Neil Featherby: Norfolk running is in great health but don’t underestimate what it takes to run a marathon

Running columnist Neil Featherby on a canicross run. Picture: Mark Hewlett

Running columnist Neil Featherby on a canicross run. Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

Neil Featherby discusses what it takes and the sacrifices you have to make to run a marathon

After Sunday's Freethorpe 10 mile road race, which of course was the first race in the 2018 Sportlink Grand Prix Series, it was so good to come away knowing that road running in Norfolk really is buzzing.

The race itself was brilliantly organised by Pat Brightman for which she did everyone proud. However, and whilst road running is on a high, what about the rest of Norfolk athletics?

Well, the very good news is that this is too. Clive Poyner, the chairman of Athletics Norfolk, recently sent me an email to say that entries were up by 50 per cent for the County Cross Country Championships held at Thetford in early January, whilst Sportshall Athletics is also booming with county entries at record numbers along with the Under 15 Girls also looking to retain their national title for the third year running. There was also a record entry for last Sunday's County Indoor Championships at King's Lynn.

Going back to Freethorpe, the racing right across all the age categories (men's & women's) was superb with just four seconds separating the first two of Alan Darby and Dan Middleton with third-placed Dom Blake just a further 42 seconds behind. However, I do have to give special mention to City of Norwich's Dani Nimmock who not only won the ladies race, but finished fifth overall and ahead of some excellent male athletes in a time of 56:42.

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She really is in tremendous form right now and 2018 looks like it is going to be a big year for her. It was also good to see the first 20 athletes all finishing under the hour despite the difficult conditions as well as two further ladies finishing just outside the hour with Conac's Charlotte Rose second in 60:25 and Gt Yarmouth & District AC's Colleen Mukaya third in 61:19.

Another lady who I would like to give a special mention to this week is Norfolk Gazelles Anne Ellen who was selected as reserve for England at the British & Irish International X/C Masters race in Derry last November. I meant to give mention to her when she won the F60-64 race at the Great Run series at Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.

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It is also more than fair to say, the course was certainly one to test each athlete to their limits what with the first 1.5 miles climbing up and around the famous Arthur's Seat and whilst the views may have been pretty spectacular, it didn't stop her storming home in a winning time of 23:42. In Anne's very own words 'the toughest 5k I have ever done'.

Finally and as we come to the end of what is always a very busy month for athletics, I have been seriously amazed by the amount of people coming into Sportlink who took up running by way of New Year's resolutions.

However, through lots of early enthusiasm some of them have unfortunately overcooked it somewhat.

Running is most certainly very addictive and the feelings of wellbeing are what make it so. Nevertheless, it really does need to be done with care during those first few weeks to allow our bodies to adapt to the new found stresses which we apply during such exercise.

More worrying though is the numbers of people who have contacted me direct having all entered marathons in April and are currently experiencing injuries or are just struggling to meet the demands of the workload what with also only having started their training plans at the beginning of this year.

Training for a marathon really is a tall order and whilst it is possible to complete 26.2 miles after just a few weeks of getting in some regular miles, the truth is that this distance is not like any other when it comes to pushing our bodies to the limits.

Ideally, each potential marathoner will have at least one, or better still two, years running behind them as well as also having completed races from 10k up to half marathons before taking on such a challenge.

Taking your first few steps towards running a marathon less than four months before the big day is most certainly testing the body and the mind to the limits never mind actually getting round on the day.

Of course it is a great achievement to complete one and I will do my very best to encourage everyone, but it is also the way you do it and like anything else in life it's about how well you prepare for it which makes it all worthwhile when you cross the finish line.

The medal is not just for the 26.2 miles, it is a medal which represents all the hard work in getting you to the start line in one piece too.

As my good friend and two-time Olympian Paul Evans always says, the best achievement you can ever have is knowing you got the very best out of yourself!

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