Neil Featherby: This is when the hard yards are put in for those in marathon training

Paul Evans - a man who knows how to run a marathon. Picture: Archant

Paul Evans - a man who knows how to run a marathon. Picture: Archant - Credit: Steve Adams

I think it is fair to say that the running boom looks not only set to continue, but also continue to grow during 2019.

At Sportlink we are seeing more people than ever for which 2018 not only proved to be our best year yet, but this January has been our busiest month in 24-plus years of business.

Then of course this week we have seen the Run Norwich 10k sell out in just four days with over 7,000 runners entered for which the likelihood is that they could have easily had an entry of 10,000 if it was possible. I am pretty sure that the first ever London Marathon in 1981 had a field of 7,000.

This is absolutely phenomenal, it really is. Even going back to the running boom of the early 1980s, those who ran still tended to be in a minority with the usual questions from onlookers being 'that can't be doing your knees any good' or 'are you training for The London Marathon?' Nowadays though, those who run are very much in a majority and it is so very much accepted.

Earlier this week, I took a phone call from Paul Evans with regards to a number of things albeit all to do with running. Since leaving Active Norfolk last year, the demand for his services seem to be greater than ever with England Athletics finding roles for him along with clubs throughout Norfolk and Suffolk also seeking out his services.

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I am also being repeatedly asked for advice with most of it coming from those who are all looking to run one of the big city marathons in April.

However, what we are both agreed on is about the amount of confusion out there particularly with those who are relatively new to the sport.

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The magazines and manufacturers bombard people with the latest news on technological developments, be it for footwear, gadgets, nutritional aids and of course the latest way to run PBs and become a better runner by training this way or that way. Then more often than not within a month or two there is invariably some form of contradiction which just lends itself to further bewilderment in what can only be described as a minefield of far too much information.

Without a doubt advancements in technology and sports science is great, but at the end of the day it is also about being rational and not perhaps looking for answers which don't always exist.

Whilst not wanting to appear to be advertising Sportlink through my column, we do very much try to cut down on some of the so-called rocket science and help explain things through more carefully in layman's terms.

For those who are well into their training for a marathon, they will know by this stage that it is hard work.

All those weeks and months of preparation not only tests the body, but the mind too. When you stand on that start line, there is no better feeling knowing that you have ticked just about all the boxes as opposed to standing there regretting those planned runs which you didn't perhaps complete due to it being cold outside and the warmth of the indoors was far more appealing at the time.

At the same time, if you want to really achieve times which befits your ability, also be prepared to realise that patience is key to success and you may not start hitting your dream target times until you have ran three, four or even five of these most difficult of distances to get to grips with.

During my marathon telephone conversation with Paul which lasted longer (2:16:10) than his best marathon times and just a minute short of my PB, he said to me that you soon find out who is cut out to be a marathon runner once they get to those last 4 to 5 miles where absolutely everything hurts and then the mind has two ways to go.

He is so right about this and that is where the most over-used saying of 'I was on for X until 21 miles, before it all went wrong' is so commonly used after the event. You can be on for anything you want before the finish line, but it is the time which you cross the line in that counts!

Anyway good luck to absolutely everyone who is currently in training for what was always my favourite of race distances and always keep in mind that rewards are reaped from what you have put into achieving your goal.

Talking of marathons, 2019 sees the 25th anniversary of Sportlink for which we are putting together with one of the leading running shoe manufacturers some challenges whereby Team Sportlink will put forward their four quickest marathon runners.

The rules are that amongst the four, there must be at least one female in each team. Each person's PB for a marathon is added together to give an average time.

There will also be further challenges for individuals which takes into account a runner's collective five and ten best times. Needless to say the winners of the team and individual competitions will win a nice prize.

Team Spotlink can boast an average PB time of 2:31:36 for the team event whilst also having some pretty impressive individual times for which I thought I was doing well with my average time over 5 marathons being 2:19:40 and 2:21:42 over my ten quickest times until Paul sent me his stats, being 2:09:43 for his best 5 and a 2:12:52 average for the 10 marathons he has completed.

Awesome and of course inspirational for all those out there who are out there pounding the streets in the pursuit of being the best they can be.

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