Mark Armstrong: A runner trying to avoid the pitfalls on the comeback trail

Mark Armstrong Norfolk XC

Mark Armstrong at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships earlier this month. - Credit: Supplied

I really have been blown away by all the nice comments and messages I’ve received over the past week. 

What has become clear is that so many of you have been through similar experiences where an injury or a niggle makes you resent running a little. However, it seems most have come through the other side of this, emerging as better runners in the long term. That offers a lot of hope. 

It’s what I love about the running community in that there is always someone willing to help you or offer their advice. 

If there’s one thing I’m learning as I get older it’s that we are all very similar and each and every one of us has the same thoughts about all manner of things although not always at the same time. We’re all unique in our own way of course... but we all have similar thoughts in certain situations. 

I know that if I’m sensible, in a few months’ time I’ll be in a better place with my training and be able to help someone else if they are going through a tough spell. 

The calf niggle has at least settled down now and I feel ready to embark on the process of coming back stronger, and hopefully fitter, than ever before.  

I had to negotiate a trampoline party this week for my daughter Lara’s eighth birthday but I emerged injury-free.  

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It did make me think that a physio probably wouldn’t suggest such an activity if you’re suffering from a calf problem... To be fair I mostly had a watching/drinking coffee brief from the sidelines... a role I’ve got very used to. 

I’m back under Neil’s coaching (don’t tell him about the trampolining) and I feel in a similar place to when I started the comeback from ‘conker-gate’ and that broken ankle. 

What worked in my favour during that time when I was starting to run again is that there weren’t any races scheduled due to the pandemic. 

This took away some of the pressure I sometimes feel of ‘oh I really want to be fit in time for that race...’ 

There just weren’t any, so I could go at my own pace in more ways than one. I had a great block of training as a result and produced some of my fastest times. 

That obviously isn’t the case this year and requires discipline to not chase a race that I won’t be able to achieve the fitness I want to before it. 

Unfortunately to race in the events you really want to means signing up months in advance. 

I haven’t spoken to Neil about goals – it's been merely to get running again and enjoying it.  

Each run this week has been short, leaving me wanting to do more each time – that's the idea, of course. 

It’s easy to get sucked into the idea you must run a certain distance as a minimum for each run. I’ve been through phases where I have to do five miles otherwise I don’t feel like I’ve been for a run... it’s rubbish and probably a red flag that I need to back off a little if/when it happens again in the future. 

Two or three slow miles is more than enough if you’re coming back from injury although I do have to control the little voice in my head that tells me that I’m losing fitness all the while. 

The speed will come back if I put my body in a position to cope with that kind of training. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. 


SMile

I was really pleased to learn that the Sportlink Mile (SMile) is making a comeback again this year. That was genuinely one of the highlights of 2021 when there was a series of three track nights after people ran their virtual mile towards the end of 2020. 

That 5:29 mile I ran was probably when I was at my fittest and something I allowed myself to be a little proud of. 

I’d highly recommend everyone giving it a go – you never know you might even qualify for the track nights and that’s when running really does get so exciting. 

You can sign up from Tuesday and find out more information about it here... https://totalracetiming.co.uk/race/331