Neil Featherby: Memories of Peter Andrews - one of Norfolk’s finest ever athletes

Peter Andrews after winning the over 60 category at the Rotterdam Marathon. Picture: Archant

Peter Andrews after winning the over 60 category at the Rotterdam Marathon. Picture: Archant - Credit: © ARCHANT } NORFOLK 2002

Having reached another birthday this week, I really am at a stage in my life where birthday's cannot come slow enough.

Peter Andrews - one of Norfolk's finest ever runners. Picture: Archant

Peter Andrews - one of Norfolk's finest ever runners. Picture: Archant

However, each birthday always reminds me of a great, but late friend of mine, who shared the same birthday for which each year we would meet up early on January 16 to go out for a long run.

Whilst there were many differences between the pair of us by way of personalities, there were also many similarities particularly our intenseness when it came to running.

However, he was also 19 years older than me for which I always used to marvel at not only his huge enthusiasm for running, but his amazing ability too.

Peter Andrews, who passed away in October, 2004, aged just 65, was a most remarkable man, never mind athlete, and his knowledge of running was immense.

He was an accountant by trade which explained a lot of things. He would know exactly how far he had run by number of strides and indeed pace. "How fast are we running Pete?" I would say only for him to reply with an answer that was never rounded up to the nearest figure, but always precise.

Who needed a GPS watch when you had Pete on a run with you? Not that they existed back then of course!

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After a long stint as a very good cyclist, he didn't take up running until he was into his 40s which also just happened to coincide with the running boom of the early 1980s for which he initially joined Dereham AC and then Duke Street Runners prior to their amalgamation with CoNAC.

It was quite clear very early on that he was a natural when it came to running and was part of a Sunday morning group which I was also part of where I think it is fair to say if you could not run 5 min miles or quicker, you were off the back very early on.

Despite being that much older than the rest of us, he wasn't scared to take you on and when the boot was put down and you thought you had dropped him, the next thing you knew he was kicking the back of your heels which incidentally was something else which he was also good at albeit seeing us take several tumbles along the way too which always created a good laugh once the run was finished.

Apart from endless race wins on the track and the road at the highest of levels, if my memory serves me correctly he also won the London Marathon in his age category on at least two occasions and the Rotterdam Marathon as well. He definitely did not like cross country though.

The man really was awesome and earnt the utmost respect from everyone who knew him, particularly due to his modesty despite all his many achievements.

Whilst I have nowhere near enough space to write about this great man in my column for this week, I do very much intend doing a much bigger feature for a future Run Anglia.

However, one story which I must mention as it so very much epitomises Pete, was after I had been invited to race in The Hague 10km road race back in 1990 where on the day of travel I received a call to say there had been a few athletes drop out and did I want to bring any of my mates along with me.

With that I made a few calls to people with of course Pete being one of them. Unfortunately he wasn't home from work at the time, but one of his sons said could he tell him what it is all about when he does arrive home. You can I said, but it won't matter now as I am about to leave for Holland this weekend.

Then just as I was reversing out of my drive, one of my sons shouted out of the door to say that Pete was on the phone and he wanted to come along with me to do the race. I already had another runner, Gary Booty in the car with me too and just looked at him and said that's typical of Pete, but let's go pick him up.

Whilst on the way to Harwich, Pete leaned over the back seat and said: "When are we coming back?" - "Not until Tuesday" I replied. With that he started panicking saying he had an important meeting at work on the Monday morning. "Sorry Pete, I am not going back now as we are already late," and I just carried on driving.

The look on his face in my mirror was an absolute picture especially as I could hear him mumbling away in the back of the car.

Anyway, a ferry journey over to the Hague only to be woken up by the ships steward at 6am to then see a half awake Pete looking around the cabin in disbelief before saying "where are we?" Me and Gary absolutely cracked up laughing for which I just could not resist saying "yes Pete, we really are in Holland and this really is not a bad dream."

Nevertheless and whilst I managed a 30:46 clocking in the race and Gary a 32:34, our Pete won his category which was now in the 50 to 54 age group, in just over 33 minutes, beating several former top class internationals who were also now competing in the same class as him and in true Dutch fashion, there he was at the presentation on top of the podium being presented with his trophy and a considerable amount of cash for being race winner.

I have so many stories about this man as do so many others for which I will always remember him so very fondly. He was still winning races right up to the end of his life and I along with a few other mates even did a 22 mile training run with him just 10 days before his very sad passing. Needless to say we had the usual burn up with a mile to go.

Happy birthday memories Peter Andrews, who, for me, is possibly pound for pound Norfolk's finest ever athlete especially when age is taken into consideration.

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