories Andy and giving me the strength and desire to stay in the sport i now love because of you. running has given me so much but I am pretty sure it all started with you and your guidance. Thank you and RIP ANDY" 
Dan Cotterill, Tipton Harriers - "Such a shame that a nice bloke like Andy has been taken from us. He was a great coach and a great inspiration to all at Tipton Harriers. I remember when I joined the club, he turned me from a good athlete in to a great one and always had a lending ear if there was anything I needed help with. Gone but never forgotten x"
John Robbins, Avon Athletics - "When Ron Bentley, the man who embodies all that Tipton stands for, says he was the greatest club man the club had ever seen he summed things up perfectly. They broke the mold with Andy. It's hard to think of another athlete of his standing who has put back so much more than they ever took from the sport, especially in a voluntary capacity. He was a truly great runner, who perhaps didn't quite reach his true potential internationally, but who never gave less than his all. He respected anyone who he competed against and more importantly was respected by anyone who met him.

I remember Andy from the Isle of Man Easter Festival, including at the infamous Hotel where Birmingham Uni lodged (my recollection is that it was called The Havelot(more) House), many other races and also when he socialised and trained with the Lauriston lads on trips to race in London. But I really got friendly with Andy in the days when I used to go up to Birmingham for Midland Committee meetings. It is true to say that his presence was one of the few redeeming features of what were often tedious affairs, that and the fact that he knew the quickest way from the meetings to closest pub to New Street so we could have a pint (or two or three) before I caught the last train back to Bristol. He was so encouraging of what we were trying to do with road running in Avon in those days and was part of what inspired my becoming chair of the first AAA Road Race Committee.

We are unlikely to ever see his ilk again, one of the last of the train hard, race even harder and party like its your last, guys. His athletic and inbibing talents were the stuff of legend. Andy would have cringed at the tributes that have been paid to him and the thought that he was saintly cos he knew he was far from that. But why he really is a Legend and should be remembered is that he was a truly genuine and insperational person, who asked for little, gave in spades and was the embodiment of loyalty and selfless commitment that atheltics, and society in general, could so sorely do with more of today. May he rest in peace." 

Martin Williams, current Tipton Harriers international (posted on the E&S website) - "Gone way too soon....Thoughtful, kind, down to earth, a massive loss to friends and family. A major loss to Tipton Harriers. Andy was a world class athlete in his competing days and helped propel Tipton to one of the best athletic clubs in the UK but also gave back to athletics once his competing days were over. Coached athletes at the club, chairman and took on lots of voluntary roles to help with administration. An inspiration to myself and others, giving words of advice and help with my own running. He showed me it was possible to be successful in athletics whilst still leading a normal / working family life."

Tony Milovsorov, Tipton Harriers - "Where do you begin when you try to explain the impact a person has on you throughout your life. As a youngster at Tipton he was one of the stars we looked up to and aspired to emulate. I re-call a dark Tuesday evening running my socks off to train alongside Andy and Ian Stewart. Bud Baldaro had taken me along to the session as part of my induction into the demands of serious athletic performance. I travelled with Bud to the Isle of Man Easter Festival in 1975 and had my eyes opened to Andy's phenomenal athletic and drinking abilities. Everyone seems to have a story about Andy's running and drinking abilities. Over the years I got to know Andy in so many other ways. When I needed dental care he provided it. He gave of his time willingly and tirelessly. He was a selfless human being. Andy was a giver and what he gave to Tipton Harriers was priceless and will be remembered forever. I had the good fortune to race alongside him throughout our greatest period of sustained success. I recall Andy contributing to our greatest achievement in European competition. With only 3 to score, Tipton represented England at the 1981 European Clubs Cross Country Championships in Varese near Milan. Andy had run in the Bermuda Marathon the previous weekend where he'd sustained serious blisters. Yet, a week later he was racing some of the best runners in Europe, contributing to our 2nd place performance behind the legendary Sporting Club of Lisbon team that contained world-record holders Fernando Mamede and Carlos Lopes. Andy, Allan Rushmer and I opened and closed the scoring within 2 seconds of each other. Years later we attended reunions in recognition of this great achievement. I treasure the photos of these reunions which were attended by Andy, Allan, Steve Emson, Ron Bentley and Stuart Eaton. We raised a glass to the absent Mike Kearns who had emigrated. Mike, like Andy was a former Birmingham University student who settled in the area and gave great service to the club.

