Neil Featherby: Tireless work of Brendon Byrne has been crucial to the Norfolk running scene
The response to the appointments of local athletes Chris Merrylees and Dominic Blake as the new managers of the Norfolk Cross-Country team has been overwhelmingly positive.
So much so that entries for the forthcoming County X/C Champs in January are already flooding in.
This week my thoughts have turned to those who have gone before and every time the cross country season comes round the name Brendon Byrne immediately springs to my mind.
Brendon has seen it all during his many years of being involved with athletics in Norfolk, be it from schools to senior level. My own personal first encounter of this man goes back to when I won the Norfolk Schools Junior cross country title in 1972 when he was one of the managers for the county team.
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Whilst that is such a long time ago, during those last 45 years he also witnessed some most notable successes at national schools level over the country which includes the likes of Kevin Steere, Steve Flint, Darren Mead, Mitch Goose, Rosie Betts and Iona Lake.
Whilst Brendon is very much known nowadays for his tireless administration work, he is indeed much more than that. As an athlete he was one of Norfolk’s best and if it hadn’t of been for the great Mike Tagg, who is arguably Norfolk’s best ever and who was around at the same time, then Brendon would have been number one.
Although he is very unassuming about his own athletics achievements, to name but a few, he has won every single county title from 1,500 metres on the track to 15 miles on the road. Needless to say the senior men’s County X/C title too and was reserve for the England Junior team for the International Cross Country Champs (now known as the World X/C Champs) in Belgium in 1965.
He is also one of the original Norfolk Gazelles dating back to the 1960s where he was part of a bronze medal winning youth team in the English National Championships at Leicester in 1964. His race times on the track and road would undoubtedly still be winning most races in this region today too.
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As a Level Four coach he has a huge range of knowledge, and of course experience, and has guided several athletes over the years to many successes from schools to senior level and middle distance on the track to the marathon on the road.
With this year’s English Schools Cross Country having been held at the Royal Norfolk Showground in Norwich, Brendon was also very much involved with helping to coordinate the planning which went into these championships for which it has been said was one of the best yet when it comes to organisation.
For me longevity in whatever we do in life is the real proof of just how good someone is. Those who are consistently there year in and year out. Brendon is most certainly one of those. Whilst we always need to keep moving forward, looking back and seeing what has gone before is also just as important.
I am pretty sure Chris Merrylees and Dom Blake will leave no stone unturned in the quest to once again lift the standards of cross country running in the county after having also picked the brains of a man who, for me, has always been Mr Norfolk Cross Country.