Neil Featherby: Running community working stride by stride in adversity

This year's Run Norwich has moved because of the coronavirus pandemic Picture: Epic Action Imagery

After two weeks of what really has been a most extraordinary time in all our lives to the point where – dare I say – the unthinkable has happened, it is so good to see just how the human spirit after the initial shock is quickly learning to adapt.

Ready for the off at last year's Run Norwich Picture: Epic Action Imagery

I have most certainly had to very quickly adapt my business Sportlink and whilst I can’t wait to get back to normality again, sitting around and doing nothing has never been on my agenda.

However, where does this all lie when it comes to running? Well, for one, the Norfolk running community has really shown just how strong we can be when we have to stick together and unify.

Run Norwich released their new date this week, but behind the scenes it did mean a collaboration with others.

For instance, Great Yarmouth Road Runners gave up their initial date for the East Coast 10K to allow this to happen. To say they were more than accommodating is an understatement. They had to make further calls themselves to ensure that they could indeed do so with regards to a new planned race date in November (entries open in the summer), but their chairman, Andrew Baker, fully understood the importance and reasons behind Run Norwich’s move, particularly when it came to the potential losses to so many charities who benefit from this event.

At the same time, the new date in Norwich also clashes with what is Norfolk’s newest running club, Aylsham Runners’, inaugural Blickling Half Marathon. Having had a chat with their club chairman, Myles Hague, he could also understand why changes had to be made and did indeed say that their race was totally different what with it being a much longer distance and a trail running event as opposed to a road race.

At the end of the day, it was obvious that Myles was being very professional about it all whilst understanding just how at this moment in time we have all had to make changes in our lives as well as putting things into perspective.

Ian Thornton, from the Community Sports Foundation, told me that he really was so very pleased at just how people had reacted and unselfishly worked around Run Norwich’s needs, for which he cannot thank them enough.

He also said he realises the importance of all the other events in the county’s road running schedule and what it means to all the clubs when it comes to also making sure that their events are a success too.

He went further, saying that they will be helping to promote the East Coast 10K, Blickling Half Marathon and of course what is Norwich’s most established road race, the Larking Gowen City of Norwich Half Marathon, which will now take place on Sunday, October 25.

All I can personally say is that it really does make me so very proud to be part of our running community. Let’s all get behind and support each other right now to make 2021 such a special year when things can get back to normal, whilst looking back and appreciating just how awesome we all were when we had to be in 2020.

Learning to adapt to our surroundings is in-built and whilst we might call it thinking outside of the box, it is, in reality, something we are instinctively born with.

In the wild it is called survival. Whilst that might sound a little extreme, apart from seeing so many people take up exercise recently, we have also seen people taking on new challenges, such as online virtual races.

At Sportlink, we ran a Virtual 5k Race throughout March and it really was successful with the winning results based on age graded performances. A huge well done to former Olympian and current age best world record holder, Tommy Hughes from Northern Ireland who won the men’s category with a super time of 16:40 (95.81%) and Wymondham’s Eva Osborne 28:18 (86.78%) who won the ladies’ section.

We are now running another event for April, which I expect to be even more competitive with some of Norfolk’s best already signed up.

Matt Pyatt, who posted the fastest time for March of 14:52 (93.53%) said: “The challenge was me versus the clock and I like to push myself to my limit. The motto of our group The Renegade Runners is ‘No Surrender’, so I don’t.”

With that I am sure he will be looking to run even quicker next time, but with the likes of Logan Smith and Callum Bowen Jones having also entered, it looks like it is going to be very competitive at the front.

A running coach sent me a message earlier this week to say how great it is that so many more people are out there exercising, but could I also mention it is so important to realise that when out on our roads, safety is paramount and if there is no pavement then face oncoming traffic so you can see vehicles ahead and they can see you.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep on running.

Neil Featherby's Friday EDP Feature