Neil Featherby: Running memories reach Hong Kong in '87

neil featherby doug kurtis

Neil Featherby and Doug Kurtis running in Hong Kong in 1987 - Credit: Neil Featherby

Another week behind us already, but what a week it has been.

We kept hearing that another so-called Beast from the East was on its way, but you can’t help doubting it until it finally arrives.

However, arrive it most certainly did and whilst it has been cold with conditions underfoot pretty treacherous in places, there is still something really nice about running in freshly laid snow. Certainly during the first couple of days and particularly during early morning runs when everything is glistening and looking so different.

Running around the tracks and woodland which surround my village has been amazing and even more so with my Husky dogs who absolutely thrive in this weather. As much as anything else, it has also been nice to see the news not just focusing on the one subject which has consumed us all during the last year.

This week has also been one where I caught up with an old friend who I first met 34 years ago at the Hong Kong marathon in 1987 and have not seen since the Grandmas marathon in Deluth, Minnesota in 1990.

Since the start of the year, I have been posting on to my Facebook, memories of races which I have taken part in going right back to my school days. Apart from being a nice way to chill out at the end of the day whilst reminiscing through writing and posting these memories, it has also helped me connect with some people who I have not heard from for quite some time.

Better still these posts have also helped others to re-connect with some of their old friends too. This particular old friend though is none other than Doug Kurtis, the famous American marathon runner who not only has a PB of 2:13, but has completed 76 sub 2:20 marathons which at the time was a world record and is still number two on the all-time list. He also ran a staggering 200 sub three-hour marathons by the time he reached 61 years of age.

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Prior to the marathon in ‘87, I spent a full week in Hong Kong with this great, but very modest man and athlete where we really did do the sightseeing and tourist stuff. To the point that by the time I reached the start line for the race, I was shattered, although this was far more to do with not being able to adjust to the time zone difference.

Whilst Doug was the favourite to win the race and I think I was second favourite, the Canadian athlete Rick Mannen ran away from firstly me and then Doug to very deservedly win, leaving Doug to settle for the runners-up position with me in third place.

Ironically and for those who can remember January, 1987, here in Norfolk, they will also remember that we really did experience a Beast from the East and far worse than anything which we have seen this week with snow drifts over six feet high and cars buried under them in places.

One of my training runs prior to travelling out to Hong Kong meant climbing up on top of the drifts only to hear the sound of metal under my feet which just turned out to be abandoned vehicles.

It was through Rick (Mannen) who shared my memories of Hong Kong on his own Facebook page which led to me catching up with Doug again.

Never being one to miss an opportunity, I very quickly asked him if he would be a guest on one of our Sportlink podcasts.

“Of course I will Neil,” he very quickly replied for which we recorded it this week. It really is a super watch and listen whatever your level as a runner.

Doug was indeed an elite athlete, but his mindset was also just as very much geared to running for the love of it whilst encouraging so many others to have a go.

He said: “For me, running was all about having fun, irrespective of whether I won (he won 40 marathons) or not so I never felt any real pressure. Winning and running sub 2:20s was just a bonus, but needless to say when I did, I certainly made the most of cheering and waving to the crowd before crossing the finish line.”

If you want to have a listen to the full podcast check out the Sportlink Facebook page this evening.

Doug Kurtis is not only a very inspirational man, but such a super person too.