At the close of the 20th century, in November 1999, John Clapp, Bob Bell, and Colin Axford formed the Hogweed Trotters Road runners Club, of the three it was Bob Bell who went on to become club chairman, and the main driving force. When the following year the club was officially recognised by England Athletics Bob noted the event by stating at the inaugural AGM
“The HWTRRC is now fully established, our colours are becoming recognised and respected throughout the running world and we will continue to build our club and achieve great things.”
However, with a full time membership standing at seven, getting momentum for new members was always going to be something of a challenge.
Nothing daunted, Bob hit upon the novel idea of approaching the many solo runners around Chipping Sodbury with the Hogweed club card, there were a few surprised results, but most were charmed by the warmth and enthusiasm of Mr Bell.
23 years, and many club members later, “warm and enthusiastic” are the two words that most runners will use to describe Bob.
From the off he wanted the club to be all encompassing, welcoming members all abilities, from complete beginners to grizzled veterans, all of whom benefited from Bobs inimitable approach to running.
Many was the time when a club member would arrive back at the club house disappointed at what they perceived to be a poor performance only to be reinvigorated by Bob, who would take a different perspective, and point out to the downhearted individual just how running any distance was outstanding and he, Bob, was really impressed.
Bob’s approach to club running was not always entirely conventional, it was certainly full of bonhomie and laughter, some of the phrases used by our late chairman included “A drinking club with a running problem”, “run at the speed of chat” and of course the club motto,
“Wisely and slow: they stumble that run fast” (William Shakespeare)
Underlining his sense of fun, Bob also came up with the following:
“During 2001 I will initiate an awards programme. There will be a chairman’s award for the clubman/club lady of the year either on or off road.
A “Black Dog award” for the WORST racing performance of the season and “Freak of Nature” award for the BEST race performance of the season”
The awards, ceremony duly took place in “The George” in Chipping Sodbury, dress was casual, t shirt and jeans and all present wore bow ties, large amounts of beer were consumed by all present, along with “Chips, chips and more Chips!”
It was a classic Bob event and typical of what was to come over the next decade, including “The Kilcott experience where all club members were encouraged to run the 16 miles course including the challenging Kilcott hill with all participants finishing at the Beaufort in Hawkesbury Upton for a barbeque washed down with the odd pint.
Then there was the “Sherston Pub run” a 12-mile trot from the ridings to the Rattle bone and once again a quick (or not so quick) refresher on arrival.
However, Bobs enthusiasm for keeping things light and having fun to was balanced by a desire to get the club up there, alongside other local running clubs, and during his chairmanship the now renowned 10K “Hogweed Trott” was born, along with the” Hogweed Hilly half marathon” and the” Hogweed Muggles off road races”.
Bob encouraged, charmed and enthused members to taking part in all manner of events that they would never have considered as solo runners ranging from the notorious “Grizzly” off road race to the ever popular “London Marathon” and Cotswold way relay events not forgetting of course the annual flight to Spain for the Majorca marathon!
Bob finally decided to hang up his trainers in 2015 having been chairman for a decade and half and having overseen the club from its inception to full maturity with many hundreds of men and women having discovered their ability to run and the satisfaction of doing so, whilst under his sway.
Even in “retirement” Bob was still a fixture on the running circuit as he took up his post at the Chipping Sodbury Park run, marshalling at what became known as “Bob’s rock”, giving words of encouragement to all who ran past him.
His dedication to his sport stayed with him to the end and right up until April 23 this year he was helping with the “Horton Bull run”.
His passing is the passing of a “one off “who will be greatly missed by all who knew him, and whose lives he benefitted immeasurably. Our condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to his family.