GONE but never forgotten, the memories of Hereford’s influential Tarrant brothers will continue to inspire successive generations of athletes in the city they fondly called home.

Much-loved and admired coach Vic Tarrant, who urged hundreds on to reach their personal best during a long and illustrious tenure with Hereford Athletics Club, lived just long enough to see his famous brother, the so-called Ghost Runner of legend, honoured with the unveiling of a much anticipated sculpture in Holmer Road.

Calls for the late John Tarrant, reckoned to have been the greatest ultra long-distance runner in the world, to be recognised in his home town were answered earlier this year. The silvery monument to Ghost Runner shines on the skyline as an acknowledgement to a man whose grit and determination brought him success on a world-wide scale; but tragically no trophies.

Vic, whose funeral takes place at Hereford Crematorium at 2.15pm on Wednesday April 24, will long be remembered by legions of runners in Herefordshire and beyond. While his brother’s abilities led him to break international records in 40-mile and 100-mile runs, Vic was content to take a step back and encourage others to embrace the Tarrant passion for running.

A chef at the former RAF Hereford camp at Credenhill, Vic’s passion for running was already inspiring those around him more than 40 years ago. Even though he has now crossed the finishing line, Nikki Tyler and fellow coach Lisa Ruck are assured that Vic, and his late brother John will continue to inspire.

In a moving tribute following the announcement of Vic’s death they write: “We are running for you today Vic Tarrant, in thanks for being the most thoughtful, kind, dedicated coach in the community for nearly 40 years. Thank you so much for being the unique man you were with a heart made of gold.”

It was a thrill for Vic when John’s memory was honoured with the new Ghost Runner memorial. During his relatively short life – he died in 1975 at the age of 42 - John notched up unbeatable long-distance times and might even have earned Olympic glory. Yet a brief dalliance with boxing during his teens, and a mere £17 reward, effectively put him out of the running.

Banned from amateur athletics for life, London-born John Tarrant developed ways and means of hitting the track. Disguised in a long overcoat with a cap pulled down over his face, he would wait till the last minute to join the field in his vest and shorts. Unregistered for the run, he had no number; hence the Ghost Runner was born.

His name never appeared in the results; John Tarrant was a non-person in terms of officialdom. But his fame grew and promoters came to realise that he had enormous pulling power. Even BBC TV’s David Coleman, the Gary Linekar of his day, came calling. Interviewed on the presenter’s Sportsnight programme, the Ghost Runner received his good luck wishes for the future. Yet the Amateur Athletics Association was swiftly in touch to ask for his fee to be repaid.

In an obituary written by Chris Brasher, the celebrated British track and field athlete, journalist and co-founder of the London Marathon, he described John Tarrant as “the most honest man I have ever met”. He ran for the pure love of running, blithely accepting that official recognition could never come his way.

In 1958 the terrible ruling was eased: administrators allowed him to run in Britain. But never to represent his country. In the 1960s he went on to achieve the 40-mile and 100-mile world record runs, and in South Africa he defied the apartheid rulebook to be the only white runner in outlawed black races.

He was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer 44 years ago, and while receiving treatment at the former Hereford General Hospital, fans asked for his autograph. Despite his emaciated frame, he still managed to sneak out for a run on the nearby Castle Green. That unending lust for the track against all the odds is told in Bill jones’ book ‘The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Stop’. Others believe his incredible story is worthy of a film.

Now thanks to the unswerving determination of Hereford runner and coach Nikki Tyler, Hereford’s legendary athlete has finally been recognised with the new sculpture currently standing at Hereford’s skateboard park. Once planning approval has been given, the Ghost Runner will become a permanent fixture alongside the city’s athletics track.

His brother Vic had been living in a nursing home after suffering a stroke and major heart by-pass surgery, but survived just long enough to see Hereford’s long overdue acknowledgement to John Tarrant..

He had overcome cruel strictures placed upon him by a short-lived foray into boxing with its paltry financial reward. As he told a national newspaper: “I ran to convince the AAA that I am purely amateur and race for the love of it.” Finally in 1958 he was told he would be permitted to run in Britain, but was never permitted to represent his country. He accepted his lot and in the 1960s he succeeded in breaking new records for long-distance hauls over 40 miles and subsequently 100 miles.

He conquered all that life threw at him. Born in Shepherd’s Bush in 1932, while his father was serving overseas during the Second World War and his beloved mother dying of TB, he was packed off to a harsh children’s home in Kent. His father remarried in 1947 and the family moved to the Peak District where John and his devoted brother Vic joined Buxton’s boxing hall, a pivotal moment in John’s life.

In spite of the AAA’s ban, that pure zest for running which was also shared by Vic, was enough to galvanise others to take to the track, and indeed for Hereford coaches like Nikki Tyler and Lisa Ruck to devote so much time and energy to pass on that passion.

One thing is certain: the spirit of the Ghost Runner and his indefatigable brother will never dim, but continue to blaze a trail in the world of athletics here at Hereford.