Athletics pioneer and holder of the first officially ratified world record for the women's marathon

Born: May 15, 1937;

Died: May 12, 2019

DALE Greig, who has died in a Paisley hospice aged 81, wore plimsolls when she set the first officially ratified world record for the women's marathon. Her funeral on Friday will be a day after the 55th anniversary of her world best, at Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

Taking time off work as secretary to Walter Ross, publisher of the Scottish Athlete magazine, she was intent only on lasting the distance. Prevailing rules excluded women, so she started four minutes ahead of 67 men. Nineteen failed to finish in 80-degree heat, with an ambulance - and her widowed mum, Anna, in a car - following the event.

Dale finished in 3:27:45. “I felt sorry for the men I kept passing in the closing stages – they looked embarrassed," she said subsequently. Yet in interviews with The Herald she denied she was a campaigning feminist: "I never considered myself as championing women's rights. I ran because I loved being outdoors."

Her training regime, even by today's standards, was mind-blowing. "I'd set out from Paisley at 7am, and head for Largs via Bridge of Weir. I'd stop there for an ice cream cone and walk while I ate it. By the time I'd got to Largs I'd done nearly 30 miles. I would have a swim in the outdoor pool. I'd hire a towel but I carried my costume in a pocket of my wet-suit top. Then I would go for a cup of tea and a scone in a cafe and return along the coastal route, along the shore of the Clyde by Wemyss Bay and Inverkip. If I got thirsty I'd just drink from a stream, or sometimes I might stop for a coffee and a wee cake before finishing in Gourock. I'd go to a friend's for a bath and then catch the train and be home by 3:00 pm. The total run was just over 50 miles and I did it quite a few times."

After the record race, she danced until midnight and rose early for a swim before travelling home.

Misogynist officialdom was incensed, however. The Ryde club received a letter warning there must be no repetition "as the resulting publicity is not good for the sport."

Greig received nothing for her trailblazing, but successors like Paula Radcliffe, the only Briton to hold the women's world best since Dale, have become millionaires while hundreds of women now make a living from marathons.

Greig spent much of her life in a house she bought from the council, but was adamant: "I'm not envious. We ran just for the fun of it. I never made a penny, and I was proud to be an amateur. That's not to say I would not have liked to make a living as a runner, but I believed in the amateur code, and actually gave away my prizes. Now it's professional and completely different. Drugs are terrible. What pleasure can they get?"

There was no women's club in Paisley, so Dale formed her own: Tannahill Harriers, named after the Tannahill Weavers and the street where she lived. She was president, secretary, treasurer and the sole member - paying affiliation fees to the governing bodies from her own pocket.

She was a multiple national champion, representing Scotland for 13 years at cross-country, first having come to notice as runner-up for the national 880 yards title in 1956, before taking bronze at the mile four times in the next decade. It was the longest track race available to her.

She was the first woman to run the mountainous 40-mile Isle of Man TT course, first to race up and down Ben Nevis, and first to run the 53-mile London to Brighton. In 1974, then aged 37, she won the inaugural World Masters Marathon, in Paris - the first time the sexes were allowed to race together, paving the way for mass participation and a whole industry.

But in 1982 she jumped in the shallow end at a swimming pool. "You'd think I was a kid," she recalled. "They were changing the water and it was more shallow than it might have been. I hit my heels on the bottom, and suffered cracked bones in my feet. I was never quite the same."

Feisty and independent, but modest, self-deprecatory, and never strident, she served as secretary, treasurer, and president of the Scottish women's cross-country body and assistant secretary of the embryo global Masters movement. She was inducted into the Scottishathletics Hall of Fame last November. She was also a founder of the Scottish Women's Cross-country Union.

She dismissed the notion that she deserved an MBE: "I have worked at being anonymous, and been reasonably successful at it," she said. "I'm a wee shy person and don't look for plaudits." There was not a trophy to be seen in her home.

She was honoured annually, however, by the London Marathon, among an elite group of Brits who had held a world record or won a major title.

And in gesture surely rooted in her treatment by male officialdom, she helped establish a fund to give opportunities to Scottish female athletes. World champion Liz McColgan was among many benefactors. "I'd have loved the opportunity that they have to make a career and a life out of running," said Dale.