Neil Featherby: Who is really calling the tune in debate over trainers?









Following on from my column last week, I read in a national newspaper that the controversial Nike Vaporfly shoes are not to be banned when World Athletics makes its final decision at the end of this week.

Mandy Foyster in action at the Spine Race. Picture: Mandy Foyster

However, it is apparently expected to announce there will be a temporary suspension of any new shoe technology until after the Tokyo Olympics this year along with a thorough research project into examining just how advantageous these shoes are along with that of other rival brands at elite level.

I have now tried out three pairs from the rival brands as well as seeing tech sheets from a couple of others for which I really cannot see how they are technically any better in terms of improved performance than that of the Vaporfly albeit I do believe that at least one of them is far better when it comes to all round improvements i.e. more stable with potentially less reduction in breakdown and possible cause of injury.

If what I have read is true, then I really am left scratching my bald head as to how it is okay for one of the World's leading manufacturers to still be able to produce and sell a product whereas others now seem restricted.

Even more so if I have indeed read the newspaper report correctly which suggests that whilst Nike's next version the AlphaFly, which Eliud Kipchoge wore for his sub two-hour performance and apparently gives an 8% advantage is only banned at elite level, whereas there will be no restrictions on ordinary athletes wearing them in races when they are released in the shops.

Mandy Foyster came to Sportlink earlier this week after recently completing the Spine Race. Picture: Neil Featherby

However, what actually constitutes elite level i.e. sub 2:10 or slower or indeed quicker?

Whilst I may be well off the mark here, but is this not hypocrisy in our sport because if it is then for me it perhaps begs the question as to whether this is a case of he who pays the piper calls the tune? Apparently, senior officials are unclear as to the rule which says "shoes must not be constructed so as to give athletes an unfair assistance or advantage".

Irrespective of whether you are for or against this type of future shoe technology, what most certainly does not seem fair to me is that whilst one manufacturer is allowed to continue with production of their current questionable products, there is a restriction against all others.

Moving on... I want to give a special mention to Mandy Foyster. She really is an amazing lady and whilst I have been lucky enough to know her and her mum Peggy for the last 30 years or more (incidentally Peggy was also a marathon runner right into her 70s), I was so pleased to catch up with her earlier this week at Sportlink armed with her medal from her most recent amazing challenge, the Spine Marathon which I am sure just about everyone in local running followed.

If you want to be motivated then just following her and reading about all her past, current and of course no doubt future exploits will certainly do that for you.

However, if you want to be really inspired, then just spend a bit of time in her company as I can assure you that her huge enthusiasm for running and indeed life will definitely rub off on you.

It was in 2011 when Mandy really took on her first major solo challenge of running from her home in St Faiths all the way to London before then running in the London Marathon and I hasten to add with a stress fracture.

Then two years later she cycled all the way from Lands End to John O'Groats whilst following a much more scenic and of course longer route than what most others would take when taking on this challenge and in pretty bad weather too.

She immediately followed this up one week later by running in the London marathon before having a go at snorkeling 24 hours later. Needless to say there is a story behind this too which of course relates to that of all her challenges and that being raising lots of money for charity.

In 2014 she decided to row the 75 miles of all of Norfolk's rivers including going across Breydon Water in her inflatable dingy better known as HMS Loopy, before following that epic adventure up with a 500-mile run a year later running from St David's Head to Lowestoft.

No sooner had she finished that challenge though and her feet once again started to get itchy for which her thoughts soon turned to what was to be the planning of the perfect way for her to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Not the usual party of course like most others would have, as for her it meant a run up and down Mount Snowdon, Scaffel Pike and Ben Nevis where she actually spent the night so as to wake up on Britain's highest mountain on the morning of her birthday.

To make it just that bit more difficult of course, she also took part in a Catton parkrun before heading off on her push bike to complete this challenge. Needless to say she cycled all the way back too whilst covering a total of 1,500 miles. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention that she also took part in another parkrun prior to heading home.

She really is such a special person and for anyone who may have decided that 2020 was the year for them to also take on a challenge themselves, but are already looking for a bit of a boost as we head out of January, then definitely check out this lady. I guarantee that you won't be disappointed and to the point where possibly it is even better than having a pair carbon plated running shoes on your feet.

However, what better way to finish my column this week than signing off with these words from Mandy. "Running is like pure oxygen to me. I can survive on more, but when I run I feel I can cope with the demands of life so much easier. It has also given me the most fantastic circle of friends and whilst I could write 100 other good reasons why I love running which includes my love of nature and the changing seasons, I guess it is just that when I feel my mind and body is working in harmony together, then everything else follows naturally."

Neil Featherby's EDP FEATURE