Neil Featherby: Let me tell you a secret about the Norfolk XC Championships

The lead runners completing their first lap for the Norfolk Cross Country Championships at Earlham P

Callum Bowen Jones on his way to victory at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships on Sunday - Credit: Archant 2022

What’s the secret? 

A question I have been asked on numerous occasions this week after Callum Bowen Jones’ winning run in last Sunday’s senior men’s Norfolk County Cross Country Championships held in Earlham Park, Norwich. 

“There is no secret,” I have replied. 

It’s like anything else, if you have the hunger and will to achieve then you will always give it your very best. 

Whilst Cal really did look so much stronger and always in control, there were at least a dozen, if not more, equally talented athletes in the race who on another day could have taken the honours. 

It is all about everything just coming together when it matters most and of course keeping your fingers crossed that you don’t go down with a cold or pull a muscle in the days leading up to what you hope will be a peak performance. 

Make no bones about it, we wanted to win and prepared accordingly so. As the winner’s cup demonstrate, with all the amazing names engraved on it going right back to the 1920s, this race has history. It also sits nicely in his mum and dad’s living room beside the trophy for the 5,000 metres title which he won last year. 

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His dedication towards his training and racing during the last few months really has been spot on whilst also travelling all over the country to test himself against some of the UK’s best athletes. 

Along with some excellent performances, there was also a poor one, but hey ho, we analysed, rationalised, and as always, remained positive. 

However, and whilst it was job done last weekend there is still a long way to go yet. “Enjoy the moment,” I said, “and then let’s keep moving on, because if you stop for too long you will very quickly get left behind.” 

Whilst he continues to have the drive, and fully focused belief in himself, he will indeed keep going forward. This of course applies to everyone who sets themselves a goal, be it for someone who has just started out on a new year fitness regime and wants to complete a 5k for the first time, through to somebody who aspires to be an Olympian.   

As I have said many times before, a winner never loses. Or perhaps better put, a winning mind never gives up. 

Anyway, it really is a very big well done to not only all of last Sunday’s race winners, but to everyone who took part and of course the race organisers for such an excellent day. 

Moving on, I must just mention how excited I am to announce that there will be another Smile Mile Challenge starting very soon. 

Having had meetings with Athletics Norfolk and last year’s sponsors CoolCampers and On, whilst the initial format will be the same ie all entrants to run a virtual mile, there will also be several very exciting significant changes. 

For instance, a doubling in numbers with the fastest 64 men and 64 ladies’ all being invited to run in a quarter finals night at the Sportspark, Norwich, which of course will then lead on to further nights, comprising of semi-finals and a final. 

There will also be a category for wheelchair athletes, along with age grading and race qualifying times which really will make for a competition which is open to everyone. 

Just imagine the likes of Callum Bowen Jones and last year’s champion Tyler Bilyard giving it their all whilst trying to chase down the likes of Wymondham AC’s Eva Osbourne who aged 81 set a new UK record for the mile last year in her age group. 

It really could happen, and how good would that be? 

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