Denness to go the extra mile
Denness to go the extra mile

The grandson of a Medway athlete who was recently admitted to England Athletics Hall of Fame is to “celebrate” in astonishing fashion this weekend.

Paul Nihill MBE sadly passed away at the end of last year after suffering from dementia not long after his grandson – local footballer Rob Denness – staged a fund-raising walk for the home where he stayed at the end of his life.

Mr Nihill famously won a silver medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by walking 50km before going on to be the first male track and field British athlete to compete in four consecutive games. Away from the Olympics, Mr Nihill won the European championship 20km event in 1969, and then won bronze in 1971. In 1972 he set a world record and by the time he retired from race walking was a multiple British champion, claiming 27 AAA titles as well as many more Race-Walking Association honours.

Yet despite this success, Mr Nihill had been overlooked for a place in the Hall of Fame – but now, after a promise made by Rob before his grandad passed away, that was put right at a ceremony in Birmingham last month.

And now to mark the anniversary of his grandad’s passing, Rob is undertaking an incredible challenge this weekend – an ultra marathon to cover the distance of Mr Nihill’s medal event all those years ago around the streets of the Medway Towns.

Speaking to KSN, Rob told us, “when my grandad was in his care home, we always used to chat about things from when I was a youngster, from his Olympic days and the one thing that kept coming up was the fact that he always wanted to be recognised by England Athletics as he achieved so much in his life. And the Hall of Fame was one thing that he kept talking to me about, and I basically promised that he did deserve to be in it, and he would be inducted,” Rob added thoughtfully, “he really didn’t understand why!”

“He had been recognised by the Queen in receiving the MBE for his services to his sport but couldn’t understand why his own sport hadn’t!”

“So, I made contact with the authorities and got a reply saying that he was on the list. But that was about three years ago… and we kept waiting until recently!”

Twelve months ago, Rob did a sponsored walk to raise funds on behalf of his grandad’s care home in Chatham – a walk that was sadly done the day before Mr Nihill passed away. Rob told us, “I did the walk because I so appreciate everything he did for me growing up – he was always there!”

“The days that I won my first football medals, to the day that I did my first fun run – he showed me photos of his awards and his medals and that really did inspire me… and I have to say it did,” Rob admitted.

“I’ve played semi-pro football; I’m a director of Sport across two massive secondary schools and Assistant Principal at Brompton Academy in Gillingham and my grandad was a massive part of that.”

This weekend, Rob is doing a 50km run in aid of the Laurence Plummer Foundation – which was set up following the sad death of Mr Plummer from COVID last year and who played a bit part in Rob’s early football days as well.

“It’s now in memory of my grandad and “Plum”! It’ll be my first “ultra-marathon” too; I’ve done a marathon before, and if he was still with us, grandad would have been there on the day to support me, I’m sure! It’s around thirty-one miles and whatever money I raise is a bonus – it’s about making both of them proud!”

KSN were delighted to back Rob’s walk last year and we’re doing the same this year. Rob explained, “Because of the time I had out of football, I wanted to focus on something else and the challenges keep me focused – I need something to motivate me.”

“It’s over the distance of grandad’s medal back in 1964 and both he and Plum always wanted to see young people succeed, especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and help get them the equipment they need going forward. They both shared a passion for that, so that’s why I’m raising money for the Foundation.”

“I’m going to start at around 10.30 in the morning and will finish at Star Meadow hopefully before Blair kick off their SCEFL game with K Sports at 3.00pm!”

If you’re around the Medway Towns on Saturday, please look out for Rob on his run at various points on the map below…

If you’d like to sponsor Rob in his incredible tribute, please go to