Tributes pour in for running stalwart Whalley
Former runners Ray Swan, Mike Watson and Donna Raynor added to the tributes paid to veteran Mike Whalley who passed away on the weekend at age 74.
Whalley, who was from Scotland but lived on the island for more than 50 years, was a regular participant in road and cross-country races.
“On behalf of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends and our athletic family for the loss of Mr Michael Whalley,” said Raynor, the BNAA president.
“Mike has been a regular competitor for all BNAA/BTFA events, specifically road running and cross-country for decades. There are some road runners who do not enjoy the challenge of cross-country, however Mike was not one of them, he loved cross-country and he rarely missed a race.”
Raynor also recalled how Whalley was a strong advocate for the senior runners, making sure they received recognition, too. “Mike was always very polite to the officials and after every race came to us and thanked us for hosting a great event,” she said.
“Mike always made sure that we did not forget to add in the Masters and Senior Masters categories for our awards as he moved through each age group.
“Even in the Front Street Mile he made sure we recognised our Senior Masters and did not put them in the same category as the other runners. When we gave out the awards, which Mike always received one of the top spots, he would say ‘thank you for remembering us’ even though it was mainly because of him that we made sure we had those awards.
“We will truly miss Mike at our cross-country events as he came up with a smile always to collect his numbers. We didn’t see him at our last series of events but I would always ask if anyone knew how Mike was doing.”
Raynor recalls Whalley being involved when she was a young participant in cross-country. She also remembers the last time they chatted, at the end of his last cross-country race.
“Mike was around when I was competing in the BTFA cross-country events,” Raynor remembers.
“Mike would always encourage me as I struggled over those hills on the sand dunes. He made you feel like you should never want to give up.
“Mike and I always had conversations throughout the years regarding the sport. I will never forget the last conversation that I had with Mike at his last cross-country event at Fort Scaur.
“At the end of the race as I headed to my car, Mike was sitting off on the grass. I stopped by to make sure he was all right and we had an in-depth conversation. “He advised me of his illness which totally shocked me, but we chatted for a long while. I thanked him for always supporting the BNAA/BTFA and he thanked us for continually hosting the cross-country events that he enjoyed and looked forward to.”She added: “Mike was a trooper and had a positive outlook that all would work out fine for him. He did tell me that he will continue competing and running as long as he could.
“I did leave that conversation a bit sad. I was even more saddened when I saw that he had passed and that last conversation with him will stay with me.
“I will miss watching Mike compete in cross-country and road races. He was a tough competitor. Condolences to his family and the running fraternity.”Michael Watson, another former middle-distance runner and May 24 race winner, stated: “Mike Whalley was the Bermuda Scotsman that adopted the island as his home during the 1960s and Seventies era of May 24 professional running,” Watson said.“He was a part of the competition during the Calvin Hansey, Cal Bean and Virgil [twins] dominance of May 24 right up to present day. He can be credited for being the most non-political, anti-racist supporter of local athletics who attended almost every BNAA, Swan’s, MAAC and any other organised running events.
“During all these years of running, spanning over 50 years, very seldom was he not in the top ten of his age group. We must acknowledge and send condolences to his family and running families for the accomplishment of our great flying Scotsman.”
Wayne Raynor, president of the Bermuda Pacers, also paid a tribute to Whalley. “On behalf of the Bermuda Pacers Track Club, we wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Mike Whalley,” Raynor said.
“You could always depend on Mike to come out and support the cross-country and road-running events hosted by BNAA and its affiliates as he was ever present. He would often express his appreciation to us by saying ‘thanks to the volunteers for coming out and making the event happen’ and noting he enjoyed the experience.
“We were saddened when he told us of his illness and he would not be running any more due to his illness. May God be with his family during this time.”
Raymond Swan, a multiple May 24 race winner, also has fond memories of Whalley, the runner and the person. “Mike was a great friend,” Swan said.
“He was a kind person and he and I got along so well from the start. We were tight. I train every Saturday on the beach at Horseshoe Bay and back of Warwick Camp, and Mike and I ran many Saturdays together.
“He was a good runner and we supported each other. I can’t believe he has passed. I am shocked.
“I send my sincere condolences to his family. I have lost a great friend!”