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Running column: The long road to a marathon is about to start for many runners, says Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong cuts a relieved figure as he crosses the Greater Manchester Marathon finish line. Picture: Greater Manchester Marathon

Mark Armstrong cuts a relieved figure as he crosses the Greater Manchester Marathon finish line. Picture: Greater Manchester Marathon

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From speaking to a few friends there's a whiff of a marathon in the air recently.

A lot of training plans for anyone running the Manchester Marathon start on Monday whilst those with their eyes set on London will also be aware their running schedule is likely to be jacked up a notch within a few weeks.

Anyone thinking of running the Mammoth Marathon in May can perhaps relax and enjoy a few mince pies for a few weeks yet.

It's exciting... and I'm very envious, particularly when my wife, Alison, has got a big chalkboard in our house planning out the next week's training.

Bearing in mind that I'm yet to start any serious physical activity thanks to my injuries, I've had to shelve plans of renewing acquaintance with Manchester after it gave me a good kicking earlier this year.

After breaking my ankle I had been thinking about running a marathon in the autumn of 2020 but then after talking to a few people I realised that I was perhaps falling into the same trap I've entered before.

From my own running experience, nothing quite compares to finishing a marathon although I'm sure anyone that regularly runs ultras would tell me to broaden my horizons and think bigger.

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But the challenge of running a marathon is a lure that's difficult to resist. The fact you can't blag your way through that sort of distance provides an edge and a structure to my training that I haven't always been able to replicate at shorter distances.

I really want to experience that again but there isn't any rush. To even be thinking about running a marathon would be quite literally trying to run before I can walk... properly at least.

Whilst desperately trying not to look too far ahead, next year will be about getting running again, pain-free, before hopefully getting a bit of speed back in the second half of the year.

We'll see, but the fact I'm even letting myself think about 2020 from a running point of view indicates a degree of confidence that my ankle and foot will fully recover.

In the meantime I'm trying to retain a semblance of fitness doing a few HIIT workouts without putting too much weight through my foot. It's nowhere near as rewarding as running but it'll have to do for now.

However, anyone that is running a marathon this spring should totally be thinking about their training and how they are going to fit in the necessary sessions.

For any first timers then be aware that if you're going to do it properly then be prepared for it totally take over your life in a good and bad way. Prepare yourself to feel on top of the world after a long run only to wonder why on earth you've voluntarily signed up to do this by the time you next lace up your trainers. If you're anything like me then you will also want to avoid anyone, including your own children, who is potentially ill - stay the hell away from them.

Seriously though, it's a physical and emotional rollercoaster that doesn't always have a happy ending but you find out so much about yourself in the process. What other free activity can genuinely claim the same?

I'll miss it next year but my time will hopefully come again. For anyone boarding the marathon bus, appreciate it, and remember - this was your fault for signing up in the first place!

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