Neil Featherby: Paul Evans is proof that nice guys don't finish last!
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016
I don't think there are too many people in UK athletics circles never mind Norfolk and Suffolk who don't know the name Paul Evans.
Paul is undoubtedly one of the best and gutsiest British endurance athletes ever.
His CV is endless and due to space, it is impossible to list all his race achievements, but having represented Team GB in two Olympic 10,000m finals, a second and third place finish in the New York and London Marathons and of course the real icing on the cake performance when winning The Chicago Marathon in 1996 (in a time of 2:08:52 which still sees him ranked in fourth on the UK All-Time fastest marathon list) they cannot go without a mention in this column. In fact I feel that I must also mention his second-placed finish in the 1996 Great North Run too.
Whilst many think Paul came into running late into his 20s, he was in fact a formidable athlete during his school days, but like many, once the reality of life kicked in after leaving school, work and other commitments got in the way. He did play football though for which it was very apparent he could still run culminating in him taking part in a 10k road race in his home town of Lowestoft. He not only finished in the top half a dozen finishers, but also ran a pretty fast time of 33mins and 33secs.
During the next couple of years he raced fairly regularly on the local circuit and even started winning races. It was soon very apparent that he was much better than just good. His race times were coming down dramatically whilst also beating several established internationals along the way which led to his first England call up in an Home Countries International contest at the Livingstone Half Marathon, in Scotland.
However, the real story and breakthrough of Paul Evans as a superstar athlete came about during the one off Great Race in 1990 which was a stage race made for satellite TV and based upon The Tour De France Cycle race with 20 races over 22 days starting in Glasgow and working its way down to London. The field assembled was absolutely awesome with so many world record holders and Olympic medallists all in the starting line-up.
I took part in this race and was in total awe whilst rubbing shoulders with so many running heroes of mine.
Anyway, enough of my reminiscing and back to Paul, who had taken some holiday from his job at a shoe factory to take part in the race.
After the first week, he was ordered back by his employers, but decided to ignore them and of course he got the sack.
This made headlines throughout the media, and brought him even more attention as he went on to several stage wins with an overall fifth placing.
To say it was a blessing in disguise has to be one of the biggest understatements ever as he raced his way into the record books whilst competing in some of the biggest races around the world which continued until his early 40s.
Like everything else though, all good things come to an end whereby he then took about the task of getting himself qualified with a number of qualifications in the fitness industry. With certificates under his belt this enabled him to take up the post as The Norfolk Athletics Development officer before moving on to work with Active Norfolk pursuing a role which sees him going into schools, clubs and new running groups to lend all his knowledge and support to help encourage people of all abilities to take up running whilst also inspiring those who are already out there pounding the streets and tracks.
Paul has now decided to go it alone come May 11 and whilst he will still take on work for Active Norfolk, he will also be looking to get much more actively involved with clubs and individuals himself. This may be by way of training sessions at club nights, one-to-one training, seminars, or indeed specialist training days for which I am sure there will be plenty of interest.
He is currently in the process of updating a new website and of course his social media outlets for anyone who would like to find out more.
For those who have not met him, he is one of the most modest and unassuming people I know and it is this part of his personality which lends itself to him being one of the nicest sporting personalities you are ever likely to meet.