Tribute to Kay Sayer by Ian

Posted on Thu, 29th October 2020 by Julie Astin
Club News, Off-topic

29th August 1946 – 25th October 2020

Kay and I met at Christchurch Rowing Club in 1974 soon after the breakup of her first marriage. Within 2 years we had moved in together and we jointly raised her 2 sons as our own.

She briefly tried rowing but that didn’t fit well with raising a family so we both changed to running. We both ran the London Marathon in 1984 and Kay also ran it in 1986 and 1991 achieving a very creditable best time of 3 hours 50 minutes.

In 1986 we tried Orienteering as a change from just pounding the pavements and she took to it like a duck to water. Whilst she was not the fastest over difficult terrain (she blamed her short legs) her navigation was excellent and she often finished in the top quarter or better in her age group.

In her 40’s she took up skiing as we took over the organisation of trips for a large group of friends. Although she confessed to not liking heights once she had overcome her fear of chairlifts Kay really enjoyed gliding elegantly down the slopes. These trips continued for many years in several countries including Canada and America.

In the late 1990’s she decided to join me in doing the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, albeit with a female partner. She completed several of these including a memorable one in 2006 when she fell on the second day and hurt her wrist. Her running partner Julie Astin bandaged it up and said that it wasn’t broken so they gamely continued and ended up winning their class. Only to discover at the end after a visit to Kendal hospital that she had, in fact, broken her wrist.

After my early retirement in 2007 we ventured far and wide including taking part in the World Masters Games in Australia after which we had a long holiday in New Zealand. We also competed in the Jukola and Venla in 2012 and (encouraged by Gavin Clegg) went to several of the early Euro City Races.

The Scottish 6 Days were a regular fixture for us and we often hosted a Club BBQ on the rest day. Similarly the Lakes or Welsh 5 Days were normally on our calendar. In 2012 whilst I was volunteering for the Olympic Games she drove a carload of Wessex members to Aberystwyth for the Welsh 5 days, walking up Cader Idris on the rest day.

Walking holidays in the Lake District were a firm favourite and she completed the majority of the Wainwrights over the years. Kay was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in late 2014 and, having nursed her mother through it many years before, knew what was in store. But in typical Kay fashion she wouldn’t let this stop her. She had been active in the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society for many years and she volunteered to go on drug trials in the quest for a cure. She took part in several trials over the years which involved having MRI Scans as well as injecting herself every day for a year.

Sadly no cure is yet on the horizon and her condition gradually got worse. By 2018 she found it difficult to orienteer on her own due to her confusion but the lovely world of orienteers stepped in to help and several people sacrificed their runs to go around with Kay (for which I will be forever thankful). Her last Multi Day Event was the Lakes 5 Days in 2018 as her walking was too bad to make last year’s Scottish.

However in July 2018 we managed to walk up Snowdon as she had already done Scafell Pike (several times) and Ben Nevis (again a rest day walk at the Scottish many years ago) so we managed to complete the trio.

By the end of 2019 she had lost the ability to walk and I could no longer look after her at home so she spent the last 10 months of her life in care homes. Due to Covid, visits were few and far between and hidden behind masks and PPE which made it harder for her to recognise anyone.

Kay will always be remembered for her lovely smile and her willingness to help others.

Ian Sayer

Orienteering Club