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Neil Featherby: Local athletes are on their way back

PUBLISHED: 09:09 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:09 24 July 2020

Run Norwich has been cancelled this year Picture: Epic Action Imagery

Run Norwich has been cancelled this year Picture: Epic Action Imagery

Epic Action Imagery

In the week that Run Norwich was officially cancelled for 2020, there was thankfully a couple of pieces of good news – Athletics Norfolk are to hold some events behind closed doors, and my old mate Tommy Hughes (from Gulladuff in Northern Ireland) won a half marathon at the Down Royal Race Course in Lisburn last weekend.

Action from Run Norwich 2019 Picture: John NewsteadAction from Run Norwich 2019 Picture: John Newstead

Tommy is absolutely amazing, having turned 60 back in January, winning his half by over three minutes in a time of 72:55. This year really was meant to be his world record breaking year, having run a 2:27:52 marathon last October in Frankfurt when setting a world record for father and son (Eoin) best combined marathon time of 4:59:22 and just 73 days prior to his birthday.

However, with the cancellation of all races since lockdown, apart from some very impressive races early in the year and virtual runs, which includes a 3k in 8:40 and our 5k event for May at Sportlink in 15:37, his attack on world records from 5k up to the marathon has frustratingly been held back. Let’s hope that last weekend’s half marathon may be the start of things to come. Tommy tells me that there will be a 5k, 10k and half marathon at the same venue again on August 1.

Talking of the start of things to come and on another positive note, England Athletics is now inviting race directors to apply for licences once again as long as the event is Covid secure and, of course, we heard just this week that Athletics Norfolk will be holding a very small competition next month behind closed doors at the Sportspark in Norwich.

Clive Poyner, Athletics Norfolk chairman, said: “After many months away, Athletics Norfolk takes great delight in announcing the return of competition at the UEA Sportspark on Saturday August 15 and if it proves to be successful then four more competitions will be scheduled through to October.

“Needless to say and working with England Athletics, the Sportspark and the County volunteer team, this next competition whilst being held under strict Covid-19 guidelines, will enable our athletes to get back to enjoying the thrill of competing again. At the same time it will also support Sophie McKinna and a number of other GB internationals in the throws as they prepare for the British Championships scheduled for September 5 and 6.”

After being personally involved earlier this year with Run Norwich’s change of date in the hope that this huge event would still take place, Ian Thornton, chief executive of the Community Sports Foundation, called me up on Monday to firstly thank me and Great Yarmouth Road Runners on that initial work, but to also say that they were really devastated at having to now cancel this year’s race. But after weighing everything up – the uncertainty and worry for runners, volunteers and everyone else involved – there really was no other choice.

The Run Norwich event truly does help so many charities and work in the local community for which this is now a very big blow.

However, to reduce some of the financial impact whilst still being able to protect the future of the race and sustain the good work which the Foundation does in the community, they are now hoping as many runners as possible who entered for the race will stay on and take part in a Virtual Run Norwich 10k and that all charity runners will still be able to fund-raise for Norwich City Community Sports Foundation and this year’s 12 charity partners.

All those who do kindly waiver their entry fees will automatically be entered for the Virtual Run. All details can be found on their website. I sincerely wish Ian and all his team the very best as I am sure everyone else does, but at the same time, let’s hope with the start of some real competition again here in Norfolk next month, light at the end of the tunnel really is now starting to shine through.


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