Martin Hyman

Born: July 3, 1933;

Died: April 3, 2021.

MARTIN Hyman, who has died aged 87, was a successful long-distance runner who in the 1950s and 1960s competed at world level on the track, on road and over the country, excelling in all disciplines with his distinctive high-stepping style.

From 1979 onwards he lived in Scotland, where he made a huge contribution as an inspiring coach, mentor and administrator.

Highlights of the Southampton-born athlete’s career included twice representing England at Commonwealth Games and Britain at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the European Athletics championships. In addition he ran for Britain regularly in international matches, captaining the men’s team in the early 1960s, and was a multiple British Championships medallist.

On the roads, he enjoyed numerous successes including the Jean Bouin event in Barcelona and the Sao Paulo New Year’s Eve event in Brazil, where he beat the Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila in record-breaking time.

Over the country, his notable achievements included third place in the International Championships in Nantes in 1961 and membership of the Portsmouth team which won the English national title three times in the 1960s.

Martin was born in Southampton in 1933, the second child of Edward, a trade union official, and Eleanor née Handley. With his elder sister, Eleanor, and brother Richard he was initially brought up in the city before the family moved to Jersey for his father’s job. Remaining on the island once war broke out was perilous, as Edward came from a Jewish family; shortly before the German invasion in 1940, they fled back to Southampton.

As refugees their life was difficult, with Martin attending numerous schools until he secured a place at Southampton University, where a growing interest in running developed. His determination compensated for his lack of natural ability as he began competing for the university cross-country team, the start of a lifelong involvement.

Another pivotal event was his decision to join Portsmouth A.C. where he met close friend and leading international runner, Bruce Tulloh, with whom he trained regularly and formed a mutually beneficial coaching relationship.

Martin had to undertake National Service and, as a conscientious objector, did so with The Friends’ Ambulance Unit in London and in Austria. While living in a hostel in London he met his future wife, Margaret Veal, a secretarial student from Sussex. They married in August 1958 and enjoyed 62 happy years together during which they had two sons, Michael and Patrick.

In athletics, 1958 was his breakthrough year: he won the National Universities’ cross-country title and made his international debut on the track for England at six miles in that year’s Cardiff Commonweath Games, placing an excellent fourth. A lack of finishing speed let him down as he was well in the reckoning till the final stages.

Martin also made his British debut that year, wining the 10,000m against France in Paris.

In 1960 he was selected for that event at the Rome Olympics in which he finished ninth, a disappointment cushioned by a personal best time although he was highly critical of officials who had only permitted three days’ acclimatisation in the sweltering Roman heat. Shortly afterwards he was appointed chair of the International Athletes’ Club to promote athletes’ interests with officialdom.

In 1961 he set a national record at six miles, and a year later finished fifth in the Perth Commonwealth Games at six miles, and fourth in the 10,000m at the European Championships in Belgrade, his lack of finishing speed especially galling as he narrowly missed out on medals.

Although he did not participate in more international championships he continued running successfully throughout the 1960s in all disciplines.

He was a biology teacher by profession, and in 1979 he was persuaded by a colleague in Swindon, who had been appointed headteacher at Inveralmond High School in Livingston, to join him there. A highly regarded teacher, Martin retired as assistant head in 1993 and remained in the town.

During his time here he became heavily involved in the running scene initially with the local Livingston Club and from about 2000 with the Lothian Running Club, which he helped establish. Martin’s involvement covered all aspects, which was recognised by his being accorded Honorary Life Membership of Scottish Athletics.

He continued running competitively at Masters level, including cross-country and hill-running. He coached and encouraged young athletes especially, irrespective of level of ability, and devised courses for cross country, road and hill running.

Convenor of the Hill Running Commission and a pioneer of orienteering, he instituted regular weekly training sessions in Edinburgh’s Meadows, which expanded to include runners of all standards. With Martin at the helm these sessions became legendary and continued for many years.

His approach to coaching was athlete-centred in terms of advising on training programmes and encouraging the athlete to take responsibility for his or her own development.

He strongly believed in the wider benefits of participation for youngsters. Driven by a desire to give something back to the sport, he occasionally paid for running shoes for those who could not afford them. The number of warm tributes received by his family bear testament to his success.

Apart from family and running, he enjoyed the great outdoors and chess. He supported CND and was a lifelong fan of Southampton F.C.

A committed socialist, he was a humane and understanding individual who always looked for the best in people and inspired many to better themselves. He is survived by his wife, sons and brother.