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John Blair-Fish, 1950-2013


John completed 37 Carnethy 5 Hill Races - 18 of them in under the hour.
He ran 62 Lake District peaks in 24 hours.
He was four times Scottish Over 50 Hill Running Champion.
He won the Pentlands Skyline Race in a fast 2.31:46 in 1990 when it was a Scottish championship counter.
He is the club record holder for the Sierre Zinal Race in under 3 hours.

"A huge loss to the fell running community and the world at large... Never a dull moment in John's company, i will remember so many times we raced, not least those head-to-head duels at the all-you-can eat buffets. May your spirit roam the high hills..........."

Malcom Patterson



"So shocked and saddened - a life we could all learn something from whatever our achievements."

Paul Morris
For most members of Carnethy, John was an elder statesman and a “permanent fixture” on the hill-running scene, characterised by a unique gait and a phenomenal hill-climbing ability. Yet because many of his most startling exploits were achieved in the 1970s, perhaps only the club’s oldies will be familiar with his enormous talent in hill running and race-walking, or his exploits of extreme stamina. Of these, perhaps his two, ultimately unsuccessful, bids to break the record for the number of Lakeland peaks visited in a 24 hour round are the most startling, and would be fitting entries for the FRA long-distance award even today.John’s father was a C of E vicar and the Christian faith John claimed in his teenage years became his anchor right through life. At university he studied meteorology, but (as did so many from his era) he found his niche in computer science, and spent much of his working life in Edinburgh University’s computer support team. An avid “KB lunchtime runner”, his enthusiasm was catching and he inveigled many late starters (such as me) into joining Carnethy. (Latterly his lunchtime runs became legendary as they lengthened out until he found himself retired!) And in Carnethy, as in so many of the other organisations he nourished and supported, he served for many years on the Committee, giving freely of his time and experience to build up the club towards its present standing and membership. He also was for many years editor of the illustrious FRA magazine “The Fellrunner” – another task to which he contributed unstintingly of time and through which he became a household name in hillrunning.



John is a huge loss to the world of running. I ran with John many times in the Pentlands, I'll never forget the politics talk we had, then were his race stories which I found inspirational. For myself personally, Johns passing is a huge loss.  His words were so motivating to me when I was preparing for my London to Edinburgh run. When John found out about my next challenge his words were " you are mad, but I like people like you", that was only few weeks ago. John, myself and my family will never forget you.

Michael, Monika and Greg Nowicki
John was also an early enthusiast for European races at a time when these seemed inaccessible and hugely adventurous; and quickly established himself as a well-kent face (well, pair of calves anyway) on the European race scene. For many many years he held the record for the first, punishing ascent stage of the Sierre-Zinal race to Beauregarde. In each following year a thousand runners filed past a notice to the effect that “JBF was here before you”! Just three weeks ago he finished 4th V60 in a very creditable time - though he complained of being 40 minutes slower than his last (2004) race there!
I pass my sincerest condolences to John’s family and friends, work colleagues and running/ cycling friends.
JBF and I go back 30 years and were regular sparring partners in the hills.
The old team was JBF, Robin Morris, Tony Stapeley, Andy Spenceley (and Hilary); Andy and Anne Curtis, Penny Rother, Jane Robertson, Roger Boswell, Alan Farningham, Dermot McGonigle, Keith Burns, The Rodgers, The Brooks’s, Bill Gauld, Jack Maitland, Colin Donnelly, John Marsh, The Knox's --- Martin Hyman, Alistair Lorimer, Trish Calder, Chris Menhennet, Malcolm and Christine Patterson, etc etc etc (apols for all the good and great names missing.>) ..…the 100 or so of us regulars in the early days of SHRA…. Forming… and storming, and norming…!
JBF was a real, early leader into the European sorties…I was in awe at the way he committed and did great stuff out there..trailblazing.
JBF influenced how our local, national and international sport was and is viewed…
To me, he was an inspiration as a hard, hard man, and his forte was the long ones, where he’d grind you down and spit you out!
He was a self-effacing and a good man; high in principles and as a Christian, a sound person who was respected and valued as an honest colleague and great athlete. He gave our hill running sport so much. He is a legend. Anyone who knows anything about hill running..knows JBF…
Not same ‘class’ say as Jos Naylor, Billy Bland, Kenny Stuart, Colin or jack, etc etc …but to all Fell Runners Association JBF is a legend in our lifetime..
I’d not seen John for a couple of years, (I think it was maybe last at Keswick maybe) but we did fall in easily, as long standing absent friends do….
I’ll miss the fact that JBF was always in the mix…a great man’s man, a wonderful competitor, a gentleman …..sadly missed..

Denis Bell

 

But John’s priorities never had running at the top. That was more of a relaxing break between all his other driving passions which were all-consuming. If you got fed up with talking in the pub about footwear, laces and races, John was your great escape. You could pick one of his many other passions: cross-country skiing, recreational cycling; but also poverty, religion, politics, climate change, environmentalism, nationalism, God and Higgs bosons, eating, etc. etc. - and he would chat with you about something else to exhaustion.

