Mark Armstrong: How running just one mile taught me so much

Mark Armstrong took part in the Sportlink Mile - Virtual SMile Challenge last weekend. Picture: Baz

Mark Armstrong took part in the Sportlink Mile - Virtual SMile Challenge last weekend. Picture: Baz Hipwell - Credit: Archant

I’d totally had enough on Saturday morning.

I was a few minutes into my warm-up for the Sportlink Mile – Virtual SMile Challenge and I was not in a good headspace.

I’ve had this before when I know a big effort is coming. My brain seems to flood my body with tiredness and I start asking myself if I really want to do this.

Then the excuses start to come into my head for if this mile effort doesn’t go well.

‘I’ve had a broken night’s sleep...’


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Then something clicked – and I got angry. If I’m just going to be negative about the whole thing then what was the point in running this mile?

I started talking to myself (fortunately there was no-one else around at the time!) and I told myself in no uncertain terms to snap out of it... there may have been an expletive thrown in... sorry mum.

I knew deep down that I was capable of running a relatively quick time but only if I listened to the right thoughts.

I’ve had enough sleep, the week’s training has been working up to this and my calves are absolutely fine.

More importantly I like running hard for short periods – it’s the real longer endurance stuff I’ve had problems with in the past as anyone who has listened to some of my marathon woes will testify.

I ran some paces in the Joe Skipper Track Challenge that I never dreamt I was capable of, particularly during the 800m and 5K races.

It was time to deliver and attack this mile with a bit of controlled aggression (apologies if I sound a little like a madman...).

I had run 5:08 in the 1500m a few months back so I thought a sensible pace to start with would be 5:30-minute mile pace. I got myself up to speed and started my watch (why do some people start their virtual runs from a standing start?).

I was running a half mile training loop I’ve used on hundreds of occasions and after the first minute I knew this was going to be tough. The lactic acid was slowly starting to build but I still felt okay – I’d run through this kind of feeling before and I told myself that I’m capable of this pace and pushed on.

I was glancing at my watch for my current pace and I was hovering around the 5:30 mark after the first lap.

Just half a mile to go and whilst I knew I didn’t have it in my legs to increase the pace I was confident I could hold it. As I rounded the final corner, I had just under a quarter of a mile to go - despite the best efforts of a car parked all the way across the pavement and a slightly dicey dash across the A140 I heard the one-mile beep on my watch and stopped.

Gasping for breath, I looked down and my Garmin, which informed me that I had set a new one-mile PB – 5:29.

I’ll take that all day long as I feel it is a fair reflection of some of the speed training I’ve done this year and enjoyed so much.

I was nowhere near getting into the top 24 runners that will now be invited to a one-mile track series but I felt like I had done myself justice.

It was a stark reminder that I can only convert all the training I’ve undertaken into decent times if my mindset is right.

I need to train my mind not to get drawn into a negative spiral because it can undermine all those hard training sessions.

If you tell yourself something is going to be bad then the chances are it will be, but it works the other way.

Set your goal, train for it, tell yourself you can do it.... and you’ll achieve what you want.

A lesson that can be taken a lot wider than anyone’s running.

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