I have so many memories. Andy was alongside me providing advice and support on my first overseas trip to Fermoy in Ireland. He was alongside me when I earned by first GB vest at a road race in France. He was alongside me when I qualified for my first World Cross Country championships. He was alongside me on countless other memorable occasions. He will be alongside me forever more in my memories, motivating me to be a better person. I struggle to accept I will not see him again at Tipton or in my beloved Sutton Park. My thoughts are with Paula and the children." 

Norman Wilson, leading marathon runner late 70s early 80s - "Very sad news a great athlete. Wonderful character who put something back into the sport he loved." 

Mark Anslow, one coached by Andy as a young lad - "There are many fond memories that come to mind when I hear the name Andy Holden, especially the look he used to give us when we used to complain that we were hurting during training sessions. Andy was very down to earth and would always give 100% into us as a group of young athletes at the club. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him. I still to this day have training schedules that Andy had compiled for me. This is a huge loss to athletics and thoughts are with the family at this difficult time."

Keith Boydon, inspirational Tipton & Staffordshire athlete from the 1970's - "Sad to hear the loss of Andy. He was a team mate and friend. My thoughts are to his family at this time and I remember the great times at Tipton with Andy" 

Paul Swindlehurst, Preston Harriers - "I remember Andy from his early days at Preston. His talent was obvious, his enthusiasm infectious. He was destined to be a big name. He was always miles ahead of me. We met briefly at the Alexander Stadium in the early 80's, when he was coaching and I was judging."

Phil Howard from Preston Harriers was moved to verse. "Sometimes prose doesn't say enough. Here's an elegaic poem I'd like to dedicate to Andy's memory:" 

Elegy for a Runner
Do not be sad it's your last race,
For more honours do not pine,
Never once slacken-off the pace,
Until you've crossed the finish line.

Always you will wear the laurel,
The gold medal on your chest,
With fleet foot you won life's quarrel;
Stride home now then take your rest.

Paul Cadman - "After hanging on to Andy and Allan for the first two miles in that famous Sandwell Marathon he kindly suggested that I eased-off a little, whilst commending me on my efforts - never forgotten. Some years later, after he'd led into the wind for the first 10 of the Stafford 20 he dropped back, pulled into the back of the pack where I was lurking and said in a quiet but authoritative voice, 'time for someone else to do some work'.  I felt ashamed that we'd all been happy to let him do all the work - but it was Andy, so it was ok as he didn't seem to mind, did he?! A wonderful man who will be remembered with universal affection." 

Mike Buntin, Tipton Harriers -"I first heard of Andy and his exploits whilst at Birmingham University. I can remember being rather impressed with his record time for the Bristol Road mile involving quite a number of pubs and finishing at the Guild of Students; it would have been impressive without the beer. When I joined Tipton and got to know Andy, I realised what an generous and genuine man he was. He was always willing to give his time and pass on his knowledge and experience. The success that the club has had over many years is in no small part due to the selfless efforts of Andy. He seemed to revel when at races where the going was tough and you could see how much he enjoyed the club's successes. It was a pleasure to spend time with him at the club, races or in the pub and he will be greatly missed."

Alistair Blamire, ex City of Edinburgh A.C. Steeplechaser - "I'm a bit gobsmacked as I was quite pally with Andy in the old running days although I haven't seen him for a long time. He was a great character and a really friendly guy, and of course a great runner - and far too young..."

