Stories inspired by running in Norfolk and beyond



How interval running around Chapelfield Gardens helped me run my first marathon in under four hours

Feeling unfit as he neared 40, Jon Welch, pictured above right, took up running. Fast forward five years and Jon, who lives in Norwich, has just run his first marathon and sub four hours, too.

Running less was key to it – as well as some lunchtime interval runs around Chapelfield Gardens. Here he tells me how he did it.

Was this your first marathon? What sort of running had you been doing before that and why did you decide to step up?

Yes, this was my first. I’d done seven half-marathons before this race, plus a couple of 10Ks and handful of Parkruns. A marathon seemed the logical next step, I suppose.

I remember the London Marathon launching when I was a kid. It was a massive event that seemed to capture everyone’s imagination. Even then I thought it would be great to be a part of something like that, and a real achievement to finish. But it was no more than an idle dream, really – not least because I didn’t run and didn’t have much inclination to start. Much later, once I’d run a few halfs – which once would have seemed impossible to me – I started to think a full marathon might be within my grasp. Continue reading “How interval running around Chapelfield Gardens helped me run my first marathon in under four hours”

How Andy got back on his bike and set up his new business in Stafford Street

Take a walk past Andy Panks’ shop – AP Cycles and you’re struck by the very cool red and black bike logo – bold striking colours and a bit edgy.

I like your logo, who did it, I asked him as I walked past one day. It must have cost you a fortune?

“My son, he’s nine.”

With an answer like that, I just had to find out more, so here’s the story of how Andy got back on his bike and set up his new business – with no loans, plenty of hard work, and the support of friends, family, former customers, and of course the businesses of Stafford Street.

AP Cycles shop front

Pressed for time?

Here’s how Andy did it in a nutshell.

1.      My son designed my logo

2.      I refurbished my shop using recycled and reclaimed things

3.      People in the street rallied round and my customers came back

4.      I did it without having to take any loans

5.      It’s been a fantastic first year Continue reading “How Andy got back on his bike and set up his new business in Stafford Street”

Mr Bremner’s big run for the miners

October 25 1984 was a big news day in Norwich. At Carrow Road a fire was engufling the City Stand which was keeping the reporters and photographers busy.

So busy, in fact, that they almost missed another little piece of history that was about to play out outside City Hall, one that reaches back into Norwich’s political heritage.

You might know Bert Bremner – certainly if, like me, you went to Mile Cross Middle School where he taught for many years, you’d be hard pressed not too.

He’s a teacher you never forget, who alongside Mr (Colin) Foster and Mr (Paul) Davies helped get me into running via the school’s cross country club, and my first ever event a ‘fun run’ round Norfolk Showground. I’d have been about nine or so, so my love of running has been with me throughout my life, and it’s those teachers I have to thank. They also encouraged me to write school football reports, so I see now how they sowed the seeds of my career as a writer too.

Bert’s recently called time on his career as a Norfolk county councillor for the university ward, where he was succeeded at the recent election by Dave Rowntree of Blur fame.

But we’re still in touch on Facebook and when Bert, or ‘Sir’, as I still think of him, posted some pictures showing his younger self kitted out for a run in support of striking miners, I went to see him to find out more.


Mr Bremner.jpeg
Bert Bremner recalls his big run for the miners. Main pic Bert, left, and his running buddy John at Newark


Continue reading “Mr Bremner’s big run for the miners”

End of an era for Umberto as Vegan restaurant gets set to open in St Benedict’s Street

For nearly 25 years he has been a feature of Norwich’s restaurant scene.

But now Umberto Iannello is calling it a day with plans to put his feet up and to travel – including a trip to see his daughter in San Francisco, and spending more time in Southern Italy where he was born.

The 78-year-old has been at the helm of Umberto’s in St Benedict’s Street since October 1992, serving his own blend of fine Italian and rustic dishes.

But on March 15 the restaurant closed its doors for the last time following a sale of the leasehold to new buyers.

