A MAN ahead of his time is how Jim Kennedy (85) has been described following his passing on Saturday.

Survived by his wife, Lily, he had six children including musicians Martin (known as 'Bap' who passed away in 2016) and Brian, as-well-as Marian, Jimmy, Stuart and Paul.

Regarded as one of the most influential figures in local athletics, Jim helped set-up the Beechmount Harriers club in 1980, but was also a great athlete in his own right, once holding the Northern Ireland Masters marathon record of two hours, 32 minutes.

"That is remarkable running for a young person, never mind a man of 42 years," said Eamonn Christie who was once coached by Jim, but regarded him as a close friend.

"He was a massive influence on me. I met him in 1981 when I first joined Beechmount Harriers and that was the start of a great coach-athlete relationships and became a very great family friend. His son, Stuart, is one of my best friends."

As a coach, Jim's car was loaded with athletes each weekend as they headed to races throughout Ireland and there was always dinner provided after training or races by Lily.

His commitment to athletics and his athletes shone through with Beechmount Harriers, designing the club logo and vest and today, his son Stuart is the club chairperson.

As a coach, he had a huge influence, coaching Irish and Northern Ireland champions, plus international athletes.

Something of a pioneer, Jim ensured the Beechmount Harriers club was not only one of the first real cross-community clubs, but also all-ability as it became one of the first to welcome athletes with disabilities.

"Jim had two athletes he coached for Iveagh and ran the Dublin Marathon with them one year," Eamonn recalled.

"That's how dedicated the guy was and it was unheard of in the mid-to-late '80s. He was ahead of his time."

Jim during his coaching days

Jim during his coaching days

Eamonn is now an established coach and credits his mentor for being a huge influence and source of support of his drive to put on the Belfast Irish Milers Meet that has grown into a European Permit event.

His legacy will live on, but the passing of Jim Kennedy will leave a huge void in local athletics. 

"When Jim was coaching me, I'd always ask him questions about what I was getting out of certain sessions and he was always forthcoming with his advice," he continued.

"Anything I put into my coaching module, Jim Kennedy taught me.

"He was a great man, great athlete, great coach, but above all a total gentleman and will be sadly missed in running circles. It's so sad I've lost not just a great coach, but a great family friend."