Famous fell runner lay dead in bog for three weeks

Photo by Gavin Trafford''Copy pic of Fell runner Bill Smith who died recently on a hill.
Photo by Gavin Trafford''Copy pic of Fell runner Bill Smith who died recently on a hill.
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THE body of a man found in a peat bog near Chipping last week was that of a legendary 75-year-old fell runner, it has been revealed.

Police confirmed on Friday that the dead man was Bill Smith, a pioneer of modern fell running and author of one of the definitive books on the sport, Stud Marks on the Summits.

It is believed that Mr Smith had fallen while out on a training run on Saddle Fell, and had lain undiscovered on the remote hilltop for up to three weeks, buried in the bog.

It is also believed that Mr Smith, who lived alone in Liverpool, went running alone on September 10 in the Trough of Bowland area.

His body was eventually spotted by a walker on the fell last Saturday, but the remote location meant a recovery operation was delayed until the following day.

A mountain rescue team and volunteers had to dig a trench through the bog to reach Mr Smith.

The body was formally identified after police tracked down his elderly sister, but fell race enthusiasts had become concerned for his welfare when he failed to turn up to marshal at the Thieveley Pike race near Burnley last month, and he was reported missing.

Tributes were paid this week to the veteran athlete.

Graham Breeze, chairman of the Fell Running Association, said: “Fell runners come and go, champions come and go, but no-one will ever be as important to the development and history of fell running as the man who died in September on the Bowland fells.”

Mr Smith was a member of Clayton-le-Moors Harriers, and chairman Pete Booth said on the club’s website: “Despite having to rely on public transport, Bill helped out at a huge number of races, often in the most inaccessible venues.

“He used to take photos, which he would distribute free of charge to the subjects, and always had a cheery word for anyone who passed the time of day with him.”

Fell running is a punishing endurance sport in which athletes take on the most remote and rugged terrain, navigating their way across moors and mountains.

Mr Smith’s achievements in the sport are the stuff of legend.

In one particular feat of endurance, in 1975, he completed 55 peaks in 24 hours.

The following year he scaled 63 peaks in 23 hours and 55 minutes.

Though many fell runners compete in groups because of the danger of getting lost or injured in bleak terrain, although experienced fell runners enjoy the challenge of heading into the wilderness alone.