Herts athletics chairman from Hitchin steps down after 42 years

Rita and Tony Osborne.

Rita and Tony Osborne. - Credit: Archant

A long-serving sports official from Hitchin has stood down as chairman of the county athletics association after more than half a century of diligent work behind the scenes.

Rita Osborne presnts a trophy at the Herts county championships in 1984.

Rita Osborne presnts a trophy at the Herts county championships in 1984. - Credit: Archant

Rita Osborne, a key figure behind events like the Stevenage and Hitchin half marathons in past years, put in thousands of hours of voluntary work as chairman of the Herts County Amateur Athletic Association for 42 years.

She also held several positions at Stevenage and North Herts Athletics Club from 1965 until 1982, and was joint race director of the Stevenage 10-mile road race alongside her husband Tony.

She and Tony also jointly organised the Stevenage Half Marathon, Fairlands Road Relays and Hitchin Hard Half Marathon.

Speaking to the Comet, Rita said: “I just enjoy it all. It has changed. Everything was manual and it’s become really mechanised. We used to have to sit and write it all out, and now it comes out automatically.

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“I wouldn’t have been in the job so long if I hadn’t had such a great committee. They have been amazing to work with.”

Rita, who grew up in Edgware in north-west London, first got involved in athletics when she timed her brother’s 800-metre runs. She married Tony in 1961 and started going to North Herts athletics meetings as a supporter, before getting involved herself.

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In 1970, she became chair of Herts County Women’s Athletic Association – a post she held until 1975, when the men’s and women’s associations were amalgamated.

Rita Osborne with her daughter Laura at Crystal Palace, circa 1972.

Rita Osborne with her daughter Laura at Crystal Palace, circa 1972. - Credit: Archant

She only expected to chair the merged association for a year or so, but ended up holding the position until this month. She has officiated and refereed at events like the Standalone 10k organised by the North Herts Road Runners, and Fairlands Valley Spartans’ Stevenage Half Marathon and Fairlands Road Relays.

Rita has been unable to stand for long periods in the last year, but has still helped – keeping time, refereeing races and even judging a high jump event.

She will still help with admin and officiate after standing down as county association chairman.

Fairlands Valley Spartans have written to Rita to thank her for her 55 years of work supporting and championing the athletics and running community.

Tony said: “Rita would be the first to acknowledge that many other people have also devoted many

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