One of the Lake District’s best-known sporting personalities, fell runner and former manager of the England fell and mountain running team, Pete Bland, has died 21 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Family members said Mr Bland, who ran a sports shop in Kirkland, Kendal, for many years, and was a familiar figure at Lakeland races with his van, tested positive on 7th November and was admitted to hospital on the 16th.
“He fought so hard, but the virus showed him no mercy and he passed on the 28th,” said a statement on their behalf.
Pete Bland, who was born in Windermere and lived at nearby Staveley, was a regular on the professional fell racing circuit in his younger days.
He became a guides racer in 1954 at the age of 13 after having done well in cross-country at school.
The following year he was involved in a motorcycle accident which resulted in a double compound fracture of his left leg.
This curtailed his athletics career for a while and was the cause of injury problems for years afterwards.
His earliest success was in 1954 when he was second in the under-14 guide race at Ambleside Sports, and this was also the scene of his most memorable performance as a professional when, in 1968, he won the senior guides race at his ninth attempt.
Pete competed at most of the Lakeland sports events and was recently made a life member of Ambleside Sports in recognition of his contribution to the event.
Ambleside was one of his favourite sports meetings, along with Grasmere, Sedbergh and Alva.
Pete won 21 races in all but was never successful at Grasmere, although he did finish second to Bill Teasdale in 1961 and was always in the first half-dozen finishers from 1960 onwards, including three third placings.
He regularly commentated on the guides races at Grasmere Sports.
When the sport became open and the old professional and amateur distinction was swept away, Pete was a regular competitor.
He enjoyed competing in some of the longer distance events such as the Vaux Mountain Trial and Karrimor Two-Day Marathon.
In 1967 he also became interested in orienteering and joined the Lakeland Orienteering Club.
He also competed in cycling for Kent Valley RC in both road and cyclocross events.
Pete devoted most of his life to family and running. He enjoyed a long running career on the Lake District fells before turning his attention towards helping other runners, and his business sponsored up-and-coming and established athletes.
He organised the Kentmere race for 40 years along with other events, including the Rydal Round. As well as his role as England team manager for 10 years, he served for a long time on the committee of the Fell Runners’ Association.
He is survived by wife Anne, children Louise and Matt, son and daughter-in-law Glen and Tracey, and three grandchildren, and leaves behind a host of friends forged in the running community.
Ross Brewster got to know Pete during his early days as a reporter.
He said: “He always enjoyed chatting about running and usually finished in the first two or three places in the fell races so I must have interviewed him dozens of times.”