“I don’t much like the limelight”

colin12It was a great gig at the Buxton Adventure Festival last week, where I interviewed hill runner Colin Donnelly in the second half of the evening, after we had been charmed and entertained by Judith Jepson’s account of her running career. Having audio recorded the talk, I have some great material, from which I plan to write a profile of Colin for a future edition of The Fellrunner. I will just share here two responses to questions I asked. I feel they give an insight into this fascinating, and I think under-rated, endurance runner. He has had an amazingly long career, still running well as he approaches 60, having won the Ben Nevis race as a teenager (photo below).

What would you say was your most satisfying performance? I loved all the big rounds I have done, the Bob Graham, Charlie Ramsay, Paddy Buckley, and South Wales Traverse. One year I heard of an ultra-race in Reunion, that was like running the Bob Graham, slightly more distance but the same amount of climbing. I did that race and it gave me an immense amount of satisfaction. I didn’t do particularly great.

BenNevissmallAnother one I was very pleased about, as I didn’t think I was going to finish it, was when I had a crack at doing the Scottish 4000s one year. I set off from Fort William and my dad was supporting me at the road sections. I got to Glen Feshie and I was limping badly. I was going to carry on anyway as I was ahead of the record schedule. I may not get the record, but I am going to finish it. I will crawl over that finish line if necessary. I got to the roads off Cairngorm and my dad was there. I had five miles or so down the road. He said, “well you have done all the 4000s now son. You are limping along and in real pain. Just finish here and we will be in the car and off.” I said, “dad, I am going down to Loch Morlich and I am going to touch that hostel door, whether I manage it within the 24 hours or not. I have come here to do it and I will.” And I did. But I suffered for that for quite a while afterwards. You have got to keep up your standards and do things properly.

How would you like to be remembered? Interesting. I am not really bothered about people remembering me at all. I don’t much like the limelight, even sitting here I am a bit uneasy.

I was just a guy that was good in his day and got a few records and did a few things, and that was that.

My youngest girl runs, and she was complaining that she didn’t do well in some cross-country race. I said, “it is not about how well you do, it is the taking part.” It is not about winning, and it is not about sitting back on the couch and saying, “I am 60 I am too old for all this”. It is about trying to explore your horizons, and never giving up.

That is the thing I would like to leave people with, it is about challenging yourself.

We also showed the video ‘re-enactment’ of Colin’s Welsh 3000m runIf you haven’t seen it you should, it is poetry in motion.

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2 responses to ““I don’t much like the limelight””

  1. chris Coote says :

    Dear Steve,

    I once had the pleasure of competing against Colin at Bootle Black Combe in 1988. I was in almost (not quite) the best nick of my fell running career, (even though I was more road/xc orientated). Colin was running away with the race, Gary Devine and I were contesting for 2nd place. We want into mist at the summit (very featureless is Black Combe) and I got lost for a while. When I found the trig point with the marshall, my position had fallen to 18th. You can only imagine how I felt!? haha. But I ran one of the fastest descents I have ever done on this wonderful (but, sadly, now defunct course) that I have ever run. I would have never have caught Colin in a million years, he was so fit and had so much class. But maybe I ‘know’ I could have got at least 3rd. But these things happen and that’s fell running!

    Regards, Chris Coote (ex Kendal AAAC

  2. stevechilton says :

    Chris – always great to hear follow-up stories. I think you will enjoy the full article on Colin when it comes out.

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