Flesh-eating bug kills athlete

A SUPER-FIT St Helens athlete has died after he was struck down with a devastating flesh-eating virus.

Wednesday, 19th January 2011, 9:14 am

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to popular father-of-two Mark Barrow, 42, who died at Whiston Hospital on January 9 - just a week after he competed in a cross country event.

Mark, of Rainhill, a member of St Helens Sutton Athletics Club, was struck down with the flesh-eating streptococcus virus just hours after taking on a long-distance event at Woodbank Park in Stockport on January 2.

At first, the former Liverpool Pembroke 400m hurdles and 800m runner thought he was merely coming down with the flu.

But the lifelong Liverpool FC fan had to be admitted to hospital after he started suffering a pain in his arm and vomiting.

Tragically, after undergoing surgery while sedated, Mark never regained consciousness.

His heartbroken wife, Debbie, said: “Athletics was one of the great loves of Mark’s life and he never stopped running. I was around in the glory days of Liverpool Pembroke and I’ll never forget his pride when the club won a place in the British league.

“Repeated injury followed however, then the children, so competitive running took a back seat. But he always loved the sport and always went for a run when he could - even on holiday!”

She added: “Eventually Mark ventured into triathlons and had various successes but rejoined the athletics circuit with St Helens Sutton AC two years ago as our son David wanted to join. Our daughter Amy has now joined too, which made Mark so proud.”

Rainhill born and bred, Mark worked for Heartwood furniture before becoming a driving instructor with BSM and the AA and then starting his own driving school.

Describing Mark as “the life and soul of any party”, best friend Pete Roberts told how Mark, in his younger days, was once the only Pilkington Harrier athlete to turn up to a team league match.

But, instead of being put off, Mark proceeded to compete in every single event - earning himself the Man of the Match gong!

Pete also told how Mark saved a struggling swimmer while on his honeymoon in Turkey and, more recently, saved a child who had got out of his depth at the local swimming baths.

He explained: “With no lifeguard in sight, a fully clothed Mark vaulted the spectator railing and jumped straight into the pool to pull the boy to safety. This ruined Mark’s mobile phone - but he needed a new one anyway.”

Pete added: “Mark and I always went out on a Saturday night. The kids were always there to wave us off. We would honk the horn and wave and then Mark would tell me about what they had been up to.

“I’d ask ‘How’s life in your world?’ The answer was always the same... ‘Fantastic’!”