North Norfolk Beach Runner Malcolm Ball passed away this week and Robbie Britton takes a moment to talk about how he was inspired by the spritely veteran runner.
We all remember our first session with the club. New smiling faces, the odd runner eyeing you up as competition and no idea what kind of run was coming. I remember Malcolm Ball.
Back then, around 2011-12, I was working in North Norfolk. The local club had a 6pm and 7pm meet-up for different abilities and only one was possible with my work schedule. This group was led by the legendary Malcolm.
Turning up to see this chap, at this point in his late 70’s, sporting proper length short running shorts and bouncing around ready to go, is a memory you keep forever.
A sting in the tail
It seemed like every route was a new adventure and Malcolm knew a thousand different ways to run around the local area of Cromer. Like any group run there was time for everyone to catch up, but we were soon off again. A sharp left here down a hidden trail or up to a residential area with a new hill.
And the hills. People might think Norfolk is flat, but up in the north there are mountains. Well, really small mountains, but they were steep.
Every run always had a sting in the tail (or maybe those are just the ones I enjoyed the most). A final hill or stretch of running, just when you thought we were done.
An inspiring man
There were always stories of Malcolm’s battles over the cross country, especially at the bigger champs where he might be the only V80 in the field, but he still gave it everything.
With a Powerof10 account to make anyone envious, there are strings of ‘1’s for first in his age category. It’s likely not even half the story. PBs like a 1:42:12 half marathon, a 46:17 10k and 22:27 for 5k, all set over the age of 70.
Malcolm passed away just a few days ago, but even this year he was running at Sheringham parkrun where he was a regular fixture in the last few years, most likely still sprinting to the line as a V85.
The importance of a good club
I wish I could say I knew Malcolm a little better, but actually I was just one of many who passed through the club and was inspired by him. Having only spent around 12 months in the area, I’ve stayed a club member during my own nomadic existence and always felt welcome coming back for the Round Norfolk Relay whenever I can.
Being part of a club is an important part of being a British runner for me. It’s part of your identity and it doesn’t need to be where you were born or where you’re based (although the latter certainly helps). It’s that sense of belonging and community it brings.
North Norfolk Beach Runners have always made me feel part of the gang, although from afar. It goes right back to those first few group outings with Malcolm leading the way.
Who inspires you at your club?
I hope as you read this there is someone in your own club set-up who comes to mind? Probably more than one person. There’s a whole bunch of Beach Runners who played a big part in helping me develop a love of running.
Club mates that help you get to races, push you harder in training and inspire you throughout all walks of life. Become good friends.
You can meet a lot of good people in the running community and a club is always a good place to start. Run by volunteers, with coaches putting in the time and effort to help everyone improve and enjoy their running.
The best in UK athletics
After a weekend where we spoke about why the Highgate Harriers Nights of the 10,000m PBs is a showcase of some of what is great about UK running, there’s even more to celebrate about our clubs.
For now I’d just like to say thanks to Malcolm Ball for those energetic and welcoming dashes around the North Norfolk countryside that helped me start my own journey as a runner. Your short shorts were brilliant and your moustache is one I will always envy. Rest in peace Malcolm.
If there’s someone who inspires you at your club or is a bit of an unsung hero then please do let us know. We’d love to hear about them at firstname.lastname@example.org