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The funeral service took place in Haywards Heath on Friday 20th November. A running guard of honour accompanied the hearse en route to the church with 4 athletes from Chris’s Cottage training group (including Hugo Cayssials), followed by 4 athletes from Haywards Heath AC and then Manuel, James, Phil and John representing TVH. Many TVH members travelled down to pay their respects and applaud with the hundreds lining the route.
Chris Smith – Thames Valley Harriers
Chris started his athletics career in Aberdeen and was already an established athlete when he joined TVH aged 24. In 2001 and 2002 Chris was competing as a middle distance athlete running 1:57 for 800m and 3:54 for 1500m. From 2003 to 2006 Chris moved up in distance running 5000m and 3000m steeplechase in the British Athletics League, running consistently well with a best time of 15:00.30 in the 5000m. Chris also started competing in road races including two of the big 5 mile events, recording 25:20 at Edinburgh and 25:36 at Hillingdon in 2004 and winning the prestigious City of London 5km event in 2006.
Cross country and mountain racing is where Chris would really excel, starting out with a 6th place finish in the Met League, a top 30 finish in the Southern Championships at Holkham Hall, North Norfolk and 3rd place at the London Cross Country Championships in the 2007/08 winter season. Chris was in great shape in 2008, running 14:50.44 for 5000m and 8:34.29 for 3000m and in the 2008/09 winter season finished 21st in the English National Cross Country Championships at his favourite Parliament Hill course.
Chris loved racing at Parliament Hill, competing there in London, Southern, National and Civil Service Championships. In 2010 he won the 10km London Cross Country Championships for the first time, also winning the event in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and finishing 2nd as recently as November 2019 at the age of 42. Chris’s best Southern cross country results were 3rd place in 2017 (shortly before his 40th birthday) and 4th place in 2011, both at Parliament Hill. As much as Chris loved tough, hilly cross country courses he was also very competitive on flatter courses, especially when running for TVH at Wormwood Scrubs. Chris won the Middlesex county championships there in 2013 and finished in the top 3 at the county championships 5 times. Competing for the Middlesex County team on many occasions, Chris was part of the winning team at the Inter-Counties cross country championships in 2018.
In 2010 Chris had a brief foray into marathon running, achieving his targets of a sub 70 min half marathon at Reading and sub 2-30 marathon at London. The following year Chris followed fellow Civil Service athlete Orlando Edwards to compete in mountain running and fell running events. It didn’t take Chris long to become a regular member of the British mountain running team, competing in the World and European championships in 2012. The GB men’s team won their first medal at the European Championships in 2013 finishing 2nd team, led by Steve Vernon in 5th place and Chris in 8th. Chris also finished 19th at the World championship event in 2013. In a fantastic 2016 season Chris finished 12th in the European Mountain Running Championships in Italy and 13th in the World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria.
After moving to Haywards Heath, Chris competed for TVH in championship races and his 2nd claim club Haywards Heath Harriers in Sussex League cross country races. Chris won a Met League cross country race for TVH at Horsenden Hill in 2011 and three Sussex League races for Haywards Heath, the last of these in October 2019.
With international mountain running events taking place in the summer months, Chris mainly competed for TVH in recent years at cross country championships and the spring and autumn road relays. He ran his 10,000m PB of 30:47.21 aged 40 at the Parliament Hill track Night of 10,000m PBs event in May 2017 and his road 10k PB of 30:52 winning the Worthing race in 2015.
Apart from all his immense achievements on the mountains, country, road and track, Chris meant a whole lot more to everyone at TVH. His warm and friendly manner made him such a popular member of the club and he made so many lasting friendships over the years. Anyone who knew Chris will tell you what a kind, considerate and generous person he was, always greeting everyone with a friendly smile and sharing a laugh and a joke. He always made the time to speak to everyone and nothing was ever too much trouble. His words of advice and encouragement were greatly appreciated by all and he was very much respected and loved by everyone at the club.
For everything he did he remained an extremely modest and humble person, qualities that marked him out as a very special person to all who knew him. He was an incredible athlete, ambassador and friend of the club who embodied the true spirit of TVH. All of TVH will be forever thankful for everything that Chris did for the club, he will be greatly missed but will live on in the hearts and minds of Thames Valley Harriers.
Our thoughts are with Lindsay, Cameron, Alastair and all of Chris’s family.