Running column: The area of training that so many runners neglect, including Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong wants to become mentally stronger in races. Picture: Sussex Sport Photography

Mark Armstrong wants to become mentally stronger in races. Picture: Sussex Sport Photography

Sussex Sport 2018

Running columnist Mark Armstrong has been neglecting an important area of his training and it’s something he’s looking to put right

I have a confession to make.

I spend a lot of my life exercising every muscle I can that will help make me a better runner.

I've had my fair share of niggling injuries since taking up running consistently a few years ago and as a result I try to do something most days that will enable me to steer clear of injury and go faster.

Calf raises, lunges, planks, foam rolling, countless stretches - I'm doing something, normally in front of the television, most evenings… quietly in case it wakes my nocturnal son, Logan.

But I've neglected arguably the most important muscle of all when it comes to running - the mind.

It dawned on me earlier this week that as much as the circumstances around my Greater Manchester Marathon experience were difficult, I could have dealt with it a lot better.

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

When the going got tough in the middle of the race, I folded and let the waves of adversity sweep me away into an ocean of pain.

But why would it be any different when I hadn't trained my mind to keep going when things got tough?

It's strange on social media as well how you see so many people posting about injuries or looking for training tips, but you rarely see people asking for any advice how to train your mind for running.

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I'm not sure what form it's going to take yet but I'm going to try and make a bit of time going forward to develop my mental strength. Part of this will be during my actual training sessions but I'm open to suggestions from people who look to also train their mind as well as their body for running.

I'm going to need a bit of mental fortitude over the next few months as I try and get myself in a position where I have half a chance of going under 20 minutes at the Lord Mayor's 5K at the start of July.

I thought I was ready to throw myself into another training block but when I tried to step things up at the weekend I felt my calf grumble and for a few days it hasn't been happy.

MORE: Mark Armstrong is moving on from the marathon

My legs, and my mind for that matter, are used to marathon training and that needs to change.

I've got a great endurance base but I need to speed things up in my sessions. Unfortunately, that increases the risk of injury and I must admit to having doubts whether I can get my body through the kind of training block necessary to go under 20 minutes. There's that negative mindset rearing its ugly head again… I told you I needed some mental training.

The marathon took a lot out of me but with just over nine weeks before I toe the start line at the Lord Mayor's there's a lot of work to do both on and away from the road.

If only running was about just running… there's so much more to it than that, especially for someone as physically fragile as me...

But I'm a persistent little so-and-so and that at least gives me something to work when it comes to the forthcoming mental battles.

I won't set myself up to fail and I'm going to be doing everything I can over the next couple of months to get ready.

I'm due to take part in the first race of the Wroxham 5K series next Wednesday but I will have to see how the calf settles down. I can't afford many more weeks where I'm only getting one or two runs in for fear my legs are going to break down. Plus there is a clear correlation between the amount of running I do and how I grumpy I am… and I really don't want to be grumpy!

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