TRANSCRIPT OF THE EULOGY READ BY TONY COLLINS AT THE FUNERAL FOR THE LATE
Janet has asked me to say a few words about Bryan on behalf of the ultramarathon runners. When she asked me I was very moved. I was also very humbled at having to find the appropriate words to adequately describe this brilliantly talented athlete. In the twelve or thirteen years I knew Bryan, I was aware he was a devoted, caring and concerned father of his sons, a
loving husband and partner to Janet, and latterly became an excited grandfather, but on the road or the track, he was a champion, the likes of which we will probably never see again.
His unflagging energy, his fierce determination to run further and faster, his unbeatable competitiveness meant that it was a rare occasion when he didn't win. We all raced against him - there would not be many runners who, on seeing Bryan's name on the list of competitors, didn't mentally downgrade their expected finish result by one position. I lost count of the number of
times he beat me. But we all had the chance to win when we were standing on the start line - Bryan didn't win because his name was Bryan Smith - but because he was the most talented and put in more effort than the rest of the field. He earned his trophies every single time. I don't intend to list his triumphs here today because they are so numerous and deserve to be
researched and fully listed, perhaps in AURA. I'm sure that he must have had a warehouse to store all his trophies, so that would be a good place to begin. And he was always the perfect gentleman, never gloating over his wins, always ready to listen or to help others. A quiet achiever and a great ambassador for our sport.
He rarely suffered injuries, only 'a bit' of an injury - 'got a bit of a sore knee' or a 'bit of a sore back'. One time, about five or six days into a 1000 mile track race in Queensland, he was suffering severe muscle spasms in the right side of his back, causing him to run with an extreme lean to the right. This was because of the stress of running on an almost circular track, which also had a very hard-packed granite surface. At the same time a Spaniard, Alfredo Urea, had a similar injury, but to the left side of his back. So Bryan was running like….. and Alfredo was running like….., and when Bryan passed Alfredo, they looked like tweedledum and tweedledee. As Bryan passed our camp we told him of this and he laughed and said with characteristic understatement 'yes, I've got a bit of a back problem'. The next lap he made the hilarious observation that it was ok while he was overtaking Alfredo, but if he slowed down and Alfredo tried to overtake him, they risked smashing their heads together! Alfredo eventually pulled out of the race. Bryan continued, and finished second, breaking the previous world
record for 1000 Miles by many hours.
Another aspect of Bryan's running career is not widely known. He was a talented masseur and an excellent crew manager, with a good head for tactics and strategy. I had the extreme good fortune to have Bryan (and Janet) crew for me for the 19-day Sydney to Melbourne and back, as well as a total of 16 other days in major races. He loved to ice any injuries - sore feet - put them in ice, sore calves or knees - pack them in ice, sore quads - more ice, groin strain - yes, you guessed it - freeze everything down!! And mostly it worked. It certainly stopped me from whinging about the problems. It was during these times I learned about his compassion - understanding when not to push his runner, and about his subtle, quiet humour. One day, after clocking up what was for me a high total, we were chatting as he massaged, and he was congratulating me on the day's achievement. I said to him 'you would have done much more' and he replied with great understatement 'a
little'. We laughed because we both knew he would have run the socks off me if he were in the race. In fact it was a standing joke between us during the 90's that I would plead with him not to enter certain races, in order to give me a chance.
Recently I saw a poem which, in essence, said we should not waste our lives waiting. We wait till school ends, till a job comes, till we are married, till we have kids, till they grow up, till they overcome their problems and so on. And John Lennon sang ' Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans'. I believe Bryan lived his life fully. I don't know how many
times runners have said, during the course of a race, ' I'm only using this race as training for ……….some other race. Bryan never did that. Every race was ' what was happening to him at that time' while the rest of us were 'busy making other plans'. Another accomplished runner, Pat Farmer, who has himself suffered a personal tragedy, has come to realise that it is the
quality of life, not the length of it that matters. Bryan lived a life in which he strived and achieved and excelled. His life had great quality. But Bryan has left us far too soon. There can be no question about that, so I think that longevity also matters.
The loss of Bryan is a great loss to our sport, and we will all sorely miss him. If we have victories in the races he liked to be in, they will be hollow ones. We are saddened by his death. But Bryan never pulled out of a race, or avoided a challenge. Let us not allow his death to prevent us enjoying our sport. The race must go on - Bryan would always say that. So wherever you are, Bryan, may you be flying along, your feet not touching the ground, a gentle breeze at your back and may you cruise endlessly and effortlessly for eternity.
Goodbye my friend, Goodbye from all of us.