Pam Constable (nee Stewart) - "As a former Stewart, Andy was a regular visitor to our house to run with Ian and Pete and many others. I was about 6 when he first use to come and run and "look" at our teeth before bedtime. He used to watch the magic roundabout with me and my sister. For many a year we become his student patients at the dental hospital every school holiday and sometimes his sister Elizabeth would come and stay with us. He was a wonderful man so kind, so thoughtful. Many a Christmas morning he would knock the door for a cuppa as he was working at the homeless refuge down the road, who thinks to do that? For 40 years he was my dentist until he retired, I live in Suffolk now and use to travel back just to go to Andy. Was so sorry to hear the news and my thoughts go to Paula and the family, in essence one of life's good people has now departed and I feel lucky to have known him."

Basil Heatley, Coventry Godiva, British Olympian and former holder of the world marathon record - "Ron could not have given me sadder news. A true legend both on and off the field of play. An athlete who really personified the team spirit of his great club. Andy could not have been more Tipton even if he had been born there. My sympathies to Paula, her family and indeed all Tipton Harriers. You have lost someone very Special - May his memory live on."

Mel Peck, Halesowen C & A.C. - "So sad to hear about Andy from my long time running pal - Paul Allen. Only last Monday on Milford Common thinking of the times he, Daryl McWhirter, my brother & I spent training there on Sunday. Mornings. A quick wash under the cold water tap at The Barley Mow public house then a few "jars" in there!! RIP"

Around the time of the Club's Centenary in 2010 Doug Fownes, a notable figure in the history of Tipton Harriers, kindly wrote down some of his recollections of the Club over the years. Here is one mention of Andy.

"...Five years later Andy Holden joined the club, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Andy, of course, was a fine runner. An Olympian, Great Britain steeplechaser, cross country international, with amazing versatility (From track to marathons) but his prowess with a glass of beer preceded his joining the club. His favourite party trick was drinking a pint whilst standing on his head, (Something that had to be seen to be believed). There was also a report in the 'Athletics Weekly' that during an Easter Festival of running on the Isle of Man he ran four races in four days, won three of them, and consumed 78 pints of beer. Andy, to my knowledge, never denied or confirmed the report, but his family was not amused.

The social scene at the club in those days was a very important part of the success that was achieved athletically. It was already an established ritual when I became a member that a formal Dinner Dance was held annually.

As the years went by, however, the format changed somewhat to more informal 'do's ', and one in particular called on Andy's special relationship with a pint glass.

The occasion was an evening wining and dining at the Queen Mary Ballroom in Dudley Zoo. There was a cabaret (a topless Hawaiian wedding impressed Tommy Brooks, I remember) and Ron Bentley tried to become a candidate for a hypnotist. This didn't come to pass as the guy spotted Ron as someone beyond putting to sleep!

The evening ended, however, with entertainment provided by Tipton Harriers. A beer drinking contest (what else?) between the club and Birmingham University students past & present.

The two teams lined up facing each other, and then each had to drink a pint of beer, put the glass on their head when they had finished, and then the next in line could start their pint.

The club team was going well and with only one drinker left we were easily winning. The club's last drinker was Jim Harvey, the last leg hero of the National 12 stage relay of 1972.

The Universities last drinker was, of course Andy Holden. Jim was three quarters of the way down his glass when Andy started and 2.3 seconds later Andy had won. (I am not sure who timed the event, most people were reasonably intoxicated by then, but we did have some Grade 1 A.A.A. timekeepers in the room at the time."

Gary Glifton, West Bromwich Harriers and son of the late Bryan Clifton (another Tipton Harrier greatly missed), - "Pure class athlete, true gent & massive friend of my late father, many fond memories of watching & hearing of Andy's exploits. His presence will be greatly missed."

Daniel Stimpson, Tipton Harriers - "Andy Holden was a  truly great friend, coach, and inspiration to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him in the sport of athletics. Shown not only through his own merits in the sport, but also through the amount of time and effort he spent bringing other youngsters like myself into the world of running. I joined Andy's group at the age of 11 and was still receiving his running guidance in the men's team 9 years later. My fondest memory of Andy will be his face staring down at you, while calling you on from the top of a hill, because it didn't matter where you were training, Andy would find you a hill set, from the well known Ocker hill to the ladder session at Baggeridge. When joining the group, my uncle (a triathlon enthusiast) gave me an autobiography of Ron Hill and loe behold there was a picture of Andy Holden racing along side him. This was the first time I knew I was being coached by a true running great. Later on i would find I was being trained by a truly great guy. Still in shock. RIP Andy Holden."

