Paul Pearce: A man who loved life, his family and running

THE death of Paul Pearce has not only rocked the athletics world but everyone who admired his appetite for life and his desire to scale new frontiers of physical endurance. Paul, 43, was born and raised in Letchworth and proud to be associated with the to

THE death of Paul Pearce has not only rocked the athletics world but everyone who admired his appetite for life and his desire to scale new frontiers of physical endurance.

Paul, 43, was born and raised in Letchworth and proud to be associated with the town.

He was born with poor eyesight but his deteriorating condition never dissuaded him from his great love of running. Few people could keep pace with a man who had wings on his feet.

Despite undergoing five operations on both eyes, he couldn't recognise friends until they stood in front of him.

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North Herts Road Runners, where he was coached by Karen Dodsworth, was his great love away from partner Helena Kelly and children Michael, 17, and Luke, 12, from a previous marriage.

"He was good enough to go to any top club in the country. But he stayed loyal with the Runners because he loved the club and the town," said club spokesman and friend Richard Harbon.

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"But people will remember him for so many other things. He was great company, encouraged so many other people and would stand around cheering other club members in the foulest of weathers even though he couldn't see them until they passed in front of him.

"He was training so hard for a world marathon record attempt and I know he would have got it. When he was determined to do something he always got there in the end.

"For me he is one of the greatest people I have ever met who put 150 per cent into everything."

Last Thursday night Mr Harbon helped organise the running search party for Mr Pearce after he had been reported missing. But he had already died at Lister Hospital.

"We searched and searched and then the news came through which I had to relay to club members and his partner," added Mr Harbon.

"It was a harrowing night and people were devastated. There were a lot of people at the club in tears.

"There are a lot of hard men at the club who were not ashamed to cry."

A window cleaner in Biggleswade, Mr Pearce was educated at Radburn Junior School and then Willian School.

Many years ago he settled in The Crescent with his mother Pam not far away in Orchard Way.

He met Helena in March, 1999, at a hotel in Cork, Ireland.

She recalled this week that the bar was packed but she and her friends managed to get a table and were later joined by five men, one of them being Paul.

They chatted for ages and later danced to a couple of waltzes.

Helena gave him her works phone number and Paul called the following day. They arranged to meet and Helena recalls they were both so nervous they couldn't eat the food at a restaurant.

Helena said this week: "Paul was a gentle, warm, caring individual who had a great sense of humour.

"He was always able to laugh about himself and he was so much fun to be with.

"Paul was a dedicated father and partner, wholly devoted to family life and he loved both his sons Michael and Luke dearly.

"He was my energy as he was a funny, energetic and enthusiastic man. He was always running about."

Paul's mother summed up her son in just a dozen simple words: "A lovely gentle, modest son whom I never had any trouble with."

The funeral is at St George's Church, Norton Way North, Letchworth GC, next Tuesday at 11.30am where those attending are being asked not to wear black ties.

"Yes, we will all be saying goodbye to a wonderful friend and athlete but it will also be a celebration of a wonderful life," added Mr Harbon.

"Hundreds of people are expected to say their last goodbye to Paul and we are telling people no black ties. People can come in running gear if they want to and hats.

"He was always a happy man and his funeral will hopefully spread some happiness at what will be a very sombre occasion."

After the service Paul will be buried at Wilbury Hills Cemetery. The family have requested that only their flowers will be at the funeral but donations can be made to British Blind Sport.

* Paul Pearce was severely short sighted in both eyes. He thought his running career was over after suffering a detached retina in each eye.

* He won marathon gold at International Blind Sports Association World Championships in Athens in 2003.

* Sixth in the marathon at Paralympic Games, Athens, 2004 in T13 category, he was Britain’s highest placed runner at the games.

* He was fifth in the 10,000m T12 European Championships, Finland, August 2005.

* At the annual Comet Sports Awards he won the disabled category in 2003, was Sportsman of the Year in 2004 and a finalist in last year’s disability awards.

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