Neil Featherby: Don’t leave anything to chance when you’re running a marathon

Neil Featherby running London in 1986 with no high fives and already conscious that the going was going to get tough later on after not fuelling adequately prior to the marathon. He finished in 2:21:20. Picture: Neil Featherby

Neil Featherby running London in 1986 with no high fives and already conscious that the going was going to get tough later on after not fuelling adequately prior to the marathon. He finished in 2:21:20. Picture: Neil Featherby


So another London Marathon over for another year with of course absolutely thousands of post race stories and experiences being shared with so many differing emotions.

Jon Norman and Lewis Blois crossing the line at the finish of their 7 in 7. Picture: SuppliedJon Norman and Lewis Blois crossing the line at the finish of their 7 in 7. Picture: Supplied

At the same time and as there is every year, there are now so many more people inspired to take up running after watching Sunday's big race either on tv or in the capital itself.

I have spoken to lots of people this week all telling me that they now want to run a marathon and are eager to get started.

There is no doubt that the sight of seeing people of all ages and from all walks of life taking part in what is the premier people's race in the UK inspires so many others to put on a pair of running shoes.

This of course is brilliant, but it is also so very important to explain to them that whilst this is without a doubt a good move, it is not quite as simple as just putting on a pair of trainers and heading out to see how far they can run before they fatigue.

The last thing I want to do is put them off, but at the same time it is necessary to make them realise that it requires lots of patience and commitment whilst being very cautious during the first few months to allow the body to recover from what is likely to be an initial shock to the system.

I also want them to keep going when after the early eagerness has died down and they realise that there are a lot of other things which need to be taken into consideration such as finding enough time to fit all this running into their everyday life. Because if not it can soon start become a bit of a chore.

In an ideal world, for those wanting to run a marathon, they will have been regular runners for at least a couple of years although as we know it can be achieved in a much shorter time.

There are of course those who have also just turned up and winged it on the day after doing just enough to put one leg in front of the other for 26.2 miles, but for me that really is not what it is all about.

Thankfully the high majority of those who do take part, really will have spent many months of conditioning to complete what has been their own personal challenge which of course is rewarded with that finishers medal when they cross the finish line.

Nevertheless and when all is said and done, perhaps the best bit of advice for all novices should be to seek out their nearest running club. We have some great clubs in the County for which anyone new to running will be able to get plenty of great advice and of course also meet lots of other runners of all standards and experience.

Moving on to the more established and experienced runners or perhaps more appropriately put, good quality athletes. As always there will be those who are over the moon having had a great run last Sunday whilst unfortunately there will also be those who didn't achieve the finishing times they were after despite what had been a perfect build up.

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The marathon is like no other distance that's for sure. You can be cruising along one moment even high fiving the crowd with a big smile on your face whilst running at a pace which seems so very comfortable only for it in the click of a finger to go from feeling very comfortable to suddenly feeling extremely hard. This extremely hard can also hit you in so many differing ways, be it with a sudden increase of enormous fatigue to feeling nausea and light headed to suffering with stomach and muscle cramps.

However, I have also heard runners complain this week that they just ran out of energy through not eating properly in the days beforehand to having issues with taking on too much water or feeling sick after taking on gels.

I genuinely feel their disappointment as I have been there myself. But at the same time when you have applied yourself for weeks and months to getting it right on the day, to then screw it up just when it matters through not eating enough or eating something which you were not used to, then you really do have only yourself to answer to for that mistake.

The last time I ran London, I had given my absolute all in training for weeks before travelling down to stay with friends the day before the race. The meals they served up which was for four people was in truth not even enough for me alone and on race day I was hunting around their kitchen at 5am looking for something to eat after a night of listening to my stomach grumbling due to hunger.

In my desperation I managed to find half a dozen boiled sweets which really were not the order of the day, but it was them or nothing.

The race day weather was also awful which didn't help and to say those last few miles really were run on empty is an understatement.

I was gutted afterwards, but in truth it was my fault for not daring to say that I needed to go out and get more food for fear of upsetting my hosts.

I never ever made that mistake again though and as mentioned in one of my previous columns, to this day I still feel ashamed when complaining about the quality of the food being served up when representing GB in the Kosice Marathon or almost forcing the hotel receptionist to go get me food from the kitchen despite it being closed before the Berlin marathon. In a nutshell, when it comes to running a marathon, if you want to be at your very best then you have to have absolutely everything nailed on.

To end my column this week, a huge well done to Jon Norman and Lewis Blois who really did give everything during their 7 marathons in 7 days challenge which they completed last Sunday finishing to a great reception at The Soul Church in Norwich.

It really was an awesome task for which they have raised thousands of pounds for such a really good cause. Their achievement was also celebrated earlier this week at a charity dinner held at Dunston Hall and hosted by Jake Humphrey with Norwich City footballers past and present in attendance.

Well done to them and of course well done to everyone who have completed one of the many marathons held during April.

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