Zab Hassan, Tipton Harriers - "A truly a great man that will be sadly missed. He was a real icon to me which he encourage me to always do well and to never give up on trying. He said to me it will only take time and to stay committed to the sport you love. Which he has helped me to be always dedicated to my sport. He also gave me the confidence to succeed in the sport I loved. I will never forget a truly a great man that will always be remembered for everything that he has done for the sport he truly loved. Rest In Peace Andy."

Janet Darby (nee Savage) sent in her recollection - "Genuinely humble, enormously generous, that was Andy Holden. I was introduced to Andy at the Lydney 7. He quickly persuaded me to join Tipton, as one of few girls at the time, but it was the camaraderie and not the competition that defined the club. Andy, as one of the leading athletes shaped the supportive, family spirit that was so special.

What shone out for me in Andy, was an amazing example of how to treat others. He treated every single creature as equal. No surprise that he was a massive supporter of open Christmas. Would pull a dog (Snicky), from drowning in the canal and would never judge others.

He had such empathy for everyone, no wonder he was the dentist of choice for so many. Andy confounded the taxman; although he saw many patients, he barely charged them. He was 'Hippocratic' in his very nature. Materialism is not what drove him.

Avid follower of the cricket even saw the TV share the dental surgery in Moseley, throughout the tests. I am hoping others will share stories of sunny days at Edgbaston.

I loved training with Andy, he never set out to prove anything in a training session. He liked to run, it was his transport, his social outlet and the success he enjoyed was almost a by-product. Andy was not one to complain, but it irked me that coming third in the Olympic marathon trial at Milton Keynes was not enough to see him make the three man team. The Olympics in Moscow saw not one of the selected GB team complete the course.

Andy was a gutsy, determined and courageous runner. I don't believe he ever failed to finish a race. Nothing would have prevented him from representing his country with honour, as he did on many occasions. He was a true sportsman that embodied the Olympic ideal: to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Andy would not want to be put up on any sort of pedestal, rather with the good humour that arose from his witty intellect, he would want us to recall the joy that he brought into the lives of so many.

We could all do well to learn from his life; and we should strive to make that our returning gift.

Andy we will miss you. May God Bless You!"

Jim Darby, One time member of the Harriers - "The measure of a man's life is "how many people are richer for having known him". I am hugely richer for having known Andy.

I first met him under unusual circumstances when as a young Modern Pentathlete I attended the British Olympic Altitude Camp at St Moritz before the 1972 Munich Games. Here we were rubbing shoulders with many of our idols, Foster, Stewart, Bedford, Holden and more.

It wasn't long before we became aware of how much these guys drank and we ended up hosting one of the many Drambui parties that took place most evenings. A good time was had by all and when we eventually cleared them all out there was a loud snoring coming from under my bed. We dragged the offender out and that was how I met Andy Holden.

He changed those around him through the power of his own personal example. His humility and good humour, his respect for others had a huge influence in any group he was in. This was never more obvious than in his running club Tipton Harriers.

He introduced Janet and I to Tipton Harriers when we moved to Birmingham. We trained with him and the other Tipton Greats of that Era; Bentley and Mac; Big Al Richards and Johnny Cotteral and many more who had a huge impact on us and shaped our future lives and our philosophies.

Andy doesn't need an epitaph, Tipton Harriers are his epitaph as they carry so many of his dreams and values on into the future.

