Neil Featherby: Age catches up with everyone...but that shouldn’t stop us from taking on challenges

At Wallsend and completion of the Hadrian’s Wall run. Picture: Neil Featherby

At Wallsend and completion of the Hadrian’s Wall run. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

There is no getting away from the fact that as we age we start to deteriorate – as much as we hate to admit it.

What may have been physically possible in our 20s becomes far more difficult.

However, if you are fit and you have always kept yourself in good nick, deterioration is very gradual and probably only more noticeable as we go from one decade of our lives to the next. For me, though, it was most definitely a mental thing. I absolutely dreaded hitting 30 – back then it was very much regarded that your peak years were over and the slippery slope was just around the corner.

I let this get to me, which is not a good thing to admit to, given I am regarded as someone who motivates others.

I remember the day well – I took a couple of mates out for what they thought would be a 40-minute run, only for it to turn into three hours, much to their disgust after getting lost in some woods.

As time moved on, though, I started to get over it and by the age of 40, life in general was pretty good and I could still do most of the things I was able to do 10 years earlier. I celebrated this milestone by having a go at The Three Peaks Challenge with several friends and whilst we completed the challenge, to say it was very memorable is an understatement. However, most important for me, at 40, was the fact I could still bang out a sub five-minute mile.

Then at 50, oh my word, that was when I really did think old age had arrived. Once again, and not to be out-done by time, I ran the length of Hadrian's Wall (over 87 miles) with four friends – one running the entire length of the wall with me and three others in support. I loved it and found it very easy and whilst I wanted to do it in 24 hours, it was agreed we would spread the run over three days, with the middle day being 50 miles, to coincide with my age.

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In January, the next decade of my life began when turning 60 and whilst I dreaded it, it saw me making promises of more challenges: to run a mile in 5:14 – the pace I averaged for 26.2 miles when achieving my marathon PB aged 28; having a go at 100 miles, which I did in my 35th year, or running Hadrian's Wall again, this time in 24 hours.

The mile hasn't as yet happened although I did have a go last month and whilst I was running much quicker than I thought, as I was struggling to see the time and pace on my watch (another sign of old age), I binned it at 0.60 miles only to see that I had completed the run in 3mins 13 secs (5:21 mile pace). With this in mind I feel confident that this challenge will be completed very soon.

Nevertheless, the biggest challenge lies ahead and what with realising that I turned 60.5 years on Monday of this week, it really did make me think that I need to pull my finger out for which I had a long chat with good friend and ultra fell and mountain runner Carmine De Grandis about having a go at Hadrian's Wall again in 24 hours.

After thinking about it Carmine suggested an alternative and that is to take on the challenge which the legendary fell runner Joss Naylor set himself when he turned 60 . That challenge being running up and down 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles whilst climbing 17,000 feet.

Needless to say it also means descending 17,000 feet as well.

For 60 year olds, the time limit is 18 hours so that should be doable, but with travelling it will mean being away for at least two days which is what I am finding the most difficult to come to terms with.

I have a lot going on at the moment with work and of course for those who know me really well will know that I don't like leaving my dogs behind so it has to be done in a time whereby I really am away no longer than a day and a half.

My partner Steph has already had words with me as she can see the signs of my mind steering towards another challenge which usually means that my single-mindedness takes completely over.

What do I do is the question? Make my mind up very quickly has to be the answer so watch this space.

As always, one final foot note….earlier this week, I bumped into my old friend and runner Malcolm Robertson who now works for Anglia TV. He was reminding me of when we first met which was back in 1986 when he worked for Radio Norfolk and I had just been picked to run for England.

'Where have all those years gone?' he said. I am not sure I replied and before he could say what I knew he was thinking, I very quickly said, 'I might be getting old, but be assured I am still very much driven.'

However, maybe I should have said dreaming!

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