So, this week, I thought I would touch on a subject which I am pretty sure I have not written about before during my seven-plus years of doing this weekly column. 
The importance of those people who officiate in our sport, particularly track and field. 
Graham Ringer (and his family), who has been a good friend of mine for many years, took up officiating 36 years ago in 1998 and was given a long-term service award last year by UK Athletics for his services to the sport. 
He is also a lifetime honorary member of the City of Norwich Athletics Club. 
However, and like most other officials, Graham also has an extensive background as an athlete himself having taken up running in 1985. "The Hi-Tec 10 mile road race at Great Yarmouth was my first ever race which I think I finished in 74 mins and 35 secs," he said. 
This of course was the first of many other races to come during what was to be a full 24 years of competitive running which included nine London marathons with the first being in 1987 when he ran alongside his good friend Steve Askham in 3 hours, 16 mins and 16 seconds. Just short of a full hour quicker than what had been his first marathon in 1985 which was the old Norfolk Marathon from Kelling to Norwich. 
Graham was also a very proud member of the Duke Street Running Club who he joined after that first marathon effort in Norfolk. "I joined the Duke Street Runners and what a great bunch they all were,” he said. “My first Sunday run with them turned out to be three and a half hours of running with some super people like Alan Walker, who is sadly no longer with us." 
Like lots of other people though, Graham had several driving factors behind his want to run and that was his amazing fund-raising efforts for the Great Ormond Street Hospital after a lifesaving operation on what was back then his young son Gavin.  

"It was my way of paying them back," he said. 

(Image: Newsquest)
As mentioned at the start of this column, Graham has been a good friend of mine for many years and even more so of late. He and his wife Judy have helped me immensely with the support I give to The Hallswood Animal Sanctuary and animal rescue. Needless to say much of our conversations when not talking about the animals has been about those 'good old running days' of the past such as the time when he was running down Prince of Wales Road dodging roof tiles after getting caught out in what turned out to be 'The Great Storm' of October 1987. "I blame that on Michael Fish, the weather man, who got it wrong," he said. 
Then about the time he won a competition through the Running Magazine in 1988 to run in the Moscow marathon on a day where the temperature soared to 86 degrees Fahrenheit / 30 degrees Celsius. He still finished in 3 hours 26 mins and 22 seconds though. 
Ironically, his last marathon in Nottingham just happened to be the day before the Duke Street Running Club officially amalgamated with the Norfolk Olympiads where he ran with a picture of a coffin on the back of his Duke Street Club vest with the words RIP. "It was such a privilege to be a member of the Duke Street Running Club," he said. 
However, all that energy and passion for running eventually got diverted into his work as an official at athletics events and whilst it is now mainly local meets where he ends up being the track referee, for many years he officiated all around the country. 
"I no longer run, but I am one of many athletics officials within the county of Norfolk and this is something which first came about when my children got involved in athletics. I got lots of help and advice in those early years from Christine Baker and Phil Cane for which I am very grateful to them."  

As for the future, he expressed the importance of more people signing up to also officiate.  

"We need many more new officials as without them the meetings will not be able to go ahead,” he said. “Athletics Norfolk, along with the clubs, which includes many of the more recently formed newer clubs are trying their best to get new people on board. Just give it go even if it is just for a couple of hours," he said. 
People like Graham really are salt of the earth characters - honest and hard working. Givers rather than takers, which in his case includes raising well over £100,000 for charity. As a runner he is very modest about his achievements, but as I have said to him, he has some PBs which he should be very proud of during what has been and still is a long career in running and athletics. 
Here are some of Graham's PBs - Marathon 3:01:03, Half Marathon 1:24:02, 10 miles 60:05, 10km 35:28, 5 miles 28:10. I think most people will agree that his times are impressive. 
Before I sign off for another week, I must just add a humorous story about Graham. In 2001 on the same day of the London Marathon, he was asked to officiate at a meeting in Battersea Park. He agreed but also said he wanted to go and watch some of the marathon before heading off to Battersea.  

However, after getting caught up in the excitement of the race, when looking down at his watch he realised he would need to make a run for it.  

The timing could not have been better as just as he took off down the road, the leaders of the marathon came round the corner with the lead car and TV cameras catching Graham in full view as he headed the race for those brief few seconds.  

When calling Judy his wife to tell her he had made it to the meeting, her reply was "yes, we all saw you on TV." 
As always, have a great running weekend all.