My old editor David Powles said something that resonated on Sunday in that arriving for a race is like going to an airport to catch a flight; no matter how early you are, you always feel in a bit of a rush.

This was certainly the case at the Cambridge Half Marathon when I went from having plenty of time before the start until, suddenly, we didn’t.

My wife, Alison, and I had around 15 minutes to warm-up and go to the toilet; anyone that has participated in the Cambridge Half Marathon will tell you that’s going to be cutting it very fine given how long the queues are for the portaloos.

In the hurly burley of runners all around you, it’s quite easy to lose the ability to properly assess all your options.

‘I’m going to run back to Starbucks,’ Alison said.

And we were off…

Setting off at a speed that was probably not far off the pace we wanted to start the race at I said… ‘Well, at least we’re getting our warm-up in as well!’

It turned out to be one of the best decisions we made all day and one that I’m very grateful to Alison that I was able to benefit from (and no, we didn’t buy a coffee… we’d already had one earlier).

Fortunately, we made it back in plenty of time before our wave was due to start.

Alison and I said our goodbyes on the start line but given both our levels of fitness I knew that we were rather likely to see each other again out on the course.

As I crossed the starting line I told myself not to get caught up in any weaving and just accept that this is a race that’s congested in the early stages.

It was only after the first kilometre that I began to settle.

I glanced down at my watch which suggested I was travelling at 4:07 minutes per kilometre pace - this was about where I wanted to pitch things at the start.

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As the early kilometres clipped by though that number continually came down and the little voice that tries to keep me safe was saying ‘are you sure about this?’

But I’ve made a decision in the last couple of races to be bold.

My running fitness is the best it has ever been and I don’t want to let some of the scars from previous races, notably marathons, hold me back. These times aren’t going to tumble down forever; I want to be able to tell me grandkids that I was a half decent runner back in the day and have some time-based evidence to prove it.

So my pace settled at round 5K at the 4:00-minute per kilometre mark. Rather than being intimidated by that I told myself; ‘that’s the pace today - let’s see if we can hold it.’

There is a section quite early on that goes through some of the university colleges, which is quite picturesque. However, this is completely lost on me given that I spent most of the time trying to negotiate the shingle we were running through - not ideal terrain if you’re trying to maintain some sort of pace.

However, upon returning to the tarmac, I felt really good and could see two Wymondham AC club-mates, both of whom are traditionally faster than me, up ahead. One of them was Gareth Seville, the other was Alison!

I was gradually reeling them in until it got to a point where I had a decision to make.

‘Don’t overthink it, Mark, and run your own race.’

So I passed them (be bold and all that…).

I was acutely aware that this might bite me on the backside later in the race and I’d have to be braced for the inevitable banter afterwards.

We started to come out of Cambridge after the seventh mile and it felt like a time when this was where the race was really starting. The crowds had thinned out, there wasn’t a great deal to look at but I was managing to maintain pace and it was still feeling at the comfortable end of uncomfortable.

It was at around the 10-mile mark where there was a marked difference in how much discomfort I was feeling and that wasn’t just because I had copped a full cup of water over my back from a runner behind me at a water station.

But it was at 11.5 miles that I grew aware that my left calf was starting to feel a little tight. I knew I was on for a good time but, for all manner of reasons, I couldn’t afford for it to ‘go’ on me.

By 12 miles it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to pick up the pace for any kind of grandstand finish due to this. At best I could maintain and hope it held itself together.

Gareth and Alison gently advanced past me at this point - order had been restored. Alison asked if I was okay and I told her to stick with Gareth, who was impressively picking off runners ahead (both went on to register PBs).

I wasn’t taking any step for granted by this point and knew that if I pushed too hard then I risked undoing a lot of the good work that had gone on before.

I looked at my watch coming down the home straight and realised it was going to be close whether I could dip under 1:25 but I just couldn’t risk putting a sprint on with the marathon in six weeks.

I crossed the line in 1:25:03 - a time that I never would have believed I could produce a couple of years ago.

I’ve found this training block so far this year really difficult at times with what feels like my body fighting against me at times.

But it’s days like Sunday that really do make it all worthwhile.

The days where you worry about whether you should go for that run, how hard to push it and not wanting to let any friends down that you’ve arranged to go for a run with.

The exhaustive nature of whether my body will allow me to do what I want it to do can take its toll at times - I wonder if others feel the same.

I’m so grateful to it; there just needs to be some careful negotiations in the weeks ahead before the Manchester Marathon so I arrive there fresh and ready to deliver again.