Neil Featherby: A beautiful time to run whatever the circumstances

Neil Featherby loves nothing more than running with his dogs through the woods every morning. Pictur

Neil Featherby loves nothing more than running with his dogs through the woods every morning. Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

During the last lockdown we saw a huge influx of new people taking up and discovering the benefits of running.

It was of course at a time when we had just entered spring and much longer days.

This time around though we are now well into autumn with less daylight hours along with an unpredictability in the weather too of course.

Nevertheless, and always looking for the positives, this is still a great time of year to run with lots of incentives and reasons to get out there and pound the streets, parks and trails.

For me personally, I love running off road with my dogs around the woodland which I am so lucky to have on my doorstep. Apart from the amazing colours and scenery at this time of year, seeing all the wildlife too and whilst the air is certainly cooler, everything feels so much more fresh and cleaner too, particularly when out running early morning just as the sun is coming up.

For the more serious athlete, this is also a time of year where they would normally be looking for a bit of a short break before going into winter training on the back of what should have been a busy competitive season.

This of course didn’t really happen this year and whilst lots of people embraced the virtual races and runs, the actual rubbing of shoulders and close contact racing has been so very limited.

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The Blickling Half Marathon went ahead albeit based on a time trial basis with runners going off in waves and of course there has also been the recent Joe Skipper and Athletics Norfolk Track meets.

Unfortunately, further track meetings which had also been scheduled right into December have now been put back into the New Year. These events were also going to encompass the finals of the Sportlink Mile Challenge and whilst this postponement is a little disappointing, in truth it is just minor setbk.

This competition really has been brilliant with people of all standards having a go at what is currently the virtual phase of the challenge.

Speaking to Clive Poyner, the track events will all now hopefully go ahead in January and needless to say there is of course a positive here too and that being for all those who do qualify for the quarter-finals, this delay will give them an opportunity to spend another couple of months training specifically and perhaps be in even better shape when the racing gets underway again.

My column last week about Cecil Taylor and all the records he kept along with all the memorabilia which his grandson Glyn Long handed over to me recently, certainly created an interest from those who are involved in Norfolk history.

This led to trustee (and committed runner) James Woodrow, from the Norwich City FC Historical Trust contacting me. He was particularly interested in the programme/booklet which I mentioned from the Athletics Sports day, dated May 13th, 1911, held at The Nest.

His knowledge about that specific day (and other sporting events in the county) is amazing. Apparently and just before the activities got under way there was a huge downpour for which the surface underfoot was sodden and nearly did not go ahead.

Apart from knowing all the details of that event, he also told me about an athlete named RS Bugg, who before a game against Southampton on November 28th, 1908, also at the Nest, ran three miles around the pitch before heading out to Acle and then back again to finish off with a further mile covering in total what was 26 miles in 2hrs 55mins in front of 5,000 fans who had stayed behind after the game to watch him.

After speaking to James about this, I then realised that the Olympics had also taken place just a few months before in London which of course was also when the official distance of 26 miles 385 yards was established for the marathon distance. Needless to say I checked back on the dates to see exactly when the marathon had taken place during those Games and discovered that it was just four months earlier on July 24th.

With this in mind, it got me wondering as to whether RS Bugg did this run over what would have been the new certified distance to commemorate what was most certainly the first ever official and recorded marathon in Norfolk.

Norwich City Football Club had also only just a few months earlier moved to the Nest, from what had been their Newmarket Road home, so it may have been to commemorate this too. Or of course and I like to think maybe it was to commemorate both. Whilst I hold the record for the fastest marathon to have ever been run on the roads in the county, one day it will be broken. However, and what is sure is that the name RS Bugg, will always be synonymous with Norfolk’s first ever marathon over what has now been the recognised distance for 112 years.

One final footnote and on the theme on November motivation, well done to Norwich Road Runners who have organised a Virtual Run Every Day through Lockdown in support of Nelson’s Journey. They have had over 200 people take up this challenge.

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