Neil Featherby: Sometimes a runner must take a step back to go forward

Neil Featherby with his dogs on a run

Exercise and the freedom of running is so very good for man and his dogs. Picture: Baz Hipwell - Credit: Baz Hipwell

So here we are and already three weeks into January although what with the current situation it does somewhat feel like we are in a bit of a time warp. 

As said last week, I have been trying to balance training plans for those I advise around their lifestyle i.e. weighing up those who need to back off a touch due to current outside pressures alongside those who actually need the extra pressure to focus their minds. 

Two of the latter went into last weekend with time trials planned, for which they both came out of them having done well. 

A 35 min 10k for one of them and a 51:05 10 miler for the other. 

They were relatively pleased, but of course being the characters which they are, they thought they should have done better. 

Needless to say, they are correct which made it even more rewarding. 

For me personally, I have spent the last week and a bit going through lots of my old race results and newspaper cuttings. 

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It has been a nice therapeutic way to spend an hour each evening just chilling out reliving lots of good and happy memories. 

So much so it has almost been like going out for one of those runs where you just clear your head and dare I say escape from the outside world for a bit. 

The best bit about it though, is that I have received several messages from people saying how these old reports have also evoked many memories for them too. 

Some from old friends who I haven’t heard from for over 25 years. 

Talking of receiving messages from people, just like last year's lockdown, I have once again received lots of emails and private messages from people all wanting running advice of one kind or another. 

Neil Featherby with his dogs

Running good for mind and body. Picture: Baz Hipwell - Credit: Baz Hipwell

However, and just like last time, most of the messages are for advice on injuries with of course shin splints being at the top of the pile. 

The desperation to continue running for most of them is obvious. 

The trouble is, running through shin splints can be a very painful issue. 

I had two stress fractures years ago (1981) when I first made a real attempt to get back into competitive running again after a long break. 

Through upping my mileage far too quickly it wasn’t too long before that horrible tight soreness in my shins turned into real pain which of course led to the inevitable crash and time out. 

It is quite clear that most of the people I am now hearing from have also upped their mileage far too quickly and are now panicking that they may have to stop. 

“Will a new shoe help” they ask? 

The answer to that is possibly yes, but once you have shins splints especially when it is really painful, new shoes or not, you have to be very careful. 

It really should be a case of completely backing off until they can see a medical professional and just do forms of low impact exercise. 

Or if they must run, then just do a gentle jog on softer surfaces.   

Even then, at the first sign of any pain, stop! 

I know this is not the answer they want to hear and in many cases they will still try to carry on. 

I fully get where they are at as exercise and running is a fix which so many of us all need if just for a bit of time out during the day.   

One of my husky dogs (Luna) has had a slight muscle strain during the last few days for which we have stopped her running. 

She really is down in the dumps and you could say in a bad mood. 

One moment she looks at you with those sad pleading eyes in the hope that you will give in and then when she realises that we won’t back down, the look of contempt is most certainly evident for which you just know she is going to play up for the rest of the day. 

My dogs all need their exercise for mind and body, but just right now for Luna and just as I have told all those people, doing less at this moment in time will lead to more later.   

Neil Featherby with his pack of dogs

Whatever the elements running is a must for Neil Featherby and his pack. Picture: Baz Hipwell - Credit: Baz Hipwell

She is now currently having to make do with a walk each morning and whilst we tell her it is better than nothing, I don’t think she is convinced. 

Finally, I must mention my old mate Peter Duhig who has not only been an awesome athlete, but is most certainly a man of so many talents. 

A year or so ago he released his autobiography for which it really is one of the best I have read. 

He has now released another book, but this time a novel for which I was given the honour of being able to have a read of before it was published. 

I have never been big into novels, but this one had me absorbed from start to finish. It is brilliant and I would not mind betting it could turn into a film or mini tv series in the future. 

It is now out on Amazon and will hopefully be available from other outlets from next month. Tullylease – When Irish Eyes Are Miling.