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Running column: The art of pacing and Mark Armstrong’s brush with a former elite runner

Mark Armstrong during a session on the Field of Pain. Picture: Neil Featherby

Mark Armstrong during a session on the Field of Pain. Picture: Neil Featherby

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Perfect pacing makes for perfect racing...as running columnist Mark Armstrong is hoping to find out

It’s not often you get to train with one of this country’s finest distance runners.

So when it was arranged for Paul Evans to take a training session at one of Neil Featherby’s notorious ‘Field of Pain’ sessions in Felthorpe last week it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.

Paul is a running legend in these parts.

He competed in two Olympic finals, two world championships and held 13 British titles at 10,000m and half marathon distances. Oh, and he also won the Chicago Marathon and came second at the New York Marathon during his career.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group here

More important than that, he’s one of the most down-to-earth guys you could ever wish to meet.

He’s only too happy to pass on the wealth of knowledge he’s accrued so if you get the chance to train with him then you don’t pass it up.

The session was around getting your pace right which, even after a few years of running now, I still struggle with.

We were doing 400m repetitions around three different paces – 5K, 10K and half marathon.

It was the kind of session that didn’t leave you completely exhausted at the end but I certainly knew I’d done a workout.

Pacing is still the one aspect of running that I continually get wrong. I dread getting to the end of a race feeling that I could have given it a little bit more but that often means that I don’t finish a race as strongly as I could.

My wife, Alison, is the polar opposite and doesn’t ever completely deplete herself, meaning our post race photos are normally her looking fresh as a daisy alongside me barely able to raise a smile…

If you put our qualities together you would have a half decent runner!

The last few weeks have been about finding my 5K pace as I look to go under 20 minutes but, whilst this is still very much a goal of mine, I’m acutely aware that Run Norwich 10K is only a little over three weeks away.

The training won’t change too much from what I’ve been doing but it’s important I get my head round running a 10K again and be more disciplined in my approach to the early part of the race.

MORE: Exercise patience in pursuit of your goals, says Mark Armstrong

You can tell yourself as much as you like that you’re not going to go off too fast but it’s very easy to get caught up in all the excitement and go off too quickly.

This is particularly a danger at Run Norwich when the days leading up the race culminate in a huge buzz on the start line.

But it must be remembered that the Run Norwich course is not easy. It’s a wonderful route that showcases the city beautifully but the last couple of kilometres up through Tombland can reduce runners of any standard to a shuffler if you don’t pace it correctly.

If you’re looking to push on in this part of the race then it’s important your body is used to doing a bit of hill work – you could easily find that you tweak something on the day.

So there’s a couple of weeks left to get your training in before thinking about easing up for the big day.

Think about your pace, and think about a couple of those hills, you’ll thank me for it when August 5 comes round.


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