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Running column: Quality over quantity but Mark Armstrong is starting to feel the pressure

Mark Armstrong on a training run. Picture: Alison Armstrong

Mark Armstrong on a training run. Picture: Alison Armstrong

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Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong can feel there's another race in the air

Quality over quantity - that's been my approach to the races I've signed up for this year.

I've purposely not raced as much this year with the theory being that racing less would concentrate my efforts and training around specific goals.

There's no doubt it's worked (and saved me a few pennies as well) as I've gained new personal bests over several different distances including the marathon, half marathon and 5K.

But the by-product is it places a lot of pressure on the races I've signed up for.

Whilst the months of training got me, physically, ready for the Greater Manchester Marathon at the start of April, mentally, I built it up too much in my head.

The days leading up to the event all got a bit much and I let myself get a little too intense about it all.

It's not as if there aren't going to be other races if that's what I really want to do.

The marathon distance is clearly very different to training for 5K or 10K races - in my opinion you can only run one marathon outside your comfort zone before letting your body recover to have another attempt.

But I can feel a bit of anxiety building up as the Lord Mayor's 5K City Centre Road Race edges closer.

With just eight days to go and probably around four or five training sessions between now and then it's getting close, uncomfortably so.

Physically, I feel ready, but it's down to me to make sure that I can handle it mentally.

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One of the worst things I can do is overthink it - that goes for a lot of other areas of my life - but it's a lot easier said than done.

I mustn't let my eagerness to do well build the race up into something it isn't. It's just a 5K race at the end of the day - it's not the Olympics.

If I let myself get too tense before it then I won't be able to produce my best, which is going to be needed if I'm going to make it round the whole course.

As runners we are all a little too quick to label what sort of race we've had. It's either gone great or rubbish - it can be very black and white.

Despite this it hasn't stopped me thinking about the result I want for me to think of the race as a success and I've drilled it down to two things.

Firstly, the absolute base goal is making the 3K 12-minute cut-off. I can't sugar-coat it, I'd be hugely disappointed if I'm pulled off the course having set off too slowly but everyone who enters the race knows the rules.

If I can get through that then I want to go under 20 minutes again. Achieve those two elements and I'll have a big smile on my face and my wife, Alison, will also breathe a sigh of relief because she knows how unbearable I can be if I don't achieve what I wanted to.

Fortunately, as a runner herself, she understands although she knows I can be prone to setting goals that I'm not quite ready for.

But it's a team effort - I wouldn't have been able to even make the start line without her help. She puts up with me going out for training runs whilst she looks after the kids early in the morning (when do kids stop getting up at 5am?)

As long as I make her a cup of tea she doesn't mind too much!

I've also promised that I'll take it a bit easier come the end of July after Run Norwich in the hope that we can start going on a few runs together.

Running is a very individual sport for many but it's so important to remember that other people around you have their own goals and I'd love to help her in achieving her targets.

You never know I might have her running the Lord Mayor's 5K in the future… but we can worry about that next year…

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