Neil Featherby: How to maintain your focus in these difficult times

Neil Featherby with Ian Corrin ahead of the Bermuda Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby

Neil Featherby with Ian Corrin ahead of the Bermuda Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Neil Featherby

Whilst there is not exactly too much running to talk about this week, this is most certainly a really good time to keep talking about staying focused and motivated. 

As said last week, lots of people were psychologically hoping to draw a line under 2020 and look forward to a new year and a new start. This of course was never going to be until things subside and we get back to some form of normality again. 

Two weeks in and I have already spoken to several people who are feeling frustrated and even demotivated for one reason or another. It seems like so many things are coming at us from all directions never mind some of the confusion which goes with it as well. However, and just right now it really is so important to stop, take a deep breath and stay with it. 

From a business perspective at Sportlink, trying to stay on top of what is permissible and what isn’t to keep providing a service within all the guidelines has also been pretty confusing, never mind stressful. Needless to say, I want to keep my business going, but at the same time whilst in the confines of doing everything correctly. 

The amount of calls and emails which we have received certainly confirms that people need their running and exercise too. There are also stacks of messages coming through from people who have perhaps once again upped their training too quickly since this latest lockdown and have now got hurt. 

However, this week has also been a time for me personally to take a deep breath and step back just for a few moments to get some clarity. To say I am so pleased that I have done so is an understatement. Rather than me being the person on the end of the phone or email trying to answer questions, I reversed this to get advice myself and boy I am so pleased that I have. It’s like a breath of fresh air to be honest. 

That is why I have also spoken to all those who I advise for their running during the last week as well to try and see inside their minds. 

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For the likes of Mark, who really has been under the cosh what with work and home schooling, etc, I have just said to him what’s the point of trying to cram training sessions into your day when all it is going to do is add further stress. This is a time where for him a little less might be more whilst benefiting by just going out for a run if and when he can. More often than not you actually find that you get out more under these circumstances once you tell yourself you are backing off. It’s just all about reducing some of the mental pressure and at the end of the day running is meant to be enjoyed and of course actually aid the health of our mind and body.  

However, and while I have told one or two to just back off for a bit, I also have a couple who really do have the bit between their teeth and are getting frustrated by the lack of live competition for which I have designed and structured their programmes with specific goals in mind.  

They are the ones who need the extra pressure and actually thrive off it. They both have time trials to do this weekend with one of them doing a 10k and the other 10 miles. I have told them both what I expect and how I want them to approach their challenges.  

I have even added extra weight to their tasks by telling them what I expect from their performances along with no excuses afterwards of having gone off too quickly, or there was head wind during the last few miles. Or indeed as one such excuse as I recently had, “I didn’t eat the right foods or drink enough the day beforehand.” I am afraid none of that works with me.   

If you have a pre-planned date, then there are no excuses when it comes to not having prepared properly. Your mind should be focused well and truly on the job in hand with all the boxes ticked off going into it.  

Certainly, for those who have high expectations of themselves. For this weekend, I have told them to make sure they have their courses already marked out whilst also having checked the weather forecast. As for getting enough sleep and getting their diet right, well that should be bog standard. To finally add that extra bit of pressure, I also have another birthday coming up this weekend for which the only gift I want is to see them run to their full potential. 

Whilst it my job to push my athletes in their quest for improvement when required or indeed move the goalposts back somewhat if need be, even the motivator needs motivating at times especially during this current climate. Therefore this week I have been posting on Facebook each evening a set of old race results along with my memories of these races which I took part in all those years ago.  

Just sitting there doing it has actually been like going for a run and giving me not only that much needed head space, but also the chance to relive some awesome memories. Ironically it is 31 years ago today (Jan 15th, 1990) when I took part in the Bermuda Marathon. What a fantastic trip that was. Bermuda really is such a beautiful place and the week I spent out there was just absolutely awesome for which I will no doubt write about it for another one of my Facebook posts. 

I really do not like getting older, but the best thing about it is, all the amazing memories which I now have. 

Keep running everyone and stay focused.