Neil Featherby: Veteran runner Pete Johnson on how the running scene has changed

PUBLISHED: 10:30 09 March 2018

Pete Johnson gave his views to Neil Featherby on how running has changed over the years. Picture: Archant

Pete Johnson gave his views to Neil Featherby on how running has changed over the years. Picture: Archant

As we get ever nearer to spring and all the road races and marathons, this week I decided to ask a man who is so well known to everyone in Norfolk about his thoughts on the current day running scene.

Having owned the very popular Runners Centre in Norwich for 17 years, we at Sportlink are now so very lucky to have the services of Pete Johnson, who is undoubtedly one of Norfolk’s most popular runners.

After non stop chatter from me, Pete, calmly took a deep breath and answered every one of my questions which I think is fair to say, with a lot of thought and obvious passion for his sport and everything which goes with being a runner.

“Without wanting to sound like an extra in Monty Python’s Four Yorkshire Men,” he said. “After 30 years of running, much of the emphasis has now most definitely changed from when I first took up running in 1986, which back then was considered to be a competitive sport irrespective of your standard.

“Nowadays for many it is very much about running for pleasure and being healthy and there’s nothing wrong with that of course.

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“In fact you could even say that it is fashionable to run these days.

“Going back to the 1980s and 90s there were far fewer races around which meant you had to travel more widely, which of course meant racing against runners and clubs who had also travelled from afar to be there.

“Needless to say this also meant that you were guaranteed to have a tough race what with the standard being much higher and you would very much run from the heart with not being too sure what the guys running beside you were capable of.

“Nowadays you can almost predict where you will finish in a race whilst of course running against your GPS watch which controls the pace you want to run at.

“Whilst it sounds like I am knocking today’s changes, I most certainly don’t mean to. It is just that you asked me what my thoughts are with regards to back then and now.

“Running for a club as a distance runner very much meant that you were going to compete on the road, with perhaps a bit of track in the summer and cross country during the winter whereas now you have a completely new form of off road running with all these obstacle races being organised which charge quite a lot of money to take part in them.

“It’s the same with parkruns. Whilst it is absolutely fantastic for getting the nation up and running, it really should not be confused with 5k races or 12.5 laps of the track in athletics terms.

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“Even The London Marathon was a case of you either had to be able to run 2 hours 40 mins or you had to queue up in the ballot like everyone else. Unfortunately I can most definitely hear myself sounding like one of the old codgers in my younger days for which if you are going to write about me Neil, please give it the heading of A view from over The Hill!”

Pete is so very much one of those people who has a very realistic outlook on his running and life. He recently turned 64, but can still out run many who are half his age.

Whilst he can boast PBs of 4:23 for 1500 metres, 15:42 - 5k, 32:59 - 10k, 53:40 - 10 miles and 2:32:48 for the marathon, even to this present day he is still turning out times of 19 mins for 5k, and just over the hour for 10 miles.

As for being over the hill….not by a long shot!

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