Mark Armstrong: Celebrate the little wins to kickstart your year

Mark Armstrong and wife, Alison, after completing the Bournemouth Half Marathon. Picture: Mark Armst

Happier times - Mark Armstrong and wife, Alison, after completing the Bournemouth Half Marathon in 2018. Picture: Mark Armstrong

It’s safe to say that it’s not been the start to the year we wanted. 

I’ll try not to be the master of the understatement but these next few months at least are going to be hard for many people. 

Running can feel irrelevant in those circumstances – an added stress that I could do without, frankly. 

I’ve always felt very driven to improve as a runner but I had a chat with my wife, Alison, this week about being kind to ourselves. 

My training (and hers) has very much taken a backseat given the change in circumstances. Everyone needs time to adapt and with the schools off for the foreseeable future a new routine needs to be found... one which involves my daughter Lara’s education taking the top spot in the list of priorities. Bring on times tables, split digraphs and SPAG (Spelling, punctuation and grammar... you knew that though...) 

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It’s a huge undertaking and overwhelming at times if I’m honest. I’m grateful to have the support of Lara’s school and her teachers who are doing a great job in trying circumstances. Giving Lara the support that she needs (and providing copious snacks) as well as Alison and I, fitting in our full time jobs is, what can be politely described as ‘a challenge’ - one I know that many parents are battling with. It’s a challenge that I’m extremely grateful to have given the effect the pandemic is having on so many people’s lives. 

So I’ve fit in a run here and there this week to keep ticking over but I’m yet to discover when those windows of opportunity for a run are going to appear. It seems very early in the morning or evening are the best bets – sigh. 

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But I know how important it is that I get back to training consistently. It makes me feel so much better about myself and confident in other areas of my life, so much so that I might even be able to ‘teach’ Lara maths (journalists aren’t normally good with numbers – that's why I’m rubbish at pacing).  

I will train consistently again and I’ll make sure that I celebrate the little victories. Having my kit washed and ready to go, doing some strength and conditioning in front of the TV, getting those five miles in before work, just getting out the door – they're the wins we all need at the moment because they will add up into something greater in the future. 

Before the latest lockdown was announced I did the Virtual Wymondham AC 10K and felt like I was able to cash in a decent period of training in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  

I kept training very light over the festive period eating and drinking pretty much whatever I felt like (if you can’t at Christmas then when can you!?) 

But feeling a little bit bloated by all the food and drink I wanted to do a benchmark 10K to see where I am heading into 2021. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to the virtual event being on but I didn’t really want to do it because I knew it would hurt! 

I thoroughly enjoyed it and given how Christmas had gone I ran a little within myself to start with before putting the hammer down in the second half. I managed to set a new personal best of 40:27, which I’m delighted with.   

Alison then went on to get a PB herself and we were both in such a good mood for the rest of the day. 

That euphoric feeling is why we both run – and it’s one to cherish at the moment – we even had a few glasses of wine in the evening to celebrate!  

I’ll be chasing that feeling again in good time under Neil Featherby’s guidance – it will come but patience is needed. Fitting in running around the extra demands on my time has to be navigated but if it’s something I want to do then I will. 

Let’s all keep following the rules and there will come a time again when our biggest problem is when I’m going to fit my runs in. 

Until that time I’m just going to keep safe, keep running and keep teaching maths... 

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