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On the Run: more long lost road races in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 April 2020

Flashback: The Speakes hit the headlines back in 1999, at the Bildeston Half-Marathon

Flashback: The Speakes hit the headlines back in 1999, at the Bildeston Half-Marathon

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With all competitive road running put on hold for the foreseeable future, due to COVID-19, Carl Marston recalls some more popular races that have long since disappeared from the calendar

Action from the Bildeston Half-Marathon and 10K races, held from the village community centre through the villages of Wattisham, Ringshall and Battisford. This is from the year 2065.  Picture: ANDY ABBOTTAction from the Bildeston Half-Marathon and 10K races, held from the village community centre through the villages of Wattisham, Ringshall and Battisford. This is from the year 2065. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Here’s another selection of a few popular road races of yesteryear, that have bitten the dust for various reasons, to bring back some happy memories, especially for the ‘more mature’ runners among us.

I began taking part in road races in East Anglia from the early 1980s, and so have had the privilege of running in many events, from 5K right through to the marathon distance, that have long since ended, particularly in Suffolk.

So here’s a run-down of another select few, with a smattering of past winners and old course descriptions.

Let’s hope it’s not too long before we can once again enjoy running, and racing, on the local road race stage.

Here’s another selection of a few popular road races of yesteryear, that have bitten the dust for various reasons, to bring back some happy memories, especially for the ‘more mature’ runners among us.

I began taking part in road races in East Anglia from the early 1980s, and so have had the privilege of running in many events, from 5K right through to the marathon distance, that have long since ended, particularly in Suffolk.

So here’s a run-down of another select few, with a smattering of past winners and old course descriptions.

Let’s hope it’s not too long before we can once again enjoy running, and racing, on the local road race stage.

1 Bildeston Half-Marathon

Having recalled the former Bildeston 10-mile race in a previous column, on this very subject, earlier this month, I make no apology for jogging the memory on another event in the village - the Bildeston Half-Marathon and its supporting 10K.

I ran both these races myself, during the 1990s, and here I recall the late March event from 1999 when the Speake family, on home soil, dominated the half-marathon event.

Over an undulating course, to and from Wattisham and Ringshall, the half-marathon field was led home by brothers William and Doug Speake, who ate up the 13.1 miles on this out-and-back flyer.

Crowned Bury 20-mile champion just a month earlier, 28-year-old Will Speake won in 1hr 10mins 26secs, ahead of his 24-year-old brother Doug (1:13:26). Keeping it in the family was youger brother Peter Speake, who was fifth in 1:18:15.

Just ahead of him were two familiar names on the Suffolk circuit, Jon Davy, of Felixstowe Road Runners, and Saint Edmund Pacers’ David Reed.

Christine Marsh, of Woodbridge Shufflers, was the first female in the half-marathon in 1:40:58, while the 10K titles went to Woodbridge club-mate David Miller (scorching PB of 32:32) and Harwich Runners’ Claudine Tisbury (41:08).

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2 Border Marathon

The Suffolk & Essex Border Marathon signed off in style, 24 years ago back in March, 1996, with 600 athletes of all ages and abilities taking part in the last staging of this popular event.

Paul John, of Royal Navy AC, dug deep to win the marathon title in a time of 2hrs 34mins 43secs over an undulating two-lap course from Great Cornard..

Ipswich-based Richard Grey had won for the previous five years, but he had to be content with third place in 2:40:30.

Organised by the Border Breakers Club, this was the last surviving marathon in Suffolk (at the time), following the demise of the Ipswich Marathon a few seasons ago, and the absence of the Bungay Black Dog Marathon from the race calendar in 1996.

Border Breakers chairman John Harman explained: “In recent years the traffic has been building up on the A134, which the course follows for a few miles.

“As a result, and much to the concern of the police, it has become more dangerous to stage the race.”

Phil Nutley, of Saint Edmund Pacers, rattled up his 284th marathon at the last 1996 event.

In the supporting half-marathon, Halstead Road Runners’ Boyd Drury won in 1:14:18 ahead of Ipswich JAFFA’s Jon Davy and Newmarket Joggers’ Phillip Green. Dartford’s Susan Martin-Clarke won the ladies’ half-marathon title in 1:27:01.

3 Chicago Rock Cafe Bury 20

Although the Tarpley 20, at Beyton, is a mainstay of the current calendar, there were a few incarnations of the old Bury 20-mile road race.

In the early days, it used to be held from the Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club at The Haberden, but during the 1990s it was primarily staged from the leisure centre in the town.

That was the case in the late winter of 1998, when Chris Ling became the first runner from a Suffolk club to lift the senior men’s trophy at the 14th staging of the Chicago Rock Cafe 20-mile event.

Ling, of Stowmarket Striders, led home a massive field of 900 runners, fending off the challenge of fellow Suffolk athletes David Laing and Richard Jordan.

The race finished on the newly-installed athletics track, in front of the sports centre, with Ling posting a time of 1:49:50.

The one-lap challenge took in the villages of Fornham, Cavenham, Barrow and Risby.

Zoe Lowe, of St Albans Striders, pipped Bath’s Zina Marchant by just 34 seconds to the ladies’ title, registering 2:11:32.


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