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Neil Featherby: End of an era as Nigel Arnold departs for Spain

Whilst I am sure most people will agree with Kevin’s comment which in truth was really a referral to his running, I don’t mind admitting that I am someone who does spend a lot of time looking back on life. I do also feel that it is our past which shapes what is our ‘now’ and indeed how we continue to go about things in the future.  

When it comes to running, I have some fantastic memories going back years. Ironically, I remember most of them vividly too.  

However, so many of these memories also feature one of Norfolk’s most popular and undoubtedly one of the county’s best ever, when it comes to athletics and sport.  

Nigel Arnold has competed for Norfolk and various clubs within the county since the 1970s with distinction. Distinction being a word which I don’t use loosely.  

This weekend, Nige and his wife Marian are moving to Spain and whilst it felt like the end of an era when he first told me over a telephone conversation, all those who know Nigel well enough will know that he will no doubt end up going back and forth between his new home in Albox in the south of Spain and here in Norfolk.  

Norwich Evening News: Neil Featherby and Nigel Arnold completing their 220 mile run in Norwich after their fund raising

It wasn’t until the early 1980s when I really got to know him which was on the back of already having been told about some of his crazy eyeballs out training runs.  

My response to this was ‘I can’t wait to run with him’ and I didn’t have to wait too long either to find out if the rumours were true after joining a Monday night group which went from his then house in Bawburgh. It was usually 6 x 1 mile reps with 2 mins jog between around the undulating country roads of Bawburgh, Marlingford, Ringland and Easton which in truth was more like six races within one session.  

Whilst we both travelled to several races together with club mates from the then Norfolk Olympiads and Norfolk Gazelles, some of the best race memories for me with Nigel is when we used to leave home at 6am on a Saturday morning to take part in what was a once-a-month Sri Chinmoy race starting and finishing at the Ipswich Rugby Club.  

Whilst these races were meant to be a fun event, most of the time it was more like an Eastern Counties Championship what with some of the best endurance athletes turning up from all over East Anglia.  

With a start time of 8am, for anyone who may have still had sleep in their eyes, it didn’t take too long to wake up what with runners bombing round the streets at sub five-minute mile pace over distances from four to 10 miles much to the surprise of the early morning dog walkers and motorists. 

My most stand-out memory with Nigel though, goes back to August 1989 when we ran round the county boundary whilst also taking in small parts of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk raising money for the Quidenham Children’s Hospice.  

Norwich Evening News: Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby celebrating after completing their epic charity run outside the old

We did this over 12 days and to say it was surreal is an understatement.  

220-odd miles covered at once again the only way Nigel knew how to run and that being at race pace whilst also meeting hundreds of other athletes from just about every Norfolk club on route.  

People were throwing money out of their cars as they went past us. I will never forget how we were both scrabbling down on our hands and knees in the verges of the Acle Straight trying to pick coins up.  

The media absolutely loved it from the EDP to BBC Radio Norfolk to Anglia and BBC Look East TV which was very instrumental back then in highlighting this amazing run.  

I am pretty sure we raised about £30,000 and bear in mind it was 34 years ago.  

Norwich Evening News: Nigel Arnold and Neil Featherby during their 220-mile charity run round Norfolk in 1989.

Nigel’s list of titles with regards to his sporting career, domestic and international, is far too big to list, but his biggest achievement as far as I am concerned is the amount of popularity and respect he has earned during his lifetime for just being Nigel Arnold.  

A great guy who I am proud to say I share so many memories with.  

Here’s to now wishing him and Marian all the very best with their new venture in Spain – Buen viaje mi amigo… 

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