Neil Featherby: Be realistic in your marathon goals but the harder you work, the bigger the gains

Pete Duhig in action. Picture: Pete Duhig

Pete Duhig in action. Picture: Pete Duhig - Credit: Archant

Last week I talked about being bombarded by people asking me what the secret formula is to running a decent marathon.

Whilst I actually only coach a few people directly, I do also receive lots of requests for information about all things running, particularly towards training.

First and foremost I try to find out as much information as I can about each person and then look at how they can best follow a training programme, which will not only allow for progression towards their aims, but most importantly fits in with their lifestyle. It's also about trying to keep it as realistic as possible by way of goal setting.

For some they think it is not enough and then go off and pile in the miles before coming back saying they are injured or in many cases have over cooked it and are then struggling to maintain the workload they have set themselves. Others are shocked when I tell them that they need to learn to apply themselves better.

It doesn't matter how many times they ask, there is no secret and the answer will always be the same. Even for those with an abundance of talent the answer will be the same as talent will only take a person so far.

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In a nutshell it comes down to hard work along with patience, consistency and commitment.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereIt is as simple as that. As with everything else in life if it's worth having then it usually comes at a cost and in this case many hours, months and even years of being dedicated to the cause.

I possessed very little talent as a runner, but just like I am with most things I apply myself. I have never been scared to put my heart and soul into anything I do.

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As long as I know I have given my all, however good or poor that may be, all that matters to me is that I know I didn't try to take any shortcuts and have done the very best I could do.

Having worked with so many top sports performers during the last 20 odd years, it was always so obvious which ones were going to end up being the best they could possibly be and in truth not the ones with the most talent.

A good disciplined work ethic should be applicable to everyone who has aspirations.

With this in mind, my good friend Peter Duhig has just finished his autobiography and whilst the name may not necessarily make too many people sit up, for those who have been on the running scene for as long as I have or are members of Ryston Runners, then they will most certainly know him.

Peter absolutely epitomises the saying 'you only get out what you put in'. He went from being what was known back in my day on the club running scene as a scrubber (average club runner) to being that of a top class runner.

Not only did he reduce his marathon time from 3:18 to 2:25, but 45-minute 10ks became sub 31 minutes and 10 milers from 68 minutes down to 49.

All this when well into his late thirties too.

MORE: The life and times of Ryston Runners Peter DuhigEven more amazingly, after he felt had gone as far as he could with road best performances, he then went on to the track and produced some phenomenal times from 400 metres upwards which of course led to him winning many races, titles and medals at the highest of levels in various age categories. Then just over a year ago and one month before his 68th birthday and still in what we all assumed was great racing shape, he collapsed just before the end of a 10k race in Spain.

His heart stopped for several minutes, but thankfully he was revived and within a few months Pete, being the true fighter he is, he was soon up and about again whilst also needless to say putting his running shoes on again.

Whilst much of Pete's life story is about his many years as a runner and involvement in athletics, I do have to also say it is so much more than that.

It is 376 pages long for one thing, but this book very much depicts his life right from an early age whilst also logging the many challenges he has had to face be it in sport, business and even in his private life and of course his fight back after his near fatal accident.

Having earlier said in this column that we need to be realistic with our aims, Pete has proven that whilst it is one thing being realistic, realism can also be one or two steps beyond what we may have been conditioned to thinking we are capable of and proving that if we are prepared to really give our all to being the best we can possibly be, then we can all attain more than we perhaps thought we could.

For those who might think I am just trying to help a friend sell his book, please be 100 percent assured this is not so.

It is for all those people who might still be looking for the secret to being a much faster runner.

If they don't believe what I tell them, then they definitely need to look no further than picking up a copy of Pete's book so very aptly titled, The Prince of Pace. In Pete Duhig's words, 'all of life is awaiting you'.

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