Neil Featherby: Why aren't running events filling up like they were?

Tommy Hughes at the Belfast Marathon. Picture: Supplied

Tommy Hughes came so close to breaking the 2:30 mark at the Manchester Marathon last weekend. - Credit: Archant

Last week’s column with regards to the lack of numbers for this year’s Smile 2 event certainly did bring a response.

Some through various Facebook groups and others via messenger and even verbally during face to face discussions.

One of the common denominators for many who did not enter said it was due to the new age grading and handicap system which ironically was brought in after various comments from people after last year’s event.

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However, it is clearly not just this tournament which has lacked numbers this year what with some other events in the county also noticing a reduction by way of entries and indeed a couple of the more established races even being cancelled although there may be other reasons for this.

Just a couple of years ago races were filling up within minutes of being opened up online whereby many of the county’s elite runners were missing out due to races hitting their maximum number of entries so quickly. To the point where some clubs held back places so the faster runners could still get in.

So does this mean that the running bubble has now maxed out? I don’t think so and from what we see by way of footflow at Sportlink suggests otherwise. This of course could just mean that a high majority of people are now running just for fitness or are targeting races more specifically. At the same time the parkruns still seem as popular as ever although these are free to enter.

Sportlink also support and sponsor the Norfolk Grand Prix series along with other events so needless to say it is in our interest to help promote running as much as possible.

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I am sure there are several reasons for lower race entries this year just as there were several comments made after my column last week, and whilst of course there are still plenty of events that are as popular as ever, for now it really is all about just keeping on running for as long as possible.

This week, I must once again mention my good friend Tommy Hughes who last week aged 62 just missed going under the 2 hours 30 mins marathon barrier for the third time since reaching the age of 60. This time by just five seconds in the Manchester Marathon.

He called me after the race to tell me that once again he had just failed in his quest to be the first person of his age to do so. However and as always, he was still very upbeat telling me he knows he is going to do it and whilst he already holds several world age bests including that of the marathon, this is the record he badly wants.  

He really is amazing and a huge inspiration to runners of all ages and is now looking towards the Belfast marathon in just three weeks’ time (Sunday May 1st).

Finally and having now wrapped up our fund raising on the back of our Anything for Loki Cross Norfolk Challenge, I can confirm that £5,000 went out to five very deserving and well worthy causes.

I am so grateful to everyone who donated, helped, and supported what really was a special challenge for me. Thank you to each and every one of them.