Chris Illsley BEM
Chris Illsley BEM is a man with many identities.
Growing up in the south of the county at Deeping St James and after a short spell in the RAF as an Air Cartographer, Chris studied PE at Sunderland Polytechnic. In 1979 he came to Lincoln to take up his first teaching position as a Physical Education teacher at the then named South Park High School (now The Priory LSST) and has lived here ever since.
A keen runner in his youth, Chris ran in the very first London Marathon in 1981 and has a modest best time of 2 hrs 38 minutes something which he is very proud of. In his spare time during the early 80’s he used to organise running events on a professional basis which not only became his first venture into running a business but was the beginning of an illustrious period as a commentator where he went on to commentate at the Great North Run, the London Marathon and the World Athletics Championships in Seville.
In 1986 he was seconded to BBC Radio Lincolnshire where he worked as an Education Producer. There he worked alongside some great luminaries; Chris Jones, Ed Lacey, Les Sheehan, Jane Peel and a certain John Inverdale who was cutting his teeth as a presenter at the time – whatever happened to him! During his spell with the BBC he recorded several 'In Conversation' programmes including one with Steve Cram who was the Mile World Record holder at the time.
In 1988 after a spell in Leisure Management, Chris decided to take the plunge into running a business full time. Initially working from home, he became the driving force behind the immensely successful Running Imp, a company that event organisers' could call on to purchase everything that they required to stage their event from under one roof, effectively a one-stop-shop. In 2013 they were awarded The Lincoln Civic Award the top honour of the City and also that year won the Large Business of the Year at the Lincolnshire Media Business Awards.
33 years later he has helped establish Running Imp as the country’s leading supplier of medals to some of the biggest mass participation events not only in the UK but worldwide, including the finishers’ medals to the prestigious Virgin Money London Marathon, and produce annually over 4 million medals to a multitude of sporting events.
Adopted at birth and failing his 11+ three times (yes three times!), he eventually achieved high academic qualifications and rose to become the respected and successful man he is today, being made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Lincoln in 2015 and awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to charity in Lincolnshire.