Heroes of Running 2008 - Winners

Every year at Runner's World, we come across people who achieve amazing things and who use running as a force of change, in their own lives and in the lives of others. Go to any running event in the UK and you'll find them. They are the beginners who cross a finish line for the first time. They are the veterans whose commitment to the sport never wavers, year after year. They are the people who defy limitations and exceed expectations. They show us how with the simple act of moving forward we can shape each other, our sport and our world.

Our Heroes of Running Awards were launched to honour these remarkable individuals, not only for the heroics they've demonstrated but also the future heroes they'll inspire. Hundreds of you got in touch with your nominations across all seven categories, and we're delighted to introduce our extraordinary winners.

The Jane Tomlinson Inspiration Award
Mick and Phil Curry

If you ever needed a pep talk, you could do worse than have a chat to Mick Curry. Along with his son Phil, Mick has completed 278 races since 2002, including 27 full marathons and 162 half-marathons.

Mick and Phil wouldn’t run without each other, but this is no ordinary partnership: Phil has severe physical and mental disabilities and is completely reliant on his parents for round-the-clock care, so Mick pushes Phil around races – no mean feat considering Phil is now a young adult.

Running has given Mick and Phil – and Phil’s mother Dawn – a new lease of life, but in return they’ve given back so much support, friendship and awe-inspiring guts to the sport, motivating the thousands of runners they meet both at races and on the runnersworld.co.uk forums.

The Fundraiser
Eric Hardwick

Eric Hardwick is not your average charity fundraiser. After taking part in the 1982 London Marathon, he was inspired to start his own event to raise money for needy causes, on the rolling hills and streets of his hometown.

Two years later, the Hastings Half-Marathon was born. The toughness of the hills and unpredictability of the coastal winds left some dubious about the event’s longevity. But this popular race has been a success on every front, and has raised over three million pounds for charity over the past 24 years.

There have been bumpy times along the way, but Hardwick remains the event’s volunteer race director, and with his innovative ideas this race continues to prosper and flourish to the benefit of hundreds of local and national charities.

The Mentor
Pauline Beare

The growth of women’s running, one of the biggest sea changes in our sport over the past decade, is a complex phenomenon. There is no question, however, that a few significant seeds of that growth were planted in Devon in 1998, the year Pauline Beare co-founded the Women’s Running Network (along with Peggy Wiseman) with the goal of inspiring women of all ages to run.

The idea struck a cord, and from a handful of members based in Exeter, the network has grown into the largest group of women-only running clubs in the UK. Beare’s passion and enthusiasm have been responsible for launching thousands of running careers.

"Its success," says Beare, "is based on a simple philosophy: living all women, whatever their age, size or ability, the opportunity to run together to improve their health, confidence and safety."

The Rising Star
Steph Twell

The past 12 months have seen Steph Twell become the very first woman to win two successive European junior cross-country titles, eclipse Zola Budd’s 23-year U-17 1500m record and even give Kenyan seniors a run for their money, all of which leave few in doubt that this 18-year-old’s star is well and truly in the ascendance.

An inspiration to runners of all ages, Twell – who is already being lauded the long-term successor to Paula Radcliffe’s distance-running crown – is a shining role model for the next generation of Britain’s young athletes. "It’s not just her natural talent but also her attitude and personality that enable her to be able to do that," explains Twell’s coach, Mick Woods.

As well as being a talented athlete, Twell is studying Strength and Conditioning Science at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. This July, the Aldershot runner will compete at the World Junior Championships in Poland, most likely her final foray as a junior.

The Survivor
Keith Passingham

Eight years ago, dedicated club runner Keith Passingham was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Where some might have buckled under after such a crushing blow, Passingham, now 56, got ready for battle. He endured the lengthy and exhausting treatment with characteristic determination; in his favour was his long-standing commitment to running.

When he finally beat cancer, his doctors said they believed his recovery was partly down to the fitness he built up during the years doing the sport he loved. But not content with that significant achievement, Passingham, from Rayleigh in Essex, went on to establish a Southend-based running group that has now been going for over six years, and which has introduced many newcomers to the joy of running.

A veteran of several Flora London Marathons, Keith is a shining example to everyone connected to him. As one of his advocates says: "Keith has inspired so many people in so many ways."

The Ambassador
Richard Nerurkar MBE

As an elite athlete, Richard Nerurkar achieved considerable success: his victory in the 1993 World Marathon Cup remains a recent highlight of British men’s marathon running, and his 2:08:36 at the 1997 London Marathon was the last time a Brit broke 2:09.

But it’s undoubtedly in his role as co-founder of the Great Ethiopian Run that Nerurkar has made his greatest strides in and for our sport. Few people can claim to have taken running to so many. Established in 2001 as a platform for the improvement of life for Ethiopia’s people, the Great Ethiopian Run not only gave people a chance to take part in the country’s unofficial national sport, it also provided a platform to highlight crucial health messages.

With Nerurkar at the helm, the event has become Africa’s biggest road race, attracting over 20,000 participants and spawning numerous other mass-participation events that have been staged throughout Ethiopia.

The Veteran
Ron Hill

Ron Hill is the model running veteran. As an elite runner, he inspired runners everywhere with his achievements in the sport, which include representing Great Britain at three Olympic Games, becoming the first Briton to run under 2:10 in the marathon (2:09:28), and gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. But Hill continues to inspire long into retirement.

Amazingly, the 69-year-old founder of Ronhill and Hilly clothing companies has run every single day of his life since December 20th 1964 – even running around a hospital ward with a broken sternum after a car crash. And he shows no sign of hanging up his running shoes any time soon, still running 30 miles a week.

By the time his 70th birthday comes around in September, Hill hopes to have competed in races in 100 different countries.