Having received a message last week from Shaun Mann, who compiles all the stats and records for the City of Norwich Athletics Club, asking me where he could find a list of Norfolk road running records, this triggered a very quick response from me saying that I am pretty sure there is no list. 

Lots of further dialogue followed which also included Clive Poyner, Lawrence Wade and Ceri Theobald for which my suggestion of saying I don’t think there is a list proved correct. 

Some may ask why, including myself. 

Back in the 1980s I had always been told that the Norfolk county marathon record was held by the great Mike Tagg who had ran a marathon in South Africa in 2:19.  

I then ran 2:19:07 myself in 1985 but no one seemed to know how many seconds needed to be added on to Mike’s 2:19. So I asked Mike and he said 2:19:50.  

I must be the county record holder then I said, but when putting it to those who were part of what was then the Norfolk AAAs it wasn’t any big deal, in truth - rightly so.  

However, I still went out of my way to run faster the following year when running 2:17:35, which I still wondered if this was actually ever recorded anywhere within what I thought might be an official Norfolk athletics road running register. 

It wasn’t, of course, which was also applicable to other fast road running performances by a large number of excellent Norfolk athletes over other distances. 

During my conversations with Shaun, Clive, Lawrence, and Ceri, it was suggested that perhaps the clubs within the county will have details of best performances by their members over the years. 

“We, through Shaun, recreated the CoNAC records mainly from the Power of 10,” said Lawrence Wade. “It would be impossible to do it properly for the whole of Norfolk due to the lack of centralised info going back far enough. The other issues would be age categories which until recently were not recorded. Therefore, the only way to do it would be to collate from the various club’s historical records.” 

That is a good call I said but from what I have been able to see, I am not so sure that all the clubs have records which go back far enough. 

For instance, Norfolk Gazelles, whose history goes back to the 1960s have had some amazing athletes such as Mike Tagg, who is probably the man to hold most Norfolk County road running records I would think. I do know that he ran the Altrincham 10 miler in May 1974 in 47:21. I don’t think anyone else from Norfolk has got close to that time since. 

Primarily a track and cross-country runner back in his day ie European silver medalist for 5,000 metres and National and World Cross Country Champion, but I also know he ran some very fast times on the roads over various distances. 

Ceri Theobald, who oversees road running for Athletics Norfolk and is a member of the Norfolk Gazelles, said he would check to see if other clubs would like to create a road running records list by way of also digging out older results.  

However, he did also point out that when he looked back at his own club’s Valentine’s 10K road race a couple of years ago, he could only go as far back as the digital age.  

“Maybe something to consider going forward, but I suspect it would not do justice for races and runners in pre chipped timed events due to the lack of data,” he said. 

With Ceri’s words in mind, there has been some amazing road race times going back many years and of course prior to chipped timing. Going as far back as the 1960s I would say. 

Then during the 1980s when road running became so very popular there were lots of very fast times by athletes here in Norfolk. This also continued via the likes of Guy Amos during the 1990s and early 2000s. 

As I have said to Shaun though, do you then have to take into consideration the differences in courses what with some being more severe than others?  

This is something which the Road Running Club of Great Britain used to make note of when profiling a course. For instance, if it was a very undulating route they would call it a plus 1 minute course. 

Beyond this, you then needed to know how it was measured. 

Since the 1970s, course measurement for road running has been done by using what is known as a Jones Counter attached to a cycle wheel. 

However, there is a lot more to it than just riding over the suggested course whilst counting the calibrations. Such as tyre and air pressure. 

The courses, which were accurately measured in the county, were usually overseen by the late Roger Gibbons who would not give an inch away or Dr Max Speake who I am pretty sure is one of the very few people to have run in every single London Marathon. 

I went round a course with Max once and still have his detailed paperwork. 

All the major marathons and other road races would come under AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) or BARR (British Association of Road Races) which would ensure accuracy. 

Outside of this though there were also courses which were measured using a surveyor’s wheel and whilst still pretty accurate perhaps not to the inch as with the Jones Counter method. This of course does not just mean being short either as I know of some courses which when re-measured were over distance such as the old Norfolk Marathon when upon being re-measured by Roger (Gibbons), it was 300 metres over distance. I also won a 10-mile race once in 47:17 but knew it was short and told the organisers too. Another time I won a race over the same distance in 54 mins which was undoubtedly well over distance. My best times on officially measured courses for 10 miles was always when at my best somewhere between 49:45 and 50:20. I ran several 10 milers between these times too. 

As for today, I am pretty sure all road races are contested on certified measured courses for which Richard Thornhill is the course measurer here in Norfolk. 

Anyway – and to the point, I think it would be nice for the county to have a men’s and woman’s list of what could be regarded as Norfolk’s fastest known road race times be it with details of the type of course plus age categories. 

So, for anyone who might be reading this who have recently or indeed in the past ran what they think could be a road race time which might be a Norfolk county record please do contact Shaun or Clive who would both be delighted to take down your details to be able to compile a full list of Norfolk Road Running Records. Needless to say – when saying county record/best time – one which is recorded by an athlete who qualifies as a Norfolk athlete by birth, residency, and club I would suggest. 

Incidentally – Shaun Mann ran 2:42:54 in this year’s London Marathon at 52 years of age, so it will be very interesting to see where he ranks within his age category. 

Finally – I must say a huge well done to three young athletes. Firstly, to George Mills who I wrote about in my column on February 2, who just last weekend finished in second place to Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the 5,000 metres at The European Athletics Championships in Rome and then once again to Tyler Bilyard and Henry Jonas who both set new PBs over 1,500 metres at Watford also last weekend with Tyler recording 3:39.71 and Henry, on his 19th birthday, crossing the finish line in 3:41.72 secs. Awesome performances by all three of them. 

As always have a great weekend everyone – I will be out there doing my best to keep piling the miles in for our Hadrian’s Wall Challenge come next month for which I must thank all those very kind people who have already made donations to our charity causes.