Neil Featherby: Dogged determination to carry on - with an amended target

Neil Featherby on Hadrian's Wall

Neil Featherby with Chas Allen and Jason Wright running the full length of Hadrian’s Wall inside 24 hours in 2018 - Credit: Mark Hewlett

Talk about how just at the click of a finger any New Year plans can so easily be turned upside down.

Amongst my goals for 2022 was another long ultra-distance challenge. This is something I usually try to do at least once every year or so.

Apart from trying to keep my 40 years-plus run-every-day streak going, it is the challenge of still pushing myself to a point where I know it scares me and one where I am going to be extended.

For two reasons that is. One is trying to raise money for the causes which mean a lot to me, such as the Hallswood Animal Sanctuary, Dog Rescue and the brilliant children’s charity Nelson’s Journey; the other is due to knowing that sooner or later I am going to take on something which might end up biting me on the backside.

On the back of previous run challenges, such as the 106 miles which I ran for two awesome little girls and their parents back in the 1990s, such other challenges over the years have meant running the full length of Hadrian’s Wall twice and the last time inside 24 hours with my good friends Jason Wright and Chas Allen.

Neil Featherby and Karen Grapes

Neil Featherby with Karen Grapes and friends after completing 137 miles of Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coastal Footpath in 2020 - Credit: Neil Featherby

Then, just 17 months ago, I rang Peddars Way and the Norfolk Coastal Footpath (137 miles) with Karen Grapes and other friends over four days in the memory of one of my dogs, Oslo, who I absolutely adored. Prior to this, a film had also just been made by local film maker Lee Blanchflower about running with my dogs, which also further inspired me.

Anyway, my next challenge was going to be a three-legged affair to represent a number of the animals at Hallswood and an amazing fox by the name of Missy, who was rescued in March of last year after nearly eight weeks of wandering the streets of London with bones sticking through her left rear leg and foot.

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Long story short, but her leg was amputated, and she is now back running around again as if it never happened. I set up a special Facebook group at the time for people to follow her progress and I think it is fair to say she really did help inspire so many people, particularly through Covid and lockdown.

The idea was to run the Boudicca Way in March, followed by the Nar Valley Way in April and then Hadrian’s Wall once again in May.

Anyway, as I have said many times before, always expect the unexpected and never take anything for granted.  

Most of my friends on Facebook will know that during the last two weeks one of my other precious dogs and daily running partner Loki has become very ill. To say it has been traumatic is an understatement. We were minutes away from losing him and if it hadn’t been for the amazing work of our vets then he would no longer be here. So, very sadly our time with him is now limited, although you would currently think there was not too much wrong with him despite having had a huge operation. Once again, it all goes to show just how very adaptive animals can be.

With this all in mind and knowing I now need to stay close to home, the challenge has had to be amended somewhat.

Amended - but not cancelled. My intention now is to complete not only the Nar Valley Way, starting at The Wash in King's Lynn, but the Wensum Way and Wherryman’s Way to Great Yarmouth (the Cross Norfolk Trail). These three trails are all connected, whilst also using a section of Marriott's Way and the Riverside Walk in Norwich for a total distance of just under 100 miles.

Lee Blanchflower film of Neil Featherby

A clip from the Lee Blanchflower film Running with Dogs in August 2020 - Credit: Lee Blanchflower

Whilst I run every day, I do have to say that during the last few months my mileage has been down to an all-time low, but I am hoping the inspiration of Missy the fox and the love for my dog Loki will keep me going.

Karen has again said she will do the full course with me, and other friends have also agreed to come along and join in, if just for part of the way. It would of course also be so very nice if Loki can be part of it.

For anyone who would like to know more about this challenge (Anything for Loki) or join us even if just for a mile, particularly if they have dogs and want to bring them along too, then please see the link to our gofundme page for more details.