BY TOM POLLAK
Tributes have been pouring in for lifelong Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club member Pete Mulholland who has died from coronavirus.
Mulholland, who was 80, passed away in St Helier Hospital, Sutton, on Wednesday last week while recovering from surgery for a broken hip.
He joined the former Wimbledon Athletic Club in the early 1960s and was a founder member of Hercules Wimbledon Athletic Club in September 1967. He was Hercules Wimbledon president from 1983 to 1985.
When the two clubs merged, Mulholland, who had been cross country secretary at Wimbledon, continued in that role in the joint club for 50 years until he stood down in 2017. He also produced a twice-weekly newsletter and went to the club twice a week to help out.
But his involvement in the sport stretched well beyond his club. He helped Surrey County Athletics Association, compiling their senior men’s and women’s rankings for six years, until his health prevented him from continuing.
In recent years he helped man the gate at county track and field championships and he was honoured to serve as Surrey president in 2016. He was also involved with the South of the Thames cross country association serving as president in the 1984-1985 season.
He was a founder of the Wimbledon Common parkrun in January 2007 and, almost without fail, would be up on the common every Saturday morning to help out. As a dedicated athletics volunteer he was recognised by the Queen with the award of the British Empire Medal for services to athletics in Wimbledon in 2015.
Ironically, he almost missed out on the honour as he thought the official letter from the Cabinet Office was a tax demand.
He initially declined to open the envelope. It was only when the Cabinet Office called him to see whether he had received the letter that he realised what it was. His volunteering was also recognised at the England Athletics London Region Awards in November 2014.
He was no mean athlete either. He ran the London marathon several times and in 1969 was a member of Hercules Wimbledon’s winning Southern 12-stage road relay team. He was also a member of the winning Hercules Wimbledon team which won the Surrey road-relay titles at Woking in 1968 and 1969. He took up running to improve his health after suffering from TB as a youngster.
Hercules Wimbledon chairman David Clarke, three times winner of the English senior men’s cross country title, said:
“Pete always took time to chat and encourage anyone, no matter how good they were, no matter their age.
“He had a wonderful dry sense of humour alongside a fascination for statistics, so that he could speak knowledgeably with athletes and encourage them to do their best. Athletes wanted to push themselves harder as they knew Pete cared and was there to support ‘them’, whether it was in the nationals or parkrun
“Hercules Wimbledon were so very lucky to have had such a loyal supporter as Pete. Once his halcyon days were on the decline, like so many athletes of his generation, he served on the club committee for over four decades, holding the role of cross country secretary for 50 years. Although he was recognised for his services to athletics with the British Empire Medal his feet remained firmly on the ground trackside.”
Hercules Wimbledon’s general secretary Sheila White paid this tribute: “Pete was the first person my son Liam and I met when he joined Hercules Wimbledon as a 10-year-old in 2003, and that was the same for so many people who remember his warm welcome and immediate interest in them and their progress.
“Others would never even have joined the club if it hadn’t been for Pete out spotting untapped talent at the end of the funnel at the Wimbledon Common parkruns. For us all he was simply Mr Hercules Wimbledon. Funny and witty, his newsletters were the highlight of many people’s weeks. He barely missed a single training session, race, event, or social club gathering.
“It is hard to imagine anyone who could inspire such true affection and admiration from youngsters and contemporaries alike, not only at Hercules but in the greater athletics community. Everyone knew Pete. Everyone loved him. And we will miss him so much.”
Just over two years ago Mulholland was found to be suffering from kidney failure and since then underwent dialysis three times a week. He became increasingly immobile and was confined to a wheelchair and zimmer frame in his final years but was encouraged to attend and transported to events by his supportive Hercules Wimbledon club-mates.
With this weekend’s English road relay championships due to take place in Birmingham cancelled Hercules Wimbledon will be taking part in a virtual event against other clubs.
Teams of 12 runners will run individual 5km time trials and the total times will be added together.
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