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Neil Featherby: Why Christmas Day has always been just another training day

Neil Featherby ahead of the packs of runners chasing him down in the Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Charity Boxing Day run in the most well known part of each year’s run, the infamous Drewray. Picture: Baz Hipwell

Neil Featherby ahead of the packs of runners chasing him down in the Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Charity Boxing Day run in the most well known part of each year’s run, the infamous Drewray. Picture: Baz Hipwell

Archant

As we come towards the end of another year and of course the festivities that surround Christmas and the New Year, one of the things which always amuses me is when people ask me if I will be running on Christmas Day.

Neil Featherby ahead of the packs of runners chasing him down in the Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Charity Boxing Day run in the most well known part of each year’s run, the infamous Drewray. Picture: Baz HipwellNeil Featherby ahead of the packs of runners chasing him down in the Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Charity Boxing Day run in the most well known part of each year’s run, the infamous Drewray. Picture: Baz Hipwell

My reply as always is “yes, of course I will be as I run every single day throughout the year” for which you can see looks on many of their faces as if to say ‘I don’t believe you’.

However, why is it Christmas Day that always gets mentioned when talking about the number of days spent training? I can seriously think of many other days throughout my life when I shouldn’t perhaps have gone out and ran, so for me December 25 has always been another training day.

Needless to say when my sons were all younger it did mean reorganising my schedule around that special day and indeed getting out extra early so as to get back in time to be with them when they opened their presents.

However, and after having had a good chat with Mark (Armstrong) earlier this week about his Manchester marathon plans, the gist of the conversation came down to me saying to him, ‘what do you really want from this marathon?’

The latest charity treadmill challenge is taking place at Sportlink at the moment. Picture: Nick ApplinThe latest charity treadmill challenge is taking place at Sportlink at the moment. Picture: Nick Applin

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He has now done a couple of 26.2 milers where he has got round and completed the distance, but I and he also know what his capabilities are.

The problem with having capabilities which perhaps in his case could be a sub three-hour marathon, is that the training required to do this will probably cause other issues in his life what with his very young family and of course his job as deputy sports editor at the EDP and Evening News.

Therefore it is so important to set a realistic target based around ability to achieve in line with the training time we know he can put in.

If, however he then fails to be consistent with this time, which includes training during the festivities, it will be him who has to take responsibility.

I can remember so many times when I was winter training for a marathon or any other big race when I have looked back just prior to shutting the front door at my young boys getting ready to sit down in the warmth of the living room to watch a film together as I headed out for a run which might have been up to two hours in all weathers.

It would have been so easy for me to say to myself that just for once I am going to bin the run and do what all good dads should do, but I never did.

Why? Because I knew if I did it would become so much easier to do it again which is no different to dropping out of races when it becomes mentally and physically demanding.

Habit, discipline or whatever else it you want to call it. Perhaps even obsessiveness and the worst of all, selfishness, certainly on my part.

Therefore when people ask me if I can help them train for a marathon which they have entered, sometimes they are a little shocked by the response they get back from me.

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Yes, it all sounds glamorous with visions of the marathon medal at the end of it and pictures on Facebook, but the reality of it all is that it is going to require commitment and consistency, particularly if like Mark, you want to do more than just get round on the day.

In other words you will only get out what you put in, subject to everything coming together as it should on the big day.

Now all my sons have grown up, Christmas is still a time for family, friends, my beloved dogs and of course The Felthorpe Hare & Hounds Charity Boxing Day X/C Run which I organise every year in aid of my favourite charities.

This is a truly mad event and of course one which is not just any old run, but one which is compulsory fancy dress. It is great fun though whilst raising money for brilliant causes.

Lastly… the charity treadmill challenge at Sportlink, this year gives people the chance to see if they can run a mile quicker than that of world record holder Tom Bosworth who amazingly race walked the distance in 5 mins 31 secs in 2017.

To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement when Tom himself saw our challenge on Facebook, shared it and has now got himself involved by supporting it.

In Tom’s words on his social media outlets, ‘this is pretty awesome! Good luck to all who try the challenge to run the mile faster than I can walk it…5:31!’

He is also coming down to Norwich on February 16 to spend the afternoon at Sportlink, which will be brilliant. Thanks to Cath Duhig for the introduction.

Needless to say, I cannot sign off without saying a very Merry Christmas and wishing everyone a fantastic New Running Year.

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