MEMBERS of Chorley Harriers were due to turn out at last night’s Harrock Hill Fell Race in a final tribute to blind athlete Mike Ogle, who collapsed and died of heart failure at the Burnsall Classic Fell Race on Saturday while competing in the Harriers’ club championship grand prix.

The 62-year-old had already run in the 10-mile road race at the village sports day near Skipton before taking on the celebrated fell race which dates back to Elizabethan times.

Although only 1.5 miles long, it is regarded as one of the toughest challenges in the sport as it includes 900 feet of climb and descent.

Mike was being guided by fellow Harrier Jackie Redmayne, but the race was being watched by his long time running partner Pete Gillham who paid tribute to the speed and efficiency of the Yorkshire Mountain Rescue Team, the helicopter crew and the race organiser.

He said: “They were amazing. If anyone could have saved him it would have been them.” Mike had been a member of Chorley Harriers for 25 years and was one of the most familiar figures on the local running circuit with a number of team-mates taking turns to lead him on road, fell and over the country, most often Gillham or Steve Thomas.

When he first joined Chorley he wasn’t totally blind and could run alongside an unconnected guider, but his condition deteriorated and after running into a parked car he had to rethink and subsequently they were linked by a short length of rope.

“The thing about Mike,” says close friend Martin Harrington “is that he never wanted to be treated differently from anyone else. At the Parbold Hill Race for example, he refused an invitation to start earlier than the rest of the field.”

In Millennium year he took on the Tour of Tameside – six races in seven days totalling the distance of two marathons. One of the races was over the fells and he planned to use a second helper for the descent, but when his new companion slipped and was injured Mike had to help him down instead.

He never shirked a challenge and took part in the National Cross Country Championships, five London Marathons including one each being steered by his daughters Jenny and Katie, and in the Medoc Marathon in France, where fancy dress was encouraged. He ran as a prisoner handcuffed to policeman Martin Harrington.

Ever intrepid, he drove a car on Samlesbury Aerodrome and even rode tandem at the Manchester Velodrome.

Over the last few days the tributes have been pouring in on the Chorley Harriers’ Facebook page.

“He was one of the most inspirational men I have ever met. He made you realise that nothing is impossible” wrote Matt McDonald.

Caroline Hesketh added: “A real gentleman. He always had a kind and inspirational word for others. He will be very much missed.” Mike had retired last year from the University of Central Lancashire where he lectured in Family Law. He leaves wife Jane, daughters Jenny and Katie and four grandchildren.

Mike’s funeral will take place on Tuesday August 30 at 1pm at St John’s Church, Preston Road, Whittle-le-Woods. Everyone is welcome.