From schoolboy cross country runner to hallowed turf goal-scorer. Steve Eke shares his running memories and more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself? i.e. where you grew up, family etc.
I was born in 1957 in Moulsecoomb, we moved early in my life and lived in a flat in Russell Street, Brighton, right where the Brighton Centre now stands. We returned to Moulsecoomb when I was 3 years old, living in Chailey Rd. in a good sized council house with a big garden, which was fortunate as I eventually had 7 brothers and sisters- I was (am) number 2! Everything we did was outside and involved a ball and running.
When did you first start running?
I attended Moulsecoomb Infant and Primary Schools before moving up to Stanmer Secondary School adjacent to Stanmer Park. I had only been at the school a month when the cross country event for first and second years took place which I entered, as we came round on the second lap I was tucked in the crowd of runners and realised I had loads of energy left. I sprinted through and down the hill to win, as I passed the winning line a teacher stepped forward and said to me ” OK sonny where did you take a short cut?” apparently cheating wasn’t uncommon and a second year older boy was expected to win. I managed to convince him I had won legitimately with evidence from fellow runners. That was my first organised run at age 12!
I continued to run cross country through my school years being one of the better runners in my school, although when I entered the Sussex Schools event against runners from all over the county I was well down the field and realised I was more likely to be successful at football
What made you start running?
Being chased by bigger kids in Moulsecoomb!
I’ve always kept fit for playing football and spent most summers running to tick over but after leaving school the first proper organised running I did was Hove Park parkrun in January 2008, we live close to the park and I stumbled upon it one Saturday morning, I told Ann I was going to join in the following week. When she told me she would run too I was surprised as I had never known her run before- she hasn’t stopped running since! Power to parkrun!
How many years have you been running for?
In one form or another I’ve been running all my life, as a youngster in Moulsecoomb if I was sent to the shop I would run there and back, run to the park, run to school – walking seemed a waste of time! I still do run to the shop! But organised running started with parkrun, January 2008.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
I joined The Hedgehoppers in 2011, Ann was already a member and encouraged me to join. Regular? I consider myself an irregular because my football coaching often prevents me attending. But in my early days I was really encouraged to continue as I was running well and gaining points for the team in the Fun Run League!
Best thing about being a Hopper?
Fellow runners, I’m not a great conversationalist when I’m running (unlike Ann!) but I have really enjoyed making new friends and meeting a different group of people. I’ve been involved in football all of my life as a player, coach and manager and there is always someone waiting to take your place should you lose form etc. In running it isn’t like that, we all encourage each other while also retaining a competitive edge, which is perfect.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
Winning that school cross country always makes me smile and I’ll never forget the great feeling of sprinting down the hill to be first to the tape.
But I think the WOW moment was my second Brighton Marathon in 2015. I had run 3 hours 59 minutes in 2011 and struggled towards the finish. I knew I could do better, so I improved my training and felt really strong as I enjoyed the last mile with the fantastic support from spectators. I was happy to finish in 3 hours 49 minutes!
What’s the longest distance you’ve every run?
The 26 miles of the marathon.
Favourite running event and why?
So many fantastic runs on the Sussex Downs which I love, but I’m going to say the Governor’s Island 5/10 event in New York City. It’s a city we really love to visit and we did this run in May 2018.
I took the ferry with Ann to the island off the south end of Manhattan, the island is small and the course takes you around the periphery and as you run towards the finish the Statue of Liberty looms up in front of you with Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge beyond – a great sight in a great atmosphere. We both came second in our age category and were awarded medals!
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
Well as a young boy my Dad called me “Buster” as I had eaten too many doughnuts! It stuck through my school years but when I moved into work and met different groups I gradually lost it. Although every now and then when I meet an old friend it gets used!
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
For most of my working life I was a Firefighter in Brighton, Preston Circus the south coast’s busiest Fire Station. I retired from the Fire Service in 2012 after 30 years of squirting hoses and driving fire engines!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Football has been is a big part of my life, l played over 500 games for Lewes FC, many as captain. We set up a youth club in 1998 with four football teams, l moved on to coach at Lewes FC, where I was interim manager on two occasions, and Eastbourne Borough in the National League. I now coach the Sussex Uni Women’s team.
I must say I am quite proud of having scored at the famous Goldstone Ground. Here’s the photo of me celebrating scoring a goal for Lewes in the 1985 Sussex Senior Cup Final at the Goldstone. We won the cup after a replay!
Just lately I haven’t been running, apart from a short jog. I’ve picked up a knee injury so that’s why you’ve seen very little of me but I hope to be back in the new year.