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Running column: It’s getting tough but Mark Armstrong is keeping his motivation...just

Mark Armstrong during the Robin Hood Marathon in 2017. Picture: Robin Hood Marathon

Mark Armstrong during the Robin Hood Marathon in 2017. Picture: Robin Hood Marathon

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With the Cambridge Half Marathon just over three weeks away, MARK ARMSTRONG is finding the training tough...

Picture the scene last Sunday…

I’m a couple of miles into my long run.

I’ve left my warm house where my wife and daughter were still tucked up in bed as you would probably expect on a weekend.

My aching limbs are still coming to terms with the effort sessions undertaken during the week.

Then comes the sleet…

‘What am I doing…?’ – I said to nobody in particular…

I had eight miles left to run and there was part of me that just wanted to turn round and go home.

Only an innate stubbornness and worry I wouldn’t be able to justify this training block with a decent run at the Cambridge Half Marathon next month prevented me from doing so.

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Eight miles…child’s play compared to the mileage I was doing in training for a marathon last year. But let’s face it, it’s still a long way to go if you’re not feeling it.

I concentrated on the programme and the repetitions Neil Featherby wanted me to run to and gradually the negativity started to subside.

Neil wanted me to go ‘slightly quicker’ than what I think my half marathon pace is going to be for a couple of miles and this focus helped eradicate some of those lazy demons that would have preferred me to watch Match of the Day on Sunday morning (I’m too old to watch it on Saturday night now…)

The structured program had got me out of a spot – it made me accountable. I always message Neil my splits after every long run so he can see what progress I’m making. If I throw in a sluggish mile here and there then he’s going to know about it.

After he’s gone to the effort of devising a schedule for me then the least I can do is follow it as best I can.

We’re getting to crunch time in the run up to Cambridge now. As I mentioned last week, the increase in intensity to my training and the longer runs has seen a few old niggles flare up.

I can’t afford to pull anything now with my main race just over three weeks away.

Any chance I’ve got of achieving a personal best rests on not tweaking anything or perhaps more importantly, stubbing anything. Readers may remember last year when I broke my toe trying to get my daughter to the toilet…I need to keep the clumsiness on the down low.

I’ve made my peace with the fact I’m a runner that’s always got something that aches or feels inflamed. But I’ve learned to work around this – there’s always an exercise or a stretch that can help you unless you let a problem become chronic. It’s so important not to ignore the signs that your body is starting to struggle. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is skip a run but your body might just thank you for it in the long run (pun intended).

MORE: Don’t underestimate what it takes to run a marathon, says Neil Featherby

It’s the big one this weekend with 14 miles planned on Sunday (no sleet this time, please).

It will be the first time this year I experiment with fuelling during a run as I haven’t needed to so far. However, I will be working harder during the race at Cambridge and will need something – it might be time to break out the mini cheddars again…we’ll see.

I’m still adamant I won’t let an energy gel pass my lips ever again after the Edinburgh Marathon last year but I need to find some decent alternatives that are easy to stomach whilst giving me the boost I need.

So it’s one more proper long run before the taper begins. Whilst that may give my 35-year-old legs something of a breather, I know my mind will start going into overdrive.

But we’ll leave that for next week…

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