It was with much sadness and deep shock that we learned of the untimely passing of a much loved and well respected member of the City of Salisbury Athletics & Running Club Phil Perry, shortly before Christmas.
The news was especially shocking because just a week earlier we were all – Phil included – having a riotous time at the Cosarc Christmas Cocktail Party. (I will treasure that photo of Phil in the Turkey Hat). It is almost unfathomable that he is no longer with us.
Phil joined the Club in 2015 having just turned 50, and despite the fact that he had run very little since his school days, he wasted no time establishing himself as a regular and dedicated member of the Club. I first met Phil on a Wednesday Night Club run and with Stuart Robertson plus (a little later) Richard Larcombe we quickly became close friends and regular running buddies, partly because we got into running for similar reasons, but mainly because they were all happy to accommodate a slower pace when I’d overcooked it. Phil just rather enjoyed running for its own sake, and was never happier than exploring the roads (and especially trails) all around Salisbury. Which we did. A lot.
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time before Phil ran Marathons (not to mention those regular “100 mile” training weeks which he regarded as entirely normal!). For the first couple of years I remember none of us were ‘brave’ enough to step beyond the relative comfort of Half Marathon distance, although we often talked about it. Phil was a committed parkrunner to the end (despite not really enjoying the distance!). He rarely missed a week, except on those weekends where he was running a Marathon instead, and had completed 174 parkruns at Salisbury alone (212 in total) but I remember him telling me – often – that he found the 5k distance ‘hard work’ and he wanted to try his hand at longer distances. He suspected that he was better suited to endurance events, and wanted to find out for sure.
So towards the end of 2016 he shifted his focus, and quickly developed a love of Marathon and Endurance running. With very little ‘extra’ training he completed (we believe) his first marathon on 5th November 2016 – the Thames Meander in a very respectable 3 hours 50 minutes. Soon after that (again with no additional training) he smashed this time at the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (December 2016) in an impressively improved time of 3:34:24. And almost immediately, without any fuss or fanfare, he went ‘all in’, quietly announcing that he wanted to join the “100 Marathon” Club. Most people take around 10 years to join this venerable institution. Phil was keen to do it in 4 (!) and he set about methodically ticking off marathon after marathon in close succession (all in impressive times – as often as not around the 3:30 mark, and often quicker), and we were left in absolutely no doubt that he was going to reach his goal.
The pandemic put a spanner in the works for a while but, undeterred, Phil went to exceptional lengths to find events that were still running (often races with fewer than 50 participants), including a bonkers Marathon run entirely in the confines of Shepton Mallet prison.
He did love a towpath and we informally christened him “King of the Towpaths” on account of his regular participation in events organised by Phoenix Running and Saturn Running, who both organised Marathons along various stretches of the Thames.
His plan was to reach the magic 100 figure by Summer 2022 and he was well on course to do so. He completed what was to be his final Marathon (#82), fittingly, along a stretch of the River Thames near Staines - on 11th December 2021.
One of the saddest aspects of Phil’s running story is that he never got to compete at the London marathon. He had tried (and failed) the ballot route for several years, but he was also getting quicker and he knew his best chance was to earn qualification via Good For Age. After several “nearly” runs, his determination was finally rewarded. On 25th April 2021 he ran a personal best at Goodwood of 3:17:07, and thus qualified (GFA) for the London Marathon in 2022. He was SO excited at the prospect of competing, and it is heartbreaking that he never got the chance to fulfil this ambition.
Phil was very kind, very friendly and very humble and we were all tremendously fond of him. More than he probably ever realised. He could pick a top pair of trainers (usually Hokas) from a mile off, and he knew which were the good gels, and which ones were best avoided. Despite his consistently high mileage he never seemed to get injured, or to take a week off from running. His achievement in completing so many marathons was all the more remarkable because he ran each one so consistently fast.
He was serious in his approach to work and running goal-setting, but was also able to laugh at himself, which was handy as he had a habit of running into bollards on Club Runs. And he was extremely punctual, usually arriving 30 minutes before everyone else for training runs and pub visits.
He recognized that running was supposed to be fun, even if his training regime suggested otherwise. Phil was genuinely interested in other people's efforts regardless of their goals or ability. He was a true gentleman, a legendary runner and we will all miss him terribly.
Written by Jonathan Kershaw Information regarding the funeral of Phil Perry: The service will take place on Thursday 13th January at 13:00 in Salisbury crematorium, followed at 14:00 at the White Hart Hotel, Salisbury. If you are attending, please wear a club hoody/t shirt to show how Phil meant so much within the running club.
Phil’s family have asked for numbers of those who will attend, so if you are proposing to attend could you let Stuart know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org please.