In last week’s column I discussed the number of highly talented young athletes that did not progress to senior level whilst also asking the question why. 

One such person was Norwich athlete Glen Nelson who then decided to make a comeback in later years after considering ‘just what might have been’. 

Something which top Norfolk coach Tim Ash alluded to last week when saying so many people have made a return to running in later years after perhaps wondering what they could have achieved if they had continued with their running after school days. 

I did also mention Glen two weeks ago after having bumped into him whereby he told me how he had recently won his age group at the Norfolk County Cross Country Championships, 56 years after winning his first title as a schoolboy. 

So, this week, I decided to catch up with Glen again. 

Having gone to the Heartsease Comprehensive school between the years 1965 and 1969, he was picked to represent the school in 1968 at the Norwich Schools Cross Country Championships. 

“We had no running kit in those days, just a rugby top and shorts and plimsolls whilst being told to behave and not let the school down. The race was held at Earlham High School, with the course following the river which consisted of having to cross water filled ditches. I finished second behind a well-known schoolboy runner Paul Gallant along with another top schools runner of the day, Stuart Nice, third. 

“As it happens, I still keep in touch with Stuart. However, I had now qualified to run in the County Championships and went out and bought myself a pair of proper running shoes which clearly made a difference as I won the race with Stuart, second, Paul, third and a guy called Keven Steere, fourth,” he told me. 

Now for those who have followed Norfolk running for many years, they will know that Kevin went on to win many titles whilst setting European youth records on the track. I also remember watching him win the 1973 senior boys English Schools Cross Country Championships at Swindon ahead of Steve Ovett who of course went on to win Olympic Gold in Moscow in 1980 as well as setting world records. 

This alone must have made Glen at the time look back and wonder just what might have been. 

However, and going back to Glen’s early story, he then went on to represent Norfolk at the English Schools X/C Champs in Stoke where he once again finished ahead of all the other Norfolk runners despite taking a fall early into the race. He was then invited to join the Norfolk Gazelles at one of their Sunday morning training sessions at the old Pinebanks sports ground. 

“At 14, I felt very intimidated when seeing top athletes like Mike Tagg and his mate, David Bedford, in attendance alongside top county runners Paul Dennis and Tony Goldsmith to name but a few. We were told to run round the Norwich Ring Road, but by the time I got to Dereham Road, I had to cut short and make my way back to Pinebacks through the city. It was much too far for someone of my age and whilst everyone else had their training schedules, I didn’t have anyone to take me under their wing and started to lose interest,” he said. 

After leaving school aged 15 and starting work, as far as his running went, that was the end of it. This was followed by marriage and children. 

Nevertheless, and whilst talking of children, from a young age his son Matthew started to not only show interest in running, but also great promise just as his dad had years before whilst also winning the Norfolk Schools Junior X/C Champs. 

This also coincided with Glen getting back into running and joining the Norwich Road Runners. “It was social running to start with, but after entering a few races, my speed returned,” he said. “My mate Michael Powell also talked me into entering some triathlons in 1995. The big breakthrough came years later when at the 2010 National Triathlon Relays in Nottingham, I finally beat my other good mate Simon Edye by eight seconds which gave me the confidence to really have a good go at it.” 

He went on to win races at Waveney, Cambridge, Stanwick and many more. While this was all brilliant, winning the National Duathlon Championships in 2013 and then being presented with his gold medal by James Cracknell is his biggest stand out moment. “You old buggers don’t hang about do you he said to me,” Glen said. 

This also led to him qualifying and being picked to represent GB at the World Triathlon Champs in London, but due to over training he collapsed the week before which led to him being hospitalised and sadly missing out. “Julie, my wife, was more upset than I was because she wanted to see the Brownlee brothers,” he said whilst laughing out loud. 

Whether it was a ‘it doesn’t get any better than this’ moment after winning the National Champs or due to the collapse, I am not sure, but Glen gave up triathlons and duathlons after that saying he wanted to pick his running back up again. 

Now whilst I won’t go as far as to say he is an all or nothing character, I do think it is fair to say that when he does something, he is one of those people who gives it his all and after numerous road running age group wins, he then ran into some muscular issues in 2020 which sadly curtailed his running for a couple of years. 

In 2022 though, he was back again and this time training with Adie Grand and his Braydeston Milers. 

Eastern Daily Press: Glen Nelson after winning (age group) January’s New Years Day 10K at Wymondham.

Then having last month won his age category at the Wymondham New Year’s Day 10k, this encouraged him to enter the Norfolk County Cross Country Champs where he won his age group (ironically at Earlham Park), 56 years after last winning in 1968 as a schoolboy. Glen then quickly followed this up with a win at the Reedham Ten-mile road race whilst breaking the record for a 70 plus year old in a very fast 74 mins. 

 “I just want to keep going for as long as I can,” he said with regard to his future. “My training consists of two speed sessions each week with a long run on Sundays. I also combine this with cycling off road four times during the week which is great fun for us oldies. I have always listened to my body and consider myself to be very lucky to have good health. Oh, and a very understanding wife.” 

Julie added: “A very understanding wife!”