Sunderland Harrier Len Christopher, one of the club’s top veteran marathon runners, has died following a long battle fighting
cancer. He was 73.
The Southwick man, a late comer to the sport, shone on the national stage after reaching his 55th birthday.
He had spent his time competing as an unattached athlete, but was eventually persuaded to join the Harriers after running with one of their training groups for years.
Now into his fifties, he buckled down to some serious training at the Harriers and improved results soon followed.
It was in the 2002 London Marathon that Len’s hard work paid off with victory in the Over-55 category, winning the title with a superb clocking of 2hr 49.50.
He then went on to finish runner-up in the Over-60s event at London with his time of 2hr 58.59, in 2007.
But it was not only in the London Marathon that he proved that age was no barrier to a rewarding performance. The Great North Run being another favourite race of his. At the age of 70, he completed the half marathon in 1.49.28.
As well as his marathon success he was a leading light on the North East scene as he moved through the age groups, being a
particular keen road and cross country runner over varying distances.
Over the last couple of years when competition became too much to handle, he was still involved with the Harriers training
groups, offering his advice to newcomers.
He could still be seen doing laps of the Silkworth track just days before his death on March 30.
Len was a club volunteer of the highest order and won the club Volunteer Award of the Year in 2012.
Indeed, his life was dedicated to helping others ever since qualifying as a nurse after leaving school.
He became a medic at Wearmouth Colliery and after the pit closed became a carer and first aid examiner.
His final years of employment took him to Portland School, Chapelgarth, where he was the school minibus driver and
co-ordinator. He retired from his position at the age of 70.
Sunderland Harriers have lost a very supportive and popular club member and his passing will be remembered by a special event to celebrate his life once the Covid-19 is over.