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Running column: A sub 20-minute 5K finally belongs to Mark Armstrong

Runners complete race two of the Wroxham 5K Series on Wednesday night. Picture: Tony Thrussell

Runners complete race two of the Wroxham 5K Series on Wednesday night. Picture: Tony Thrussell

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Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong has finally got a sub 20-minute 5K...

I remember one of my first effort sessions a few weeks after the Greater Manchester Marathon and I was so far off the pace I needed to be.

A sub 20-minute 5K felt so far outside my capability.

"You are where you are," said my coach Neil Featherby, who knew I would get the benefit of all those marathon miles given a bit of time.

Deep down, I also knew that, but I also knew what sort of sessions lied ahead to get some speed back in my legs.

I threw myself back into another training programme and gradually the legs felt lighter.

The splits got faster, I was needing less time to recover between reps during training and within a month or so my mindset had completely changed.

I had always thought race two of the Wroxham 5K Series would be a great chance to break 20 minutes with it being just over a month before the Lord Mayor's 5K City Centre Classic Road Race.

MORE: Wroxham 5K race two report - Arnold and Rodriguez take victories

I almost felt afraid to say that I was in sub-20 shape beforehand though. When you've worked towards something for a period of time it can be a bit daunting when you realise you're close to it.

I didn't want to say anything to anyone about it… but then before the race I had to.

It was time to back myself - line up with the runners looking to dip under 20 minutes - and believe I can do it.

Start lines are funny old places with most runners looking to dampen expectations… I lost count of 'I don't really fancy this today…'

It's a defence mechanism of course - get your excuses in now if you don't perform how you want to.

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I've been guilty of this before but not on Wednesday. I'd trained too hard to give myself a free pass on this.

This was a big chance to go under 20 minutes on a very friendly course. There wasn't any hiding place and when Norwich Road Runner Neil Walpole asked me on the start line what I was going for I said 'anything under 20 minutes'.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group here

Neil told me to keep him in my sights and he'd help get me there along with another couple of runners he was pacing.

The plan that had been formulated with Neil Featherby was to go off a touch slower than the pace I needed for a sub 20 to ensure that I could finish the race strongly and take advantage of that lovely downhill home straight.

I just about managed to keep myself in check for the first mile and it felt surprisingly comfortable. The only slight issue in places were the huge puddles runners were trying to avoid which resulted in a bit of bottle-necking in places.

On the couple of occasions this happened I tried to use it as a chance to relax and 'rest' before making up the time when the course widened out.

The third kilometre marker went by and I still felt relatively comfortable but I also knew it was about to get tougher.

I had a few seconds to make up and saw Neil Walpole just ahead of me so decided to sit on his shoulder (not literally…) and match his pace for a while and let him do the thinking in terms of pace for me.

It helped get me through to the final kilometre marker and a glance at my watch told me that I had four minutes precisely to complete it. It was on.

I held on to Neil on a slight incline knowing that if I could get through it then I'd be able to freewheel down the hill towards the finish.

It was hurting by the '400m to go' marker but I knew unless I fell (not beyond the realms of possibility given how wet it was) that I was going to do it.

There aren't many better feelings than gliding down the home straight knowing you're going to achieve your goal, one I've had since I started running.

I couldn't sleep on Wednesday evening with so much adrenaline still in my body and I had to keep checking my splits on Strava that I had actually managed it.

But it was there in black and white… 19:46 and whatever happens at the Lord Mayor's no-one can take that away from me.

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