A FORMER world record breaking runner, whose achievements on the track made him a hero for many athletes, has died in a Wareham nursing home, aged 92.

Sydney Wooderson broke records over the mile and half-mile, and held the European 1,500m and 5,000m titles during his amateur sporting career in the 1930s and '40s.

A solicitor in his professional life, Mr Wooderson was slightly built and wore glasses.

But on the track his turn of speed won him many admirers, including Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, who named him as his hero in his autobiography.

Mr Wooderson was born in London in 1914, and began his athletics career at school in Kent.

He claimed his first international medal, a silver, at the Empire Games in 1934.

While an ankle injury scuppered his Olympic hopes in 1936, the following year, at Motspur Park, he ran the mile in four minutes 6.4 seconds - a new world record.

He went on to set world records in 800 metres and 880 yards in 1938.

During the war, poor eyesight kept him from active service, but he joined the Fire Service, and then the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

A rheumatic fever in 1944 threatened to put an end to his racing career, but he fought back to win the European 5,000m in Oslo, a week before his 32nd birthday.

The life-long member of the Blackheath Harriers claimed his last major victory at the English cross-country championship over nine miles in 1948.

In 1985 he retired to Blandford and later moved to Wareham. He was made an MBE in December 2000 in honour of his contribution to athletics Mr Wooderson spent the last two years of his life at a nursing home, Anglebury Court, in Wareham, where he died on December 21.

He is survived by his wife Pamela, and two children, Philip and Hilary.

His son Philip said: "He was a modest man and a very kind man. As a famous athlete many boys keen on athletics would write to him, and he would always write back.

"Many of those boys, now in their late middle age, have phoned to say how touched they were by that."

A funeral service will be held at the Church of Lady St Mary, Wareham, on Thursday, January 4, at 2pm There will be family flowers only, but donations for the Anglebury Court Amenities Fund may be sent to Albert Marsh Funeral Directors, St Michael's Road, Wareham, BH20 4QU.