Neil Featherby: The running boom continues but foundations were laid by one man...

After last Sunday’s Humpty Dumpty 10k and record numbers at the last in the Wroxham 5k series this week, the boom in running really is now at a high.

Sunday’s Humpty Dumpty had so many runners they were set off in two waves. Whilst I am sure this isn’t a first, I can’t think of any other time this has happened at a Norfolk Road Race although I will stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

Ironically my business, Sportlink, are sponsors to both events and one of my business partners flirted with disqualification at the 10k with his over eagerness to get going what with being in the second batch of runners which I have to say I did find amusing.

However, and what with the popularity of race participation, I think this is as good a time as any to mention a man who was instrumental in organising top quality road races to Norfolk back in the late 1970s through to the early nineties.

One being The City of Norwich Half Marathon which is still very much part of the Norfolk Road Race calendar.

MORE: There is an event out there for everyoneMike Wilkinson, a name perhaps not known by many current active athletes, but for those like me who have been around for a long time, his name is synonymous with road running in the county.


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Mike organised the first Norfolk Marathon in 1982 followed by the one off Eastern Evening News Centenary Half and Full Marathon of the same year as well as being race director of the inaugural City of Norwich Half Marathon in 1985.

However, and before any of these races, he also organised the first Norwich Brewery Half Marathon (1978) which used to start on the Green at Trowse which in truth was the grounding for all those other events.

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After the first London Marathon in 1981, Mike was approached by a charity to organise a marathon which started in Kelling and finished at the Norwich Cathedral. This was a race which after coming over Fye Bridge the crowds were several deep with a deafening roar as you entered the Cathedral Grounds under the arch of Erpingham Gate.

The course was actually measured at 300 metres over distance, but Mike’s remarks to that was “it is better to be over than under”.

As a runner himself, he was a member of three of Norfolk’s old clubs which no longer exist, Norfolk & Norwich AC, Norfolk Olympiads and Duke Street Runners which he was very instrumental in setting up.

He also represented the Navy and Combined Services at Cross Country and on the track whilst also having a marathon PB of 2:45. He also ran in all of the first 27 London Marathons for which he is a member of the London Marathon Ever Present Club.

Possibly his most worthy mention should be for his one and only England representation when running for his country as an Ultra Distance Runner with a 24 hour race distance best of 116 miles.

Mike’s story is a long one and one which deserves to be told in much greater depth, but in the meantime, a big thank you to a man for all his hard work which is still very much part of today’s race scene here in our county.

I am sure those who make things possible today have all in some way followed on from his efforts of the past.

To fit running into your life or your life into running?

Having seen the state of Mark’s (Armstrong) damaged toe and listening to all the runners in my various training groups this week, it is so blatantly obvious how a runner’s life is affected by everything they do in their daily life.

Be it the smallest of issues to that of something more serious, the first thing always mentioned is how it will affect their running and training. It certainly does take one to know one – that is for sure!

Finally….good luck to everyone taking part in the Lord Mayors 5k this Saturday Evening. A great experience for all!

MORE: To run or not to run?

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