Neil Featherby: Looking for inspiration at this time of year?

Sportlink's Neil Featherby says it's important to stay motivated at this time of year. Picture: Archant

What with all the early season races now out of the way, particularly those which were used in the run-up to marathons like London, Brighton, Manchester, Edinburgh or Bungay, it can be hard for the road runner to find motivation at this time of year.

I have always called this period Pimms and Lemonade months when perhaps people’s thoughts start to turn towards holidays, watching a bit of cricket, Wimbledon, or of course this year’s World Athletics Championships in London.

However, there is still plenty of running and racing to do especially with the autumn round of half and full marathons just a few weeks away.

Now whilst it can be hard going when it is so warm or indeed even stifling as it has been these last few days you perhaps just need that little bit of extra motivation to get going.

I was asked very recently in Sportlink by a well-known running couple, Simon and Deborah English, after they had both won their races earlier that morning as to how did I always keep my enthusiasm towards running 100 plus miles every single week of the year.

Needless to say my answer was that I wasn’t always motivated to get out and run 20 miles or more every day irrespective of the time of year, but what I did do was have a collection of brilliant videos which documented the lives of Sebastian Coe (Born to Run) along with Steve Ovett and Steve Cram which were all featured at one time or another during the 1980s.

I told them to go check them out with a lot of other great stuff which you can now see on Youtube and if that doesn’t inspire you to run, then I don’t know what will.

Later that evening I received an email from Simon saying: “Just watched it – awesome!”

On Monday night I decided to do a treadmill session for which I put Youtube on the display and whilst going through some of the great classics, my real attention was tuned in to two races which both have to be considered amongst some of the best finishes ever to big time races.

The Boston Marathon 1982 between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley and The Great North Run 2013 between Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah.

Even for an old plodder like me, I could feel my energy levels rise whilst the hairs stood up on the back of my neck (none on my head) whereby my stride and pace increased with absolute ease.

Most amazingly I also noticed that my heart rate dropped by several beats as I cruised along watching these athletes at the very top of their game and all with two things in common…talent for one, but secondly the motivation to give absolutely 100pc when required.

Awesome and out of this world are most definitely the best words to describe athletes of this calibre, but I wonder if they ever had to go looking for inspiration?


BenFred: Cardinals might benefit from minor league inspiration

LEADING OFF: Mets' Harvey returns; Cards go for 7th in a row

Whether you place the blame on the general manager, the manager, the players or a combination of the three, anyone who has watched Cardinals baseball this season can agree on this: It’s not working.

The Cardinals are 31-37 and fourth in the National League Central entering a greuling and defining stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

GM John Mozeliak has shaken up manager Mike Matheny’s staff a bit and churned the roster some, but before he considers putting a for sale sign in the yard — a real possibility, he acknowledged during a candid press conference earlier this month — he must exhaust his attempts to bring this often-lackadaisical club to life.

One potential option? Inject some youth.

Here are four minor leaguers who might provide some oomph in St. Louis.

One already has.



St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox
Magneuris Sierra, during the May 17 game against the Red Sox. Photo by Chris Lee,

All Sierra did during his eight-game body of work in the majors was get at least one hit in every game and reach first base safely 43 percent of the time. The Cardinals went 6-2 in the games he played in. These days, Sierra, who was shipped out June 4, is in the midst of a seven-game hit streak at Class AA Springfield. He’s 13-for-26 with three doubles, a triple and an inside-the-park home run during the stretch. The 21-year-old’s game is still growing, but he never looked overwhelmed at the major league level. In fact the Cardinals seemed to feed off his speed, energy and excitement.



St. Louis Cardinals spring training
Luke Weaver pitches at Cardinals spring training in February. Photo by Chris Lee,

Luke Weaver is 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA in nine starts (46.1 innings) at Class AAA Memphis. He’s averaging 10 strikeouts and fewer than two walks per nine innings. The 23-year-old righthander has K’d 28 percent of the batters he’s faced. He’s induced groundouts from 18 percent. Of the 37 hits he has allowed, only seven (four doubles, three home runs) have gone for extra bases.

The big question with Weaver is his back. It bothered him during spring training and flared up this season. If he’s healthy, he could help fortify a rotation that is looking wobbly due to the recent struggles of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. Weaver was sped through the system to help last year’s Cardinals, and some wrote him off due to a 1-4 record and his 5.70 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance. That’s silly. He should be better suited for another shot. But if Weaver’s back is holding him back, there’s another Memphis pitcher in the mix.



Jack Flaherty
Cardinals minor-league pitcher Jack Flaherty. (Jeremy Davis photo for

Flaherty surrendered two homers and three earned runs in 5.2 innings in Class AAA Memphis’ 5-4 win against Round Rock on Monday night. It was the second start in a row in which the righthander was touched for two home runs. But Flaherty still has a 3.04 ERA in four Class AAA starts (23.2 innings), and he completely baffled opponents at Class AA to start the season, cruising to a 7-2 record and a 1.42 ERA in 10 starts (63.1 innings) there. In Memphis, Flaherty has averaged 11.5 strikeouts and two walks per nine innings. The 21-year-old righthander should be intriguing to a team that is concerned about its starting rotation’s recent struggles.



Luke Voit
Memphis Redbirds first baseman Luke Voit. (Mark Harrell photo / Springfield Cardinals)

There is power in his bat, but he only plays first base, meaning it’s going to be hard for him to find at-bats in the majors. No, we are not talking about Matt Adams. This time, it’s Luke Voit, the Class AAA first baseman who just keeps slugging. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Wildwood native and Missouri State product now boasts a .396 on-base percentage and a .560 slugging percentage through 66 games with the Redbirds. The former 22nd-round draft pick has crushed 12 homers and 21 doubles this season, somehow rumbling to one triple along the way. Voit’s strikeout percentage (18.2) isn’t ideal, but it’s not horrid. And he’s taken 25 walks to his 50 K’s. His power surge hasn’t come with a diminished average (.315).

Why Voit here instead of prized catching prospect Carson Kelly or up-and-coming outfielder Harrison Bader? Here’s one reason: He’s 26. Unlike Bader (23) and Kelly (22), there isn’t really a downside to the righthanded hitting Voit awaiting spot starts and pinch-hit, home-run opportunities in St. Louis instead of playing every day in Memphis. He’s not Chad Huffman old (32), but at this point he is what he is.

The Cardinals have to be kicking themselves now that Adams is raking in Atlanta. That kind of power could be used here. Isn’t it worth seeing if Voit’s might translate?

Of course, there is only so much room on the roster. Changes would have to be made to give any of these kids a shot. That shouldn’t be much of a hindrance these days. There aren’t many Cardinals the club can’t survive without. A shot in the arm might be the reward.

Why not shake things up a bit and add some new blood before the All-Star break? The Cardinals need to know what they have and what they are by then.


Women Lumberjacks Leave Behind Sawdust and Inspiration

Story image for Inspiration from TWC News

CHERRY VALLEY, N.Y. — Some of the country’s best lumberjacks were in Cherry Valley this weekend for the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series.

While the sport is usually associated with men, “lumberjills” like Erin LaVoie hope more women will give it a chance.

“It’s years really of training, getting your get together, you know, all of the help from everybody,” said LaVoie, 3rd place in the women’s division championship. “It’s really a lot that goes into just that 20 or 30 seconds of an event of just smashing into the wood.”