Running column: It’s time for Mark Armstrong to move away from the marathon

Alison Armstrong celebrates finishing the London Marathon with husband Mark. Picture: Mark Armstrong

Alison Armstrong celebrates finishing the London Marathon with husband Mark. Picture: Mark Armstrong


It was just before the 18th mile and things were starting to get tough for my wife, Alison, at the London Marathon.

I'd already seen her just after mile eight when it was clear that a few pre-race nerves had been quelled and she had settled into a consistent pace.

Ally is one of those runners that no matter how far she's run she looks like she's strolled through an easy 5K. Anyone that has seen any of my race photos will testify that I don't quite look like that.

But by mile 18 I was expecting her to look a little more ragged, certainly in her running style. She didn't. She just grabbed a packet of mini cheddars from me and marched on to what was a really decent time.

I like to think that I made the difference… it wasn't the months of training, it was that savoury snack that gave her the energy she needed…

Seriously though she did fantastically to get round in a minute over four hours – a huge personal best.

It capped off a great weekend in the capital in an event that celebrates a lot of what is good about humankind.

We're living in a period where there is a fair amount of conflict and bitterness, to put it mildly, but when so many people are taking on what is seen by many as the ultimate running challenge to raise money for charity it restores a semblance of belief that there is still a lot of good things happening.

That's what the London Marathon should be about and let's hope organisers can do something about the dreadful experience the 7.5 hour pacer had with her group of runners when they were hurried along by contractors cleaning up after the event. To my mind they should be offered a spot in next year's marathon, if this experience hasn't put them off.

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It shouldn't cast too much shade over an event which reportedly raised £1 billion for charity.

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I must admit there's part of me that's desperate to do it next year but there are other priorities at the moment. Like hundreds of thousands of other runners I've just thrown an application in for the general ballot for 2020. Manchester 2019 obviously hasn't put me off too much – it's fortunate that runners have short memories.

But Sunday marked the end of the marathon season in the Armstrong household at least.

It's time for Ally to have a bit of downtime, enjoy a few easy runs, and look at her next target whilst I start working towards the Lord Mayor's 5K at the start of July.

For months my training has been geared towards finding a pace that I can run steadily for 26.2 miles. Now I've got to work towards the fastest pace I can run just over three miles – as you can imagine the training is somewhat different. It hurts… a lot.

The sessions will be a lot more varied under Neil Featherby's guidance and, with the intensity going up a notch, the risk of injury increases.

But it's the only way I'm going to get my pace down to a level where I stand a chance of getting round what is a difficult course at the Lord Mayor's. At the very least I need to get past the 3K point in 12 minutes because I refuse to contemplate the prospect of being hauled off the course at this point.

I know I'm capable of it – but I've just got to make sure I maintain the same level of motivation I had for the marathon. I don't fear the Lord Mayor's 5K as much as I do running a marathon but perhaps I should.

That fear is often what got me out of bed at 5am to get the training in – I just hope that same level of commitment is still there…

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