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Running column: What’s next as Mark Armstrong slowly emerges from the newborn haze?

Mark Armstrong with his medal after the Dereham 10 mile race last Sunday. Picture: Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong with his medal after the Dereham 10 mile race last Sunday. Picture: Mark Armstrong

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Running columnist Mark Armstrong is emerging from his sleep deprived state and is starting to think about his next running goals

So running and newborn babies don’t really mix it seems.

I’ve had to dial back the training recently since the arrival of my son, Logan, and it’s taken a while for the chaotic nature of having a newborn to settle down.

However, there are signs that my wife, Alison, and I might be able to emerge from our sleep deprived cave and find our new normal – whatever that is. I even had time to have a shave this week…

The intervening period hasn’t been great from a training perspective – the odd half hour stolen here and there when the kids are in bed.

My running had lost a bit of direction but was merely about trying to keep my legs ticking over so that when I did get the chance to resume a proper training programme it wouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

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However, I should also admit that the diet hasn’t exactly been that of an elite athlete either recently.

The internet is awash with recipes that ‘take less than 15 minutes to cook’. Apparently you can make a healthy, nutritious meal in the time it takes to get halfway through an episode of Hollyoaks.

Of course, that’s true, but for the past few weeks whacking something in the oven or microwave is about as adventurous it has got in a culinary sense in the Armstrong household.

We generally eat quite healthily usually, apart from the odd takeaway, and recognise the benefits doing that can have on our training. However, that’s had to go out the window recently – convenience has been king.

But as I said, with the help of grandparents, it’s started to settle down allowing me to take stock of where my fitness is.

Mentally, I didn’t feel good due to the weeks of relative inactivity and I worried physically what impact that had had.

Rather than waste too much time fretting I decided at the last minute to enter myself in to the Dereham 10 miler on Sunday.

It was certainly a new experience merely racing without a specific time in mind and at a distance I’ve never raced before. But more importantly it allowed me to see what I’m capable of at the moment, which I could then feed back to Neil Featherby, who will devise me a programme.

My strategy at the Colchester Half Marathon at the end of March, when I was probably at my peak fitness this year, was to run at 7:30 minutes per mile.

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It was a pace that I had got used to running for several months and when the race started on Sunday my legs naturally adopted that pace. However, whether I was going to be able to keep that up for 10 miles after not exactly living the life of a runner was open to question.

The early stages felt really good, and there was a nice atmosphere amongst a really decent field of club runners.

Running at 7:30 pace meant I was going for around a 1:15 finish and once I got to seven miles, going under this time was very much on.

However, miles eight and nine felt particularly tough with a couple of steady hills thrown in that sapped my energy. I had enough in my legs to mount a strong finish and come in, in 1-15:28.

So it appears I’ve lost a bit of endurance but most of the pace built up at the start of the year is there, which is a bit of relief.

I can work with that as I’m targeting a few shorter races over the summer months, which will hopefully set up another decent half marathon in the autumn.

That’s the plan anyway, but if the last few weeks have taught me anything it’s that you have to be flexible in your approach.

Family first, running second – let’s see where it takes me the rest of the year.

n Well done to Dereham Runners AC for organising an excellent event last weekend and I’m already looking forward to racing in it again next year.

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