ONE of the Lake District’s best known athletes will mark a special anniversary at Ambleside Sports next month.

Pete Bland will watch the senior guides race 50 years after he won the prestigious event at what was his ninth attempt.

He retired from running 25 years ago with knee injuries but went on to become organiser of the iconic Rydal Round fell race at the sports for 40 years.

Now known throughout the Lakes and beyond as a specialist retailer of running equipment, Pete’s trade van is a familiar sight at races – and his shop in Kendal is a mecca for all who love the fells.

Now retired, the business is run by Pete’s son Matthew, but Pete is often to be found at races and is an honoured life member of the team at Ambleside Sports.

Pete started running as a pupil at the former Windermere Grammar School, where he regularly won cross country events.

“I thought, I’m good at this, perhaps I should do some races,” he recalls.

He came second in the under 14s race at Ambleside Sports – but at 14 a motor cycle accident almost stopped his athletic career.

He said: “They told my mum and dad that I’d never run again, but I just got on with it. It took two years before I could compete again.”

He won guides races – the short, sharp, usually very steep, events – at Sedbergh Gala and Dent Sports, and was placed second and third a number of times at Grasmere.

He switched to longer races in the days when short races were considered “professional” as small amounts of prize money were awarded, and became an “amateur” runner. His favourite races were at Ben Nevis and the Fairfield Horseshoe, but he also ran marathons, including London three times, and recorded a personal best time of 2:43 at Huddersfield – a notoriously hilly course.

“He’s something of a legend,” said sports’ chair Marjorie Blackburn.

“Pete’s not just been an outstanding athlete in his time but he has supported our event enthusiastically and built up the Rydal Round to become one of the key events on the racing calendar.”