Burnham Harrier Brian Beale, one of the County’s stalwarts in terms of service to athletics, has died at the age of 84 from the Covid-19 virus following heart problems. Brian is very well known to many Wells City Harrier members of different eras, and our connections with him stretch back 40 years. Perhaps most in the current era will know him from his Race Directing role with the Burnham Half or Brent Knoll Fell Race, or as scorer for the Somerset Series, or as the perennial Race adjudicator for the Street 5k Series, but naturally enough as a genial character he had a very long back story of voluntary activity not only for his Club but for athletics in general.
Brian with Paul after being presented with engraved glasses after 20 years of the Somerset Race Series in 2015
One of our Wells founder members, Bernie Mundy, competed with Brian back in 1981, and the two nascent Clubs swapped information and support for one another as they took the first steps in establishing themselves that year as formal Athletic bodies, with both Clubs soon after joining the newly formed Avalon Cross-Country League and competing against one another; whilst supporting each others early forays into organising road races. The early links were built on over the years and I was fortunate to be able to work collaboratively with Brian for almost 30 years. As Clubs and individuals, we’ve often shared good times together, and a number of the Wells Harrier committee members and Bernie were invited by Brian to attend Burnham Harriers 30th anniversary celebrations back in 2011.
Photo from the Longleat Half Marathon October 1981 - Brian and Bernie (in the hat).
Brian, who moved to Axbridge in 1979 following a career in the army, was a keen competitive runner throughout the next few decades before remaining in the sport in various capacities: as a Race Director; Cross-Country Endurance official and Race adjudicator; and as a Results supremo. No doubt within his Club, and further afield, the call went up ‘Ask Brian’ when there was a query to be sorted, or a task to be undertaken.
In his later years as a competitor he always used to enthuse his team-mates, and indeed any that would listen, to his observations on other good races that he’d taken part in, and he particularly liked going off to France to compete in half marathons where the wine was very drinkable!
In the early 1990’s Brian joined the Somerset County AA when Clive Thomas was Chairman, and I was Secretary, and he became the XC Championship Secretary, promoting the event, dealing with entries and organising through host Clubs, including Wells Harriers, a suitable venue. Together with fellow Burnham Harrier Sheila Baker, they would word process up the results on the day and ensure that the County medals went to the right competitor.
In 1996 he volunteered, without having to be asked, to be the recorder for the then newly formed Somerset Race Series (then called CICA-Six) aimed at bringing Clubs together to jointly promote their races. He was still fulfilling this role some 25 years later and was not fazed by the fact that the Series had grown to 23 races, thus involving him in keeping tabs on far more runners than ever before! It also meant he had a pretty good encyclopedic knowledge of any consistent runners across Somerset – all before the power of ten!
In the late 1990’s he took on the role of Road Running Secretary for the County and he would offer advice to Race Directors, help to agree race permits and ensure that races didn’t clash on the calendar. One of his bugbears in later times was when new race organisers would promote events on the same date as another more established one.
As a UKA Race adjudicator, Brian was a familiar face around the County and further beyond. For the Wells Harrier races, such as the Street 5k, the Wells Fun Run and other community based races, he took on the role without hesitation and would help to gently improve standards, pointing out any potential problems. He also helped the Burnham on Sea Parkrun get off the ground in the past few years.
He will be missed by all for his friendly approach and positive spirit, and the giving of his time and wise words. Following the death of his wife in 2014, Brian leaves behind a daughter, grand-children and great grandchildren and we offer our condolences at this present time. Perhaps post-Covid19 lockdown those of us who know him will be able to have a drink together in his memory – I always told him that the Brent Knoll fell race was my favourite of any in Somerset, so maybe if the 2020 edition takes place we can reminisce there?
Brian with the 'jim Brunton Trophy' awarded by Somerset AA in 2008 for his services to athletics