Neil Featherby: Running is about more than competition as the thousands of runners demonstrated at the Great North Run

The Norse group that trained for Run Norwich 2018 with Neil Featherby. Picture: Neil Featherby

The Norse group that trained for Run Norwich 2018 with Neil Featherby. Picture: Neil Featherby


Running expert Neil Featherby discusses why it’s so important to look beyond mere competition

Having watched The Great North Run on Sunday I feel that apart from Mo Farah and those dozen or so athletes at the very sharp end of the men’s and women’s races, most of the TV coverage was about the masses where so many of them were doing it for charity.

Being a follower of some of the more serious running groups on social media and talking to lots of local athletes here in Norwich, the general consensus is that The Great North Run is no longer a “Great Race,” but more of a “Great Event”.

I think there is a lot to be said for that whilst also at the same time realising that is why the coverage is what it is.

I must admit I would have liked to have seen a bit more of some of those in the elite field and serious competitive club runners which included City of Norwich AC athlete Nick Earl who finished in a superb 17th place.

However, and at the same time, having watched and listened intently to some of the heartbreaking stories of those who were running for their own very personal reasons, I get that too.

The truth of the matter is that whilst there was an elite field, it was not as good as it has been in years gone by or indeed other big races around the world whereby world class athletes are carefully selected and to put it bluntly paid big appearance money to stand on the start line.

Having said that, I have no idea how the Great North Run compares to other races when it comes to that sort of thing.

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Whilst many are now calling the race just a big charity run, does that not now fit in with modern day running i.e. an event for everyone of all standards and for people who have found running as so much more than just a competitive sport.

If it wasn’t for the thousands who raise millions in races like the Great North Run, the charities would not be able to do the same good work which they do.

I met a lady earlier this week who lost her daughter to cancer a few years ago leaving behind two very small children.

I just sat and listened intently. The pain in her words were still very much with her, but at the same time running for her really had helped heal some of the pain she felt back then and most certainly still does.

There are undoubtedly so many reasons behind why each person runs and whilst I 100 percent understand the disappointment of those who love to watch competitive races, I also think it is fantastic that there are now thousands of people out there just doing their own thing.

Whilst we are on the subject of people doing their own thing and running for personal goals and charities, the run I am doing with friends Chas Allen, Jason Wright, Baz Hipwell and Mark Hewlett at the end of this month when we attempt to run the full length of Hadrian’s Wall inside 24 hours, the monies coming in for our two designated causes, The Hallswood Animal Sanctuary and Nelson’s Journey really has taken me by surprise.

I suggested that a target of £2,000 would be our goal being split between both causes. With just over two weeks to go and of course the run itself, we are almost half way there for which I feel confident we will now more than meet our target. Thank you so much to everyone who have made donations so far.

MORE: Check out our race calendar here

Earlier on this year, I was asked by Norse who were the main sponsor of the Run Norwich 10k to help with their staff wellbeing initiative and help with the training of 15 selected candidates for the run.

Needless to say I was delighted to be asked and even more so when it was agreed that a donation would be made to the Hallswood Animal Sanctuary for doing so.

Whilst some of the group had already done a little bit of running, most of them were basically starting from scratch.

We managed to get 11 of them to the start line 18 weeks later for which they all finished with big smiles on their faces whilst being rightfully proud of their achievements and finisher’s medal.

This week, they asked me to go to the Norse head office with Lyz Hall and Maria Thornberg from the Hallswood Animal Sanctuary where most of them were there to greet us with The Run Group leader and Norse Group Resources Director Tricia Fuller MBE who so very kindly presented a cheque for £1,000 to the Sanctuary.

This money will go towards helping to pay some of the feed bills as we go in to the winter months and believe you me, it really is so very much appreciated. At the risk of repeating myself once again, this demonstrates just how running is so much more than just a sport.

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