Ann Smith passed away on Thursday morning (22nd October), aged 83.

Most present members will remember Ann with her involvement in race walking, but her Life Membership of Coventry Godiva Harriers testifies to the fact that she did far more than that.

Ann was born 29/05/37 and had been a member of Westbury Athletic Club for a couple of years before joining Godiva in October 1966, being the mother of two young children, Karen (5 years) and Mike (3 years), when she had come to the Midlands because of husband Ken’s job; Ken was also a capable athlete. As early as this in her athletic career she was showing potential, helping Westbury Harriers to 3rd team in the Midland Women’s Cross Country Championships with a 10th placing.  The all powerful Birchfield Harriers tried to get her to join their strong squad when they knew she was moving to the Midlands, but Godiva was her preference. In January (21st at Enfield) she won the National Junior title, nearly 3 years after taking up the sport.

She did not like track running, preferring road and country although she was not averse to filling in for inter club competitions (the forerunner of the League system), anything from high jump to 880 yards.

She was a regular member of Godiva’s all conquering road relay team with Sheila Carey (Taylor as she was in those days) and Thelwyn Bateman. She regularly placed in the Women’s Midland Cross Country League, representing them in selection races. She was a county medallist (Gloucestershire) but the highlight must have been as a Godiva team member (with Sheila Carey, Thelwyn Bateman and Ann Kirkham) when the club won Gold in the Women’s National Cross Country in 1971 to add to their Midland’s title.  Ann was the Women’s club captain but relinquished the position when she felt she could not commit enough time to the post when the family were living in Peterborough.  However, they still attended the track on Sundays for training, husband Ken being a first class walker with the club, they used to ‘camp’ in the Butts car park overnight in their dormobile.

Ann gradually became more involved in the official side of the club with Ken and Ann becoming well regarded lap recorders which saw them work together on many area and national championships. Indeed they were key officials at the Race Walking World Championships in the Isle of Man in 1985.

When not officiating, Ann was often a key part of the feeding teams at long distance races and was known to threaten husband Ken with divorce if he wilted and considered dropping out. At the Isle of Man TT race in 1992, she was running shuttles back and forth to keep the team of Ken, future son-in-law Dave Ratcliffe and Godiva stalwart Glyn Jones going. With Ken and Dave well up the road she went back to find Glyn in a heap in a ditch, at the side of the road with some 6 miles to go. She helped him get going again and then in typical style told him that he had to catch the Manx walker ahead of him so that they could win the team and sure enough with her encouragement he did!

When the Walking Section of Godiva amalgamated with the Greyfriars Club in 1982 to form the Coventry Race Walking Club, she became secretary, receiving her Life Membership four years later. This was replicated when she also became a Godiva Life member ‘for services to the club’ soon after the folding of the CRWC when many walking members rejoined Godiva.

Ken and Ann moved to Hertfordshire in 1984, but continued their connection with the club with both son Michael and daughter Karen representing the club and country with distinction. When they moved back to the area in 1999, Mark Roberts asked them to help with Godiva Kids, and they gladly volunteered, getting the venture organised with setting up a registration scheme, coaching and taking over with Jim Spencer and Gordon Horne when Mark left the club. They would also help out as track judges when not occupied with their race walking commitments.

Ann maintained her involvement within athletics after Ken’s sad death in 2002 and continued to officiate, including the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the European Cup of Race Walking at Leamington in 2007. A neurological complaint limited her mobility in later life, but nonetheless she was an ever present at the Hungry Harrier and continued with her commitment to race walking at all levels.