Mark Armstrong: TMI and the St Neots Half Marathon

Mark Armstrong St Neots Half

Mark Armstrong finishes the St Neots Half Marathon last weekend - Credit: St Neots Half Marathon

Here we go again... 

I’m doubled over on the side of the road in the 12th mile of the St Neots Half Marathon, desperately trying to get the water back up that I had gulped down. (This is far too much information, but this is a running column and TMI is a currency we’re always dealing in). 

A wave of negativity flushes over me. ‘You’ve messed up another half marathon, Mark,’ I say to myself. ‘How have you got this wrong again?’ 

In my attempt to force an energy gel down, I had sloshed too much water down my throat and if I was to say that it wasn’t ‘sitting well’ then I think you’ll all get my drift. 

Runner after runner flew past... right at the point of the race when you’re the one wanting to do the overtaking. 

I had a choice to make. I could amble through the last couple of miles with my tail between my legs feeling like a failure or... 

I could get this water up. 

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I chose the latter, told the negative voice to go away in language that would make a sailor blush, and salvaged a 15-second personal best for the half marathon distance. 

Most importantly of all, I learned a bit more about myself. 

In the past I’ve given up when it’s got really tough in a race, particularly over the longer distances. I’ve always said that I quite enjoy the ‘pain’ of the shorter races but not the ‘suffering’ in longer events. 

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I wasn’t going to let myself get away with it this time. I’ve got to get out of a mindset where I tell myself that ‘I’m just not that good at longer events’. It’s rubbish – my body shape lends itself to the shorter distances without doubt, but that doesn’t mean without practice and proper training I can’t get a lot faster than I am. 

The better runners are able to solve problems as they run. In Sunday’s instance it was a problem entirely of my own making but I’m proud that I was able to get back to a decent pace for the last mile and a half to come home with a personal best. 

Without being arrogant, I know I’m capable of a lot quicker than the 1:37:25 – my best times at 5K and 10K should equate to a faster time than that. 

But there have been moments this year when I’ve wondered if I will get back to running pain free. It’s not entirely rational but when you’re injured then you have moments when you think ‘is this just how it’s going to be now?’ 

It tests you to keep doing the mind numbing, uncomfortable exercises that make so much difference. 

So, to pull out a personal best in what is likely to be my last road race this year is hopefully a platform for a more consistent 2022. 

We all have to have a strategy when races get hard, when life gets hard.  

You just have to keep moving forward and sometimes you have to keep moving forward through the worst bits as quickly as you possibly can. 

I must admit another motivation for keeping going in the last mile was the thought of my editor David Powles, flying past me on the home straight. 

Mark Armstrong St Neots Half

Mark Armstrong and EDP editor David Powles at the end of the St Neots Half Marathon - Credit: Alison Armstrong

He didn’t, but it was close. 

So I’ve now got my wife and my editor breathing down my neck. It really is lucky that I bought those performance shoes from Sportlink last month. 

They were worth every second on Sunday, every 15 of them. 

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