Although we first met through running, I mainly knew Nicko as one of the Pirates, a lot of whom are here today in our pirate colours, yellow and black, in memory of our dear friend. It’s an unusual club – you don’t pay to join, there’s no membership card. We all have nicknames – if you’re lucky you get to pick your own, if you’re stupid you’ll let the others decide. It’s fair to say we’re an eclectic bunch, spread throughout the UK and indeed the world; all genders, ages and abilities are accounted for. Like any large group, sometimes we bicker, occasionally we fall out, and there’s even the odd bit of clothes swapping at times, but when the chips are down we’ll always be there for one another. What we are really good at is supporting each other, through thick and thin. So if I had to sum up the pirates in one world, it would be this: family. And Nicko was at the very heart of our family.
I asked the pirates to share their memories of Nicko, but knowing his penchant for being a cheeky bugger and an incorrigible perv, and his ability to call a spade a spade in no uncertain terms, I was a bit nervous about what people would say. But actually, what I received wasn’t outrageous stories of all the daft things he’s done over the years, instead, I learned of all the times he passed on his knowledge and experience to those of us who were just starting out, and needed some help. Of the times he cycled or ran with people during races, giving them the support they needed to keep going. Or when he ran back the last three miles of a half ironman to help run someone in to the finish. Or the time at Outlaw when he got up out of his tent in the middle of the night during a storm to help Seren with a stuck tent-zip, as she struggled to close it to keep out the rain. The evening took an even more exciting turn, however, as it turns out Nicko sleeps naked, so she said that she had to watch where she was shining her torch. I think we all know where that torch was pointing….
Even when Nicko was struggling with his own life & illness, he would put others first, and would be ready with some words of encouragement, a hug and a kiss to send people on their way.
His generosity wasn’t limited to supporting at races either. He always had a special place in his heart for our favourite pirate family, the Silent Assassins, Q, Jo and Jordy. He once asked them if they had an old bike they no longer wanted for a project of his, and when they sent him Jo’s old bike, he cleaned it up, sold it on and sent them back the money so Jordy could use it for his holiday to Florida. Another time he sent them tickets to the WWE Wrestling that was coming to Manchester, because he knew just how much Jordy loved wrestling.
He even tried to help me recently. We were chatting on the phone, arranging a visit and he mistakenly thought I’d said that my car wasn’t working and I needed a new one. Nicko’s immediate response was to try and help, so he said I could just take Jackie’s car, but there was no bloody way I was getting my hands on his precious Merc. Thankfully for Jackie, my car was okay.
I’m lucky to have a lot of personal memories of the times we’ve spent together over the last 9 years, not least the last time I saw Nicko when I spent a really lovely day with him & Jackie in September. There’s so much I could share, but I’ll finish with my resounding memory of Nicko, from the Outlaw triathlon this year.
The pirates have always shown a strong presence at the Outlaw which is held in Nottingham in late July. This year was especially poignant, as Nicko was determined to race with his friends Stanners and Dave, in the team Nicko’s Nobblers. One of the best things about the pirates is our ability not to take ourselves too seriously, and Nicko embraced that ethos by showing up not only in pirate kit, but a giant inflatable unicorn rubber ring, a flowery swim cap & a snorkel. He strutted along the side of the lake, a huge smile on his face, wondering aloud why so many triathletes take themselves so seriously. One of my favourite photos is taken from a distance, showing a sea of rubber-clad swimmers then there’s Nicko, bobbing around the water in a giant unicorn. I know a few of us were worried he might not even make it out the water in one piece, but as we all know Nicko was a stubborn bugger, but more importantly, he didn’t want to let his team down. He swam 3.8k that day, despite the pain and fatigue, and made it across the line in time. Watching Nicko, Stanners and Dave cross that finish line is a memory I’ll cherish forever. It was such a wonderful moment, even Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman World Champion heard of Nicko’s exploits and wrote the following inscription for him in her book:
“Nick, I just wanted to congratulate you on all the charity work you’ve done over the years. You’ve achieved some fantastic times in your own marathons & triathlons, but mostly congratulations for being the first unicorn to cross the finish line at Outlaw. Well done!”
The organisers of Outlaw also know how important Nicko was to the pirates and I’m happy to say that they’ve offered the pirates a free place to raffle off in his honour, so we’re going to do that for St Wilfred’s Hospice. The owner of the Cotswold 113 middle distance race had also been holding a place for Nicko, so Graham has offered this place to the pirates to auction off too.
Our pirate family is in mourning today, and will be for some time. I was wondering how on earth I could even begin to sum up just what Nicko means to me, to all of us, and I realised that actually I can’t, so I’m going to steal some words from Superman himself, Christopher Reeve who said:
is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”
I think you’ll all agree this sums up our Nicko, and it’s how I’d like to remember him.
Rest in peace my friend.