He was one of life’s rare characters, a man who always accentuated the positives even as he dealt with slings and arrows of occasionally outrageous fortune.
Come winter, summer, spring or fall, Aberdeen athlete, charity fundraiser and all-round top bloke Mel Edwards was a whole-hearted champion for the benefits of healthy exercise and enjoying nature and a natter on his daily runs, which continued well into his eighth decade.
Despite fighting a lengthy battle with cancer, he relished fresh challenges and adventures.
As a way of giving back to the charities which had bolstered him, he carried out a 70-minute run on his 70th birthday and a century of 100m runs when he turned 75.
Mel died a year ago this month, but sport and philanthropy are obviously in the family’s DNA, because his son, Myles, has followed in his footsteps by representing his country on the global stage and creating countless opportunities for underprivileged youngsters in Kenya through his thriving foundation.
He is a peripatetic fellow with a shed-load of initiatives and ideas in both Scotland and Africa, but I caught up with Myles for a chat about his dad’s influence. And it soon became clear that there can’t be many people in the north-east sporting firmament whose unstinting work ethic, effervescent energy and sheer sense of fun left such an indelible impression.
The plaudits poured in from far and wide. And one of the most heartfelt tributes was delivered by Colin Youngson, an international runner who competed for Aberdeen University and Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club, and who also just happens to be a former three-times Scottish marathon champion.
He regarded Mel with a heady mixture of admiration and affection. In fact, his paean extends further than that and struck me as positively beautiful.
As he told me: “Meldrum Barclay Edwards was a one-of-a-kind character: relentlessly optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic, dedicated, determined, uncomplaining, brave. And I can remember umpteen encounters with this marvellous human being.
“When I was in first year, I saw him – the Sixth Form runner hero – winning the Aberdeen Grammar School Mile. His family home was only quarter of a mile from mine, so I often walked up to see him.
“In 1967, near the end of my first year, getting fitter (or so I thought), I joined him one afternoon for a hard five-mile run round the Links Golf Course, with Mel talking non-stop, telling me how well I was going.
“It was my only training session of the day; but it turned out that it was his third, and he had an evening one to come later on. Four times fast round the same route. He was almost at his marathon fitness peak.
“After he gave up top-level road-running due to leg injuries, I wondered how on earth he could have transformed into a record-breaking ultra-distance hill runner. But he did.
“Much later, in 1988, Mel was part of the four-man AAAC team that won the Scottish Veterans Cross-Country title in Clydebank.
“I won the M40 contest, with Graham Milne third, and looked round to see Mel outsprinting Roddy MacFarquhar to become M45 champion. Mel’s delight was infectious – it was his first Scottish title since he won the 1964 Scottish Junior National event – where he defeated future greats Ian McCafferty and Lachie Stewart.
“A few years later, the AAAC eight-man squad won the Scottish Veterans Alloa to Bishopbriggs road relay. On the drive home, we stopped to celebrate at the famous Gleneagles Hotel, since, if we proved victorious, I had promised to buy everyone a beer.
“We were all wearing totally inappropriate jeans, sweatshirts and trainers, so even Mel pushed me in front to negotiate with the posh doorman – who kindly let us into the American Bar, which did not have a dress code.
“When he became Meldrum Barclay Edwards, Member of the Order of the British Empire (or MBE squared, as he called it) no one could have deserved the honour more. Everyone admired and liked him.
“When he first contracted cancer, I visited him in hospital and we laughed our way through my collection of Alf Tupper – The Tough of the Track – photocopies.
“I could add so many more memories. His tales of dawn jogging at Rubislaw in Aberdeen, saying hello to the fox that trained there at the same time; the seventy-minute run aged 70; and so many charitable ventures which he embarked upon. He was remarkable.”
Myles, for his part, is an entrepreneurial spirit with plenty of his dad’s drive and determination.
He organised a special charity marathon last December, with the proceeds going to Friends of ANCHOR and Clan, who supported Mel for many years.
He said: “My dad and I would go for runs together and he always took me to races that he, I, or both of us were doing. It was lovely that we shared a common interest and it made us as much like friends as we were father and son.
“There are so many memories of my dad that I cherish and I think about regularly. From a young age, I loved watching him race or attending Lynx Pack running sessions with him.
“The thing which stands out most is that after every run, session or race, he would be so interested in how it went – no matter if we were in the same country at the time or not. He sometimes called or messaged me before the run had even finished!
“If I felt that things could have gone better, he would always immediately have a positive comment or solution and if it had gone well, he would be super excited. It is these moments with him which I miss the most.
“He would travel to almost all of my races whether they were local, national or international and, just before I went down to the start, he would always say: ‘Have a good one’ – I liked that because it meant that there was no pressure to perform, it was all about enjoying the sport.
“Having him there at my Scottish Championship 1500m victory in 2015 and seeing how proud he was meant more to me than the victory itself.
“We miss him every day, but we speak about him often and, as a family, try to do him proud. I can’t wait for my daughter Dahlia to be old enough to try running sessions with Aberdeen AAC – that would have made him very happy as he was very proud to be her grandpa.”
I recall having a terrific conversation with Mel where he spoke about the importance of the younger generation learning to enjoy the great outdoors.
There was nothing fuddy-duddy about his attitude. On the contrary, it would be difficult to imagine a human with more joie de vivre and infectious positivity.
As he told me: “There’s nothing like the feeling when you get out there in the morning and start running and feel the air in your lungs. It is just so exhilarating and inspiring.”
The latter word is perfect in summing up why Mel Edwards may be gone, but his memory will never be forgotten.