Neil Featherby: Christmas and running - not always a match made in heaven

Alicia Lacey was first lady in the Sportlink Mile - Virtual SMile Challenge. Picture: Epic Action Im

Alicia Lacey won the Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon last weekend Picture: Epic Action Imagery - Credit: Epic Action Imagery

During all my 39 plus years of running every single day, I always get asked the question: “What you even run on Christmas Day?”  

Whilst this always makes me laugh, my reply is always ‘yes of course’. I never know why they are surprised particularly when I can think of days of far more importance in my life when perhaps I should not have ran, but still did. 

However, and whilst Christmas Day for me has always meant at least one run, particularly during my competitive days when I would more often than not have had an overseas marathon to do in the January or early February, it was still a time for just chilling out and savouring the moment. 

When all my sons were young, it really was a magic time and even when creeping down the stairs at 4am in the morning to get my run done, I would invariably hear one of them shout out “Dad, he’s been!”  

‘Oh no,’ I would think and then say: “Okay you can open one present, but after that wait for me to get back.”  

Needless to say by the time I did get back, they would be in the living room surrounded by several other presents already opened with wrapping paper all over the floor. 

I have always loved this time of year, but of course it will always be having your family and children around you which gives it that magic and whilst we all need to be very mindful of all the restrictions this year, I am sure the count down between now and the big day next week will still be exciting and enjoyable. 

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Several of my athletes have asked me in advance as to what I want them to do next week including Mark (Armstrong), for which my answer has been exactly what I have just said i.e. enjoy the moment.  

Go for a run, but don’t get too weighed down by it all for a couple of days especially on the back of what has been a difficult year for everyone.  

In the grand scheme of things even a couple of days off will make no difference by the time we do hopefully get back to some competitive racing again next year. 

Whilst this year has most certainly been devoid of competition, thankfully we have been able to see some events, albeit under strict guidelines, for which I want to say a huge well done to Alicia Lacey and Eva Barton who both last weekend produced two super performances. 

Alicia took part in the Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon, a race which she had very much focused her mind and fitness on. Whilst the weather conditions were pretty poor i.e. wet and windy, she smashed her previous PB of 1:28:15 by just under seven and half minutes crossing the line in 1:20:48. 

Apart from this super new personal best, she also took first place in the ladies' race albeit after the finishing times had been worked out what with runners being set off in waves.  

“The course was waterlogged and there were lots of sharp turns and then what with being set off in waves it was just a case of focusing on the runners you could see ahead who had set off in the earlier groups,” she said. “However when my watch lost GPS signal at six miles, I just ran to feel not knowing my pace until I got to 12 miles where I then realised that if I could run at six-minute a mile pace for the last 1.1 miles, I would finish under 81 mins. The fact that I felt so comfortable just added to the adrenaline buzz and even more so when running through the finish gantry and hearing the lady on the PA system.” 

Under the watchful eye of her coach Mick Powell at Norwich Road Runners, I have a feeling that Alicia could well be destined for big year in 2021 subject to normal racing resuming again. Let’s hope so that’s for sure. 

 Young Eva Barton, also shot up the UK rankings for 2020 and in her case all the way to number one spot for the Under 13 girls after running a 5mins 26secs road mile at the PB5k event at the South of England Showground situated in Haywards Heath, Sussex. 

Eva Barton set a new UK Under-13s best for the mile distance last weekend.

Eva Barton set a new UK Under-13s best for the mile distance last weekend. - Credit: Scott Barton

Just like Alicia, she has some big plans for the future for which I am sure she will continue to go forward under the guidance of her dad Scott and coach Simon Eisenmann. 

Finally, it just leaves me to wish everyone a safe and very happy Christmas and let’s all look forward to what will hopefully be a much better new year for all of us.