The 11th March was a sad day for Manx fell running when we learned of the tragic death of our good friend James Coulson. James’ great big personality made him one of the most popular people in the local community and living on a hill sheep farm gave him the perfect opportunity to indulge his favourite pastime of fell running.
Not one to do things by halves James not only broke his neck once but twice, the first break only being found after he crashed a second time in a cycle race in 2003. After a 10-hour operation and nearly a year wearing a “halo” brace James was driving us all mad with his desperation to return to fell running.
A man of the open hill it must have been an anathema to consider the gym, however that was all the medics would allow and typically James took to it with his usual determination and promptly gained 2 inches in collar size! With such muscle development it was perhaps no surprise that he snapped both of the tungsten screws the surgeons had planted in his neck. Although unable to descend with such abandon as in the past, James was able to get back onto the fells in Autumn 2003 and entered his first race again on New Years Day 2005. His determination clearly showed when, in his third race of the season in late February, he finished in a time only a few minutes outside his best ever for the course.
Keen to have a go at anything, James, a gentle giant of a man, was a great supporter of all running events whether on the road, cross country or on the fells. He gave tremendous encouragement to everyone starting out in the sport. Together with a couple of friends he’d planned to start recce’ing the Bob Graham Round in April.
I was fortunate to run a great deal with James, and will always remember those moments three close friends shared after a lung bursting climb to a hill top cairn on a summer’s evening, as we took time out to watch the world go by, in the glow of the setting sun.
An enthusiastic MFR committee member and a highly accomplished sportsman, James was also a Manx car rally champion. One of the kindest people you could meet and one the world does not deserve to lose so young, James collapsed as he worked in the gym still keen to improve his speed and stamina. The throngs of people from family and friends to athletes, rally drivers, lifeboat crews and work colleagues who attended the service at Lonan church high above Laxey were testimony to his popularity. Surrounded by hills of yellow gorse, a favourite of James, which adorned his coffin, the lone piper played a lament as the mourners packed the church. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church, these weren’t tears of sorrow but of laughter as his elder brother Ian told stories of his over adventurous brother James who would not want to be remembered any other way, no fussing over him, no crying, just remembering such good times.