Neil Featherby: Running has to find you at the right time to fulfil your potential
PUBLISHED: 10:30 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:52 25 May 2018
The joys of running, or is it?
Having just completed 37 years of having run at least once every single day since recovering from a stress fracture back in May 1981, running has now become just as much as a “have to do” as it is a “want to do”.
For one, I have my five dogs which need exercising so that is one incentive, but at the same time there is this very long consecutive running streak which goes back to when I was 23.
Having turned 60 earlier this year, it makes me realise just how far I have come. These daily runs, training sessions and of course racing back in my competitive days have given me the opportunity to run in so many fantastic places, be it in this country or indeed around the world.
Apart from some huge satisfaction, I have also seen some pretty amazing sights during what has to be well over 150,000 miles of running - in all weather too!.
Even the snow blizzards of January 1987 sinking up to my waist in the snow drifts or the hurricane force winds later on that year when I crazily ventured out not knowing how long it would last what with the fear of not wanting to miss my morning run.
Then there was the time when I spent three days in hospital in 2003 when I still managed to sneak out. Indeed there were times when I ran through injuries, which is crazy and I don’t condone!
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I’m under no illusions that I suffer with obsessional behaviour, particularly when it comes to running for which the obsession controls me.
However, and whereas the days of running at least 120 training miles every week is behind me, still running every day and on most days twice is now done as much as anything to keep this ongoing streak alive.
Whilst I know this behaviour is not always healthy or always productive, I do now try to use my own experience and obsessional tendencies when guiding and advising others. The driven and highly motivated mind can most certainly lead to success, but this personality type also has to be controlled to not self-destruct through lack of patience or an all or nothing type attitude.
Having worked with many other likeminded individuals in sport, I have always been aware when the signs were apparent. At the same time most of them did go on to achieve a high status within their own sport and when the going got tough, that driven and determined mind which they most certainly had, got going!
Anyway, and what with all of the above, my downfall as a competitive athlete was indeed through burn out.
I just did too much, which led to frustration causing me to do even more until I basically ran the engine into the ground.
Being over trained is far more detrimental than being under trained. I was the same as a youngster when running at least 80 miles every week between the ages of 14 and 16.
Needless to say this led to teenage burn out and a disappearance from the sport until into my early 20s.
With this in mind, a few days ago, I had a long conversation with one of Norfolk’s top runners, John Moore, who is just two months short of his 58th birthday and is still producing times that many a 20 year old would be proud of.
John has even won races during this decade of his life and I don’t just mean in his age category. He was telling me during our conversation about how he entered the recent Norfolk County Athletics Championships where he decided to enter the 400 metres just to see what it was all about.
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He ran it in 62 seconds and whilst that is not going to set an age category record by any means, for a guy who only took up running in his mid 40s for a very non serious attempt at running in the Dublin marathon, he can still be relatively classified as a raw talent, especially when it comes to really knowing what his true capabilities are or more to the point perhaps were.
Apart from his recent off the cuff 400 metres at the County Championships, which does actually rank him in 22nd place in the UK age rankings, he is in the top 10 for just about every single event from one mile up to 20 miles.
Whilst still being so highly motivated, John is also quite a laid back character and is very intelligent. I am sure it is this intelligence which allows him to be very controlled and calculating when it comes to his training and racing needs.
However, it also got me wondering that if he had trained and raced during his 20s, how much better would he have been back then? Possibly even competing with the very elite.
Needless to say it is all hypothetical, but one that I am sure many people will have their own thoughts on.
At the same time, if he had of put the miles in back in his earlier life, would he still be running at the same level which he is currently at now? John is not alone either as there are so many other people out there who have taken up running after what would be considered to be the prime years of their lives, yet are still producing some pretty phenomenal performances irrespective of the fact that they are supposedly now well past their peak years.
Another very remarkable local athlete is Jane Clarke.
Unlike John, though, she did have a very good running background as a top junior athlete until giving up the sport at 15 years of age.
It was then another 21 years before Jane made a return to the sport where she excelled as a youngster.
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To say she has gone on to a staggering amount of honours, records and international representation is an understatement whilst winning British, European and World titles at cross country and on the track.
Then there is Scott Walford who also recently made a successful return to the local race scene whilst not forgetting Gary Crush who, like John Moore, has no running background, but within the space of just over a year and now at the age of 40 is competing with some of the best runners in Norfolk whilst still improving all the time.
It fascinates me and whilst I am more than sure it comes down to so many factors and variations, I do wonder if one of those many factors also comes down to there only being so many miles on our body and mind clocks i.e. only being able to push yourself to your very limits for a certain period of time before mental or physical burnout takes place.
In other words if you use it up in huge amounts too soon, then the well may just run prematurely dry.
What is sure is that there have been so many highly talented young athletes who disappear from the sport without ever fulfilling their true potential, whilst others come from nowhere without ever having shown any signs of sporting prowess until into later life.
This is something which interests me greatly and whilst my competitive fire burnt out a long time ago, I will still continue to do my very best to keep my 13,500 plus consecutive days of running going for as long as possible...