Neil Featherby: Could the greats have benefited from today's training methods?

Peter Andrew

Peter Andrews - one of Norfolk's all-time greats as a runner. - Credit: Neil Featherby

I was recently sent a long message by a good friend Mike Andrews for my thoughts about how I think training methods have changed since the 1970s and 80s. 

He asked me if I now think that perhaps back in my day, and his father Peter’s, whether we possibly did too much whereby less could have been more if we had focused more on quality and less quantity. He also enquired what I thought about some of today’s modern-day equipment and gadgets in respect of any extra benefit they provide to today’s athletes. 

In the cycling world he points out how it is the equipment which has helped older cyclists to still perform at a very high level. 

Mike’s dad was not only one of my best friends, but he was a brilliant athlete right up to his sudden passing in October 2004. 

Firstly, I am sure Pete would have loved all of today’s specialist equipment as he was most certainly into all the sciences of the day back then. 

Nevertheless, and irrespective of that, he also had a tremendous work ethic, regularly running 100 miles per week when it came to applying any science and structure to his running. 

Peter Andrews on track

Peter Andrews was a winner on the track and the road - Credit: Neil Featherby

Whilst I did write a column about him nearly two years ago, just for clarification, amongst his many achievements, he was twice winner of the London marathon in his age category, won numerous British titles at varying distances on the track and road up to the marathon, whilst also winning his age category in the Rotterdam marathon and Bruges International 25km. 

Most Read

He also won the award for best individual performance in the Round Norfolk Relay on several occasions. 

I will also never forget the time I took him to the Rotterdam International 10km road race in 1990 where he not only kept me and another good friend from Norwich, Garry Booty entertained throughout the weekend, but also won the over 50s race in a time of just over 33 mins. 

However, and getting back to Mike’s questions, would Pete have been better off doing less quantity and more quality? 

My answer to that is maybe, particularly at certain times. But he really did think things out so very carefully and whilst he did run a lot of excessive miles, there was also a lot of quality thrown into the mix as well. 

If he had focused more on speed and high quality with less bulk then I am sure he would have performed much more quickly over the much shorter distances, but his love, in truth, was at the longer distances. 

His marathon performances were spot on particularly when it came to his 2 hours 35 minutes London marathon performance in 1992 aged 53 and Bruges race in 84 mins averaging a pace of 5 mins and 55 secs and 5 mins 25 secs. That’s phenomenal, particularly for a guy in his fifties. 

Just as remarkable, he didn’t take up running until into his late 40s, although he did have a strong background in cycling. 

I will always remember him telling me that when he lived in Germany during the time of the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games when after David Hemery had won the 400 metres hurdles, he wanted to see how quickly he himself could run a flat 400 so went down to the local track, put on a pair of plimsoles and ran one lap of the track as fast as he could in 49 seconds. 

In his mind back then, he thought his performance was poor what with David Hemery having ran a second quicker with hurdles in front of him. 

In truth, his one-off time would have probably seen him fairly high in the UK rankings and certainly up there with some of the best club runners in the country at the time. 

The fact that he also did it with no preparation and in plimsoles showed just what a hidden talent he was and of course we can only guess what he may have achieved if he had taken up athletics on the back of that run. 

Nevertheless, it was just short of another two decades later before he put on a pair of real running shoes and had a go properly when he joined Dereham Runners before then going on to sign up with Duke Street Runners and of course CoNAC after the amalgamation between Duke St and the Norfolk Olympiads. 

Whilst I am sure there will be plenty of people who read this who will all have their own views on what is best when it comes to training, in truth it is all about balance and timing in respect of meeting the demands of the event. Age related too whilst bearing in mind how old Peter was when he took up running. 

Now looking back, it is all hypothetical when trying to give a precise answer and as already mentioned, Pete would digest all the information he could glean from any manuals and coaching books before applying his own scientific thoughts towards all his training. 

As for equipment such as GPS watches, he certainly did not need one as he would always know instinctively the exact pace he was running at and as for carbon plated shoes, well yes, I am sure he would have gone even quicker in a pair of those. 

At the end of the day, we can all look back and say what if this or what if that, but in truth it is what it is and Peter Andrews really was a remarkable man and an amazing runner. 

Last week, I just happened to mention that it was going to be the first time that Under 11s were competing in the forthcoming Norfolk County X/C Champs in January. Well, I was wrong as there has been an under 11s race for many years. Nevertheless, and if nothing else if it brought further attention to not only this category but the county champs, then great and thank you to those who did point it out. 

Finally, it was my business Sportlink’s 27th birthday last week. Since that first day of opening in November 1994, it really has been an amazing journey for which I would like to thank everyone through this column who have been part of that journey be it staff, business partners, friends and of course customers.  

Here’s to another 27 years! 


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter