Mark Armstrong: Do you want to be a better runner?

Mark Armstrong enjoyed his Freethorpe 10 experience. Picture: Sally Bliss

Mark Armstrong is enjoying his running - Credit: Sussex Sport Photography.com

So many of us are looking for shortcuts in modern life and running is no different. 

You can find endless articles online about improving yourself as a runner and it seems so many are searching for a ‘secret’ to unlock that speed within, perhaps without putting in the necessary effort. 

Trainers, watches, sweat-wicking clothing, anti-blister socks – there are all manner of things that can help you be at your best. But there is no substitute for the sheer hard work a runner is willing to put in – only then will they make significant progress. 

If there is a ‘secret’ I think it is maintaining motivation because everything else follows from that. 

If you can stay motivated to stick to a plan then consistency comes and then you really are in business. 

Of course, you have got to find out what motivates you, which is harder than you think, especially when there are very few races on the immediate horizon. 

Running was just something I had to do to be able to kick a football around growing up. I was never really interested in it beyond that. 

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So having come to the sport a bit later I’m intrigued by how much I can push myself to get faster and stronger as a runner. Keeping healthy and active is also a major consideration especially since having my two children, Lara and Logan. 

Having said that motivation still comes and goes – I’ll get to the end of a long week at work and the lure of a beer and a takeaway is sometimes too much to resist over a tempo session in the dark. 

More often than not though I choose to run (and have the beer and takeaway after 😉 ) but a lot of that is down to having Neil Featherby as my coach. 

The thought of having to say to Neil that I didn’t have time or I was too tired to fit in today’s session is far worse than the actual session itself. He’s put the effort in to devise my plan, the least I can do is follow it. 

I’ve got results from following his plans as well. Having started out as a 24-minute parkrunner (remember them) I now feel pretty confident that unless there’s some big old hills that I could go under 20 minutes for 5K on most courses. 

That’s down to following Neil’s plan, which has provided me with the reason I needed to keep getting out the door and getting the training runs in. 

There’s still some way to go in the battle against Covid-19 but there at least feels like a return to normality is on the horizon thanks to the vaccine breakthroughs. 

Racing will return at some point next year and I cannot wait – I want to be ready.  

I passed 1,000 miles for the year this week and I’m feeling strong in trying to set up a few personal best attempts in the new year. 

I was delighted to see that Norfolk Gazelles are putting on their annual Valentine’s 10K next year. They have adapted the route so the event can be put on in a Covid-secure way and I applaud their efforts. The easy thing to do would be to wait but I like how they have taken the initiative to get a race in the diary and I’ve no doubt it will sell out such is the appetite for races. 

I understand the difficulties of it and that perhaps some might not feel comfortable with the idea of racing yet. That’s totally fine but I know there is a large element of the running community desperate to race again. 

I hope that other clubs can follow their lead given the success of other events that have taken place in our region.