Mark Armstrong: Light on the horizon for runners who love to race

Mark Armstrong at the Snetterton 10K on Sunday. Picture: Supplied

Mark Armstrong at the Snetterton 10K in 2018 - could a return be on the cards? Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

After I had got my head round the really important stuff around Monday’s ‘road map’ out of lockdown, am I the only one who was trying to work out which races are likely to go ahead now? 

I’ve got so much respect for anyone that has been able to use virtual runs to maintain their motivation but I’m ready to park them, at least for a while. 

I want a proper race to train towards and on the never-ending voyage of self-discovery that running provides it’s pretty clear over the last year that I need them to consistently train well. 

Before Boris Johnson’s announcement I had the chance recently to speak to former England Athletics and Saucony head coach Nick Anderson for the Sportlink podcast and asked him how average Joes like me should be training at the moment. 

He basically said that despite the uncertainty runners should be training as they would in any other year because if you don’t then you might just be playing catch-up. 

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“There is a danger that you've been ticking over for nearly a year,” he said. “You’ve probably spent years working on your physiology to be a good athlete.  

“If you’ve been treading water for a year then my worry for you is you’re going to spend the first six months of unlock trying to go up the mountain again and you’re going to have to get back to where you were. 

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“If you look at Paula Radcliffe, year after year in her career, her running economy improved and she moved up to the marathon and she was a phenomenal success. 

“That wasn’t one year’s worth of marathon work – that was 20 years’ worth of training. I know injuries come and people take time out.  

“(But) I don’t think you should be switching off too much unless you have to. I think you should try and keep your physiology improving all of the time.” 

It made me glad that I did manage to use some of the virtual races put on last year as well as a few actual events. I did still make progress but on the other hand I must confess there has been an element of ‘ticking over’ at the start of this year. 

That’s been through necessity as much as anything. After speaking to my coach, Neil, I didn’t have the headspace to ‘train hard’ when I had so many other plates to spin with home-schooling, work and general lockdown fatigue.  

I needed running to be a stress reliever, not a provider. 

Neil knows that I need to naturally come back to a harder block of training – where I really want to get stuck into it. 

I’m definitely getting there because when the dust settled on Monday’s announcements and I got my head round when my daughter, Lara, can go back to school and when I might be able to see my family again, one of my first thoughts was: ‘Well, the Snetterton 10K is pretty likely to go ahead...’ 

It’s now just under nine weeks before that could potentially take place – and that’s a decent amount of time to get some quality training in. 

Of course, there’s a risk the lockdown goalposts change and races get pushed back again but it’s not as if that training will go to waste. 

It’s time to be positive, take control of my running again and work towards a race. 

Sub 40 minutes 10K here I come... maybe... 

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