Neil Featherby: Veteran pair are an inspiration to runners everywhere
Running expert Neil Featherby pays tribute to two of Norfolk best senior runners
When it comes to being able to retain the enthusiasm or ability to keep churning out the hard training and fast race times, two people who I mentioned in Run Anglia last week, John Moore and Jane Clarke, really are special athletes.
Despite both now being in their mid-fifties, they are still able to compete at a very high standard for which this week I want to elaborate a little further.
As a schoolboy John showed no sporting prowess whatsoever and even hated (his words) cross country running.
In fact running was the last thing on his mind until reaching the age of 43, when his wife entered the Dublin marathon. Whilst he thought the idea was a little ‘daft’, he decided to support and train with her. Unfortunately, she turned her ankle and couldn’t do the race, but as he was finding the training relatively easy, he decided to carry on with it and have a go at the marathon himself.
Using the run - walk method “Jeffing” which I also recently discussed in one of my columns, he finished in just under 4 hours.
With this time under his belt, he ran in the Dublin marathon a further two more times during the next couple of years, but still with no real thought of becoming a serious runner until meeting the Norfolk Gazelles in 2006, aged 45.
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This was to be the turning point for his running career. His training now had more structure and, most importantly, consistency and was now geared to breaking the three-hour marathon barrier.
Despite just missing out during his next two attempts, he did eventually crack it, albeit aged 52 in the Frankfurt marathon in 2012 and with this box now ticked, his focus and targets turned to increasing his speed at the shorter distances.
Needless to say, this led to further PBs. In 2015 he broke the hour barrier for 10 miles and even more recently ran a 35-minute 10k in March of this year now aged 57.
Apart from the 10k where he is ranked 14th, he is also ranked in the UK Top 10 rankings at every distance from the mile to 20 miles.
John is a very clever guy who knows what he is doing whilst being very realistic. Most importantly though, he has great faith in his ability and is now targeting a sub 80-minute half marathon having just missed it by four seconds in March of this year. I have a pretty good feeling that this next PB and breakthrough is just a race or two away.
Whereas John Moore showed no signs of his athletics ability as a youngster, Jane Clarke most certainly did.
As a schoolgirl athlete she represented Norfolk on the track and cross country at The English Schools Championships.
She was most definitely a natural athlete, winning races at the Norwich schools city sports and placing in the medals in inter area matches.
She excelled from 200 metres upwards which not only demonstrated that she had natural endurance, but speed too which in truth was to be a big part of her success during her second career upon returning to the sport aged 36 and 19 years after giving it all up the first time around.
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Her list of honours are far too many to mention in this all too brief feature, but wins in the International Masters Cross Country (twice), along with British, European and World Titles from 1,500 metres through to 10,000 metres are all part of her very long athletics CV.
However, and such is the natural ability which Jane possess, her success has most certainly not been limited to just masters events, particularly when in her 40s, winning many open races or being at the very sharp end of the field including a top 10 placing in the Inter Counties 10k road race.
Jane loves competition be it in a local road race for her club City of Norwich AC or indeed in an international race.
She has competed against the very best that is for sure and has even rubbed shoulders with the likes of Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey, but for her competition at whatever level is also very much about enjoyment.
Just last week, she won the Westminster mile in the over 55 age group in a time of 5mins and 42secs and despite also now being a leading athletics coach, by her own admission she could have ran even faster if she hadn’t started so quickly what with going through the first 400 metres at sub 5min mile pace.
When asking her about races which stand out the most, she has far too many to pick a defining one, but one race which is most certainly memorable albeit quite humorous too, was when having lined up with several thousands of other runners in The Race for Life, she stormed off after the gun fired and ran so fast that she actually finished before several other competitors had even crossed the start line which for her was now the finish line.
John and Jane are inspirations that is for sure.
Their energy and enthusiasm to keep driving themselves on year after year is amazing. However, for me, it is also their modesty and genuine encouragement to so many others which stands out above all else.