Millions watch Derek’s famous run

Derek Easton was an extra in a famous scene in 'Chariots of Fire', and still enjoys to run today
Derek Easton was an extra in a famous scene in 'Chariots of Fire', and still enjoys to run today

Millions of people across the globe tuned in to catch a glimpse of a Falkirk man running his heart out to mark the start of the London Olympics.

Derek Easton (54), financial director of Thornbridge Sawmill for the last 18 years, first tasted fame three decades ago as one of the runners on the beach in the iconic opening scene from Oscar-winning 1981 film ‘Chariots of Fire’.

The former Falkirk Victoria Harriers runner was watching the Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony last Friday when the image of his younger self flashed up on screen.

Derek said: “I did get goosebumps seeing it again when they cut to it, and seeing how prominently I featured in it. All my mates started ringing up saying they had just seen me on the television at the Olympics.”

Menstrie-born Derek was a 21-year-old student at St Andrews University when David Puttnam’s crew came calling, looking for runners to take part in the opening shots along the town’s West Sands beach.

He said: “We thought it was just a low budget British film - we didn’t realise it was going to be so big.”

The ‘Chariots of Fire’ opening scene may have looked slow but the runners were going “full pelt”.

Derek, now financial director of Falkirk-based Thornbridge Sawmill, was a student athlete at St Andrews University when he and his running mates were rounded up as extras in the 1981 Oscar winner.

It turned out to be a hard two-day slog along West Sands.

“We were all students in the early 80s with long hair that had to be cut short, back and sides to appear in the film. We were running at full pelt and the producers had to keep telling us all to hang back to let the actors go in front.

“Then we had to come back for another day’s shooting because there was something wrong with the camera. We also had planes from RAF Leuchars flying past every so often which didn’t help.

“And we had a lot of chaffing from the long shorts.

“It was quite a challenge.”