AT 83 years old, it would be entirely understandable if Ian Barnes decided his race was run.

But Ian isn’t the type to put his feet up and reflect on the countless miles his running shoes have covered in his time.

And so it was a joy last week to see this kind, gentle but fiercely determined man presented with a Lifetime of Achievement Award at the 43rd Darlington Sports Winners’ Grand Final, at Darlington College, for his commitment to grass roots sport.

There are some people who enrich communities through their selflessness and decency, and Ian is one of them.

As event director, he is a familiar, friendly face at the hugely popular Darlington Park Run in South Park on Saturday mornings.

The Park Run is a recent initiative -– but Northallerton-born Ian’s commitment to local athletics goes way back. He’s been a member of Darlington Harriers for more than 60 years and, during that time, has served in every position, including secretary, treasurer, chairman and president.

And he is quite an athlete in his own right, not least as the national record holder for over-80s for the mile and 3,000 metres.

It certainly all adds up to a lifetime of achievement. Surely, Ian must be in the running for even higher honours.

AND then there’s Harry Singh – another familiar face for anyone who has ever taken part in the Darlington Park Run.

Harry, into his seventies, is the chap who always stands on the corner by the duck pond, stopwatch in hand, shouting out the times and offering words of support to plodders like me.

What I didn’t know, until he was also nominated for an award at the Darlington Sports Winners’ Grand Final, is that he is part of a select band of fewer than 100 people to have completed all 37 Great North Runs.

His wife Nachhatar isn’t far behind, with 34 Great North Runs to her name.

Are they the region’s fittest married couple? I’d love to know of any rivals.

COLIN Morris was another lovely man who was passionate about sport and community life in general.

It is no surprise that so many tributes have poured in following Colin’s death at 61.

A keen cyclist, skier, squash and tennis player, Colin loved life and it has been taken from him far too early.

With 40 years of public service behind him, across a range of social services, Colin had a deserved reputation for being down to earth, approachable, wise and diplomatic.

I knew him best during his time as chief executive of Darlington Primary Care Trust and he might easily have run training courses for other senior public figures in how to be open, transparent, and engaging.

His funeral takes place at 12.15pm on Friday at St Cuthbert’s Church in Darlington. I suspect it will be overflowing. Rest in peace, Colin.

THANK you to those who turned out at Darlington’s Theatre Hullabaloo last week for the launch of Darly’s Magical History Ride, the children’s book about a magical little train I’ve written for Darlington Building Society.

I’m proud that proceeds from the sales will go to the newly-launched Darly Children’s Foundation, to buy books for school libraries and, hopefully, help get kids reading.

That said, I’m sad to report an unfortunate incident involving Darly the day after the launch. Following a story-telling visit to New Marske Primary School, a giant cut-out of Darly was propped up behind my car while I packed up.

Imagine my horror when I forgot he was there and reversed over him. For a terrifying moment, I thought I’d killed Darly, but I’m glad to report that he’s recovering, albeit with a couple of tyre marks across his face.

FINALLY, a post-script from last week’s column which was devoted to Mally Barnes, The Chimney Sweep Poet of Cockfield.

Mally’s fame has spread far and wide since the column, and it resulted in an enquiry for a booking in Durham. No, not our Durham – the would-be customer lives 3,754 miles away in Durham, North Carolina.

“I don’t mind getting out and about but I think that’s a bit far to go in the van,” said Mally.