Mark Armstrong: Call me what you like but look out for those conkers

Mark Armstrong with Karen Grapes, Neil Featherby and Mark Thorpe at the start of day three of their

Mark Armstrong with Karen Grapes, Neil Featherby and Mark Thorpe at the start of day three of their recent Anything for Oslo Ultra Challenge. Picture: Debbie Rumsby - Credit: Archant

As a journalist for a living you can be called a lot of things... some nice and some not so nice.

Writing a running column for the newspaper has opened up several new names for me.

The Run Anglia guy, the EDP runner, that redhead who thinks he knows about running... some catchier than others.

But by far the most common is ‘that conker bloke’.

This column has become synonymous with those little blighters and this week marked a year since I broke my ankle and foot in two places after tripping on one.

To unknowingly commemorate the occasion my daughter Lara brought me home a conker necklace she had made during forest school. Least if it’s around my neck I can’t trip on it...

It’s been a funny old year in more ways than one but that enforced break made me think about my running differently. I remember someone suggesting to me that my injury was probably due to not doing enough strength training to support the speedwork and perhaps I wouldn’t be able to run again.

Most Read

The comment really made me think and to say it fuelled my fire in my rehabilitation would be an understatement.

‘I’ll show you...’ - maybe with the odd expletive thrown in there if I’m honest, particularly when the protective moonboot came off and I set about the work of stretching out all the ligaments in the ankle and my foot again.

I got back and I’m a faster runner now than I was before – that’s not all down to the injury – that’s mainly down to being furloughed earlier this year and being able to train as much as I liked!

But the injury certainly made me appreciate running more – there are of course times when the last thing I want to do is go out and run. Like for most people that read this column, life is hectic and fitting running into my life is hard. Worth it, but hard.

The injury, which feels fine now, made me want to look after myself more and ensure my body is up to being able to run fast. It’s all relative of course – one person’s tempo session is another’s easy run pace.

I still don’t always find time for the right amount of strength work. I do my best and I always make time for stretching which has definitely helped keep some of the old niggles at bay.

But another running rule that I try to live by now is a simple one: look where you’re going!

It only takes a split second of lacking attention and it can have long lasting consequences. I was tired from the Bure Valley 10M race the day before and wasn’t properly looking where I was going along Whitlingham Way.

I see so many runners more concerned with what their watch is saying rather than where they are putting their feet and it really can catch you out.

I know Neil cut his head up on his recent Anything For Oslo Ultra because he was waiting for his watch to tick over to 35 miles for the day and went tumbling as a result.

Fortunately he was okay to continue but it just goes to show how important it is to retain a degree of concentration on your run. We’ve all got lost in our thoughts, our watch or a song, but there has to be some part of your sub-conscious mind that’s making sure you know where you’re treading!

As for being Mr Conker (another name I’ve come across for me) then if it stops you tripping on one and doing some damage then I can just about suffer it.