Mark Armstrong: Running in the heat and why there's not a choice to make

City of Norwich Half Marathon 2021 start

Runners set off at the start of the City of Norwich Half Marathon - Credit: Mark Armstrong

There was a big part of me that was envious of all the runners on the start line at the City of Norwich Half Marathon on Sunday. 

However, by the time I had watched the leaders cross the finish line just over an hour later, there was a bigger part of me that was glad that I was just reporting from the sidelines... 

The heat had clearly got to a good number of the field. 

It’s almost cruel that a lot of runners spend their time training in the winter months and developing a good level of fitness before the weather turns and you find yourself not conditioned to run in the warmer weather. 

After speaking to winners Norman Shreeve and Natasha Cockram, it was clear that they had to revise their goals mid-race due to the weather. Both were hoping for quicker times than the 68:30 and 76:31 that they respectively posted. 

Many people will have targeted Sunday’s race as an event to base their training round and probably will have had a time in mind. 

However, when the weather gets as hot as it did on Sunday then you have to park that ‘A’ goal. 

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That takes a huge amount of discipline... something that a lot of runners, including myself, lack. It’s only when you have been through the ignominy of having to walk sections of a race that you think ‘I’m not putting myself in this position again’. The Bournemouth Half Marathon springs to mind for me when the last two miles felt like utter purgatory.  

Anyone that ignored the conditions and raced as if they were running on a perfect, chilly spring morning will have paid for it to some degree later on in the race. 

We’re all different of course and some runners cope better with the warmer weather than others. Unfortunately, with my complexion, they’re not conditions I thrive under. I probably would have barely been able to see through a haze of sun cream by the end of the race on Sunday. 

I know how frustrating it is when the thought of beating a certain time is what has driven you through those cold, winter months. For circumstances beyond your control to put that out of your reach is hugely frustrating. 

There’s always another race though – and the good news is that they keep on coming at the moment despite the Covid restrictions being extended to July 19. 

What was perhaps a little puzzling at Sunday’s event was the number of no-shows. Of course, there are all manner of reasons why but when there could have been over 1,600 runners taking part, only just over half (841) actually ran the event. 

Are people still slightly reticent to run a race with Covid restrictions? That’s understandable and everyone has their own boundaries around this pandemic that need to be respected. 

However, there is a narrative that’s formed which says that people are desperate to race and return to parkrun for example. 

That might not be wholly accurate and it’s understandable why parkrun, for example, has now fallen in line with the scheduled end of restrictions on July 19 with first events to come back the following Saturday (July 26). 

Personally, I have been very impressed with how every single event I’ve attended so far as adhered to the restrictions. Runners in particular have been mindful of social distancing, especially on the start line. 

I feel comfortable from a Covid perspective to toe a start line again. 

From an injury perspective, well that’s another story.