Running column: The ambitions of every runner must be respected, says Mark Armstrong

Every runner's ambitions need to be respected. Picture: Archant

Every runner's ambitions need to be respected. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Runners of all abilities have the right to be the best they can possibly be as Mark Armstrong reports

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography - Credit: Archant

So, last week's column appeared to poke something of a hornet's nest in the Norfolk running community.

The one thing it showed above anything is how much people care about the standard of running in Norfolk and there were some excellent suggestions how it could be improved.

Contrary to what some people think I have no affiliation to CoNAC although as my article suggests I have a great deal of respect for the way they handle their elite athletes all the way through the age groups.

I stand by every word that I wrote last week and I'm yet to be convinced that CoNAC isn't the best place for any ambitious runner to perform at the top level on a stage outside the county.

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Whilst a lot of it comes down to the individual and their mentality, access to the right coaching and advice also plays a huge part in anyone's development.

MORE: Can our running clubs harness Norfolk's top runners?I live in Long Stratton and if either of my children shows a desire to run then I realise there are clubs that can aid their progression.

However, if they show a real talent for it then I'm yet to be convinced they wouldn't be best served at CoNAC (or North Norfolk Harriers if we lived in the north of the county).

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The column was by no means a grand sleight on what our clubs offer in Norfolk for the leisure runner.

But I think all clubs need to look at their raison d'etre – if it's to improve your middle of the pack runner (like me) then they are doing a great job. They can provide regular, structured training sessions that will bring the kind of consistency to gain results up to a certain point.

The point is that if they have runners that want to post exceptional times that are comparable outside of Norfolk, do they have the infrastructure to cope? From what I can see I don't think a lot do, but I would be happy to be proved wrong.

It's not an easy debate to settle, I realise that. But if there are runners or coaches that want to be the best then let's do everything we can to make that happen.

MORE: How children can make you a better runnerWhat is becoming increasingly clear is that I think there is a split in the running community between the leisure runner and the elite athlete.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to go as fast as you possibly can (including during a parkrun). The sacrifices these athletes have to make whilst a lot of them hold down demanding full-time jobs is beyond most mere mortals.

However, slower runners, who are obviously in the majority, should also be celebrated. Every runner has got their own battle they're trying to win and that needs to be respected by both communities.

A lot of the resentment centres on the fact that races fill up so quickly and the top runners don't get a place.

Perhaps in future some races could keep a small percentage back for top runners - if it's good enough for the London Marathon then why can't some of our races do the same?

If these places weren't taken up then they could be bought by other runners on a waiting list.

Our Norfolk races could then be the training ground needed for our runners to gain more success on a national level.

Run Anglia has given me a chance to see what a fantastic, broad running community we've got. I just want to make sure that runners at all levels, from parkruns to national championships, have every opportunity to be the best they can be.

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