On the Run, part two: Long lost road races in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
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
Following on from the column of a fortnight ago, I thought this an opportune time to reflect on a few more of the 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 and cross country 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 Gym & Trim Suffolk 10
Once one of the top races in the region, East Anglia’s finest runners used to congregate for this swift 10-miler at Whitton, on the edge of Ipswich.
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Back in March, 1991, runners had to contend with wet and windy conditions for the course of the 10-mile route around Whitton and Claydon.
But that didn’t stop Nigel Powley from setting a course record, by just one second.
A member of Felixstowe Road Runners, Powley made a welcome return to run this Suffolk 10-mile event, after winning the race in 1985 and finishing third the following year.
Powley clocked 52mins 50secs to clip just one second off Tom McKeith’s previous course best, having had company from Colchester & Tendring’s Glynn Thomas for the first five miles.
Chris Sanford, the previous year’s Suffolk Series champion, kept plugging away against a strong headwind to finish second in 53:13, with Thomas third in 54:01.
The ladies’ race was a formality for Sally Eastall, finishing 10th overall in a course record time of 59:08.
Eastall, of Saint Edmund Pacers, was soon to be selected to run for Great Britain in the women’s marathon at the World Championships scheduled for Tokyo in August.
The previous year, Eastall had finished 11th in the marathon at the European Championships in Split (Croatia).
2 Mildenhall ‘Comet’ Half-Marathon
The eighth annual Mildenhall ‘Comet’ Half took place in late October, 1991, on a very chilly Sunday morning.
Brian Munns, of Newmarket Joggers,sliced more than a minute off his personal best time to win in 1hr 11mins 11secs over a windswept 13.1-mile course.
Some hard training had seen Munns, then 28, take his half-marathon PB down from 1:19 at the start of the year.
Alison Milnes set a cracking pace to win the ladies’ title in 1:29:41 on a morning when 138 runners took part.
The event was, as usual, organised by Beck Row Community Association, with the presentation of trophies taking place outside the Sports Pavilion in Mildenhall.
3 Suffolk Stage Relay
This was a big team relay event that spanned a distance of more than 80 miles, between Exning, near Newmarket to the coast at Lowestoft.
The inaugural event took place in September, 1992, over 10 different stages, confined to narrow country lanes for the bulk of the route. Stage lengths varies from 5.2 miles up to 10.8 miles.
Never more than a few minutes separated the two leading teams, Ipswich JAFFA and Saint Edmund Pacers.
In fact, only 13 seconds split them at the finish with JAFFA taking a narrow win, after the lead had changes hands several times during the day - the first stage started from Exning at 8am and the last one ended in Lowestoft, 10 hours later.
Prizes were presented at the headquarters of Lowestoft AC, with John Tillotson the chief event organiser.
JAFFA’s winning team included the likes of Jon Davy, Alison Hamilton, Graham Todd, Paul Turner, Patrick Lusardi, Val Jennings, David Laing and Andy Breakwell.
And the Bury-based Pacers, the runners-up, included Mike Ede, Alan Dawson, David Skelton, Chris Sanford, Sarah Aldred, Claire Finch and Chris Cooke in their ranks.
I remember the event well, having run for the Pacers ‘B’ team on stage three, from Risby through to Great Barton in West Suffolk. It was a slightly strange experience, with very few runners for company en route.
Each stage began at a set time, and so was effectively a mini-race within the relay format.