HUNDREDS of people gathered to pay their respects to legendary runner and coach Mel Batty.

Among those present at the funeral of Thurrock Harrier Batty – a former 10-mile world record holder and coach to well-known British athlete Eamonn Martin – were illustrious names from British athletics, football and television.

Such were the numbers at the funeral, held at Basildon Crematorium, dozens were forced to listen to the service on loud speakers outside the chapel.

Those present heard a service that was a true celebration of his life. Though sad and poignant, it was also, at times, incredibly funny as memories of Batty were recollected by his brother Ron, Sky Sports’ commentator Alan Parry and former world 10,000m record holder Dave Bedford in three touching tributes.

Ron recalled his brother’s early days living in Grays when he would race a bus every morning to and from work in West Thurrock, six miles away.

“That’s how everyone in Thurrock got to know Mel,” said Ron. “A lot of people used the bus those days and they would all be cheering him on.”

Parry, who struck up a strong bond with Batty while he was covering athletics for first the BBC and later ITV, recalled first meeting the Thurrock Harrier at the 1978 European Athletic Championships in Prague when among all the national journalists phoning through copy, Batty was there under the guise of the Southend Echo!

He also recalled helping Batty, then the managing director of sportswear company Brooks, to secure the services of Paul Gascoigne to be the firm’s main sponsored athlete.

The deal was to be launched in central London, but with the nation’s press and Gazza waiting at a press conference, Batty found himself in trouble by leaving Gazza’s new kit on the wrong train.

Bedford spoke of Batty’s athletics career and his impact on the current generation of runners.

Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe had been in touch to say how much they had appreciated his advice and, in Farah’s case, his “chats about Arsenal”.

Among those in attendance included Martin and his former Basildon and Great Britain international team-mate Rob Denmark, British marathon great Ron Hill, British distance runner and Eurosport commentator Tim Hutchings and former Arsenal and Tottenham manager Terry Neill.

The colours of two of his biggest sporting loves – Arsenal and Thurrock Harriers – were also represented.

Batty, from Thundersley, died on Monday, August 29, after sustaining a heart attack. He was 71-years-old.