TWO of Nene Valley Harriers’ top men have led the tributes to popular Spalding athlete Michael Barnsdale, who died aged 56 on Friday after a two-month battle with cancer.
Barnsdale, who joined Nene Valley in 1982, was cross country secretary for the club for ten years before becoming club chairman.
He was first diagnosed with skin cancer early in 2007 but battled back to again compete at a good level.
He last represented his country at the European Duathlon Championships in April but a few weeks later he collapsed and scans revealed the cancer had returned and had entered his bloodstream.
It had also spread to his brain and bones and he had a tumour in his eye.
As recently as nine weeks ago he rode the lead bike at the opening race of the Peterborough 5k Series but his health deteriorated and he lost his fight for life.
Barnsdale was well-known on the local sporting scene, not only as a member of Nene Valley but also Fenland Clarion Cycling Club and Spalding Triathlon Club. He also trained regularly with Thomas Cook Running Club.
He was a regular competitor in the British age group teams at both world and European duathlon championships, where he often made the top ten.
His best position at that level was fourth in his age group at last year’s Europeans in Nancy, France.
He also helped England to victory at the British Masters Cross-Country International in 2007 and he picked up a host of national age group medals in both athletics and duathlon including victory in the National Duathlon Ranking Series.
Harriers’ secretary Ray Church said: “Mike was the driving force behind Nene Valley’s success in national veteran championships.
“We had a spell where we were one of the best veteran teams in the country and a lot of that was down to Mike.
“While many runners slow down when they become veterans, Mike proved better at maintaining his form and fitness so he was a very good veteran.”
Nene Valley’s Ken Maggs added: “Mike was a respected and valued member of the club by young and old alike.
“He was a regular competitor and supported the younger club members with advice and support.”
As a mark of respect to “Barnie”, the Nene Valley 5k race at at Ferry Meadows in Peterborough this Wednesday will be started by a one minute round of applause, while a book of condolences will be present for athletes and supporters.
The book will also be available at the track for training sessions before being presented to Barnsdale’s family at his funeral, which is being held Peterborough Crematorium on Friday, August 19 (10.30am).
As of next year, the 5k race will be named the “Barnie Memorial 5k” – ensuring Barnsdale’s name will live on at the club long after his untimely death.