Neil Featherby: Stepping outside your comfort zone and on to the track

Steph Jones in action at the wildcard event. Picture: Baz Hipwell

Steph Jones in action at the wildcard event. Picture: Baz Hipwell - Credit: Baz Hipwell

I want to start this week’s column with a huge well done to everyone involved in last week’s Athletics Norfolk Track meet at the Sportspark in Norwich, which also included the Sportlink CoolCampers and On SMile quarter finals. 

Amongst all that excitement was the added joy of seeing the super photographs of all those other people who took part in not just the quarter finals, but all the other evening’s events which also included the wildcard mile races which my partner Steph Jones took part in. 

Sportlink SMile event

Action from the wildcard race at the Sportlink SMile event. - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Steph had never run on a track before let alone race, so like any first timer the nerves were pretty high. 

Even to the point where she was going to pull out a couple of days beforehand as whilst I should have been there not only supporting her, but helping out too, one of us had to stay at home with our dogs particularly as one of them is still in recovery after a pretty big operation. 

There was no way I was going to let her pull out though particularly as she had worked pretty hard in training during the last month what with the fear in her mind of being so much slower than everyone else. 

I kept saying don’t worry about it, your race will be graded and just focus on your own run and providing you pace it right, you will be fine and you never know you may just surprise yourself. 

Action from Sportlink SMile event

Action from the first ladies quarter final at the Sportlink SMile event at the Sportspark. - Credit: Baz Hipwell

“What about if I get tripped and fall over then?” being one of the many questions from her as we got ever closer to race day where we did discuss some mini tactics particularly going into the first bend at the start. Oh, and talking of the start, she said: “So it’s four laps of the track then?”  

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She looked particularly puzzled when I replied: “Yes, it is, plus an extra 9.4 metres for which there will be a specific start line.” 

Further questions and indeed doubts were there right up to her leaving home and whilst I could fully understand the nervousness coming from within her, my final words were: “Just go and be the best you can be and enjoy the experience.” 

Apart from her nearly missing the start of her race whilst apparently warming up down the back straight while everyone else was on the start line, she certainly did enjoy what was a super experience of taking part in a track race for the first time and just to add to the occasion she did also won her race in 7:16.  

Sportlink SMile Callum Bowen Jones

Callum Bowen-Jones won his quarter-final at the Sportlink SMile event. - Credit: Baz Hipwell

Whilst Steph and indeed many other first timers and novices will have come away from last Friday’s track meet on a bit of a high, needless to say, I must also mention the more experienced athletes on show who also produced some super performances which will now hopefully set them up for a good season of racing ahead. 

Tonight, will see more racing at the track whereby it is also the semi-finals of the Smile Mile Challenge which really should be something to watch as each and every qualifier will be battling it out for what will be a place in the mixed men’s and woman’s grand final next week. 

Sportlink SMile event

Action from the quarter final of the Sportlink SMile event. - Credit: Baz Hipwell