Neil Featherby: Running brings out the best in people...just as it did for the Julie Arnold Memorial Run

Neil Featherby and Nigel Arnold on the Norfolk/Suffolk border during the Julie Arnold Memorial Run i

Neil Featherby and Nigel Arnold on the Norfolk/Suffolk border during the Julie Arnold Memorial Run in 1989. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

Twenty-eight years ago this week I am so very proud to say I was part of what I think has to be one of the best examples of demonstrating the camaraderie which exists amongst the running fraternity.

Nigel Arnold, in red vest, and Neil Featherby after completing the Julie Arnold Memorial Run. Pictur

Nigel Arnold, in red vest, and Neil Featherby after completing the Julie Arnold Memorial Run. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

Local runner Nigel Arnold, who in my opinion has been the most consistent athlete in Norfolk during the last five decades, so very sadly lost his then wife Julie to cancer aged just 29. Needless to say this was a shock to so many of us.

I had only seen her laughing and joking at their house in Bawburgh just a couple of weeks before and whilst we all knew she was unwell, it all happened so quickly. Nigel and Julie's popularity was second to none for which Nigel decided to organise a run around the boundary of Norfolk so as to raise money in Julie's name. He asked me if I would help organise and do the 220-mile run with him for which it didn't take me more than one second to give him my reply.

A team of friends along with members of Nigel and Julie's family all came on board to help out and before you knew it, the plan was in place.

All the clubs around the region had been told of our intentions and to say the media thought it was a wonderful idea is an understatement.

Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby at the end of the Julie Arnold Memorial Run. Ray Lindsey and Dave My

Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby at the end of the Julie Arnold Memorial Run. Ray Lindsey and Dave Mytton sit in behind. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant


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TV crews came out to film us with the BBC making a very small documentary about Nigel and the very sad story which had led to this event.

Radio Norfolk called us every day for live interviews and of course the EDP and Evening News ran story after story about it.

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The run was broken down into 12 daily stages for which I was given the job to sort this out. However on day 5, I think it is fair to say I completely messed up having told everyone we were running 25 miles.

Before the start a group of guys on motorbikes asked me where we were running to and I said Wisbech which 'is 25 miles away'.

Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby, with full entourage, run into Diss on day eight of the Julie Arnold

Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby, with full entourage, run into Diss on day eight of the Julie Arnold Memorial Run. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

They informed me that they travelled the same route regularly and it was more like 31 miles.

I didn't say a word hoping no would notice, but needless to say they did whilst also accusing me of deliberately doing it. I was well known back then for adding a few miles to any run I went on! Every day the pace was pretty fast too and I can honestly say I came out of it fitter than I went in to it.

I only wish I had the space to write a full feature and mention the very many special moments of fun, laughter, emotion, how people threw money out of cars as they drove past or waited for us in lay-bys and at the end of each day's run to make donations.

Or indeed mention all those fantastic people and runners from every single club in the county who joined us on route.

However, and whilst there were so many special moments, the final day was the most special.

We experienced just about every emotion during those last few miles as we ran through the centre of Norwich to the finish where it had all started 12 days earlier at the old Jenny Lind Hospital.

Just like the send-off on day one, there was a huge crowd of people in attendance clapping and cheering as we ran those final few metres.

TV cameras, local radio and press were all asking for interviews and taking pics for which it did almost become overwhelming.

Why have I written about this for my column this week? Well because it popped up on my Facebook history the other day whereby the memories aroused really did take me back to one of the most satisfying times of my running career where so many people from my favourite sport all came together for one purpose….The Julie Arnold Memorial Run.

Incidentally, over £30,000 was raised for the Quidenham Hospice Appeal which back in 1989 was most certainly a staggering amount of money to raise for a sponsored run!

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