And he took these passions hugely seriously: World Development Movement, Christian Aid, Jubilee 2000, the Green Party (in which, as well as being an election agent – thankless task – he was at one Holyrood election a List Candidate for Southern Scotland and stood in the 2005 General Election for Edinburgh South-West gaining 1520 votes), St Columba’s Church, the Taize Community. He joined committees, knocked on doors, manned stalls, collected signatures on petitions, took part in demonstrations: not easy roles for a basically shy man, but he was driven by a great urge to leave the world a better, more just, more caring place than he found it.

John’s worlds always overlapped. His first Fell Runner magazine as the new editor was May 1988 and John put a marker down: “ - - I do not feel that political discussion should stop when we put our (running shoes) on. We live in a time of considerable change in accepted political viewpoints and values and these may affect many of our jobs and our freedom to run over the hills. Other issues may stem from these changes. Are politicians encouraging us to take out private medical insurance for, say, replacement legs instead of going on our second fell running holiday. In the age of never getting ‘something for nothing’, is the race organiser’s time or entertainment allowance an accountable expense to include in entry fees? So, dear readers, do not expect totally apolitical fell runners writing in and editing the Fell Runner.”

Those words are as appropriate now as they were then. His worlds had no inhibiting boundaries, whether it was over the trivial matter of athletics governance or the latest global political crisis.
Things about John you’ll always remember: his well crafted bombshells at meetings, his biggest doorstep sandwiches in the world, his elbows, his sartorial athletic fashion sense, and so many things that he frustrated you with which endeared you to the man all the more.

Colin Prichard and Keith Burns - Carnethy Hill Running Club

I was very sad to read of the death of John Blair-Fish. I had the privilege of meeting John for the fist time at the Blisco Dash Hill Race, Great Langdale in July. John flew past me on the fast descent before we hit the road section. I doggedly followed him down to the finish but all attempts to pass him were in vain. Afterwards he chatted away to me for a good while. There was glorious sunshine, I was on a post race "high" and  was captivated by John's inspiring recollections of past races and travels. It was one of those fond incidents that I will remember for a long time. He left me to go to the Fell Runners Association Annual General Meeting. Having read John's obituary, I see this was just another small example of his dedicated activism.
 
I would like to pass on my condolences to all John's family, friends and fellow runners. Long may his memory run.
 
David Stakes
Bellahouston Road Runners


Was shocked to hear of the death of JBF. Really does feel like a death in the family but one that I never even imagined was possible. Having my first experiences of hill running with John it was with a mix of relief and disappointment that I found in time that not all hill runners were quite the same! So many memories, such as the relief of getting to the race alive in his golf gti or when he would concede that perhaps his 10 mile extension to the 20 something could wait for a day with less snow...
Would have loved to persuade him to visit New Zealand but he just couldn't justify to himself the environmental cost of the flights...
Sadly missed by all of us.

Jon and Marie Muhl

Click here for The Club interview with John circa 2000
I had great lunchtimes with John at KB as he was always keen for a long run. We had thus endless discussions about meteorology while running up Arthur Seat. I tried to sell him the Massif Central and the Pyrenees but he was only fascinated by the Alps. He tried to give me orienteering tips during races such as Glen Rosa but I ignored them and regretted it.

Nicolas Fournier, Greenland
 

1987 Galloway


1987 Galloway

1988Cabin de Tracuit run

 


1988 Dixence dam post race


1989 Chandolin
Mark Rigby amazed

It was probably at the 1980 Langdale Race that I first met John; I was a speeded-up fellwalker while he was a genuine competitor, but we had enough in common – living in Edinburgh, backgrounds in physics and meteorology – for a friendship to develop, and over the years I ran many training miles with him. The Carnethy was a focus for the racing activity but John was also keen to explore the hills. We had a demanding day in May ’88 traversing five Corbetts on the Rois-Bheinn ridge after which I went on to Torridon while he was off to Strathcarron for 2 days with Martin Moran to bag the Cuillin Munros. We also combined on training runs in the Pentlands and Borders, the Glensax horseshoe and the Traquair - Minchmoor - Broadmeadows round being favourites for a bit more mileage.
John also got into cross-country skiing in the early 80s and we both joined the Edinburgh Nordic Ski Club. After several weekends chasing wet snow in the Highlands, John organised Christmas or New Year holidays skiing in Austria or Switzerland. Several hours skiing weren’t quite enough for him usually, so after a mug of tea we would change from ski boots to Walshes and have an hour or so running round the snowy village paths in gathering darkness.
John excelled in the longer Swiss races and a number of Carnethy folk came along to Chandolin for 2 weeks build-up to the Sierre-Zinal race; Bill Gauld, Jon Muhl, Colin Pritchard and guest Mark Rigby were amongst those on these trips in the late 80s and early 90s.
I dropped out of racing after 2000 but still kept up the hill-going, while John remained very active on many fronts. After retirement from work he was immersed more deeply in his political and church-related activities while keeping up his commitment to racing. From time to time he would drop in at Peebles for tea and cake after he’d been out on the hills nearby, and my last run with him was in 2010 when we had a short jog up Cademuir and came back soaked with rain. We are all individuals, but ‘JBF’ was more individual than most and will be very much missed by very many people.
Jim Barton

 


1988 Cabin de Mountet run

 

 


1989 Chandolin
Les Hooligans Ecossais


1992 pre Aigle-Leysin race

1992 Zinal after training run

1992 pre SZ race
  If anyone has photos of John or comments they would like to add then please email them to webteam at carnethy dot com  

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