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Neil Featherby: Norfolk Gazelles reflect how inclusive the running community has become

PUBLISHED: 10:30 28 July 2017

Five Norfolk Gazelles tying for first place in the Norfolk Half Marathon in 1986. From left, Gregor Booth, Nigel Arnold, Rod Sibson,  Graham Davison and Dave Mytton. Picture: Norfolk Gazelles

Five Norfolk Gazelles tying for first place in the Norfolk Half Marathon in 1986. From left, Gregor Booth, Nigel Arnold, Rod Sibson, Graham Davison and Dave Mytton. Picture: Norfolk Gazelles

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With my passion for running going back many years, this week I’m writing about one of Norfolk’s running clubs which undoubtedly has a lot of history which many of today’s members may not even realise.

Norwich-based Norfolk Gazelles has two or even possibly three parts to its nearly 60 years of existence as a club.

The Norfolk Gazelles were formed in the early 1960s with the idea of having a club which would combine the forces of the best athletes from a number of clubs scattered around the county so as to not only participate in, but actually compete against some of the best clubs in the country at such events as the National Cross Country.

The National Cross Country is a huge event, but back then it was considered to be even bigger and certainly one that every distance athlete desperately wanted to represent their club at. Whilst the Gazelles senior men’s team were good, the youths team were even better with the likes of Mike Tagg being part of what was undoubtedly a bunch of very talented young athletes who took third place and bronze medals in the National Youths Cross Country Championships at Leicester in 1964.

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As it happens, Mike Tagg on this occasion was the club’s third counter with Martin Gaines leading the way for the Gazelles in 20th place, Brendon Byrne 29th, who to this very day is still a servant to Norfolk Athletics and Tagg in 32nd place.

Needless to say they all went on to have very good careers as senior athletes with Mike Tagg also going on to represent Great Britain at the 1968 Olympics, winning a silver medal at the European Athletics Championships in 1969 whilst also winning the National Cross Country Championships in 1969 and International X/C (now known as the World X/C Champs) in 1970.

Sadly by the mid to late 70s the Gazelles had folded, but in 1985 the club was reformed by a well-known group of local athletes headed up by their coach Ian Fowlie. Very quickly and just like the original Gazelles, runners were joining from other clubs to create a team which were without a doubt a force who certainly did clean up at many races in East Anglia as well as winning many races all over the country.

By the mid 1990s just as club membership had started to dwindle, there was another resurgence in numbers after a breakaway group from another club joined forces with the Gazelles for which the club quickly went from strength to strength and as opposed to being considered as a club for elite athletes which did affect membership in the earlier days, it was now catering for runners of all abilities.

However, and while mentioning runners of all abilities, special mention has to go to Michael Eccles, who was awarded an England vest last year, Anne Ellen, V60 Gold Medallist at The British Champs last month, Nigel Arnold, who has been a member since the club reformed in 1985 whilst also being one of the country’s best athletes in his age category, and John Moore, who despite being the wrong side of 50, is still very much to the front of the field in most open races when it comes to competing on the Norfolk road race scene.

The Gazelles organise three excellent events throughout the year – The Valentine’s 10k Road Race in February and The Alex Moore Relays in June along with a fun event at the end of each year called The Buxton Fun Run.

The club meet at the City Academy on Monday nights at 6.15pm and in Eaton on Thursdays at 6.30pm.

For more information, check out www.norfolkgazelles.co.uk

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