Neil Featherby: The negative comment that spurred me on… so never lose your desire

Team England already leading the way, just two miles into the Aberdeen Marathon Picture: Neil Featherby

Earlier this week I had a long chat with one of the athletes I coach and, whilst he is running very well, it had become apparent during the last couple of weeks that he has been struggling to really stay on top of his motivation.

An England 1-2 -3 at 20 miles with just over six miles to go Picture: Neil Featherby

He, like many other runners, is struggling a little, what with there being no definite green light as yet for when he will be standing on the start line again, ready to race.

Needless to say our chat developed into why, and where our drive comes from, which reminded me of what were some of the biggest driving factors in my running life.

One of these factors, after having had an eight-year lay-off from competitive running, was when visiting my old running club again, where I had declared that I was making a comeback only to hear one of the coaches in the background say, “he will never make a comeback”.

Whilst that, of course, was not my biggest driving factor by a long way, it did help to add further fire to what was at the time lots of enthusiasm. Incidentally, I have never ever held a grudge over what I heard him say as, in truth and looking back, I can see why he thought that at the time.

Still very proud of that first England vest and Team Winners Trophy Picture: Neil Featherby

Whilst I am sure many others also thought I was a little deluded, I was still hell bent on becoming good enough to win at least one England vest, having seen that back then that if you could run under two hours 20 minutes for a marathon, there was a good chance you would get one.

I carried the visualisation of running in a vest with the red rose of England on it for thousands of training miles and then, when the day came when I got the call to say I had been selected to run for England in the Aberdeen Marathon in a home countries international, it is a memory which I will never ever forget.

That was all of 34 years ago – and the race anniversary is this coming weekend. It really does seem like yesterday. I was 28 at the time, so it doesn’t take a lot to work out how old I am now, but being able to look back on this and so many other awesome memories are what gives me so much satisfaction all these years later.

I know I have mentioned all this before and for those who have heard the story no doubt several times, then I apologise. However, the point I am making is to all those who have running aspirations and ambitions, never lose sight of the desire in achieving those goals.

Even during times like the present day, when it is indeed very hard to see where the light at the end of the tunnel is coming from, stay with your dreams, because if you really want it badly enough, it will be that inner strength, drive and belief which will eventually see those same dreams come true.

As for the Aberdeen Marathon itself, there really was no better feeling than putting my kit on prior to leaving the hotel for the start of the race and then warming up at the front of the large race field with the other guys who were all deemed to be elite athletes.

The first 10k or so went around and through the centre of Aberdeen before heading out and away from the city, whilst climbing some pretty steep hills, to say the least. Needless to say it was also blowing a gale – at one point sand was blowing up from the beach all the way up to the road and into our faces.

Apart from the deafening sound of the wind when up on the high ground, the only other sounds were that of the pipers who were playing the bagpipes at the top of each climb – I am sure it was much harder for them than us with the blustery conditions.

By 20 miles it was down to an England one, two, three, where I thought we were probably all going to cruise in together. Then, at 21 miles, Ray Maule, a 2:15 man, took off. I looked at Kevin Best, who also had an awesome PB of 2:16, and said “we better chase him”.

I did my best, but he was away and won the race in 2:22 which, considering the course and conditions, was an excellent time. I was second, exactly one minute behind him and Kevin finished third, a further one minute behind me.

We also took sixth place with Alan Rich who, I think it is fair to say, did not have his best of days, but I am sure, he, like me and the others, still look back on the race with some really fond memories.

Keep on running and definitely keep on dreaming of all your goals and challenges ahead.

Neil Featherby's Friday EDP Feature



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