It was with much sadness and the deepest of regret that we learned of the passing of a much loved and well respected member of the Bournemouth AC road runners group in Andy Gillespie.
Andy was a veteran of an incredible 115 marathons, with his last three completed in October at the Atlantic Coast Challenge. On top of being very committed and dedicated in his marathon running Andy was also very much a ‘club’ man. He loved Bournemouth AC and really enjoyed being part of a team.
Whenever there was a club organised event that required any helpers or marshals, Andy was always always the first person to respond to the call and offer to give up him time. And also, whilst he openly admitted that he wasn’t one of the faster runners in the club, if there was ever a time when he was needed to make up a scoring team for a road race league fixture or any other event, he would be right there.
He was always reliable and committed to helping the club in any way he could. That speaks volumes about Andy as a person. He was very caring and willing to put the needs of others before his own.
One of the great things about running is, there’s something out there for everyone. Regardless of age, gender, weight, fitness, speed. Everyone can find something to suit them. Something they excel in. Andy’s niche was the three coastal marathons in three day events.
He always loved those and they were a source of great happiness to him. What he lacked in speed, he made up for in tenacity, stamina and staying power. He simply never quit. No matter how tough it got. In fact, he boasted a proud record of never having a single DNF to his name. In all those 115 marathons. That was a record that no ordinary man could have set.
This was illustrated well in his penultimate event, the Jurassic Coast Challenge. Andy went into that one after suffering a recent hamstring injury which was a concern to him. He was hoping it would be okay but within the first 10 seconds of his first marathon of the three, his hamstring went.
That left him with a lot of pain to endure for the rest of the run. But of course, he wasn’t about to let his no DNF record slip. Not only did he complete that marathon, he went on to do the other two days as well, despite the immense pain he was in.
Most of us mere mortals would have difficulty doing the three marathons in three days over that kind of hilly terrain when fully fit. But doing it with a torn hamstring would be simply unfathomable. There was no stopping Andy though.
In his final event, the Atlantic Coast Challenge, Andy had a couple of nasty falls and had some serious cuts on his arms and legs. But he soldiered on regardless. He said it was all part of the fun.
One of Andy’s most endearing qualities was that he didn’t take himself too seriously. He was a very humble man. Very honest and forthright. He had a wonderful dry sense of humour and was very witty with it. And he was able to laugh at himself – and did so often!
He also recognized that running was supposed to be a fun activity. It should be something we can take pleasure in and that’s something many of us forget from time to time.
He was never short of a funny story to tell from his marathon adventures. In fact, in his last event he said it was the funniest sight ever – five ultra runners going up and down and road searching for a “virtual” checkpoint!! Sadly, we never got to hear the full story of that one.
Another admirable aspect of Andy’s character was his integrity. Despite the fact that he had to get through three very difficult marathons in three days with an enormous amount of elevation and over extremely tough terrain, he never cut a corner.
He always ensured he did the full route and if he saw that others had cheated, he was often tempted to call them out. He still had a very competitive edge to him but he believed in the fairness of competition. He wanted to earn his position.
It wasn’t enough of a challenge to him just to complete the three marathons in three days. He knew he was going to do that. He wanted to do it as quickly as he could though and finish as high up in the standings as he could.
Usually in those types of events, where you have to self navigate, it can be very frustrating and upsetting if you go the wrong way and get lost and end up adding on some extra mileage. Whenever that happened to Andy though, he never got distressed or annoyed about it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He said it gave him more bang for his buck!!
One of Andy’s proudest achievements in running was when he completed his 100th marathon in August 2019 at the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 event. That was a 50km race and it was a very special moment for Andy as he crossed the finishing line with his granddaughter, hand in hand.
After the race he was presented with his 100 Marathon Club Medal and t-shirt and some of the other runners joined him to celebrate with a piece of his magnificent 100 Marathon cake.
It was only in 2004 that Andy ran his first ever marathon, so he’d actually managed to complete all 100 marathons in the space of 15 years. That’s an average of almost 7 per year which takes a lot of commitment.
Thank you for the memories, Andy. And thank you for the huge contribution you have made to club over the years. And for enriching our lives with your presence. You will be greatly missed.
Yes, Andy may be gone, but he will live forever in the hearts of all who knew him at BAC. As I’m sure he will his friends and of course his family as well. Life is a marathon and not a sprint. And of course, being a marathon, he simply had to finish it! Rest in peace Andy.