Neil Featherby: Olympic memories and the perils of over-training

Neil Featherby with his beloved dogs Picture: Mark Hewlett

Neil Featherby with his beloved dogs Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

It might be a year late but I am sure most people are enjoying the Olympic Games like me, even more so once the athletics start today. 

My earliest memory of the Olympics goes back to watching early morning TV “via satellite” of what was a round up the Mexico Games aged 10 with David Hemery winning gold in the 400 metre hurdles, Dick Fosberry winning the high jump with what of course was to become known at the time as the Fosberry Flop and the great Ron Clarke laying on the side of the track being given oxygen.  

What with Mexico City being over 2,000 metres above sea level, the air was so rarefied, it really did affect the athletes in the longer distance events, particularly those who came from countries closer to sea level.  

Nevertheless, and aside those three stand-out memories, in truth, I think the fasciation back then was more to do with being able to watch a TV programme whilst eating breakfast prior to heading off to school. 

However, come four years later it was the Munich Olympic Games which really did enthral me.  

Right from the opening ceremony through to the final flickering of the Olympic flame. Whilst I loved watching all the sports, it was of course the athletics which I could not wait for, especially the marathon which was won by the American Frank Shorter.  

Most people here in the UK and I think in other countries too, were expecting Ron Hill to take the honours, but on the day he could only finish in sixth place and out of the medals.  

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Truth be told is that he possibly peaked out two years before, but with all the many expectations on him and having read all his training details in his autobiography, the likelihood is that he went over-board. Once again, one of those where “if I can achieve success on doing this amount of training, then I should be able to achieve even more if I increase the load.” 

Whilst many beginners can get caught out by doing too much too soon, even the more experienced from good club runner through to the elite can be guilty of going beyond what is productive work into an area of over training.  

David Bedford was another one who during the 1970s was famous for running up to 200 miles a week in training, yet he still never won a major international title when it really mattered. Then after a forced break, he smashed the world 10,000 metres record. Less can definitely be more at times as I regularly try to explain to others. Oh, and yes, I have been more than guilty of this myself… it takes one to know one, as the saying goes. 

In the mean-time, let’s look forward to the rest of the Games as well of course wishing Norfolk’s Sophie McKinna all the very best when she steps up to compete in the ladies shot putt. 

As for future Olympians – well who knows as it can be a very long journey, but good luck to all those who are competing at The Sportspark in Norwich this coming Sunday in Day One of the Norfolk County championships (day two August 29).  

I must also once again say congratulations to Eva Barton who set another Norfolk County record last weekend in Dagenham whilst competing in the U13 girls 800 metres recording a time of 2:21.5.