Jan and I are proud to say " We are richer for having known him"

Paul Magner, One time Birmingham University A.C. Captain and Tipton Harrier from the 1980's - "So saddened to learn of Andy's passing. I have thought long and hard on this, but genuinely always come to the same conclusion. Andy was the most generous, ever-smiling, benevolent person I had the pleasure to meet and, indeed, share a couple of wonderful canal-boat holidays with. There were plenty of lunchtime and evening stops I can assure all fans of real-ale reading this. It was Andy and Paula who introduced me to the Black Country... to Baltis... to beer and to the heritage of Tipton Harriers. I have lost a dear friend. The sport has lost the UK's greatest-ever club athlete but none of us will lose his memory. Your spirit will keep running with us Andy"

Tony Phillips, Tipton Harriers Club Committee Member, Life Member, and Coaching Coordinator - "Andy's achievements at national and international levels have been well documented, but he made significant contributions to the successes of his club, Tipton Harriers, over the last 40 years, both as an athlete and administrator. He helped to establish the club as the most successful club in England in cross country and road running during this period. By his performances, and inspiration, as a key member of teams he contributed to the winning of more national cross country and road running championships than any other club in England.

As a club administrator Andy was an important member of the club committee, and filled a number of important offices including chairman, treasurer and membership secretary. Until his recent illnesses he attended committee meetings regularly, influencing club policies through his knowledge and experience of the sport.

In recent years Andy coached a group of young athletes, and by his knowledge and experience improved their performances and successes, inspired, motivated and developed them as individuals. He was always ready to offer advice to runners on an informal way.

He was always ready to help the club, and turned out in lower level track events in the local and regional leagues, competing in a range of events as required on the day, and helping with the meeting administration.

Andy was involved with Midland Counties track and field administration during his athletics career.

He was a great athlete, club member, character, and sincere friend to many, and will be missed by those in the sport , and by other communities in which he as involved.

He will be greatly missed by his family, particularly his wife Paula, who gave Andy loyal support in his athletics activities, and his sons Tom, Joe, and MIchael, who have been involved in athletics with success at various levels. Also, his daughter Charlie, now a medical doctor.

It is very sad Andy passed away at such a relatively young age, but he lived his life to the full, achieved much and enjoyed it."

Bronwen Cardy, Melbourne Australia, multi International athlete and one time member of Bromsgrove & Redditch A.C. - "Stunned & saddened to hear of Andy Holden's untimely passing. As young athletes at IAAF Cross Country Champs in the 1960's right through to Veteran competition in the 1990's, I will remember Andy for his 'lion's heart', cheeky grin and an ability to down a pint which almost matched his amazing racing credentials. A true legend. Condolences."

Tom McCook, President of Birchfield Harriers 2000-2012 - "By coincidence Andy Holden and I both relocated to Birmingham in the late 1960's and I feel privileged that we have been friends for 45 years. It was always a very great pleasure to meet up with Andy and Paula for a conversation quite often at Road relays in Sutton Park.

Andy had begun running in Leyland in his native Lancashire at the age of 8 or 9. He loved running and never ever gave less than his best whether it may have been over the country, on the road or on the track both indoors and outdoors.

Whilst Birmingham University had several good athletes prior to Andy's arrival to study dentistry in 1968, his passion and enthusiasm galvanised Birmingham University to raise their game. Andy led by example and on occasions would compete in two or three endurance races in a match to score points for his team.

Early in 1969 Andy saw off a challenge from a strong field including Shaftesbury Barnett AC's Dave Bedford in his own back yard at Parliament Hill Fields to be crowned the English National Junior Cross Country champion. The following year, Andy was selected to represent England in the Steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games. Although money was at a premium, characteristically Andy and his five siblings paid for their Mum and Dad to make the journey to Edinburgh with accommodation to celebrate their silver wedding. Andy's preparation for the 1972 Olympic Games was far from ideal and began with an emergency operation to remove his appendix. In those far off days prior to Lottery Funding, the dental student worked as a dustbin man. Nevertheless Andy achieved the status of an Olympian in Munich. The records show that he placed fifth in his heat in an identical time of 8 mins 33.8 seconds as the fourth placed athlete from Romania.

Four places and eight seconds adrift of Andy was a young runner representing Tanzania named Filbert Bayi who was to go into break the World One Mile record.

