Mark Armstrong: Time to put ego away and try something different

Mark Armstrong training run

Mark Armstrong on a training run in South Norfolk - Credit: Mark Armstrong

‘Sometimes we have to face up to the facts that we’re not getting any younger...’ 

A friend imparted this advice to me recently when I was saying how interrupted my running had become through injury over the past 18 months. 

Without wishing to tempt fate too much, I feel good at the moment both physically and mentally to take on the challenges that await this year. 

But the above comment really landed in as much it is the things I do away from the road/trail/track that will determine the longevity of my running. 

With that in mind I have been regularly seeing a physio despite being considered ‘recovered’ from the calf injury that dogged the start of this year (obviously I still have to do certain exercises to ensure this problem doesn’t come back). 

When feeling unduly stiff or tired I have also been getting sports massages to hopefully iron out any issues before they become a problem 

So far, it’s working – I've had a couple of months now where I’ve been able to regularly run and I feel so much better for it. 

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Mentally I feel strong when I’m able to run regularly and, of course, this sets up being able to get physically fitter and stronger. 

When you’re hurtling towards the big 4-0, you realise that any activity that took you a day to recover in your late 20s/early 30s now takes twice as long, at least! 

Part of ‘investing in myself’ is not just a monetary thing, it’s affording time for the things I need to do away from running as well. 

I have long since accepted that strength and conditioning need to be a big part of my running if I want to make progress. However, it is the discipline during training runs that has always been somewhat of a variable, to put it lightly. 

I want to feel like I’m constantly getting quicker – there’s still a lot of room for improvement in that area across all distances – but when there’s a marathon on the horizon, and you've got my injury history, then it’s not a good idea to dial up the speed sessions at this stage. 

Upon finally booking parts of our trip to Chicago later this year for the marathon and a chat with Neil Featherby, the penny finally dropped. 

I had been doing some speed sessions up until recently but with the main goal being Chicago in October all I was doing was risking an injury. 

“It’s not worth the risk at this stage,” said Neil, who is abundantly aware that something could go ping if I’m not careful. 

So over the past couple of weeks, it’s been a case gradually increasing my mileage at an easy pace, getting into a bit of a rhythm and routine that I can sustain with all the other demands that we all have to factor in. 

I can get so bogged down in the times I'm striving for that I forget some of the basics.  

I need a running base to work from – at least 6-8 weeks of regular running getting my legs and body used to those demands again. To do anything beyond that by way of increasing the pace too much is a risk. 

It means I’ve had to put my running ego away and keep my eyes on the long-term goal of Chicago despite the temptation of other shorter races before then. 

I’m putting a lot of my eggs in the marathon basket and giving it the respect it deserves – whether I run another sub 20-minute 5K at the moment is irrelevant.  

Getting to the Chicago start line feeling ready is now the goal and enjoying the process of getting there.