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Martin Hyman 3 July 1933 – 3 April 2021

British Orienteering was very sad to hear the news of the death of Martin Hyman earlier this month, at the age of 87.

Martin was one of a group of former GB international endurance athletes who pioneered the sport of orienteering in England in the 1960s (along with, among others, Chris Brasher, John Disley, Gordon Pirie, and Bruce Tulloh). Highlights of Martin’s career as an international athlete included representing Great Britain at the 1960 Rome Olympics (placing 9th in the 10,000m) as well as finishing a close 4th in the 10,000m at the 1962 European Championships.  He represented England in the 6 miles at the Commonwealth & Empire Games of 1958 (4th) and 1962 (5th), and in 1962 he also ran in the marathon, finishing 9th. In 1961 he took third place in the World Cross Country.

In the early days of orienteering in the UK, Martin was one of the leading lights in what was then Occasional Orienteers, was an original committee member of the Southern Orienteering Association, and placed 9th in the very first British Championships at Hamsterley Forest in 1967. His coaching and encouragement saw the school where he taught in Haslemere play a key role in the development of the sport, including the establishment of the Combined Harvesters (CH) club, who founded the Harvester Trophy Relay which continues an important UK competition to this day.

In 1975 Martin took on the role of Chairman of the newly formed British Orienteering Federation Elite Squad. As he told it "I soon discovered that there was no Secretary, Treasurer or Lead Coach. I therefore became all of these." Indeed, by 1976 he had also become Chairman of Selectors, and generations of GB elite athletes owe a huge debt to Martin for his commitment, organisation and development of the squad, inspiring it all the way from its early beginnings through to a much better prepared and high performing set up. As Jon Musgrave (one of our World Championship relay silver medallists from 1993) put it "Martin was largely instrumental in the medals won at WOC '93 and subsequently - he was a fine coach, a great leader of people and, above all, a wonderful person".

Martin’s organisation of the GB Squad involved setting the squad programme through the year. In addition to arranging specific training activities, Martin always ensured that the athletes themselves fully contributed to the organisational aspects for planning and undertaking training and competitive opportunities at home and abroad.  This approach resulted in a comprehensive and wide range of activity each year. As a former international athlete Martin shared his philosophy and experiences of training at the highest levels and was instrumental in raising the athletic standards of Britain’s top orienteers. The legacy of Martin’s approach still continues today in the way that our top athletes undertake self-help training and competition activities. His involvement with the Squad continued right through to 2003 when the emergence of new funding enabled the introduction of paid professional management and allowed him to hand over the reins.

He remained involved with many of the elite athletes, not least through his weekly "Meadows" interval session.  This Edinburgh institution takes place every Tuesday at 7.55pm (sharp!), was initially established in 1979 in support of GB squad members based there, and has been held continuously ever since, in all weathers and even on Christmas Day.  On warm summer evenings the group might be well over a hundred athletes, setting off in groups every five seconds for their ‘five reps, starting every six minutes’.  For over 40 years Martin was omnipresent on a Tuesday evening, meticulous in his time keeping whilst noticing, encouraging and inspiring attendees of all abilities.

Martin acted as mentor and adviser to 2013 World Championship silver medallist Scott Fraser, who recalls: “I first met Martin when I was 13 when I asked him for some training advice at a local young athletics match. The next day, he came to my council estate to help find some inspiring places to run as well as talking a bit about his training philosophy.  I remember expecting a prescribed training programme but instead received a lesson on how to think for myself, and that enjoyment was one of the most important factors in any training plan.

Everything felt better after a chat with Martin and whether I won or did a bad race I would always get the same response: ‘But did you enjoy it?’

Alongside his orienteering commitments, Martin also played a vast role in the Scottish endurance running scene. His knowledge, and his encouragement to generations of athletes of all levels, was second to none. As well as giving his time to coaching and advice, he organised a vast array of cross-country races, hill running training camps, and hill races, from a World Mountain Running Trophy at Holyrood Park right through to his hugely popular "10p entry and chocolate prizes" races for children. Martin loved coaching youngsters and helping them enjoy the sport, and was still holding his regular Sunday morning session for children at Dechmont Law right up until the week before his death.

Scottish Athletics have published their own tribute to Martin which can be found here.  

Martin was an inspiration over decades for many people, and played a huge role in the development of orienteering in the UK. He will be very much missed, and British Orienteering sends its condolences to his wife Margaret, sons Freddie (Michael) and Pakit (Patrick), and his many friends.

Left photo above:  
Martin leading his weekly Meadows session.  
Photo credit: Sheila Strain. 

Right photo above: 
Martin in his days as a Great Britain track athlete.
Photo credit: website



Martin’s retirement party.
Martin Hyman

Left to right:  Yvette Hague, Martin Hyman, Steven Hale and others