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Event stalwart Lever is greatly missed

Tough runner: Peter Lever in his competitive days

“I miss him. I think about him all the time.”

So said Anthony Raynor, the race director of the Bermuda Marathon Weekend, about Peter Lever who was one of the Island’s most talented and successful road runners.

Lever died last March at the age of 68. The British-born athlete had enjoyed success overseas and on the Island, which had been his home for some 40 years. After an impressive career as an athlete, he turned his attention to administration, organising and volunteering at a number of events.

And one of those events was Bermuda Marathon Weekend.

Raynor, who has been race director for the past eight years, said he relied on Lever’s advice in planning the event and also during the three days of races.

“Peter had a global knowledge of the sport,” he said. “As he ran here and abroad he knew many people who were able to assist us inside and outside of Bermuda. He knew a lot of international runners, from competing with them and also socially.

“Some of those runners then became coaches of other runners — runners we were able to invite to Bermuda.

“Peter had personal relationships with many of them and relationships are so important in this sport. If you have a good relationship with someone that person may have an influence with other runners. That helped to drive our (overseas) numbers up.”

Raynor said being a race director for a big event is “a lot of work”.

“I am always looking for help, direction and different opinions. One thing that Peter had was a very good attitude. He never got frazzled by the challenges — and there are always challenges. Peter always had a positive outlook. He kept a cool head.

“I miss him. I think about him all the time and I keep in touch with his friends and people he introduced me to.”

Raynor said that when he was overseas he would meet other runners and coaches and they would all say “I know Peter Lever”.

“His name would come up so often,” said Raynor, adding that the running community was shocked by Lever’s death.

“At the time of his death we were talking about this year’s race. We were e-mailing each other that very day (he died) about marketing the event and other things.

“When I first started as race director of Marathon Weekend, Peter was one of the first people I went to for assistance and advice. I really miss him as many other people do.”

Pam Shailer, who has been involved with Marathon Weekend for decades as race secretary, said Lever would be missed by all who were involved.

“He is going to be sadly missed. Peter was involved with all aspects of race weekend — he even was the MC during the awards ceremony on the Sunday night. That was something he didn’t really relish doing, but he was so good at it that we always said ‘you have to do it’. And he did.

“Peter was always so dependable — you only had to ask him once to do something and it was done.”

Lever was heavily involved with bringing elite athletes to Bermuda. Shailer said: “He was the one who brought in athletes from Russia and the (former) Eastern Bloc and managed to secure sponsorship from local companies to bring them in. And often those runners won.

“Since he also competed overseas he would always come back with ideas on how to make Marathon Weekend better. You could always bounce ideas off of him, he was a great sounding board and would be there at the finish line making sure everything was running smoothly.”

Many years ago the elite athletes would stay in private homes and not hotels like they do today.

Shailer added: “Peter would find local runners who would put up the elite athletes. I have always been on the administrative side of things while Peter was a runner and he knew what the elite athletes were looking for. He made sure everything was in place for them.”

Bermuda National Athletic Association (BNAA) executive committee member Bob Oliver, who had known Lever since he first arrived on the Island in the 1970s, said: “He was a talented athlete, but a fun kind of guy to be around. He often reminisced about the old days and loved to tell jokes. I always respected him as a runner in the heyday of Bermuda road running. He was not an elegant athlete, but one who was not afraid to hurt and he ground out 100 per cent effort every time. Besides being a very good runner, he did a lot for the sport.”

Lever taught at Saltus Grammar School in the 1970s but later ventured into real estate. He was owner of the Wigwam real estate company. For many years he boasted the fastest marathon time of anyone living in Bermuda. He ran 2hr 21min 19sec in the Detroit Marathon in 1972. He ran other sub-2.30 marathon times but was also a force over the 10K and half-marathon distances.

Former Commonwealth Games and European Championship marathon winner Ron Hill said he and Lever were team-mates when they competed for Bolton Harriers running club in Lancashire, England, during the 1960s and early 1970s.

“He was a very good friend. I stayed with him at his house in Toronto and later met him when I came to Bermuda,” said Hill, 77, who won the Bermuda Marathon Weekend marathon in 1978.

“We ran for the Bolton Harriers at the same time and competed in road relays together. He would invite people to come and stay with him, and he was instrumental in getting me to Bermuda.”