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It will be great to hear the roar of the crowd as the horses come home

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With the easing of crowd restrictions I’m assuming that the first racing fixture of Fakenham’s jumps season this coming Friday will not be held behind closed doors. That has been the story for far too long, if for obvious reasons.

The limited attendance of those connected with the horses or otherwise in a working context made for a somewhat strange race-going experience this past season. As someone who has followed the game here for around 30 years, it felt to me almost like non-fun days out.

Watching the drama unfold on the track without the ‘roar of the crowd’ was to be deprived of its essential element. I found it hard to properly engage, especially when the runners and riders turned into the home straight for the final time.

Richard Johnson at Fakenham (52063582)
Richard Johnson at Fakenham (52063582)

This is normally when voices are raised, a bit of magic anticipated, hopes fulfilled or dashed in a thrilling finale.

Without people, none of this was possible. On the plus side it was impressive to note how well chief executive David Hunter and his team coped with the situation.

All sorts of entry requirements to the track had to be monitored and health routines set in place.

Those of us ‘on duty’ on race days were very grateful to take advantage of free cups of coffee dished out by a regular small business in attendance.

If anyone did their best to liven up the action then it had to be the race caller on the loudspeaker. Derek Thompson, who was often on duty, could always be relied upon to inject his own brand of enthusiasm in tracking the field from start to finish.

The only time I have joined a sporting crowd recently was when Norwich played Liverpool at Carrow Road. Despite the result the sense of anticipation and excitement there was very real.

I’m expecting to enjoy something very similar when the action gets under way this Friday as the jockeys come under starter’s orders for the first race due off at 1.38pm.

n Every year when the London Marathon takes place I’m transported right back to my own ‘day in the sun’ in April 1992.

This year has been different, of course, with the timing switched to October. As things worked out, the weather that Sunday was fairly good for running after an awfully wet Saturday.

Anyone who has managed to cover the 26-plus miles around the streets of the capital, whatever their time of completion, will know the sense of achievement this generates.

Plenty of participants from across this area will have been feeling rightly proud of themselves in the succeeding days.

The vast majority will also have had the satisfaction of raising funds for their chosen charity.

I was so euphoric when I got to the finishing line – which back then was on Westminster Bridge – that for the next few hours I thought it might be a great idea to run it again some time.

But by that evening after a long soak in the bath at my nephew’s place, common sense had prevailed. For me, once was enough.

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