Tributes paid to athletics stalwart

By Patrick LowmanTRIBUTES have been paid to a former Olympic athlete and one of the leading lights behind the success of the London Marathon who has died following a three-year battle against cancer.

By Patrick Lowman

TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Olympic athlete and one of the leading lights behind the success of the London Marathon who has died following a three-year battle against cancer.

John Herring, 68, of Finch Hill, Bulmer, near Sudbury, died last week at the St Nicholas Hospice in Bury St Edmunds.

His family has now paid tribute to Mr Herring, describing him as a "dedicated, happy-go-lucky family man who would talk to anyone".

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During a distinguished athletics career Mr Herring rose to fourth in the British rankings over 5,000 metres, with a personal best of 13:51.4.

The highlight of his competitive career was when he was selected for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Despite carry an injury, Mr Herring still put in a great performance and only narrowly missed at on a place in the final starting line-up.

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From 1970 to 1987 he held the post of assistant director at the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace and Mr Herring organised Britain's first invitation meeting in the early 1970s, which was sponsored by Coca-Cola.

In 1982 he become an essential member of the London Marathon management team and spent years helping to make the event one of the most important dates on Britain's sporting calendar.

Mr Herring began as start co-ordinator and was often seen stood in front of the line-up before signalling the start of the race.

He went on to become the course manager, spending months each year planning and ensuring the smooth running of the event.

Despite being in the midst of his battle against illness, Mr Herring still played an important role in this year's marathon, monitoring the race from the Scotland Yard operations room.

During his involvement with the marathon, Mr Herring raised almost £500,000 for research into child health care at Great Ormand Street Hospital in London.

He moved to the Essex-Suffolk border with his wife Shirley in 1995 and soon become a popular figure within the rural community.

Mr Herring's love for jazz meant he was a regular at The Fleece in Boxford and he also became a keen fundraiser for local causes.

He helped raise funds for a rural wildlife shelter for Sudbury's Bridge Project, a charity for children with learning disabilities, and also collected more than £20,000 for the Macmillan Nurses at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

Mrs Herring said: "John loved it here in the countryside. Every morning he would go into the conservatory, look at into the garden and read the morning papers.

"He was a very easy going person, but very organised. He just liked people so much and he will be greatly missed."

His youngest daughter Emma, 36, added: "Dad was very active up until very recently. He has left instructions there is to be no mourning for him and anyone who wears a black tie at the funeral is to be fined £5."

Mr Herring also leaves twins Simon and Sarah, 41, and four grandchildren. His funeral will take place at the West Suffolk Crematorium at noon on Thursday.

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