Neil Featherby: Words that every runner would do well to listen to

Mark Armstrong - getting back into the swing of things after injury Picture: Epic Action Imagery

Mark Armstrong - getting back into the swing of things after injury Picture: Epic Action Imagery - Credit: Epic Action Imagery

Patience is a word I think you can say is something so many of us runners struggle with.

Chas Allen - words of wisdom Picture: Mark Hewlett

Chas Allen - words of wisdom Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

During the last few weeks it has been apparent that some of the guys I coach really do want to get out there and race again and much of their training programmes have contained lots of dialogue to keep each one of them focused on the job in hand.

Needless to say, it’s not quite so easy just right now, particularly whilst there is still no green light as to when the real racing will start again.

However, I am also working with one guy who, having turned 40 years of age, has recently made a return to running after what was a very promising career as a junior Welsh international athlete – along with a couple of others who have had recent layoffs through injury and are now working their way back to full fitness. One being Mark Armstrong.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are all the same when it comes to taking those first few steps back into the routine again after having had a break, and that, of course, means either trying to make up for lost time or trying to come to terms with the fact that you are perhaps not where you were at prior to having had a lay-off.

It does not matter how intelligent you are, when it comes to sport and running, there is always the same old conversation - accept where you are now currently at with your fitness and plan and prepare very carefully for which you will very soon find that you are not as far away from being back to where you were pre-injury.

Going back to my impatient athlete who has had a 20-year lay-off – despite a little annoyance and disappointment initially, he is now finding out that whilst he may not have the speed of his youth, he can still compete at a very high level again, particularly in his age category.

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With regards to Mark, just prior to him getting back down to a structured training schedule again a couple of months ago, it was clear to me at the time that not only had he obviously lost some of the high fitness level he had before his “conker gate” injury, but he had also lost some of his old enthusiasm. However, after just one week of consistent running, he was buzzing again and then just last week it all clicked when setting a new PB when running solo as part of the Norwich Road Runners 5k Virtual Race Series. Whilst he still has some way to go yet, it has also demonstrated to him just what the word patience (whilst not forgetting pace in his case) really does mean.

I discussed the meaning and importance of the word patience earlier; acceptance is also another very significant word. Having seen a post from fitness specialist and expert Chas Allen on Facebook a couple of days ago with regards accepting who you are, this without a doubt is also so very important when setting goals and coming to terms with things such as returning from injury or a long lay-off.

Personally, I still struggle to this day knowing my body will not let me do what I think I can still do in my mind. This is why I still set myself challenges and, irrespective of whether I do achieve my goals or not, what is sure is that I will always at least try to do what I have said I want to do.

Being a pretty bad asthma sufferer, even more so now I am older, as much as I try, the days of running sub five-minute miles are years behind me, unless of course being towed along by my huskies. Even sub six-minute miles are now a struggle. I really do get so very frustrated by it, but at the same time I use my same frustrations to understand where other athletes are at when going through a bit of a mental crisis when trying to rediscover past fitness and performance levels.

Nevertheless, and one thing which we should all come to terms with is being honest with ourselves when it comes to meeting the level of effort and commitment which we are prepared to put in when it comes to being the very best we can be.

There are so many people out there who have the ability to achieve at a much higher level, but if the demands required to do so do not fit in with their lifestyle or what they really are prepared to commit to, then the likelihood is that they will keep falling short until such a time when they either reset their goals or of course find the time and dedication to fulfil their potential. Or as Chas said to me: “Over stating oneself, leads to two options. Face the promise and demons they may create, or quit.”

With that, perhaps I should now reset my thinking to seven- and eight-minute miles... maybe, that is!

It is not always the very best who reach the top, but it is those who are determined to succeed and drive themselves on when the going really can get tough.

Until next week... happy running, everyone!

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