It is now a little over 3 years since the death of Roger Kenyon on the 24th June 2013. Many of you will have known Roger and some of you may have attended the commemorative run in Endcliffe Park a few weeks ago. The following is a tribute to Roger, someone I’m proud to say was a close friend.
On Sept 28th 1986, 154 people completed the first Sheffield Triathlon and they included Roger, Mick Clarkson, and myself. The event took place at Rowlinson School, now known better as Graves Tennis and Leisure and in November that year, a small group of people attended the inaugural meeting of Sheffield Triathlon Club. Roger continued to participate in local races and, in 1990, he joined STC remaining a member for the rest of his life.
Over the years, Roger held several committee positions, perhaps the most important being his 10 yrs as club chairman where he guided the club through some difficult times. After his death, a Facebook tribute described Roger as “warm, gentle and wise” and these qualities were always evident in the way he chaired our meetings. After being elected, Roger said that he was not intending to work too hard in his position as Chair, but he would make sure that other people did – a comment typical of Roger’s self-effacing style. In truth, Roger threw himself into all sorts of tasks from organising races, marshaling at events, writing articles and editing the club’s newsletter. Everything was done by hand and I’m sure Mick will recall the three of us stapling, folding, stuffing envelopes, licking stamps etc to get the newsletters out on time.
In the early years, the uniform for male triathletes was a pair of Speedos and a vest; nothing else no matter the weather. Many of us remember the day a snowstorm failed to curtail one of our winter races from the old Westfield. Cars and buses got stuck in the snow on the hill from Eckington to Ridgeway as 30 or so people raced past them in swimming costumes. Roger appeared at the finish, white from head to toe, wearing Speedos and a great big smile.
For several years, Roger led Saturday morning runs from Hunters Bar and I know that many would agree that it was his enthusiasm, and his warm welcome to new members, that made it worth getting up early on a Saturday. Roger was a regular participant in the Boxing Day runs to Hathersage and he never let me forget the fact that I lied to him about the distance when he came along for the first time. Nevertheless he continued to turn up every Boxing Day and it was Roger that coined the phrase “Pudbuster” to describe these post-Christmas runs. On one of these early Pudbusters, at a high point above Ringinglow, Roger pointed out 6 or 7 power stations stretching out along the Trent and he proceeded to name them. It became a bit of a standing joke and one that was repeated every Boxing Day up to present. We still look back to count them. A couple of years ago, I invited Alison out for an evening run on the moors and she replied “not if you’re gonna look at chuffing power stations”.
For a while, Roger and I used to lead Sunday morning ‘specials’; long runs along some of the lesser known footpaths and bridleways around Sheffield. We enjoyed planning and testing new routes, sometimes getting lost and arriving home exhausted. One time we decided to combine all of the gennels, small passages between houses, into a Sunday special. Childishly we called it the ‘back passage run’. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a new gennel when I was out running and immediately thought of how Roger would have been delighted with this addition to the back passage run.
Roger was an ever-present volunteer. Estelle, another triathlon pioneer and close friend of Roger said “for some time I didn’t know his name, just that he was the man with the cowboy hat, who was at every race helping out and shouting encouragement to beginners like me”. As well as marshaling club events, every year Roger marshaled the Sheffield Half at the turnaround on Ecclesall Road. So I too have been very glad to see that cowboy hat on many occasions. I always got a word or two of encouragement and, importantly, it meant I only had another 7 miles to go!
But it wasn’t all triathlon. I’d also describe Roger as a great drinking partner. He instigated the ‘first Friday in the month pub night’ which we still celebrate. Lots of people reading this will have enjoyed evenings in the Psalter Tavern or the Stag. Roger would turn up in his customary shorts and sandals, or occasionally his cherry red docs, to chat and put the world to rights. A while ago, I mentioned the red docs to his wife Vicky and she said he’d also got some bright green docs and they went well with his “dad dancing” at parties. At social events, you could always rely on Roger to bring along friends and family, as well as food and prizes, to make it a success. At training sessions and races he was great company; he had a knack of making things fun and he was always up for a beer afterwards.
In his final months, Roger continued to do the park runs and we still met regularly in coffee shops along Ecclesall Road. He never discussed his illness and he never complained. Faced with terminal illness, people are often described as brave but I doubt that Roger thought of himself as brave. I think he was just being ‘Roger’. An abiding memory of mine is of Roger on a Friday night in the Stag wearing a T-shirt reading “Is your glass half full or half empty?” In his case, I certainly know the answer to that. Like many people, I’m proud to have been a mate of Roger’s and I miss him greatly.
Written by Bob Pringle