TRIBUTES have poured in after the death of a Kendal man and 'true legend' of the fell running world.
Pete Bland has been described as an 'inspiration' who leaves behind a 'huge legacy'.
The family of Mr Bland announced he had died on the Facebook page of Pete Bland Sports, the running store that Mr Bland and wife Anne opened on Kirkland, Kendal, in September 1981.
A spokesman said Mr Bland had tested positive for Covid-19 on November 7 and was admitted to hospital on November 16. He 'fought so hard but the virus showed him no mercy' and he sadly died on Saturday.
Tributes to Mr Bland since his death have painted a picture of a family man with a smile on his face and an 'indelible' legacy in the sport of fell running.
Margaret Belk, chair of Kendal Amateur Athletic Club (AAC), and husband Richard had known Mr Bland since the 1970s, when they all ran together for the club's fell running team.
“As long as I’ve lived here he’s been an icon of local fell running and local knowledge too,” Mrs Belk told The Westmorland Gazette.
“He was just a friendly, outgoing guy. He would always have a laugh, one of the team, always up for any sort of challenge, nothing was ever too much trouble for him.
“He’s helped so many local runners. I couldn’t begin to count how many. He’s always been supportive of local running events as well.”
Mr Bland's family said he devoted his life to two things - family and running.
Once his legs grew tired after a long running career on the Lakeland fells, he opened Pete Bland Sports.
He served as chairman and president of Kendal AAC, and was manager of the England fell and mountain running team for 10 years.
He organised and supported numerous running races - including the Kentmere Horseshoe for 40 years - and served on the committee of the Fell Runners Association.
Billy Procter, president of Kendal-based running club Helm Hill, described Mr Bland as a 'true legend' of the fell running world.
"You could not go to a fell race without the name of Pete Bland being brought up in conversation," said Mr Procter.
"He was not only a phenomenal runner, but then went on to help other fell runners achieve their dreams, as well as raising the profile of the sport to the exceptional levels we see today.
"His words of advice, friendly demeanour and famous commentary of the classic Lakeland guides races at Ambleside and Grasmere Sports will be truly missed, but his spirit still lives on at Pete Bland Sports, which he started all them years ago."
Sarah McCormack, membership secretary at Ambleside AC fell running club, paid tribute on behalf of the club.
She said: "The fell running community are deeply saddened by the passing of Pete Bland.
"Pete's contributions to the sport included not only his many personal racing achievements but also his work as a race organiser and team manager, not to mention his shop's ongoing support of junior development in fell running over the years.
"Pete was an extremely well-liked and respected figure and will be sadly missed by so many."
MP Tim Farron said Mr Bland was a 'genuine legend' and 'an inspiration to so many of us'.
"My thoughts and love are with Anne and the family at this incredibly difficult time," he said.
Andy Ford said: "I don’t think I have the words really to do him justice. So sorry to hear this and for the family's loss. A true stalwart of all things fell running who always had time for a chat with people like me."
Chris Knox said: "Pete has encompassed the era of fell running for most of us - and what an era it has been. Thank you and long live Pete Bland Sports."
Mr Bland leaves behind wife Anne, children Louise and Matt, son-in-law Glen and daughter-in-law Tracey, and grandchildren Robbie, Holly and Billy.