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Neil Featherby: Don’t forget about our Masters runners...Norfolk has a very proud tradition

PUBLISHED: 10:30 22 December 2017

Neil Featherby is ready for another Hare and Hounds Boxing Day run. Picture: Archant

Neil Featherby is ready for another Hare and Hounds Boxing Day run. Picture: Archant

Archant

With the recent announcement that my business Sportlink Running & Fitness are to sponsor the Norfolk Grand Prix Series for the next three years, I can truly say that all of us are delighted to be given this opportunity.

I have received many positive comments about our involvement which I have to say is very pleasing. At the same time I also think we can help this series of races continue to grow and become even more established. With this in mind, I think it is only right to thank the previous sponsors Orchard Caravans, The Runners Centre and Leathes Prior who have all supported the series during the last 20 years or more.

However, earlier this week I was visited by a very well respected and local runner, Jim Hayes, who made his feelings known when saying that he feels a little disappointed that the Grand Prix series caters for all the age categories up to age 65. It then becomes a bit of a free-for-all in as much as that those who are still competing in their 70s and indeed 80s have to compete with the youngsters who are still in their 60s albeit 65 and over.

I have to say this did make me think. Some local races outside of the Grand Prix do cover these more senior age groups, but not all of them.

As Jim said, people are being encouraged to keep fit and stay healthy and of course are living much longer for these reasons so at the same time they should be recognised for their hard efforts. Jim’s comments are actually not the first time I have heard these grievances for the want of a better word, as I was recently approached after an earlier article of mine about the Norfolk County Cross Country Champs for similar reasons. The County Championships cover age brackets up to 70 years of age.

Let’s make no bones about this, there are far less people competing in the over 70s and certainly over 80s age groupings for which there are times when there may only be just a few runners or indeed none at all. But at the same time, all these athletes are fit and still excellent runners.

North Norfolk Beach Runners earlier this year put two teams of six runners all aged over 70 into the Ipswich Ekiden Relay whilst also having two superstars of Master Athletics in their ranks with Malcom Ball, aged 84, who trains daily and is a former National Champion and Brenda Kinch who finished runner up in the World Masters marathon in Australia in 2016 aged 70 and just 10 weeks after having a pacemaker fitted.

Jim himself also took the Norfolk Marathon gold medal in the 65 plus category this year despite being the wrong side of 70.

Just to really put this all in perspective, see below the World age best times for 5k, 10k and the marathon with the British bests in brackets.

5k

Male – age 70, 18:15 (18:33) / age 75, 19:07 (19:45) / age 80, 20:58 (22:44) / age 85, 24:03 (24:51)

Female - age 70, 20:56 (20:56) / age 75, 23:31 ( 26:22) / age 80, 25:41 (30:23) / age 85, 32:29

10k

Male - age 70, 38:04 (39:24) / age 75, 39:25 (39:31) / age 80, 42:39 (46:10) / age 85, 51:07 (55:03)

Female - age 70, 44:25 (44:25) / age 75, 50:00 (54:44) / age 80, 53:12 / age 85, 86:15

Marathon

Male - age 70, 2:54:48 (3:00:58) / age 80, 3:15:54 (3:47:04)

Female - age 70, 3:25:29 (3:36:30) / age 80, 4:11:45.

To be honest, all the Masters times from ages 35 upwards at all distances from the sprints to the marathon are phenomenal, be it world or British and of course male or female. But this week’s article is more relevant to those athletes who are on the wrong side of 65.

Here in Norfolk, we have some excellent athletes in all the masters divisions for which I am sure many will react to this column with their views. However, and at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking about a great friend of mine, who was undoubtedly a world class Masters runner from Norfolk who we sadly lost back in 2004 by the name of Peter Andrews.

Pete really did epitomise that age is no barrier when it comes to running having competed internationally and won races in times that athletes in their 20s could only dream about. I have always said that when all things are considered he was Norfolk’s best ever and was always more than happy to race against anyone, whatever their age!

With it being just a few days away from the festivities, this time of year can only mean one thing for me….The Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Boxing Day Annual Charity Cross Country Run.

If you are about bright and early on the 26th and going through the village or out dog walking through the woods of Horsford and think that you are seeing things….don’t worry it is likely to be me being chased down by 100 other very wet and muddy runners all in fancy dress whilst having fun and raising money for local charities.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and of course many festive miles of running through the holiday period.

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