Neil Featherby: How Carmine De Grandis became one of Norfolk’s finest ultra runners
- Credit: Archant
As I have said many times before, running is now so very diverse with people enjoying the sport and pastime in so many differing ways.
Back in the day it was very much seasonal with track and field, road running and cross country along with fell running in the north of the country.
However, nowadays new events seem to be springing up everywhere for which I do sometimes wonder how the heck someone has dreamed up some of the ideas.
Nevertheless one form of running has actually been around a long time and is now more popular than ever – ultra running, particularly ultra-trail running.
Here in Norfolk we have at least two such groups which seem to be thriving what with Mandy Foyster's NUTS Group and the Norfolk Trail Running Club based in the north of the county and set up by Carmine De Grandis.
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I have known Carmine for several years and one of the biggest stand out things for me is his tremendous enthusiasm for running. His knowledge about all things running is also amazing. Therefore this week my column is dedicated to him for which he like many others did not discover running until after leaving school where running was not always the favourite subject on the school curriculum.
Carmine started running aged 20, in his home country of Italy and having been brought up in a small village situated in the north of the country in an area surrounded by mountains and beautiful scenery, it didn't take him long to fall in love with his new found pastime. The rugged terrain also helped him build a very strong endurance base.
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Having moved to the UK four years later to study teacher training in North London, cross country running also became a love of his whilst also actually winning several races and whilst he never really had the time to train properly, he also ran in the London Marathon in 1999, finishing in a time of 3-30. What with working long hours and having a young family, the next 10 years of his life saw him only managing to get out for a run every now and again, but as he approached his 40th birthday, like many others at that stage of his life, he decided that he wanted a new challenge for which he entered the Swiss Alpine Trail Marathon which also meant having to endure 2000 metres of elevation.
Whilst living in North Norfolk and having many scenic and undulating running routes on his doorstep, this was still not going to be enough to prepare him for what was to come in the marathon. So with that in mind he took to the hills of the Lakes and Peak District in preparation for his big race which of course he went on to complete.
However and what with having discovered the hills and mountains of England during his preparations, he was now well and truly hooked for which many further races were entered. Since that date, 191 to be precise with 78 of them ranging from the marathon distance right up to that of a 200 miler. He had also joined the North Norfolk Beach Runners by this stage too.
This year alone he has completed three ultras whilst winning the Scout Team Trophy at the Fellsman race which he is so very proud of. Needless to say, he has many other races planned ahead, but his next real objective is an attempt at the Berghaus Dragon's Back which is a multi day 315km race with 15,500 metres of elevation whilst traversing the Welsh mountains from north to south. Beyond that, another big personal challenge for Carmine, which has been in his plans for a few years now and one which has also been very much on my own radar or should I say of great interest to me and that is The Bob Graham Round. This challenge takes in 42 of the Lakeland peaks whilst covering just over 70 miles and nearly 29,000 foot of climbing in total whilst having to be completed within 24 hours. Some of the very best have failed in their attempts such is the awesome task which can be further hindered by having to also deal with what can be unpredictable weather conditions. Just like the Dragon's Back, I don't have any doubts in Carmine's ability and determination to do this though.
I think it is fair to say that the once novice trail runner is now very much one of Norfolk's most experienced and knowledgeable ultra-runners, but like many others he has also had to learn the hard way i.e. making mistakes along the way.
Nevertheless what with his infectious personality he has also become friends with some of the greats of the sport who of course have been more than happy to pass their thoughts on to Carmine as well. With all this knowledge, Carmine started a new running group last year called The Norfolk Trail Running Club.
Not only does this allow him to pass on all his own personal advice and experience, he and the club also now organise weekly training sessions every Wednesday night along some of the many fantastic hilly trails around North Norfolk.
They have regular numbers of around 30 people meeting up each week whilst catering for those who just want to hike and socialise through to those who want to compete at a more serious level.
Next month a further fortnightly Sunday morning trail run will also be organised. For anyone who may be interested in finding out more about the Norfolk Trail Running Club, check them out at https://www.facebook.com/norfolktrailrunning/
I for one will most certainly be going out to North Norfolk during the winter months to run the many miles along what is most certainly a fantastic part of our county especially when it comes to running.
In Carmine's own words…… Run anywhere as life is beautiful!
I would also just like to say, a huge well done to two other super Norfolk athletes with Dani Nimmock finishing in 13th place for England in the Commonwealth Games Half Marathon at Cardiff last Sunday in a time of 74:28 and to Ian Thomas who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago who took part in the ultra of all ultras, the 153 mile Spartathlon race in Greece. Having completed the race three times before, Ian was so looking forward to potentially finishing in his best time yet, but having damaged his ankle quite badly at 100 miles, he and all the other competitors then had to endure some amazing freak weather conditions by way of Cyclone Zorba. Having seen video footage of the race, it really was unbelievable, but with the help and support of his family, Ian somehow managed to stay with it and complete the course.