Wroxham at 20: Race Founder Interview

Wroxham 5k Series founder Martin Yeomans reflects on the series' success

The Wroxham 5k Series is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the club has planned lots of celebratory activities to acknowledge this fantastic milestone, most of which will be on the night of the third race in July.

In the second of a series of interviews with those who have helped Wroxham reach this milestone, current race director Nick Gurney caught up with Martin Yeomans, the series' founder, about the race, how it started, and the future ahead.

How did the Wroxham 5k Series start?

My last club Norwich Sport Village ran a 10k for several years around Hellesdon, Horsford and Drayton, but with dwindling membership and increasing traffic we couldn't marshal it properly so in 1996 we looked for a 5k with fewer junctions to cover.

Without internet then, I used yellow pages to search local schools and village halls to base a race and having driven around a few found the Wroxham course, had Richard Thornhill measure it and it was perfect.

We held the first in 1996 and were delighted when Paul Evans entered on the day using the race as a sharpener before his Chicago marathon victory. His time of 14:11 is still the course record.

We held it with just a dozen marshals doubling up what jobs they could. Brian and Lynda Moore have helped all 20 years now as they were members of my last club too.

When the membership got too small I asked Mick Powell if we could merge with Norwich Road Runners and transferred the Wroxham 5k and remaining members to them in 2000.

How many runners took part in the first ever Wroxham race?

We had 130 runners finish the first race, which was held on 29th May 1997. We didn't know how many to expect - there was no internet then to advertise so we relied on putting entry forms on car windscreens at local races.

What is your fondest/favourite memory of the series so far?

I remember starting the first race with Paul Evans on the line and instead of saying 'i'll give you a 10 second countdown to start', I said 'I'll give you a 10 second start' which, with Paul Evans on the line, might have been a bit ambitious and brought some laughter from those assembled.

How do you think the role of the race director has evolved over the years?

I was race director for the first 15 years so had to make changes as they were needed.

I dont know how the role is used at other races but with risk assessment more care is needed now.

In the early Wroxham 5k's I didn't hand many jobs over and put the signs out, brought the entry on day forms, and change,instructed the marshals, put out the prizes, did the prize giving, gave the start instructions, banked the money, posted the unattached return to SEAA, booked the school and ambulance cover etc.

Now with a bigger club the jobs are shared so each one can be looked after with more attention.

This year is the series' 20th anniversary. Did you ever think the series would reach this milestone?

With increasing traffic and police suggesting charging to help and the introduction of risk assessment, I did at one point wonder if the race, or any road race, would be allowed to continue on non traffic closed roads.

With the race now on closed roads for the first time the race future looks bright.

How do you think running, as a sport, has changed, if at all, since the series started in 1996?

The biggest change has been parkrun, as it's brought fun runners back to races when race entries were relying on a dwindling number of veteran runners. This was seen on our Broadland 15 when most entries were just club runners training for the London marathon and the entry dwindled to 65, so we made the change to half marathon as it was more popular with unattached runners. The entries then soared.

You're still an active member of the club and a very competitive age-category runner. What do you have planned for the rest of 2016?

At 65 I cant keep up with the young'uns but with age catagory prizes there is still competition for all ages, so I'm currently chasing age records in races, mostly parkruns around the county.

I can always look back on my club records.

Thank you for your time, Martin. I look forward to seeing you at the start line of the series this year.

The Wroxham 5k Series is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The dates of the three races are Wednesday 18th May, Wednesday 15th June and Wednesday 6th July. Race 2 is a Leathes Prior Grand Prix race, and Race 3 is the Norfolk County Championships Race for 5 kilometre distance.

For more information about the series, click here.