Neil Featherby: How much do you really want it?

Callum Bowen Jones Felthorpe

Callum Bowen Jones leading out at one of Neil Featherby's running sessions at the FOP in Felthorpe - Credit: Neil Featherby

Fit your running realistically into your lifestyle is something which I regularly tell people to do when asking me for advice on their future running plans. 

However, on the back of Mark’s column last week which brought quite a response on Run Anglia, I also noted that runner and coach Cat Riona at Changing Paces Run Coaching, mentioned in her comments that whilst some clients tell her what they want to achieve, after a given time it is also quite clear they aren’t willing to push themselves or change their approach to match those goals for which she then has to question the goal and or the approach. 

In her words: “Often it turns out that the goal wasn’t as important to them as they thought.”   

I fully agree and have seen this many times and not just with runners. 

Over the years I have also been asked by boxers and footballers to help them with their fitness. 

Particularly by those trying to make a comeback or youngsters where perhaps the dream of great success and desire has disappeared and is now more to do with the parents. 

I can normally weigh that one up fairly quickly and of course I fully understand it. 

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I am a parent myself and when you can see just how fine the margins are between making it and not, you will naturally want to push your offspring as you want to get the very best for them. 

Whilst there are some who will never succumb to failure, for others once the reality of what it is going to take sets in then that is when you do find out who really wants it bad enough. 

The ability is there, but perhaps the will and desire fade somewhat when it comes to what will inevitably mean making some sacrifices along with a heck of a lot of hard work. 

It really is one thing saying (that’s the easy bit) what you would like to achieve, and another thing being prepared to follow that journey which in truth could take many months or even years to arrive at your destination. 

Think big if you do have the desire to reach the top, but also set realistic and honest targets in the short and medium term to gradually tick off boxes whilst also just checking along the way that this is what you really do want. 

Whilst I only coach a few people, I do like to think that we have everything pretty much balanced out around their wants, abilities and lifestyle. 

However, and at the same time I do also know that there are many others who after speaking to me and asking for advice will no doubt go off and ask the same questions to other people in the hope of finding a more comfortable set of answers to what mine may have been.

There are no magic wands or genuine short cuts, that is for sure. 

If someone wants to run a specific time which is currently more than a little way out of their reach or just complete a half marathon or indeed even a full marathon, it is going to require a lot of dedication. Certainly, if done to one’s best ability. 

You most certainly get out what you put in, which brings me on to sending out best wishes to Norfolk Gazelles’ brilliant ultra-runner Ian Thomas who once again takes part in the Spartathlon in Greece this weekend. 

Ian Thomas Spartathlon

Ian Thomas racing at the Greek Classic Spartathlon Ultra Marathon - Credit: The Sparta Photography Club/Ian Thomas

What an amazing race this really is. 

A distance of 153 miles starting at the foot of the Acropolis where it then follows the route believed to have been that taken by the Athenian long-distance runner Pheidippides when running from Athens to Sparta to seek help to fight off the invading Persians in 490 BC before the battle of marathon. 

Apart from what is an extraordinary distance to race over, the terrain is also extreme which includes the ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio during the darkness of night. 

Needless to say, the heat and varied weather conditions all add to making this event one of physical and mental toughness too. 

Ian has previously taken part in this race five times with a PB of 29 hours, 14 mins and 36 secs set in 2016. 

He also ran the course last year unofficially what with Covid restrictions forcing cancellation of the event in 2020. 

For those who may want to follow Ian’s progress online during the race, his tracking number is 264.