2011 marked the 25th anniversary of the Pendle & Burnley Grand Prix.
No, we’re not talking about Formula One racing – this is a series of running races held in the area of East Lancashire.
The Burnley and Pendle Grand Prix – as was originally known – was founded in 1985 by Gerry McCabe.
Way back in 1984, Gerry moved to the area as Headmaster of Hendon Brook School, with a lack of funds and a need to generate an income for the school, so he launched the Hendon Brook Half Marathon.
The Hendon Brook Half Marathon is a 13.5 mile race, which was once considered light-heartedly as “tarmac torture”. It’s no secret that participants of this race soon realised how the beautiful scenery helped to numb the pain of the hills.
Despite the success of this half marathon, in 1984 numbers were low due to clashes with other races in the area. Gerry realised that in order to get the involvement needed, this event had to be much bigger. After contacting other local race organisers, and gaining sponsorship from several local companies, a 10-race Grand Prix was born.
Runners throughout the region have considered the Grand Prix as a summer fixture for over 25 years – which is no easy feat considering the competition of nationwide events over the years. Standing the test of time, this event has grown from strength to strength, seeing endless hours of fun, bringing runners together from areas across the North West and ultimately helping local business and charities alike.
Over the years we have seen a number of our popular sporting personalities complete this prestigious event; Mark Aspinall, Mark Smith, Roger Brewster, Alan Schofield, Craig Metcalfe, and John Calvert to name but a few. Not only that, but this event has allowed budding runners of all capabilities to really achieve their personal goals. Well done and thanks to everyone that has contributed to this prestigious event over the years.
It is with this in mind that we congratulate Gerry for his vision and dedication to this event – the fact that this event celebrated its 25th anniversary and continues to grow is testament to the continued effort of this man.
The series is based on a number of races in the calendar with counters in the Senior category and Veteran categories. The races start in May and continue into early August with the social presentation evening in August.
If you have been part of the Pendle and Burnley Grand Prix over the years, we want to hear from you…. your personal success stories, your stories from yester-year and your challenges overcome.
Get in touch via the contacts page or our Facebook page with your story – we’d love to share it with aspiring runners.
Before he retired he was a headteacher at Hendon Brook School in Nelson in the 1980s after moving to Colne.
The father-of-two set up one of the most iconic half marathons in the country, the ‘Hendon Brook Marathon’, while trying to raise funds for the school in 1985.
This resulted in the birth of the Pendle and Burnley Grand Prix running club.
In 1993, the running enthusiast went on to set up Trawden Athletic Club which now has more than 350 members.
Mr McCabe was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2014.
The cancer spread to his bones and Mr McCabe passed away at home on Saturday.
His son David, 43, said his dad will always be remembered for his humourous award presentations.
He said: “My dad always made people laugh and smile when he gave out awards after races.
“He really was a funny man and full of kindness and generosity.
“He loved the running clubs, he put so much time into them and it’s amazing to see what they have become.
“The clubs have blossomed so much, they’re his legacy.
“My dad said he always wished he could run a marathon in under three hours, he would always get so close.”
Mr McCabe, originally from Leadgate in County Durham, also worked at Primrose Hill School in Burnley.
Dozens of people took to social media to pay tribute to him, including former paralympian Mark Brown.
Paul Brown, the chairman of Trawden Athletic Club, said the running community would dearly miss him.
He said: “If it hadn’t been for Gerry our thriving club simply wouldn’t exist.
“His unwavering support, enthusiasm, generosity and keen sense of humour endeared him to generations of local runners.
“Gerry was a truly wonderful and inspirational man and he will be dearly missed by his family and many friends.””