In Memory of Our Late Chairman, Coach and Friend
Tribute as published in the Newtownabbey Times (PDF)
Greg Hopkins is County Antrim Harriers.
Greg was immensely proud of these colours, which him and his sister, Glynis Crawford, re-formed in 2005, the club originating from three church members in St Lukes Parish, off the Shankill Road in 1895.
In the older days the club had many international runners, especially in cross-country; Roy Brown, Ray Kirkland, Jackie Hoey and John Robinson, and more recently Glynis Crawford and Christine Murray. Also, sub 2:43 marathon runners of note Darren McAlister and Russell Hughes.
From this small seed of three in 1895, Greg developed County Antrim Harriers to a membership of over 80 runners today.
Greg was the Chairman, ‘The Coach’ and Companion to all.
Although Greg was called the Chairman, he actually was the secretary, treasurer, P.R., sat nav, entertainment manager, drink dispenser and contact card dispenser to all those unassuming joggers he followed behind, to give out the club details.
Also, Greg was the ultimate texter – his texts read that long it took half the day at work to come through. This was Greg; always thinking ahead, being meticulous and never leaving anyone out. The AGM would be in September and Greg would be ordering trophies at Easter, planning handicaps and summer trails, getting prizes and organising cars to races. Bowling, summer BBQ and Christmas nights out were all under his remit.
As Coach – he was second to none.
Mondays and Wednesdays at the Sixmile Leisure Centre consisted of tempo runs, speed work, hill work and cross-country, former years on Thursday evenings at Ballyearl, a long run at the weekend and more recently a parkrun thrown in for good measure, was the normal week.
Greg had all the qualities of a coach;
- Knowledge and Experience
- Commitment and Time
The Coach’s Knowledge and Experience:
Greg was qualified to a Level Two Coach and he subscribed to Runner’s World.
Here are some of his running credentials:
- 3:11 pb for Belfast Marathon in 1996
- 77 marathons in total ranging from Belfast, Newry and Mourne, Causeway, Dervock, Dublin, London, Las Vegas, Boston and Barbados.
- 20 Larne Half Marathons since they started, except for 2014 due to ill health. 1:27 pb for Larne Half Marathon in 1996
- 98 Park Runs
The Coach’s Encouragement:
Greg wasn’t just in it for the competitive runner, one of his biggest qualities was running at the back with the newcomers or slower pace groups. What they didn’t know was he had done his training earlier that morning. He always had an encouraging smile or a guilder as the case may be:
“You’ll not be first, you’ll not be last”
“Take the racing line”
“Tail that girl then pass her last 100”
Greg was also very protective of his girls before and after races, making sure no male competitors and coaches were getting a look in or he would have elbowed in and said,
“Don’t think your special – she talks to everyone” then chaperoned us away.
Away from the running, Greg was an encouragement to all, even those who themselves were suffering from Cancer. In the club he was confidant and a listening ear to everyone’s far ranging problems.
The Coach’s Resourcefulness
This was one of Greg’s fortes. If he didn’t know he found out. When I was running competitively and I turned up, Greg was able to tell me who was there in my age-group, what club they were from and vest colours, their pace and sometimes their last race time and more amusingly what training they had been doing, and even once, what vitamins they had been taking over the winter.
In the back of his car he had a tool kit that would put a garage to shame, from jump leads to cable ties, and a first aid kit that a Doctor would be very proud, all used by members of the club at some time.
The Coach’s Commitment and Time
Time is the biggest gift you can give anyone and Greg gave it abundantly, freely and generously. He was an inspiration to all in County Antrim Harriers, new and old alike. The latter years he gave of his time on Saturday mornings to put up barriers at the Waterworks Parkrun and helped course direct, but always taking a seat in the background. Even when he was in the middle of Chemo treatment he still managed to drive around the Monday and Wednesday night course routes, following us in those cold dark winter nights lighting up the way ahead.
Greg is irreplaceable and no-one can fill his running shoes, we can only follow him.
There is however some unfinished business to be done, as he talked about it as if he hadn’t achieved so much already. ‘The Coach’ planned to do 100 marathons and 100 park runs and for County Antrim Harriers to hold their own race. Those three goals will be achieved with the members help.
Another two matters Greg talked about, was that he would have liked County Antrim Harriers to have their own club house and for Ballyclare to have a running track. We can only aim for those.
The County Antrim Harriers’ club crest is the County Antrim Coast of Arms with the motto “Per Angusta Ad Angusta” which means from ‘Adversity We Triumph’ – how true this is of Greg Hopkin’s legacy.
County Antrim Harriers’ Secretary