It turns out serendipitous encounters are not reserved exclusively for Hollywood, as Ron Pickering Memorial Fund trustees, Jo Jennings-Summers and Kim Pickering discovered last Sunday. Whilst celebrating with the 2021 London Marathon Ronners in a small pub on the corner of Leicester Square, they spotted a weary marathon finisher, sitting alone with a well-earned pint, proudly wearing his finishers medal.
“As he was sitting alone, Kim asked how he got on and we started chatting” said Jo, who has been a been a Trustee of the Fund for over 10 years since retiring from international athletics herself.
“Martin had spotted our ‘Run for Ron’ banner and soon explained that he had actually met Ron during his childhood, so we quickly introduced ourselves and in particular to Kim, Ron’s daughter.”
Martin explained that in 1984, when he was 12 years old, he had been invited onto the popular TV show We Are the Champions, hosted by our very own Ron Pickering. For those too young to remember, the show was centred around a traditional British school sports day, with children competing in various athletics and swimming events.
Growing up, Martin was very sporty, playing football, volleyball and running cross country. He says he regularly watched We Are the Champions, and always looked forward to seeing the celebrity sportsperson in each episode, but that he never imagined he would appear on the show! However, one lunchtime all the boys in his year group who had represented a school team were asked to bring their PE kits to the gym. There they played a 20-a-side game of basketball. Martin recalls “I never touched the basketball at all, I just ran up and down a lot chasing whoever did have the ball!”
A few weeks later, a letter addressed to Martin arrived from the BBC, inviting him to be a part of the show. Four students from his school had been chosen, and the show was filmed in the local high school in his town.
The most memorable part of the experience for Martin was when Ron shouted his famous catchphrase of “away you go!”, to which all the kids dived in the pool as the closing credits began to play.
All these years later, Martin remains a keen runner, with last Sunday’s event in London marking his eighteenth career marathon, and his third London Marathon. “It was one of my favourite marathon experiences” says Martin, “the crowd was phenomenal, it was great to be back running in a big field, the weather was kind, and my run went well.”
Went well is somewhat of an understatement, as Martin clocked 3:38.53, just ten minutes outside his personal best, and his fastest time ever in the London Marathon. This time around was also particularly special, as he was running as a retirement gift for his mother, Chris Bown.
For the the last eighteen years, Chris has dedicated countless hours to working with, and volunteering for, the Salvation Army in Keighley. Chris’s work was recognised in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, where she was awarded the British Empire Medal. Through his 2021 London Marathon, Martin has raised over £2000 for The Salvation Army in Keighley, to continue supporting the community his mother has served for so many years.
Moving forward, Martin has plans to run another marathon in November, and who knows, maybe he will be a future London Marathon Ronner…no pressure Martin!