Distance runner

Born: December 2, 1942;

Died: November 8, 2019

MEL Edwards, who has died aged 76, was one of Scotland’s best known distance runners during a very successful 50-year career. He was so passionate about running the song Born to Run could have been dedicated to him.

A long-term member of Aberdeen Amateur Athletic Club he garnered honours by the sackful on the track, on the roads and hills and over the country as he clocked up over 100,000 miles in competition and training.

He figured in Scottish ranking lists between 1960 and 1969 at distances between quarter mile and six miles, as well as the marathon. The latter event in which he was 2nd reserve for Britain in the 1968 Mexico Olympics was arguably his strongest, having set his best time of just over 2hrs18 mins on his debut run in 1967, placing him 4th in the British rankings.

He also won silver and bronze medals in the Scottish Championships at six and three miles respectively and won the English Universities three miles event in record breaking time. In 1964 he won the Scottish Junior Cross Country title defeating iconic rivals such as Lachie Stewart and Ian McCafferty, earning a Scottish vest for the International Championships. Later he embraced hill and fell running which augmented his honours collection, including winning the Scottish Veterans’ Hill Running Championship and setting a record for the 28-mile Cairngorm Munros event that lasted 23 years.

As well as being a top competitor, he somehow found time to be race organiser, coach and mentor to others and write articles.

After his diagnosis with multiple myeloma in 2006 he vowed cancer would not defeat him and raised significant sums for cancer care charities through sponsored runs and related activities. He also determined to ‘improve life changing facilities for children with severe problems,’ and did so by raising valuable funds for Aberdeen’s Woodlands School.

Blessed with a sense of humour and warm outgoing personality, he was an inspirational figure and was awarded M.B.E. in 2014 for services to athletics and charity. His good friend, former marathon champion Colin Youngson recalled, ”No one deserved the honour more, everyone admired and liked him.”

Meldrum Barclay Edwards was born in Aberdeen where he was brought up in Beechgrove Terrace, the only child of Freddy and Joy. Given his initials, he used to refer to himself jokingly as ‘M.B.E. squared.’

His father was headmaster at several Aberdeen schools, a keen sportsman and later a sports journalist. Mel could remember being inspired after listening to the radio to Emil Zatopek’s feat of winning three gold medals at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the start of becoming hooked on running. Educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, he set his sights on winning races at their sports and in his final year achieved a clean sweep at quarter mile, half mile and mile.

His career was under way as a member of the Aberdeen club when he began his studies in civil engineering at Aberdeen University which he also represented at cross country and athletics, winning a ‘blue.’ From Aberdeen he went to study for a master’s degree at Cambridge University where he ran on the track and over the country, earning a double ‘blue.’ Thereafter he completed postgraduate studies in transportation at Newcastle University and undertook a research post at Southampton University before earning his livelihood as a road safety engineer.

Other running successes included East of Scotland titles at three miles on the track and at cross country, a highly creditable 4th place in the prestigious Morpeth to Newcastle road race and as part of the Aberdeen team pipped by one point for the Scottish cross country title. He also contributed fastest stage times in the Edinburgh to Glasgow road race relay.

His mileage exceeded 100 miles weekly as he concentrated on the marathon, trying to reach the Olympics. With leg injuries hampering road running he continued with cross country enjoying success at veterans’ level and began hill running, completing arduous races including the Ben Nevis, Lairig Ghru and the Swiss Sierre to Zinal 28 km. event.

In 2012 on his 70th birthday he ran ’70 minutes at 70’ for the Anchor cancer charity and in 2016, 100 x 100 metres in two Aberdeen locations to fund equipment for Woodlands School. He was honoured to run the Queen’s Baton relay in Aberdeen for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

In 1972 he married Kareen Anderson, a social worker/psychotherapist, with whom he enjoyed 47 years of happy marriage in Aberdeen during which they had son Myles, also an accomplished runner. Through Mel’s connections, Myles and Gideon Gathimba, a Kenyan athlete, founded the GathimbaEdwards Foundation to help disadvantaged children in Kenya, a cause close to Mel’s heart.

He is survived by his wife, son, daughter in law Mary and granddaughter Dahlia.