Mark Armstrong: How you can make your running life easier

Mark Armstrong winter training run

Mark Armstrong on a winter training run. - Credit: Alison Armstrong

I got caught in a typical British run earlier this week. 

As I fumbled with my house key at the start, I started trotting along and the conditions were freezing, but the sun had made an appearance. Perfect. 

Ten minutes later the sun was conspicuous by its absence and then the sleet came... as well as the wind. Not so perfect. 

It was bookended nicely with another bout of sunshine. I loved it. 

I like to lean into that feeling of ‘what am I doing out here?’ 

If you can smile at that question then you’re going to make progress with your running this winter. The harder I work now, base building, the better results I’ll gain next year. 

It’s why it’s so important to set some goals now. I’ve had a few thoughts floating around my head for a couple of months but it’s time to formalise those plans. 

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Without that goal being set then training can become aimless. I want to start putting money in the bank to run a really decent half marathon in spring next year. 

As tempting as it is to sign up for a marathon, I feel like there’s so much work to do at the shorter distances before I tackle another 26.2 miles. 

Discipline. Consistency. Patience. 

They are the three pillars I want to build my running around. If I can stick to those principles then I’m confident I can put a proper dent in my half marathon personal best of just over 1:37 (you’ll have to wait unfortunately before I put my proper time goal out to the world). 

There will be other micro goals along the way – that's the beauty I have found in training for a half marathon – it still feels like you can get some decent speed work in to hopefully improve over the shorter distances.  

That motivation to chase that improvement will ebb and flow over the next three or four months. It’s almost impossible to have the eye of the tiger all of the time – it would be exhausting and when you have to spin as many plates as many of us do then it’s unrealistic. 

But you can stay disciplined. You don’t bother checking what the weather is going to be like for your run, for example. Quite often I have an hour where I can get a run in – I'm going whether it’s hammering down or blazing sunshine. 

There are times when I don’t want to go for a run and I battle with that little voice inside that wants to make my life as easy and comfortable as possible. That voice that looks for excuses not to go... I can’t find any washed kit, I can’t find a pair of socks, who’s moved my gloves again? 

The trick is to make it as easy as you can to get out there, particularly at this time of year. 

Get your kit ready well in advance of your run. If you’re working from home then put your running kit on in the morning. 

Ensure those extra things we need are extremely accessible. Things like hats, gloves and buffs are always available and within reach for us as we head out. 

I’d highly recommend having a little box or a draw near your front door that has all these kinds of items in. If you’re running in the dark then make sure you have a head torch or a chest light and most importantly, keep it charged.  

Winter miles for summer smiles. Set that goal, work towards it – it's cold outside but I’m looking forward to that warm glow of numerous PBs next year. 

Are you with me?