THE word legend is all too often rolled out in sporting circles.

A footballer who scores a few goals, a cricketer who enjoys a few good days, they sometimes earn the tag as memories of their greatness often exceed their actual achievements.

Few legends are actually responsible for a genuine shift in their sport, few legends become synonymous with their sport.

Bill Smith was, without any question, a legend in the world of fell running. In the wake of his dreadfully sad death, lavish tributes have been paid to a man who changed the perception of his sport.

Graham Breeze, chairman of the Fell Running Association, said: “Fell runners come and go, champions come and go, but no-one will ever be as important to the development and history of fell running as Bill Smith.”

In one feat in 1975 he completed 55 peaks in 24 hours. The following year he scaled 63 peaks in 23 hours and 55 minutes.

“Everyone knew him,” said Accrington’s former Olympian and Commonwealth gold medal winner Ron Hill, who is still an active runner. “I used to see Bill and talk to him at events but he was a quiet man.

“To most people throughout the sport he was better known through his writing.”

Bill’s 1985 book ‘Stud Marks on the Summit: A History of Amateur Fell Racing 1861-1983’ is known as the fell running bible. He started writing what he imagined was going to be a small paperback – but 581 informative pages later he even admitted in the book’s preface that it had finished up as “a much larger work”.

In the summer 1986 edition of Fellrunner magazine the book was advertised at £8.95 – a quarter of a century later copies have changed hands on internet auction websites for up to £130.

“Bill was known for his book,” added Hill, left. “It was a book that was and still is important to the sport.

“He introduced new people to the sport and the book’s importance cannot be played down.

“In fact, you could say that the book was a bible for future generations.”

Bill and his book inspired many to take up fell running, including Chumbawumba’s Boff Whalley.

The Burnley-born guita-rist, possibly best known for tipping the icy dregs of a champagne cooler over the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at the Brit Pop awards in 1997, was inspired to take up the sport and has been prominent in the fell running scene at a relatively high standard.

He was instrumental in the production of the Fellternative fell running fanzine in the early 1990s and Chumbawamba reco-rded a song called “Stud Marks on the Summits”.

Bill’s death this week will be felt by many and Hill added: “He was relatively young at 75 and tremendously fit and his death is a real shock to everyone.

“His loss is huge – but I suppose you can say that he passed away while doing what he loved doing, running across the moors.”