Neil Featherby: Getting ready for the Felthorpe Boxing Day Charity XC Run

Felthorpe Charity Run

As always a big smile on the face of those who take part in the Felthorpe Boxing Day Charity Run. - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Whereas most of us are now looking forward to a bit of a well-deserved Christmas break, for me and all at Sportlink, this is a time of the year where it really does become pretty hectic. 

However, and not just because of last minute Christmas shopping instore and of course new year sales, but because of all the other many things which I am involved with such as the organisation of the Felthorpe Boxing Day Charity Cross Country Run. 

This will be the 20th running of this crazy but fun event where each year we raise money for several differing charities for which many of them are local. 

For those who don’t know too much about the event, I set off (this year with running friend Jason Wright) nice and early on Boxing Day morning just as the sun is coming up to lay a trail for the teams of runners to follow. 

This means running across not only rough terrain, but through ditches and streams. To make it even more surreal, they are greeted by well known ultra-runner Carmine De Grandis playing his accordion whilst they are wading through waist deep mud. 

Better still, all the runners have to do it in fancy dress too. It really is a sight to see for those who live in the vicinity of Felthorpe and Horsford. 

Is it competitive? Not at all other than which team comes up with the best fancy dress theme. 

Felthorpe Boxing Day Run

One of the teams in compulsory fancy dress when taking part in the Boxing Day run. - Credit: Baz Hipwell

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Nevertheless, and recently speaking to Peter Mahoney one of the organisers for the Norfolk County Cross Country Championships who was telling me about all the great lengths and hard work they have put in to make for a superbly well organised day of racing on January 9th, it also demonstrated that even a fun event like mine still takes a lot of time and effort to make sure that everything is in place. 

Such things as sorting out the venue, dealing with all the entries and charity donations, sending out and answering stacks of emails and of course arranging all the staggered start times what with trying to ensure they all finish roughly at the same time i.e. slowest team off first and of course what is deemed as the quickest team last. 

Boxing Day Charity Run

The Mad Hatter and the Mad March Hare all taking part in the Boxing Day Charity Run - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Then of course there are the awards and mementos to organise and a course recce in advance of what I think will be the route I intend taking on the day (I change it each year) to check for any major obstacles that could prove to be too problematic. 

A few years ago, I ran into a dead end due to a fallen down tree which meant I then had to turn around and head back in the direction of the oncoming runners. 

I am very lucky to have some great people around me who help out such as Mark Brown and Lawrence Wade who really is so very well organised when it comes to making sure that everything runs smoothly on the day. 

I must also mention other friends such as Karen Grapes, Baz Hipwell and Richard Howell who chase around and give up their Boxing Day along with Gary Cooper who sponsors the run each year making this event just that bit extra special. 

Boxing Day Charity Run

Runners in fancy dress taking part in the Felthorpe Boxing Day Charity Run - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Needless to say, I have to say a big thank you to all those who take part, particularly those who really do send in some amazing charity donations which have made up for absolutely thousands of pounds raised since that very first Boxing Day Run back in 2002 when just four of us took part. 

Whilst we are a long way from being as organised as Pete and co, when all is said and done and when seeing all the runners finish with huge smiles on their faces despite being covered in mud from head to foot, that is when I know I can also walk away with a big smile on my face assured that everyone has had a great time. 

Before I finish off this week, I must just mention Tom Dilrew from Norwich who I wrote about back in August 2019 with regards to him running in the Antarctic Marathon to complete his challenge of running a marathon in all seven continents. 

Boxing Day Charity Run

Happy runners heading towards the finish line of the Boxing Day Charity Run - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Last weekend he ticked that box off and whilst his finishing time of 5 hours and 33 mins is two hours slower than his PB, running in a marathon just 600 miles from the South Pole does not need me to describe what the conditions were like. Tom also had the distinction of not only finishing in the top 20 (19th), but was also the first British runner to finish out of seven in total. 

Finally, it just leaves me to say a very happy Christmas to everyone and of course let’s all hope and look forward to a great new running year in 2022. 

Boxing Day Charity Run

Carmine De Grandis plays the accordion as runners wade through the mud on Boxing Day morning. Carmine De Grandis playing his accordion as runners wade through the mud on Boxing Day morning. - Credit: Baz Hipwell


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