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Neil Featherby: The track experiment that has turned into a monster!

PUBLISHED: 17:13 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:13 13 August 2020

The start of race one at last Friday’s evening’s 3,000 metres track challenge series of races at the Sportspark in Norwich Picture: Baz Hipwell

The start of race one at last Friday’s evening’s 3,000 metres track challenge series of races at the Sportspark in Norwich Picture: Baz Hipwell

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What a week this has been, especially after last Friday evening’s training races at the Sportspark in Norwich which was nothing more than a bit of an experiment for local triathlete Joe Skipper.

Competitors battling it out during one of last Friday night’s 3,000-metre track challenge races at the Norwich Sportspark Pictuire: Baz HipwellCompetitors battling it out during one of last Friday night’s 3,000-metre track challenge races at the Norwich Sportspark Pictuire: Baz Hipwell

The event came about after Joe mentioned to me that he wanted to put on a 5,000m track time trial with a few others, to break the 15-minute barrier. We both quickly rounded up some local athletes who, of course, were more than happy to take part, particularly after a year lacking in any real competitive action.

Whilst Joe still smashed his PB, he didn’t quite go under 15 minutes, which led to a further long chat about how and when to have another go. Joe initially suggested the following week. I suggested that rather than having another go so soon, maybe it might be worth doing some more specific training and possible training races with the same group, which would include timed efforts over shorter distances, before going back to the 5,000m again.

After further dialogue, a post went up on social media informing others of our plans, which led to last Friday evening’s 3,000 metres races. Everything went really well and I think it is fair to say that everyone enjoyed themselves in what were three very small races, all seeded to match each person’s ability. Needless to say, Covid-19 social distancing regulations were followed, what with the number of athletes in each race and of course anyone else who came along to help out.

Several photos, courtesy of Baz Hipwell, went on Facebook with the details of each race the following morning, which has now resulted in us being inundated with requests for further information on the remaining time trials for which we have set dates. I want to say I am amazed, but I am not really, as this is an opportunity for all those who have spent weeks training in the hope that they will soon see some competition again.

Its tight at the front during the main race at last Fridays 3,000 metre track challenge at the Norwich Sportspark Picture: Baz HipwellIts tight at the front during the main race at last Fridays 3,000 metre track challenge at the Norwich Sportspark Picture: Baz Hipwell

We have, of course, been asked why they are only training races and not organised officially. Well, as I alluded to last week, when it comes to putting on official events, the amount of actual officials required goes well beyond what most people realise. This weekend’s behind closed doors throws and 100 metres events, where there will be only four athletes in each race and six people at any one time competing in the field events, will still require over 25 people officiating.

However, races and other sports are now taking place around the country again and here in Norfolk, it is a buzz to see that these training races might also be the catalyst for some very well-organised official track events again before too long.

Athletics Norfolk is also planning beyond this weekend’s event at the Sportspark in Norwich and providing Clive Poyner (chair, Athletics Norfolk) can dot all the Is and cross all the Ts, then further plans may also be just ahead. Having spoken to one or two race directors of other planned races, I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed that slowly, but surely, athletes and runners will soon all be feeling that adrenaline rush of standing on the start line again.

This time next week, (starting on Thursday, August 20) I should be well into what is my planned charity challenge for this year. I like to try and do one each year, not just to keep testing myself, but also to raise awareness and funding for the charities and causes which I and my business, Sportlink, like to support. The main three are the Hallswood Animal Sanctuary, Nelson’s Journey and Dog Rescue. I had planned to run Hadrian’s Wall again in May, and with losing light fairly quickly again in the evenings, we have now decided to run Peddars Way and the Coastal Footpath, over four days, which I think works out to be about 35 miles each day.

Start of the main race at last Friday evening’s 3,000 metres track challenge featuring Norwich’s very own Ironman Joe Skipper Picture: Baz HipwellStart of the main race at last Friday evening’s 3,000 metres track challenge featuring Norwich’s very own Ironman Joe Skipper Picture: Baz Hipwell

When I say run, it will be very much a mix of running, jogging, walking or dare I say jeffing covering around five miles an hour. If people want to come along and support us and join in then please do, but also be aware that it’s not going to be a burn-up. If anyone would like more details or to make a donation, check out my personal Facebook page along with that of Sportlink’s and other friends Karen Grapes and Craig Bowen Jones.

Race 2 and they are away at last Fridays 3,000 metres track challenge Picture: Baz HipwellRace 2 and they are away at last Fridays 3,000 metres track challenge Picture: Baz Hipwell


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