Running column: It’s all about the marathon journey but Mark Armstrong picks up a little bonus at the Cambridge Half Marathon

Mark Armstrong in action at the Cambridge Half Marathon. Picture: Cambridge Half Marathon

Mark Armstrong in action at the Cambridge Half Marathon. Picture: Cambridge Half Marathon - Credit: Archant

I love a race.

There are few better feelings than standing on the start line wondering just what that route ahead of you has in store.

That sense of nervous anticipation and excitement reminds me of how I used to feel before a football match as a youngster before the old knees gave way.

But I've had to temper that desire to race this year.

When you take on a marathon you have to give it bit of respect and I wanted to make sure that every training run and race that I complete all feeds in to that greater goal.

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It's meant that ahead of the Greater Manchester Marathon next month (it's coming round so quickly now) that I only signed up to the Freethorpe 10 in January and the Cambridge Half Marathon that took place on Sunday.

The truth is I can't trust myself to get swept up in the nature of a race, lose my discipline and slip out of the pace that I'm supposed to be running.

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It took several reminders from Neil that Freethorpe just had to be treated as a training run because he knows my character and more importantly how susceptible I have been to picking up injuries when pushing myself before I'm ready.

Sunday was different though.

I undertook a five-mile progression run last Friday and it felt effortless at a pace that was quite punchy for me.

I spoke with Neil what sort of pace I should be looking to hit at Cambridge and we set upon around 7.45minutes per mile for the first eight before gradually increasing it for the final 5.1 miles.

I immediately started calculating how much I would have to pick it up in those last five miles to beat my personal best of 1-39:20 set at the Colchester Half Marathon last year.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereI then remembered that I'm rubbish at maths and it hurt my head too much trying to work it out…

I decided that I'd just do my best to stick to the 7:45 pace for the first eight miles and then pick it up as much as I could if I felt okay.

Once I had got through the first couple of miles where it bunched up quite a lot in places I was able to settle upon that pace and it felt relatively easy.

It was good to see that the drizzly conditions hadn't kept the crowds away either and the support through the city centre was so good that I had to be careful not to pick up the pace too much at times with the adrenaline kicking in.

It's horrible in races where you go through a particularly loud part of the course feeling great and then you find yourself on some industrial estate with little support and weary legs.

I mentally ticked off the miles before deciding to go for it a little earlier than planned after the seventh mile.

Having blown up during a half marathon before I was a little apprehensive and wondered if I would suddenly hit the dreaded wall and have to trudge across the finish line… a real chastening experience especially in the last mile when it feels like hoards of runners are flying by you.

Fortunately, that didn't happen – during the last mile I knew that a new personal best was within my grasp although even down the home straight I was telling myself not to break into a sprint for fear of something pinging!

I came over the line in 1-38:11 – a time that I'm really pleased with but one I know can come down even more once I have completed this training block with Manchester the main goal.

It was a nice little bonus and has provided some timely encouragement just before the really long runs hit for the next couple of weeks.

I'm hoping it will help during the 22-miler scheduled at the weekend…

MORE: Check out our 2019 race calendar

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