Running and Me – Pete Johnson

Last month I told you about photography and me. My other great passion is my running. I haven’t always been jogging, I used to be better!

This all started back in the mid 80’s. We were living in Stanford le hope, Essex. My neighbours across the road started training for a local fun run. I didn’t join them but started running around the local streets for training. By chance I hooked up with a local running group, Thurrock Nomads, and that’s where it all began. My first event was a multi-terrain 5km in Danbury, I came in with a time just under 21 minutes and thought to myself “I can do this”. At the time everybody wanted to do a marathon so I entered St Albans (in December), didn’t train properly or enough and suffered for it.  The first 20 miles were ok, the last 6 took nearly an hour and a half. I’d learnt my lesson, you can’t  run 26 miles off two weeks of 40+ miles! Had a few happy years in the company of the Nomads, mainly ex rugby players and teachers (who play rugby) and drink.

Life moves on. I was head hunted by the athletic club, Thurrock Harriers, these were  “serious” runners. I also remember saying to the coach “I don’t want to do track or cross country”, he was a teacher too!! My first outing in their vest was a home track meeting. I ran 800m for the first time against some seasoned athletes. I came in with a 2.18 and thought I was going to die. From there I began to embrace the track and had eight happy years running track and field for the Harriers all over  the south of England. My distances were 1500 and 5000m, 4.24 and 15.42 were my best times.

Needless to say I did run cross country, Southerns at Parliament Hill, Nationals in a number of different venues and the Essex league of fixtures including county championships. I distinctly remember a championship race possibly Rochford, where we all charged off down the hill into the freezing fog not knowing where the course went, when we finished all our hair had been frozen into shapes, who needs hair gel? I was also running at least a marathon a year too. Just before we “emigrated” to Norfolk I had a season with Basildon AC, where I was proud to be in the same London Marathon team as Eammon Martin(previous winner) and also to run 5000m as his second, my marathon best was that year ’97,  2hours 32mins. I also represented Essex over 20 miles on at least four occasions. 

We moved into Sporle in September of that year, I took over a running shop in Norwich and Judy pursued her career as a medical secretary. My running carried on, although the marathon took a back seat. I discovered new routes and places to run. I joined a training group in Norwich which met two evenings a week. I also ran after work discovering new routes in Norwich.  We had timeshare in Club La Santa, Lanzarote, and would often go there for a few weeks of winter sun, and training. One year we had a spring break and travelled out just after London, I was racing 10km four days after leaving the capital.

Although I could run track, my main focus had always been road running, I took part in many of the local races and have quite a few results sheets from those days. Regrettably the Essex ones got lost in the move.

There is an event, particular to Norfolk, the Round Norfolk Relay. The aim being to get the baton round the county border commencing and ending at Kings Lynn in 17 stages of differing distances. Being a marathon runner I always seemed to get the longer stages, mainly in the middle of the night. For this I needed a cyclist to accompany me for safety.  The first couple of years the club provided someone, which was ok but you never knew who you’d be getting. I enlisted the help of Dale Lambert who had some previous cycling experience. I’d collect Dale from The Squirrels near closing time, we’d roll up at Geldeston filling station(just after McDonald’s had closed for the night) unload the bike and commence our 20 miles or so to Scole. On another occasion we were at Thetford 3.30am to run, through the forest and Weeting to Feltwell, +13 miles, to hand over the baton outside the base..

If I’m not walking the hounds, you’ll quite often see me on the surrounding roads putting the miles in, it’s what I do. The times aren’t what they were and I’m not likely to win much these days but running is now so much a part of me.

My last session before lockdown was 8x800m along Palgrave road. My one daily exercise recently has been to give the dogs a long walk early. I will be back but perhaps a wee bit slower still. 

10miles Oswestry 53.40

Half marathon Bath 71.32

15 miles Broadland 89.29

20 miles Spen 20 1H.54

Pete Johnson - Sportlink