Neil Featherby: The art of taking on a huge challenge is not lost on Chas Allen

PUBLISHED: 13:47 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 19 September 2019

Neil Featherby, Jason Wright and Charles Allen on their Hadrian's Wall charity challenge last year. Picture: Mark Hewlett Photography

Neil Featherby, Jason Wright and Charles Allen on their Hadrian's Wall charity challenge last year. Picture: Mark Hewlett Photography

© 2013 Mark Hewlett

This time last year I was just over a week away from taking part and completing the challenge I had set myself when turning 60 earlier in the year and that was to run from Bowness to Wallsend whilst following Hadrian’s Wall with two of my really good friends, Chas Allen and Jason Wright along with Baz Hipwell, Mark Hewlett and John Fensome for support.

Not only did I love taking on the challenge, I once again loved having to focus my mind in preparation for such a task. However, and typically just like in my competitive years, I went down with a very heavy chest cold just a couple of weeks beforehand which very nearly kyboshed my taking part right up to just three days beforehand.

Thankfully, the Gods looked down on me kindly and when the day arrived, I felt it had cleared up and I was ready to do what I said I would do and that was complete the run within 24 hours.

The run/power walk had everything which at times made for huge frustration whilst at others elation too. Nevertheless, this is what running an ultra-marathon is all about.

Needless to say we did complete the task albeit with 45 minutes to spare due to diversions what with work being carried out on the Wall, getting lost in the dark and even being chased by cows.

At the same time, when the going really did get tough, it was the bonding of friendship which got us all through whilst also knowing that nearly £4,000 had been pledged by so many people towards our chosen charities.

That is all now in the past of course and while I still intend going back to Hadrian's Wall again in 2020, Chas, will be heading off this weekend to Fuerteventura for the Half MDS Ultra Run Challenge with his friend Louise Grinsdale.

Whereas this event is basically just half the distance of the full Marathon Des Sables and one day less, it is nevertheless a very tough challenge to take on.

In some ways much of it will be even tougher than the full event and whilst we only spent less than two months preparing for Hadrian's last year, Chas had already planned this race well before we even did our Wall run such is the way that he would normally meticulously plan everything his does.

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In truth, I think he just felt sorry for me prior to our challenge and only agreed to do it due to thinking I was nuts and he better look after me.

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Chas really does know his stuff and in truth sees things from another level for which I am sure many others within the running community will agree.

I personally think he's a genius and he has most certainly helped me a great deal. I just wish he had of been around when I was competing.

During the last few months I have got even closer to trying to find out as to what it is that makes him tick for which I actually feel privileged to be able to write this, particularly as he is very much a private person.

His thirst for knowledge and even further education is incredible.

When it comes to helping runners or indeed all sports persons, rather than just patch them up which in truth is what most of us go looking for when it comes to staying on the road, Chas is so very different and adamant that we should be fully fixed before attempting to get back into serious training again, particularly if injuries are brought about through weaknesses or biomechanical issues.

Whilst this might require more patience and mean looking at it on a much more longer term basis, in truth this really is a much more professional and sensible attitude to have when it comes to having a much stronger and healthier body.

At the same time, he also follows this route when it comes to his coaching of the very few selected people who he will take on. In a nutshell, they have to show him that they are fully committed to the journey which lies ahead.

As for when it comes to his own running, he has found like many others, that running gave him the freedom of mind and chance to be at one with himself after in his case losing his mum as a very young boy for which he now also put this down to his resilience.

Freedom of mind, being at one with yourself and most certainly resilience are all very much important qualities that are required when it comes to ultra-marathons.

I of all people certainly witnessed this in him during our final few painful miles of Hadrian's Wall a year ago.

Good luck to both him and Louise next week although I know they won't be relying upon luck to get them through it.

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