Neil Featherby: How to stay motivated at the start of 2021

Action from Hare and Hounds Boxing Day event

Action from the redefined due to Covid restrictions Boxing Day Hare & Hounds event, which raised money for the Hallswood Animal Sanctuary and Nelson's Journey. - Credit: Neil Featherby

Whilst I am very rarely lost for something to speak about when it comes to running and sport, I must admit that I have spent a lot of this week wondering where to start this week’s column. 

Let’s be honest and while most of us were all hoping to draw a line under 2020 as we entered a new year, in truth we were also preparing ourselves for further restrictions and at least more of the same for the time being. 

I like to think I am a positive person and most certainly go out of my way when trying to keep others motivated and positive too, but apart from rumours that The Beast from The East was going to return with a very cold and severe snap, it has been hard to keep your mind and thoughts away from what basically feels like a 24 hour round the clock round up of the latest Covid situation. 

Restructuring Sportlink during this current lockdown and my dogs have certainly helped focus my mind elsewhere and from a runner and sports person’s perspective, it really is a case of keeping your mind focused and working hard in the knowledge that there will be competition and a competitive season at some point.  

It might not be in the usual order of course i.e. cross country champs - local, regional and then national between January and March prior to a new road and track season, but once things do open up again, who cares if the cross-country season gets pushed back into May or track and road events pushed right back to the end of the year.  


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When all is said and done, people will just be gagging to take part in a real race again. As for the huge mass participation events which are already being pushed further back later into the year, well I am sure this will continue until just about all of the UK population have been vaccinated. 

Nevertheless and as mentioned last week, at least for now and the time being, we do have Virtual races and events of all kinds being organised for which people really are embracing them.  

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Like anything else, new ideas are being added all the time to not only keep people fixated on a challenge, but actually giving them the impetus and time to plan and structure their training for what really is something they can get their teeth into. 

Staying motivated and having something to look forward to is so very important for all of us, it really is. Whilst in conversation and comparing notes with another running coach recently, he was telling me that he is organising virtual challenges within his group based upon age and gender, etc, so as to not only keep the desire and motivation going especially with his younger athletes, but also be ready when life does return to what we all gauge as normality again. 

It’s the same for me with the few runners who I advise. I like to set them challenges which they can work towards while adding that little bit of extra pressure by telling them what I expect. This of course helps to ensure that they really do prepare well and go into the challenge as if it is me they have to beat i.e my expectations. Needless to say, I keep all expectations realistic, but also based upon what I know they are capable of if they really want it. 

I was talking to former World Speedway Champion Jason Doyle earlier this week as he himself is a decent runner and really does prepare himself so very professionally by way of his fitness and all round management. 

He was telling me how he and other speedway riders are not only basing everything upon hope for a new season come the spring time, but how he is also organising his preparations where he can maintain a level of conditioning just at the right level. Then once the green light does come on again, he is just two to three weeks away from honing his conditioning and race fitness to be in peak condition when he really needs it. Whilst I am pretty sure that is exactly how most top sportspersons and coaches are thinking just right now, this type of mindset and forward thinking is spot on and can work for all of us. 

Challenging times for sure, but when the going gets tough, there is nothing better than over coming any challenge put before us. 

Keep on running everyone and keep on succeeding, albeit ticking off one challenge at a time. 

Finally, I would just like to say thank you to all those people who took part in the recent Christmas raffle at Sportlink and indeed what was a Virtual Boxing Day Run of sorts in the end. We raised a total of £3,315 which has gone towards some super charities and causes such as Nelson’s Journey and The Hallswood Animal Sanctuary. 

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