John Walker tribute

We reported in April on the sad death of John Walker who passed away at his home in Spain on 24 April 2018, but wanted to publish a follow-up tribute article about John, as one of the founding members of the club.

Picture from John Walker tribute

John was one of the original “London 82/50” runners who had joined together to train to run the 1982 London Marathon. After the race some of these runners gathered together to form the Serpentine Running Club, called “Serpentine” as they had been meeting in the Serpentine Car Park (Serpentine Unwound – The Origins of Our Running Club).

John was a stalwart member of the club from the beginning. Initially he was a member with some of his army friends (based in Chelsea Barracks as then was). He was the Men’s Team Captain for many years, held the role of Chairman for a number of years, and was the key original organiser and race director of the Last Friday of the Month. 

The LFOTM 5k series was something that remained very close to his heart even after he moved to Spain and he came back to visit the race a number of times. Indeed, John was last over for a club event at the 25th Anniversary LFOTM race in October 2017. John’s involvement was not limited to LFOTM - he was also committed to organising and helping with other club races such as the monthly club Handicap race and the New Year’s Day 10k.

As well as being a talented athlete, John was a qualified track starter, where his background as a Sergeant Major (in the Scots Guards) was certainly beneficial. So, he was also very involved in officiating at, as well as competing in, track and field meetings.

For several years John and his wife Sue also organised the Introduction to Running / Beginners courses that still take place on Saturday mornings (this was before Sid Wills' arrival at the club). Until they started doing this, which is now such an important part of what the club offers, it was something that had not been tried at the club before.

In fact, generally, John was regularly to be found supporting, encouraging and running all round the country wherever Serpies happened to be - with his Sergeant-Major voice keeping all in order. If he said you had false started and were disqualified, then you certainly stayed disqualified!

John’s work for and commitment to the club was recognised by becoming an early Life Member.

Before they moved to Spain in 2008, John and Sue used to run in Hyde Park several times a week. Indeed, they were one of the early Serpie romances. Sue remembers running around the Serpentine Lake with one of her close friends at the club, telling her that she was going out with John Walker, but saying: “I don’t know how long it will last though”. Following her friend’s sound advice to “Enjoy it while you can!”, Sue was fortunate enough to be with John for over twenty six years.

Over their many years with the club, John and Sue enjoyed taking part in many club trips, including the Welsh Castles Relay, the infamous Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the High Peaks Relay.

As well as competing and running, John compiled and produced the first weekly newsletter for the club. It is easy to forget just how important that weekly newsletter was in the pre-internet era. For many years, it was the club's main, and often only, means of communication with its members and it was particularly important in the years after the club lost the use of Alexandra Lodge and the club was, in effect, homeless until it gained use of the rooms at Seymour. During this very challenging period the Newsletter was a vital "glue" that helped to keep the club together.

Like a true Serpie, John was also active on the social side of the club: this included researching possible venues for the Christmas party, organising the popular Wednesday night cheese and wine sessions, as well as post-Saturday-morning-run trips to the Churchill Arms, which is where John and Sue first got to know each other.

Sue has said that Serpentine Running Club was a very important part of both their lives for many years and even after they moved to Spain, John and Sue both enjoyed reading the newsletters to see what was happening in the club. Visiting their families in London was also a great chance to catch up with their many Serpie friends.

Submitted: 15 September 2018