Neil Featherby column: A huge loss to the running community in Norfolk

Malcolm Ball from North Norfolk Beach Runners sadly passed away recently Picture: Clive Hedges

Malcolm Ball from North Norfolk Beach Runners sadly passed away recently Picture: Clive Hedges - Credit: Clive Hedges

Whilst I am a person who can talk running all day long, these last few weeks do seem to be blurring all into one.

Whoever would have thought that this time last year, or indeed even in January, that so many plans for 2020 were going to be cancelled and virtual racing was going to become the most competitive form of running?

Nevertheless, competitive running or not, what is sure is that there really are even more people than ever out there pounding the streets for which I do wonder as to how all the running event organisers will cope with being able to cater for what will be huge numbers once constraints have been lifted.

I am sure it will be a nice problem to have and as always it will of course all work out, but if we thought mass participation was at a high before lockdown, then it really is now a case of think again.

This last week has also been another case of my email inbox filling up with so many of these new runners asking for advice about injuries and indeed the best footwear to purchase to allow them to keep doing their newfound activity after what in truth has been doing far too much, too soon, resulting in an impact injury.

As said in last week’s column, the biggest issue and number one problem seems to be shin splints.

I’ve been trying to explain to many of them that even if they were to now purchase the very best running footwear, this will still not cure an injury once badly hurt and if they continue to keep extending the level of running which they are doing, then they could very easily make it worse.

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This is of course not what they want to hear for which I have been greeted with on more than one occasion: “I was hoping you were going to be the person who could help me.”

I fully get where they are coming from as running really is so addictive, but when first taking up this activity, especially when not having done so before or of course not having exercised as such for a number of years, it really is so very important to follow a running programme (such as couch to 5k for many beginners) which will allow for a very gradual conditioning of the body to take place from all the new stresses which are being applied through running.

Staying on the emails theme, I also received one from a gentleman who has set his sights on breaking the three-hour barrier for the marathon asking me how many gels do I think he will need to consume during the course of his planned marathon.

My response was providing you know you are capable of breaking the three-hour barrier and you have done all the necessary training to get you in shape to do this, then it most certainly will not be any amount of gels which will be your reason for success.

Yes, of course there is a place for supplements, but be it the very best footwear, equipment or indeed nutritional aids, at the end of the day the one and only determining factor has to be doing the correct training to meet whatever the goals are.

Without the determination and real want to succeed then everything else should just be complimentary to what is being in the best possible condition on the day.

Finally and on a really sad note, I must mention the passing of Malcolm Ball from North Norfolk Beach Runners last weekend. Not only was he a super runner and inspiration to so many people, but such a popular man for which he really will be a huge loss to the Norfolk running community. His running achievements are pretty immense which includes running for England as well as having ran a PB marathon of 2hrs 56mins when aged 56, 30 years ago in 1990.

Robbie Britton has written a lovely tribute to him at for which it really is worth having a look at to see just how awesome Malcolm was.

My thoughts are very much with all his family and friends at this time, but I really must leave the final words and tribute to his club mate and good friend Clive Hedges: “It was Malcolm who inspired me to get back into running again for which he will always remain in my thoughts and continue to inspire me for as long as I continue to run.”

Until next week, keep on running…

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