Umberto's front


Continue reading “End of an era for Umberto as Vegan restaurant gets set to open in St Benedict’s Street”

Adrian’s 3.2 mile run back to medieval Norwich

Running and taking in the splendours of Norwich’s medieval churches is not something, you suspect, most people would normally consider doing at the same time.

But for Adrian Galvin it is a combination which he hopes will be attractive to those looking for some trail running around the Fine City – with a bit of history thrown in.


Adrian Galvin organiser of Flintspiration & Perspiration (1)
Adrian Galvin


Continue reading “Adrian’s 3.2 mile run back to medieval Norwich”

From parkrun to marathon -meet the man who used his thinking skills to get up and running

By Shaun Lowthorpe

Main picture of Stuart Sayer courtesy of

When Stuart Sayer finished running the Marriot’s Way half marathon on February 19 his first thought was how come his running buddies Clive and Angela had finished so strongly ahead of him – even though they had done the Brundall Parkrun the day before, whereas he had opted to marshall instead?

Thinking is a big part of what the 57-year-old does – it is at the heart of his day job running Upthinkers which helps train people in improving their thinking skills at work, though he has also used the techniques to help others, including a local under-13s football team get back to winning ways.

It also underpins another venture he is embarking on as part of Yellow Brick Road with businessman Ian Hacon, who as it happens, has also become a successful tri-athlete.

(If you don’t have much time right now – here is at an at a glance at what I learned from Stuart)

Five tips on how to think yourself into the runner you want to be based on speaking to Stuart.

  1. Visualise the outcome you want to achieve – and write it down, even
  2. ‘Chunk’ your run into manageable stages
  3. Start small and build up
  4. Always see yourself as a runner (and may be join a club)
  5. Think big! (or Upthink as Stuart might put it)


And it is something which has informed Stuart’s approach to running, too. Continue reading “From parkrun to marathon -meet the man who used his thinking skills to get up and running”

Parkrun tourism – destination Mulbarton

Organisers celebrate 200th parkrun event

I’ve always fancied taking a trip abroad which would combine a marathon or half..Dublin, Amsterdam, Tokyo anybody?


And it’s always been a dream to head to Seville for a run – the one which happens around New Year (if it’s still going that is).


But with half term upon us, there will be no exotic overseas breaks for me to escape the grey and easterly chill that is our weather right now.


Nope, in fact I’m staying home this half-term, as I have done for since well…well since my kids have been born, and certainly since I have been married.


In fact, my first foray into the growing phenomenon of so-called parkrun tourism was somewhere a little less exotic… Mulbarton. Continue reading “Parkrun tourism – destination Mulbarton”

How running helped me recover from losing my seat at the General Election

By Shaun Lowthorpe

Title picture by Raymond Taylor (

Simon Wright pulled off a stunning victory in the General Election of 2010 to seize the Norwich South seat for the Liberal Democrats from Charles Clarke by 310 votes. But five years later he finished in fourth place behind both the Conservatives and the Greens as Labour’s Clive Lewis regained the seat with a massive7654 majority.

Speaking exclusively to Runnorfolk over a post run coffee at Britannia Café, overlooking Norwich, he reveals how running helped him overcome the pain of defeat at the Ballot Box and how he is enjoying life in his role as chief executive of the charity Nelson’s Journey.

Runnorfolk (RN): Take us back to the start of running for you. Have you always run, or when did you get into it and how did that happen?

Simon Wright (SW): I started running seriously nearly 18 months ago by which I mean at an intense level of training. It was soon after the election. It was quite a difficult period for a number of reasons, not just political for me. I was looking for new things to do. I was looking for opportunities to explore new hobbies, to explore new ways of using my time and for being active. Continue reading “How running helped me recover from losing my seat at the General Election”

Running into trouble with an X-rated blog…apparently

They say you turn into your parents eventually.But if that’s the case, my transformation is a pretty circuitous route – my dad preferred darts to running, five pints instead of 5ks, the Sun on Sunday instead of the Sunday Times…

You get the picture – similar but different.


Continue reading “Running into trouble with an X-rated blog…apparently”

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