Mark Armstrong: Keep your running fun and not another source of stress

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography - Credit: Archant

I feel a fraud. 

After my column a few weeks ago when I mentioned that the thought of telling my coach Neil Featherby that I didn’t have time to do a run was always worse than actually doing the run, I caved in. 

School runs, spelling tests (not mine!), Lara’s homework, getting to grips with a new system at work, a late night covering the Norwich City game, kids’ bedtimes, working out where I was going to hide Santa’s elves... – it got to 8.30pm last Thursday and I looked at the session Neil had planned for me. 

I watched the wind lash the rain against the window and our poor Christmas penguin (Derek) laying prone on our drive after being blown over by the wind. I couldn’t do it. 

The smell of spaghetti bolognese wafted through the house and then I saw the garlic bread... I didn’t want to have to re-heat this later... this run wasn’t happening. 

The only interval I was doing was the break between dinner and dessert. 

I wanted to eat, have a beer (okay, two beers) and watch Netflix – that’s the truth. 

Most Read

It doesn’t happen too often but sometimes the only sane thing to do is sack off your run and have a bit of time to decompress. 

The top runners in Norfolk would have done the run, I’m sure – I know Neil would have in his heyday. 

It’s why they are at the front of races (remember them?) and I have a huge amount of respect for anyone that puts in the hard work to make themselves better, running or otherwise. 

The top runners/sportspeople have an almost obsessional streak to get better and won’t let anything get in the way of that.  

But I’m not a top runner. I’m someone who really enjoys running but I have a family and other responsibilities that have to take priority over running a lot of the time. I don’t always like it and I can be a right grump if something gets in the way of a planned run but I’ve also learned that to put too much pressure on your running isn’t healthy. It's supposed to be fun after all and not another source of stress – there's been enough of that in 2020 already. 

This isn’t a column to give people a licence to miss the run they don’t really want to do. But it’s better to sometimes skip a run with the intention of smashing your next session. Be kind to yourself and weigh up whether you’ll get more out of missing the run than actually doing it, whether that is physically or mentally. 

Neil knows I’m committed to his training plan. He understands the difficulty I have in fitting in four or five runs a week sometimes, like a lot of us do, and he respects that I don’t let running literally run my life (it has come close on occasions if I’m honest!) 

But after a chat with him we changed the sessions from the original plan and made sure that I had time at the weekend to do a proper training run and I loved it.  

I’ve even booked a race on the back of it. I’m looking forward to taking part in the Snetterton 10K in January where I will be, as ever, looking for a new personal best. 

I’ll get my head down with my training and do my best in every session with this in mind. But I certainly won’t let it get in the way of having a good Christmas. There are bigger things than running sometimes. 

With that in mind this is the last column before the big day so I’d just like to wish all the readers of this column a Merry Christmas and here’s to a better 2021!