Mark Armstrong: Battle for running supremacy is on in Armstrong household

Alison and Mark Armstrong Cambridge Town and Gown 10K

Alison Armstrong and Mark Armstrong after the Cambridge Town & Gown 10K. - Credit: Alison Armstrong

I’m approaching the final two kilometres of the Cambridge Town & Gown 10K. 

It’s hurting... what felt like a cruising pace at the start, fuelled by adrenaline, now feels like a proper effort as the lactic acid begins to take over. 

But this is the time to lean into that ‘good pain’. Concentrate. Distract. It will be over soon.  

Goodness, it feels good to be back racing. 

Except all I can think about is the stream of faster runners going the other way towards the finish line. 

The Town & Gown 10K has a switchback and I’m desperately searching, pleading, for sight of the mark where we turn for the finish line and I can be part of that procession home. 

I pass a girl from Cambridge & Coleridge who was clearly, unfortunately, suffering from a stitch. 

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I feel like a bad person for saying it but any overtake at this stage of the race is energising. 

I put on a small surge to go past her and then I see it... 

There was another reason I wanted to reach the turn... it would also offer the chance to see just how far behind my wife, Alison, is. 

Alison has used my injury interrupted year to make up a lot of ground on me. Track sessions with Wymondham AC coupled with some consistent training has hastened what in truth I knew was inevitable...  

She’s going to be quicker than me... but I’m not ready for that to happen yet. 

I had kept Alison in sight for the first 5K before I decided to overtake her. She let me have some of the water she had picked up from one of the aid stations and we were both having races that were going better than expected. 

I felt good at this stage and I genuinely hoped the sight of me passing her would give her a target to hang on to. 

Mark Armstrong Cambridge Town and Gown 10K

Mark Armstrong at the Cambridge Town & Gown 10K, with Alison not far behind him. - Credit: Cambridge Town and Gown 10K

However, as the race entered the final furlong and the lactic acid was starting to pinch, a thought crossed my mind... ‘Is this the moment she takes her place at the top of the Armstrong running hierarchy?’ 

I can hear Neil saying to me ‘don’t even think about looking behind you’... but I know I can use the switchback as a chance to check on her progress. 

‘Christ she’s about 10 yards behind me...’ 

She was keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure! 

It was what I needed to see. Instead of thinking about how much it hurts, I focused on running as hard as I could. 

The competitor in me was bristling... ‘don’t let anyone overtake you from this point on’. 

A bit more petrol was poured on the fire inside my lungs on a nasty little hill on the route, which is otherwise pancake flat. 

But then there were a couple of other runners I could target and try to pick off. 

As we came into the home straight, I couldn’t hear the clacking of Alison’s carbon-plated shoes and I relaxed a little. 

I was ready for a big sprint finish when suddenly the finish arch appeared from nowhere (note to self: check where the finish line is) and I sprinted all of the last 10 metres to record a time of 40:54. 

I turned round to see Alison finishing strongly, just seven seconds behind me... a huge personal best for her... and notice that I haven’t got much longer keeping up with her unless I can get back to training consistently. 

“I could have overtaken you on the home straight but thought it wasn’t worth a divorce,” she said. 

I couldn’t help but laugh as I slumped over the railings and she skipped off to get her goodie bag. 

So I’ve done what any sane person would do... bought a pair of carbon-plated trainers from Sportlink. 

If you can’t beat them, join them. 

Mark Armstrong Cambridge Town and Gown 10K

Mark Armstrong at the Cambridge Town & Gown 10K - Credit: Cambridge Town and Gown