At the end of that season Andy established a UK 3,000 metres Steeplechase record performance of 8:26:4 at the Crystal Palace which more than four decades later remains in the UK Top 20 All Time rankings.

I have very many happy memories of time spent in Andy Holden's company. One relates to a hilariously funny treacle scone race, which Carol and I organised as part of a Halloween Party at the old Birchfield Harriers club house on the Aldridge Road in Perry Barr in the early 1970's. The stellar line up, which included Andy, Dave Bedford, Peter and Ian Stewart, Alan Rushmer and Dick Taylor would have broken the budget of race promoters in Oslo or Stockholm.

It is self evident from the tributes that have flooded into the Tipton Harriers website from all parts of globe the deep affection that people felt for this very modest man who did so much for his fellow man in do so many different ways. Andy Holden was a very good runner but he was an even greater member of the human race.

It is self evident that Andy Holden rose to eminence on merit and that having been greatly respected by all those who knew him, he leaves us greatly regretted. Our thoughts for their loss are with Paula, their children, Tom, Charlie, Michael and Joe as well as Andy's four sisters.

Your race is run; Rest in Peace Andy."

Colin Ward, Coach at Tipton Harriers - "It’s all been said about you Andy. See you at your last race on Wednesday, See yow, yow adopted yammer. Good egg. R.I.P. " 

John Jackson, Training Partner from Leyland - "A lovely lad and what a shock.  I first met him when he wanted to take up the Steeplechase.  during that year (1968 I think) we regularly trained together at the old Preston track.  I picked him up at his parents house in Leyland and drove up there.  We also occasionally trained at Kirkby.  Although I have not seen him for many years (although I now live near Leyland) I often talk about him and remember the good times he shared with me and the family.

Sincere sympathy to all the family"

Richard Morris, Leamington C & A.C. - "I was shocked and saddened to hear today of the death of my old friend Andy Holden. He was always such a friendly guy, much loved and admired within the athletics community. I remember watching him in Edinburgh at that disastrous steeplechase in the commonwealth Games (which I think he could have won) when he was brought down by other athletes. I also remember standing on the starting line of the Boston marathon 1977 chatting looking forward to a drink when it was over!

Please send my best wishes to his wife and children"

 Mark Perry, Member of Tipton Harriers - "As a member of  Tipton in the late 70,s and early 80,s I was first introduced to Andy  when I was a young athlete on the train on our way to watch the AAA,s track championships at Crystal Palace in 1978 and where Andy was competing. He was pleasant and very encouraging to us young athletes. As years went by we joined the big boys on those long Sunday morning burn outs across the Black Country with  Andy, Ian Stewart, Tony Milovsorov, Ron Bentley, Doug Fownes and co. Great memories. Andy you will be sadly missed."

Many have also recalled the "unsung" work he did such as marshalling at many Midland & National Road Relays on the courses he ran so strongly on. In doing so helping further generations of athletes and raising funds for Tipton Harriers as well. He was also instrumental in getting the club sponsorship over many many years from the likes of Ron Hill Sports and his wide network of friends around the country." 

If you have memories or a story of Andy that you'd like to share with us, please get in touch ,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A number have taken to Twitter to pay their respects. Twitter

Various media and other organisations have also carried stories:-

Athletics Weekly. Details They have also featured Andy in this weeks edition (page 8) out digitally today, 08/01/2014, and in paper form on 09/01/2014.

British Athletics. Details

Express & Star (local Wolverhampton newspaper). Details

Birmingham Mail. Details

Lancashire Evening Post. Details

The Royal Gazette (Bermuda). Details

Over in Ireland the renowned athlete & athletic writer John Walshe, summed up Andy's Irish racing career in the Cork Evening Echo, carried here in the "Running In Cork" blog. Details

Wolverhampton & Bilston A.C.. Details

Leading athletics author and chronicler of our sport Alistair Aitkin interviewed Andy some years ago. A record of the interview is available here. Interview

Here is a link to an article (from the 1980's) on the "Harrier" side of Birmingham University athletics which gives an insight to Andy's influence at that academic institution. Article