Preview: Club runners to look out for at the Great North Run

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Preview: Club runners to look out for at the Great North Run

GNR

While we mightn’t see much of the B-list in action at the Great North Run tomorrow, it’ll be worth keeping tabs on the British club talent that’ll go on and lead the way at home and abroad this winter

With the men’s race looking to be an all too familiar affair, the increasing social media noise and BBC adverts haven’t seemed to correspond with excitement levels for tomorrow. Nobody in our club world seems to be talking about it anyway.

The late addition of 2016 Olympic marathon silver medalist, Feyisa Lilesa, has created slightly more intrigue than there was at the start of the week.

Same race, slightly different faces

But it’ll remain a case of same race, slightly different faces for all intents and purposes. Don’t be surprised if the men’s race stays to script and becomes a repeat of the annual #GreatNorthRun #GNR #MoShow.

The women’s race promises to be much hotter – not that you would know it.

It’s five years since Farah was pipped in a thriller by fellow A-lister Kenenisa Bekele. Since then, we’ve had that questionable scripted reality farce and two run-of-the-mill crowd-pleasers that sent the punters home happy.

And if tomorrow’s coverage lives up to its usual billing, the only shots we’ll see of anyone other than the first three will be on the start line at Gateshead – followed by the masses with their stories streaming in much later.

For the benefit of those watching at home, should more time be dedicated to domestic runners just down the road? Shouldn’t they just run faster?

No man’s club running land

This year may be different. Who knows? But in the no man’s club running land between Farah and the charity cases (not literally!) crossing the line in South Shields, there are more than enough stories to inspire the future of our sport.

Michael Crawley wrote a piece on the Guardian Running Blog about the media’s ignorance of top East African talent. True as that is, and as good as they are, the problem in the presentation of athletes prevails much closer to home too.

The stories are there and are just as impressive as the travails of the elite and as nourishing as the charitable tales found further down the order – see Josh Griffiths and Tracy Barlow at this year’s London Marathon as a case in point.

Ones to watch

So who should we be looking out for tomorrow morning? One of our favourites, undoubtedly – and with good reason too.

Dewi Griffiths, raised on a diet of regular racing and hard work, took total command at the Cardiff 10k last week. Year after year, the unsung star has chipped away, grinding out cult-hero status among the grassroots in the process.

North East champion, Aly Dixon, might get more air-time than usual given her front-running exploits in London this summer. Then there’s the familiar face of Chris Thompson, who seems forever on the comeback trail, and 200-mile-a-week man, Paul Martelleti.

Stories that need telling

How about Morpeth Harrier, Ian Hudspith? The 45-year-old is shooting for the British V45 record (65:40) and has finished outside the GNR top-20 only once in the last decade. Another Great Run regular, Gemma Steel, lines up with question marks over where her future ambitions lie.

Five-time BUCS medallist and last year’s break-out half marathon star, Rebecca Murray, is in the mix, along with Katrina Wootton, who surprised many with her Ladywell 10,000m race last weekend.

Throw in Nick Torry, the fastest man in the City – and Bedford’s Darren Deed, probably the only man to ever be threatened with disqualification for having his goolies hanging out at the finish.

There’s certainly enough to grab hold of there.

The majority of these club runners aren’t running to be in the limelight. They don’t necessarily need or want it. But if we want those watching to think running is an aspirational and achievable thing to do, then we need more than just narratives focused on the elite or Joe and Jenny jogger.

Whether it’s lack of time, interest or just plain ignorance, if the grassroots is skipped over, then that an entire way of life is being ignored. These are the stories that need telling.

Words by Bo James
Image from Great Run