Mark Armstrong: My message to 2021 so far - 'on yer bike!'

Mark Armstrong Snetterton

The last time Mark Armstrong put in pace into his running this year at Snetterton. - Credit: Mark Armstrong

One step forward, two steps back. 

That just about sums up my running year so far. It all started with promise as training appeared to be going really well.

I only had about 30 seconds to shed off my 10K time to go under 40 minutes and I knew with the right training I could get there.

However, after just missing out at Snetterton in late April, I haven’t been able to get any kind of consistency to my training.  

The hamstring problem, which has also been affecting my knee, has refused to go away, much to my frustration as well as my family’s (who are fed up of my moaning about it!). 

It’s been very difficult to get to the bottom of and I’ve seen numerous people to try and help me get back to training how I want to. I’ve even taken to seeing an acupuncturist earlier this week to try and alleviate some of the tightness that gathers around the back of my right leg. 

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

When I asked my colleague, Chris Lakey, if he’d had any experience of it, he said: “No, but my mum had it once for a problem with her knee.” 

Most Read

“Did it help?” I asked. 

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “But she had surgery on it recently!” 

That did make me laugh, but I went in with an open mind and it’s certainly not done any harm although I must confess I found it all a rather bizarre experience. I just hope it can be the start of a process that sees me get back to what I want to do with my running... race! 

The saving grace in all this is that I have at least still been able to run, albeit at an easy pace, which is why I kept the Manchester Marathon on the agenda until recently until I accepted this injury and other commitments would render it almost impossible to run it how I want to. 

Fortunately, slow runs haven’t made the injury any worse but the minute I try to introduce any kind of speed, the problems rear up again. 

So, after seeing a number of professionals who have definitely helped strengthen the areas around the problem, I looked at other causes in my lifestyle that might be aggravating it (along with the acupuncture). 

What’s changed this year? I’m obviously a year older (approaching 40 if you must know...) but the training was of a similar intensity to that I got so much out of in the Joe Skipper Track Challenge which took place about this time last year. 

However, there was one thing that I introduced in an effort to gain more fitness without putting more impact through body by running on the road even more. 

Spinning – I've always loved it. When I was something of a gym bunny 10 years ago, I’d love a good spin class so my wife, Alison, and I bought our own bike at the start of the year. 

I’ve no doubt it helped my cardiovascular fitness but it was only when I was bemoaning my injury problems to former athlete John Downes during one of the Sportlink podcasts, that he said: “Well, what have you changed this year?” 

Then the lightbulb came on.  

When I said I’ve been cycling at home at lot more he replied: “Well, there’s your problem... you’ve probably got your bike set up wrong.” 

After spending months looking at a lot of ways to get my knee/hamstring right, I’m hoping a tweak of my seat position may have finally got to the root of the problem. 

Combined with doing the right strength exercises I’m hopeful I can get back to where I want to be and start racing again before the end of the year. 

I’ll maybe just ease off the spinning during that process...