I am sure my column this week will lead to some debate. 

I recently received an email, followed up by a visit to my home earlier this week, from my old friend and training partner Kevin Youngs telling me about his disappointment at not being able to enter the Norfolk 5K Road Race Championships which are being held in conjunction with the Norwich Road Runners mid-week 5k race at Wroxham in July. 

Whilst he is on the waiting list, Kev, who has won no end of county and Eastern area titles over the years, cites the fact that if the top runners in the county cannot get into this or any other championship races due to the popularity of such an event, then should seeded places be given to those runners who are more than likely to be in contention when it comes to contesting a county title? 

Eastern Daily Press: Kevin Youngs, who cycled over to Neil Featherby’s home earlier this week to express his

"I have done 19 previous Wroxham 5K races going right back to the first one in 2002,” he said. “I have also won my age category a total of 11 times with a further 5 runners up positions and three third place finishes.” 

One of Kevin's 11 wins was last year in 2023 in 21:08 in the 70 to 74 age group.  

"Therefore, surely a set number of places should be set aside for runners who can boast a specific race time or performance during the last 12 months,” he added. “If not, what's the point of having a county championship race where the leading contenders cannot get into it?” 

This, of course, is not the first time that this subject has been brought up where top runners have complained about not being able to gain a place in a county championship road race due to entries filling up very quickly. For instance, this year’s Wroxham 5K sold through within two hours of entries opening up. 

Race director, Lee Youngs, said: "Nothing could have prepared us for how quickly the race would sell through this year. We are committed to putting on the most competitive and prestigious 5K in East Anglia and will of course work with athletes to ensure we build on the success of the race.  

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“Last year we had 300 runners finish in under 20 minutes and whilst having 1,000 entries demonstrates that this truly is a race for everyone, we would of course love to see even more runners go under 20 minutes this year. We are proud of this event and grateful that so many runners think so highly of it.” 

I also asked Ceri Theobald for his views particularly as he is not only the race director of the Norfolk Gazelles Valentine’s 10k which is another very popular race her in Norfolk, but he is also chair of Athletics Norfolk Road Running Committee. 

“I think this is an interesting point and one I have some sympathy with,” he said. “Focus for most race directors since covid is to try and sell out their races. Some have been more successful than others at this. The two-hour sell out from Wroxham is unprecedented and far from the norm.  

“The challenge is if you leave spaces for ‘elite runners’ whether they choose to support the race or not. I think that we have a very strong offering for races across the county but undoubtedly, we could improve on it. It is something I am personally committed to as part of ANRRC, and I hope to be able to provide a series of races that are inclusive and competitive at all levels.” 

The Wroxham 5K and Valentine’s 10K are both part of the Sportlink Grand Prix Series of races. 

As said at the beginning of my column, I am sure there will be some debate with regards to any rights or wrongs when it comes to making places available for leading athletes in all age categories, but personally I feel this is something which should be a given subject to the said athletes taking up the opportunity fairly promptly and of course turning up on the day to take part subject to not being ill or injured of course. 

Incidentally, Kev’s attentions soon turned to talking about the old days upon visiting my man cave full of old running memories and old running shoes museum. 

Have a great running weekend everyone.... 

Footnote - after writing my column this week - I have now had further dialogue with Kevin Youngs and Jodie Causer from the Norwich Road Runners confirming that Kevin has been allocated an entry into this year's race.