Neil Featherby: Time to turn back the clock – and run with the pack

Out and about filming with Neil Featherby and his dogs running through the countryside near to his home Picture: Lee Blanchflower.

It’s been a bit of a strange, but busy, week in what I call my world of running, having met up and chatted with a few long-time running friends, discussed another personal running challenge which I would like to take on during the next few weeks and even put the finishing touches to a short running film with my dogs.

Out and about filming with Neil Featherby and his dogs running through the countryside near to his home Picture: Lee Blanchflower.

As a sport, there is still more talk about what might actually take place than anything actually happening as yet, which does make it difficult for all those who are trying to keep their minds focused on their training for what they hope will be some racing before the end of the year.

This is why I was so pleased to hear and then mention in my column last week that Athletics Norfolk are planning to go ahead with some real “official” athletics here again in the county, starting next month, albeit behind closed doors initially.

Local triathlete Joe Skipper also put on two training races (with limited numbers) over 5,000 metres on Wednesday night and whilst they were not official races, he organised the events as if they were, which certainly made for a bit more excitement than just the usual training session.

While he didn’t hit his own personal target time of a sub-15 minutes clocking, he did win his race and still produce a PB of 15:08, which made it all worthwhile, during a year void of live competitive action and particularly so for someone whose main event is the Ironman Triathlon. Talking to Joe at length afterwards about where he felt he may have fallen short, it really was quite clear that his immediate attentions during the next few weeks when it comes to running is now focusing his training towards achieving his goal, so most definitely watch this space. Oh, and I should just mention, that this paper’s Mark Armstrong also took part and once again broke the 20-minute barrier with a 19:51 finishing time.

The English Schools Athletics Championships programme Picture: Neil Featherby

From what I can make out, it looks like the organisers of the London Marathon, scheduled for October 4, will make a final decision next week as to whether to go ahead or not. With all the other marathon majors cancelled I do hope they do, but if the rumours are true that it will be for the elite only, it would be good to know what elite does actually mean – sub-2:10 or slower so as to accommodate some of the better class club runners too. I have also heard it mentioned that it might be over a course of 2k consisting of 21 laps. If true, then whilst it seems it will have to be a fairly small field, it could also make for a very fast time.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, I have met up with a number of old running friends this week, including Brendon Byrne and his wife. We discussed everything athletics going right back to Brendon’s early days of competing when he was a pretty formidable schoolboy athlete during the 1960s. He was even more surprised when I produced some old Athletics Weeklys from that era, which included race results, with him mentioned and an old English Schools Athletics Championships programme from 1964 lent to me by my next door neighbour Chris Ling who was also a leading county schoolboy athlete back then. It really was nice seeing Brendon’s face as he flicked through the pages whilst reminiscing not only about his early running days, but also talking about other names in the magazines who went on to achieve major success in our sport.

Another old friend I have spent a lot of time talking to during the last few days is Paul Evans, who needs no introduction to those who follow running closely. For a while now we have been chatting about doing a challenge together to raise some awareness and hopefully fund-raise for our chosen charities. It had always been planned that we would run Hadrian’s Wall, which of course I have done twice before, but we are now thinking about doing something closer to home with some other friends whilst also doing plenty of reminiscing ourselves. Needless to say I will clarify exactly what we will be doing before too long.

Lastly for this week, a couple of years ago, local photographer and film maker Lee Blanchflower approached me about making a short running film with my dogs. Of course, I was more than happy to agree and then just left it with Lee to make contact with me when he was ready. Well, he did during lockdown which has culminated with him coming to my house early mornings during the last month whilst also following me and my dogs with his cameras and drone as we run around the countryside and woodland close to where I live in Felthorpe. I think it is fair to say that the shape of the film has changed its format somewhat a few times during the filming, but only due to Lee being very artistic and also being a bit of a runner himself. However, what I do know is that it will also portray just how running is so very much more than just a sport.

Neil Featherby's Friday EDP Feature


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