Neil Featherby: Another year older but it won’t stop me chasing the pace of yesteryear

Neil Featherby on the home straight on his way to finishing fourth at the Bermuda Marathon. Picture:

Neil Featherby on the home straight on his way to finishing fourth at the Bermuda Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

Whilst January always means the start of a new year, for me it is also the end of another one.

Neil Featherby with Steve Ovett, Mrs P Lever (Race Directors wife) and the late Jim Doig in Bermuda.

Neil Featherby with Steve Ovett, Mrs P Lever (Race Directors wife) and the late Jim Doig in Bermuda. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

In other words it's another birthday for me (Jan 16th) and having hit a huge landmark last year when turning 60, life really is now moving on at a fast pace. Ironic really as whilst the pace of each year seems to be getting ever quicker, my running pace is getting ever slower, much to my frustration.

After last year's birthday, I set two challenges for myself.

One was to try and run a mile at the same pace which I averaged for each mile when running my quickest ever marathon and the other was to try and run Hadrian's Wall under 24 hours. The latter I did and whilst some may think that completing 86 miles with 7,000 feet of tough climbing would be the hardest challenge, all I can say is, not by a long way!

Running long distances is not a problem, but speed is. Whilst not exactly a doddle, I loved doing The Wall Run and even though my left hip was in a bit of a mess for the last 20 miles or so, it was just a case of keep moving forward whilst putting one leg in front of the other.

Neil Featherby took first place in the 30-39 age category at the Bermuda Marathon. Picture: Neil Fea

Neil Featherby took first place in the 30-39 age category at the Bermuda Marathon. Picture: Neil Featherby - Credit: Archant

However, the nearest I got to completing the mile in 5:14 was when pulling up in sheer frustration during what was meant to be my one off flying mile.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereTypically me, I didn't think about the dull light along what was a mile stretch of Marriotts Way. I wasn't able to see clearly the pace and time on my watch and neither could my other half Steph, who was on her bike beside me. Let's just say, I threw my toys out of the pram and pulled up literally just short of 1km. To my further annoyance when I looked at the time, I had averaged 5:11 pace and whilst I also know I would have faded if I had of kept going, I reckon I might have done about 5:20…ish!

I will have another go as I hate giving up and would have indeed tried again much sooner if it hadn't of been for preparing for The Hadrian's Wall Challenge.

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Having looked at all the Norfolk Cross Country Championship results last Sunday, it is quite clear that there is some outstanding talent coming through along with several athletes who are also now approaching their peak years.

What a great future they all have that is for sure and, whilst there are no guarantees, Iona Lake and Dani Nimmock have both proved just what can be achieved providing you have belief and are so very determined to succeed.

Most importantly, it is about keeping that belief during times of setbacks which at some point all athletes have to deal with. Running is so full of surprises that is for sure, but if you get a knockback then use it to become even more determined.

I was so lucky myself and I really did not have very much natural talent. But through hard work I got everything which I possibly could out of what little ability I did have, as my good friend Paul Evans will testify. This enabled me to not only win a few England and GB vests, but also earn invitations to race in marathons around the world.

In fact this weekend is the 29th anniversary of when I competed in what has to be one of my favourite ever trips when being invited to The Bermuda Marathon.

MORE: Why you must set realistic goals in 2019It was an absolutely awesome week whereby I not only experienced what has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, but along with all the other invited runners, we were also treated like kings.

At the same time and just like on many other trips I also made new friends and on that particular occasion I met a really tough marathon runner from Liverpool by the name of Ian Corrin, who would have made even the fictitious Alf Tupper look up.

Ian is still a very good friend of mine to this very day (despite the fact that he is a diehard Liverpool fan) for which he also epitomises just how great our sport is in respect of making friendships which can remain for many years after retiring from competition.

However, and with regards to that week away in Bermuda, this was made really special for all of us what with also being joined out there by Steve Ovett, who even to this day is still such a running legend.

Steve summed up exactly what running is all about as he was as down to earth as the rest of us spending most of the week doing all the same things which we did.

Early morning training runs with an Olympic champion of his stature was something else though that is for sure and what with a yacht trip and a couple of pints afterwards with the great man and a few others on what was my 32nd birthday, let's just say life was very good.

Oh and needless to say we were out there to do a job which of course was to run in the Bermuda Marathon (not Steve Ovett though).

The race was won by none other than the Russian marathon champion Vladimir Kotov who himself was an Olympian (fourth in the 1980 Games) whilst I finished in fourth place while also taking first place by way of consolation in the 30 to 39 age category.

Yes, running at any level or age is fantastic and I am so very lucky to have so many great memories of places, races and meeting some super people. As always, one final foot note….I also came away from Bermuda with a $200 bar bill courtesy of my new found friend from Liverpool for which still to this day he keeps on telling me that this is the mark of having such a great friend!

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