Mark Armstrong: Getting back to running after recovering from Covid

YouTube star Ben Felton leads from the front of the Valentine's 10K on Sunday.

YouTube star Ben Felton leads from the front of the Valentine's 10K earlier this year. - Credit: Mark Armstrong

So the dreaded Covid hit the Armstrong house over the past week. 

It certainly hasn’t done a lot for any of our running. In fact, at one stage, running was probably top of the list in terms of ‘Things I least wanted to do’.  

In good company were other things like ‘get up’ or ‘be a parent’ as my son, Logan, gleefully ran rings round both of us during the worst days (he’s been fine the whole way through, thankfully). 

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But the good news is that we are all feeling a lot better now with the Covid fog slowly starting to lift. It’s also very difficult to feel sorry for yourself when the weather has been so glorious over the past week – perfect running weather, dare I say... 

Whilst we’ve been recovering once again my wife, Alison, and I have been living our running lives vicariously through all the YouTubers we follow. 

I was really gutted to miss Ben Felton’s appearance at Sportlink last weekend. We’ve been following Ben’s YouTube channel, Ben is Running, for the last year. 

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He produces some excellent content and gives a great insight into what a really good club runner does to keep progressing. 

It also got me thinking about several conversations I’ve had with Neil Featherby over the years. I love athletics but I can’t profess to have anywhere near the kind of knowledge Neil has got when it comes to runners of yesteryear. 

I think he’s given up with me when he mentions someone he considers to be one of the greatest runners of all time and I stare back at him blankly. 

Perhaps the shame of it is that far more people are going to know who Ben Felton is than who the country’s fastest half marathon runner is at the moment. 

People can identify a lot more with what Ben is doing than an elite athlete. Until athletics starts to offer itself up as a brand and highlight some of the personalities of our top athletes then it won’t ever be the mainstream sport that I would like it to be. 

Look at the way fans of other sports lap up ‘behind-the-scenes' content. Formula One’s Drive to Survive on Netflix or the All or Nothing series on Amazon Prime that follow top teams like Manchester City and Tottenham. 

I realise how carefully managed these are in terms of what they put out but wouldn’t it be great if a top UK athlete was able to document their day-to-day life in a similar way? Perhaps offer fans a peak of what it’s like to be an elite athlete and get to know them as people rather than just someone that runs around a track a certain number of times. 

It’s something Norfolk’s own Joe Skipper has tapped into as well with the excellent content he puts out as one of the world’s top Ironman athletes (good luck for just over a week’s time at Ironman South Africa, Joe). 

I can identify with a Ben Felton (not with his speedy times) or someone like Ben Parkes, another excellent YouTuber who not only documents his running journey but offers advice to his subscribers along the way. 

Ben Parkes, someone who has gone from a pretty average runner to a 2:25 marathoner, has also opened up a dialogue around his own mental health struggles and running. 

I think it’s something a lot of runners can identify with particularly during periods of injury when so many of us use running as one of the pillars for good mental health. 

In no particular order other YouTube channels for the everyday runner worth a look are The Messy Happy, FOD Runner or Fordy Runs.  

If you’re looking a bit higher end then definitely look at Joe Skipper’s content as well as Lucy Charles Barclay – the woman is an absolute athletic machine! 

The hope is of course that I won’t have to get my running fix through YouTube over the next few months. 

To say that 2022 has been a bit stop-start so far is an understatement but it’s far too early to write if off yet! Staying patient and waiting for my chance to build back slowly will hopefully reap rewards. 

That’s what they all say on YouTube anyway...