Running column: Mark Armstrong is playing the long game in his road to Manchester

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 - Credit: Archant

Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong has set the date... now it's time to plot the path to the Greater Manchester Marathon

It's already started.

It's just under six months before I toe the start line of the Manchester Marathon (hopefully) and it's already taking up a lot of my thinking.

I quite like that…it stops me worrying about other non-running things! Well, it's better than worrying about Brexit isn't it?

But it seems absurd that I'm spending so much time preparing for a morning's running that's 142 days away. Having said that it will probably be one of the most defining things I do next year…I want to get it right.

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I got a 'no' for a charity place for the London Marathon meaning that I'm now putting all my energies into preparing for Manchester, which I booked earlier this year.

I've even booked a hotel for the night before, which is right by Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. This sits very uncomfortably with me as a Liverpool fan but it turns out convenience trumps any sense of being disloyal (plus I'm not really that pathetic).

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereWhilst I need to take my running on a week to week basis due to these problematic calves of mine, it's important to get a training and race plan together, particularly now I know the date I'm working towards (Sunday, April 7).

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I sent Neil Featherby a slightly frazzled email about how I wanted to get in more longer runs in my next training block to get my levels of endurance to where they need to be.

In my previous marathons it is those last six to eight miles that has seen the wheels come off. It's a bit of a cliché but it certainly rings true for me – the halfway point for a marathon is 20 miles. From then on it gets a bit scary and it's very easy to lose control, both physically and mentally.

I've only ever got up to 20 miles in training but this time I've said that I want to go beyond that to try and mimic running with that chronic sense of fatigue I'll have on race day. That point when everything aches to the point of exhaustion… it really is good fun – honestly.

When I put this to Neil he completely agreed…

'Absolutely, but this is only applicable if you have been able to build the training up to cope with the demands of running such distances in training. In truth if you can't then in truth should be running/racing 26.2 miles?'

It was that question Neil posed at the end that really got me thinking.

The truth is I don't know if I'm going to be able to cope with those demands…

Neil is absolutely right of course. I know what will happen if I don't get those longer runs in – I will struggle in those last few miles and undermine what I want to do.

MORE: Finding a new training regimeIf I can't significantly improve on the 4:28 I did at Nottingham in 2017 then I would be really disappointed.

But who can honestly say they know what circumstances will be thrown up during a six-month period?

My eight-month-old son, Logan, might even sleep through the night by then…perhaps I'm dreaming.

All I can do is make a plan and commit to it, as much as my general day-to-day life allows.

There will be bumps in the road – the kids will get ill, I'll have a bad day at work, I won't get enough sleep – these are the types of things that every marathon trainer has to cope with. But when you come through that grind you get a sense of achievement from making the start line.

As long as I stay clear of injury, I will make the start. Whether I get the result I want is a different matter but I will be doing my damndest to make Manchester the year I go under four hours… or better.

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