Neil Featherby: Be patient and maybe one day you'll be an inspiration

Neil Featherby Sportlink Mike Utting

Neil Featherby with staff at Sportlink along with coach Mike Utting and sprinter, Serena Grace. - Credit: Neil Featherby

As we come to the end of another year it can be a case of more looking back at past years rather than the future, particularly at my age! 

However, a new year will always signify lots of new intentions and well meanings. 

I always set out determined to meet challenges, be it anything from running related to just trying to be more organised. 

Whilst I do get several things done even if I say so myself, many other personal plans do fall by the wayside, even before we are out of January. 

For many though, a new year’s resolution entails wanting to get fit and this of course is where we at Sportlink see so many new faces coming into the store just after Christmas all excited and ready to go. 

Apart from kitting them out in great footwear, we do always tell them to be so very patient and not get ahead of the game as early enthusiasm really can see it all come crashing down again very quickly if they aren’t careful. 

February and March is a time when I sometimes think we should have a blue flashing light on the shop floor what with those who have done far too much too soon and then come to us looking for the perfect shoe to fix their injury. 

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Our bodies are amazing when it comes to adapting to new stresses and surroundings, but the body also needs time to adapt effectively irrespective of how good top quality running footwear is. 

Running shoes do not cure injuries, but they can most certainly help to prevent them in the first place and another good reason to start out as you mean to go on. 

For those who want to take up running, especially those who have not done any such exercise for a number of years, then this is where the likes of the couch to 5k programme comes in. 

It is very carefully structured and really has been proven to be so effective for thousands of people out there who have now advanced much further on after completing it. 

Talking of new year intentions, inspiration and motivation is something which drives us all on. 

However, it’s one thing having sat there watching the London Marathon and then being inspired for a day or two afterwards and another thing having been inspired by something or someone where you really do get up every day fired up and motivated to keep going. 

This week, we had a visit from top City of Norwich AC coach Mike Utting. 

For those who know Mike, he is so much more than a coach. 

He has been involved for many years with various sports people, but athletics is what he is really known for. 

Last year (2020) he was voted as England Athletics Coach of the year and whilst I do not have enough space to cover all the things he has done in this column, I have previously written about him (EDP July 9th). 

Not only did he bring along one of his charges, Serena Grace, who is ranked number 8 in this year’s UK U20 rankings for 100 metres (11.87 secs), he also presented me with a package containing two photographs and a GB Vest from the 2016 Rio Paralympics. 

“This is from Graeme Ballard as he wants me to give it to someone who inspires others,” he said. 

To be honest I was a little speechless and didn’t really know the best way to answer. 

When I told my other half, Steph, later in the day that I apparently inspire some people, not only did she look surprised but actually said: “Really?” 

I am not going to write what my reply to her was as it is probably unprintable, but her comment did make me laugh.   

Anyway, and more to the point, Graeme has competed in four Paralympic Games 2004, 2008, 2012 and of course 2016, hence the vest, whilst taking bronze in his category in the 200 metres in 2004 and silver in the 100 metres in London in 2012. 

He has also won several medals from bronze through to gold at numerous European and World Championships whilst setting a world record for the 100m in 2012 with an amazing time of 11.98 seconds. 

With PBs for 200 metres in 24.91 and 56.66 secs for the 400 metres as well, he has recorded times which top-class able-bodied athletes would be proud of. 

When you consider that Graeme suffers with Cerebral Palsy, then that really is something else. 

Personally, I am not sure that I do inspire anyone to run, but what I do know is that I am so very appreciative of such an amazing gift from Mike and Graeme and can truly say that they have both already inspired me for 2022. 

Oh, and Graeme’s motto is very similar to my own. 

Whilst I have always said winners never lose, his motto is - winners never quit and quitters never win. 

Mike also added, winners never lose, they just learn from any such defeat.