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Neil Featherby – I’ve been a muddy Hare for 17 years now... and I’m still going strong!

PUBLISHED: 10:32 27 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:32 27 December 2018

Neil Featherby ... on the run Picture: Baz Hipwell

Neil Featherby ... on the run Picture: Baz Hipwell

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Our expert running columnist gives us a flavour of a Boxing Day tradition – the Hare & Hounds Run at Felthorpe

Action from the Hare & Hounds run Picture: Baz HipwellAction from the Hare & Hounds run Picture: Baz Hipwell

So this is Christmas and what have you done, another boxing day over oh what great fun.... or words to that effect (and just about in tune to John Lennon’s classic Christmas song War is Over constantly going though my head after completing this year’s Hare & Hounds run).

However, anyone wandering through Felthorpe early on Boxing Day may be forgiven for thinking they had just seen 70 people running around covered completely in mud looking like they had indeed just come from a battle.

Needless to say for those who do know, it was once again the Felthorpe Boxing Day Hare & Hounds Charity Cross Country Run – the 17th running of this crazy event.

Other festive words which also spring to mind, which sum up this event in a nutshell, are: time for sharing and being together.

The Boxing Day  fancy dress winners Picture: Baz HipwellThe Boxing Day fancy dress winners Picture: Baz Hipwell

Hare & Hounds all started with me deciding to have a bit of fun back on Boxing Day morning in 2002, saying to three friends that I was going to start out ahead of them and lay a trail for them to follow and see if they could catch me before I finished.

However, it wasn’t going to be just any old trail as I ran through muddy tracks and even a stream – I know two of those friends didn’t find it amusing.

Whilst they didn’t, the other one – Glen Dunham – did and he is now the only person alongside myself to have taken part in every Hare & Hounds run.

By the time we got into years two, three and four, it was quite obvious that I had created something as the numbers were getting bigger each year. At the same time another good friend of mine Dave Mytton suggested that everyone who takes part should do so in fancy dress. Initially it was a few wigs and men dressed in frocks until former Norwich City footballer Daryl Sutch turned up dressed as Chewbacca from Star Wars.

Carmine De Grandis serenading the runners in as they finish Picture: Baz HipwellCarmine De Grandis serenading the runners in as they finish Picture: Baz Hipwell

Everyone used to start together back then too, in pairs, whereas now it is a team event with runners dressed in themes whilst also starting at differing times.

It really is a sight to behold and I have to keep numbers down to a maximum of 100 as we make our way though the roughest of undergrowth, deep ditches, mud up to your chest and along streams.

Is it competitive? Absolutely, but only in as much as the teams who start at the front try to keep ahead of the teams behind them and, of course, for the most coveted of awards – best fancy dress.

Judging of this award also takes into account the extra difficulty they have created for themselves by running in such attire.

The winning team Picture: Baz HipwellThe winning team Picture: Baz Hipwell

One other addition during the last few years has been that of a second Hare to help me not only lay the trail, but also help me out when wading though the mud and water.

This year I was so lucky to be joined by Carmine De Grandis who was superb company as we made our way round the 8.2-mile course. His non-stop chatting in his Italian accent was brilliant and then to cap it all off after finishing he fetched from his van his accordion, to play and sing the runners in as they finished.

It absolutely summed up what Hare & Hounds is all about and for the local residents who might have been hoping for a Boxing Day lay-in, I am sure they could do nothing other than wake up with a big smile on their faces after looking out of their windows.

As I said, Christmas is a time for giving – this year the run raised £1,800 which will be going towards two local causes, The Hallswood Animal Sanctuary and Nelson’s Journey, along with a small donation towards the Northern Inuit Dog Rescue Society.

Action from the Hare & Hounds run Picture: Baz HipwellAction from the Hare & Hounds run Picture: Baz Hipwell

A huge thank you to the many people who helped organise this year’s run and of course to all the runners who took part.

Happy New Year to everyone and of course let’s hope it’s a good one, especially if you are a runner.

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