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Running column: Mark Armstrong on why pulling out a race is sometimes the only sensible thing to do

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

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Running columnist Mark Armstrong explains why he had to pull out of the Cambridge Half Marathon at the last minute

This week’s column was supposed to be a nice race recap of the Cambridge Half Marathon…

I’m afraid you’re not going to get that as the race didn’t happen for me.

You might expect that it was down to the dreaded Beast from the East making it impossible for me to attend the event.

It wasn’t.

Most of Friday and Saturday was spent feverishly refreshing the social media channels of the event organisers looking for any update if the race was going ahead in spite of the freezing conditions.

Despite some runners being seemingly apoplectic the organisers were even thinking of running the event, it became clear by Saturday afternoon that it was a goer.

With my wife 35 weeks pregnant the plan was for me to shoot down, get the race done, and get back as quickly as I could.

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Then my stomach started to feel ‘uneasy’. I put it down to perhaps trying to ‘carb up’ a bit too much on Saturday lunchtime along with a few race nerves.

I still wasn’t right by the evening and I went to bed hoping that I would wake up and feel okay. However, a nagging discomfort remained when the alarm sounded.

I put my kit on, quiet as a mouse to try and not wake my four-year-old daughter (I failed), still having the intention of going to the race.

I sat in the darkness of my lounge, drinking tea, hoping my stomach was at some point going to settle.

The main reason for doing Cambridge was to set a new personal best and try and better the 1:48 I did at Royal Parks last year.

Training had gone well and I knew that if I got my pace right then I would beat this easily. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant – training has just gone that well.

However, I knew if this pain in my stomach didn’t go away (along with a few other ailments which, shall we say, would prove dehydrating) then a new PB was absolutely out of the question.

So I asked myself…what’s the point?

I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours trundling around Cambridge to get a race in. I could make myself quite ill – don’t trust anyone who says ‘it’s only a half’ – it’s still a long way, particularly if you’re not feeling right.

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I knew I had to put that competitive, stubborn element in me to one side. With a new baby on the way, I can’t afford to take any risks with my health and that selfish streak, which you have as a runner, needs to be kept in check.

This didn’t stop me spending most of Sunday in bed feeling sorry for myself and envious of people posting details of their races on social media.

Only spending most of the day in bed watching the Big Bang Theory on Netflix rescued the day.

There’s always another race…and I booked the Colchester Marathon as a bit of a fall-back in case Cambridge didn’t work out…lucky eh?

So that’s now the focus although training has taken a bit of a hit as it has taken far longer than I expected to recover from whatever is going on in my stomach.

I’m still in decent shape (for me) and I’m hoping by this week I’m in a position to just keep myself ticking along in the hope that I can make the start line at Colchester.

If baby puts in an early appearance then I’m going to have to make my peace with potentially missing another race because sometimes, only sometimes, there are things more important than running.

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