Mark Armstrong: It felt so good to be back racing at Trowse 10K

Mark Armstrong Trowse 10K 2022

Mark Armstrong, complete with sunglasses, crosses the finish line at the Trowse 10K. - Credit: Total Race Timing

I’ve agonised over when to get back racing. 

My calf has been feeling much better over the past few weeks but I’m still wary of pushing too, hard too soon. 

After signing up to the Trowse 10K, I had a wobble on Friday, thinking that I should leave it another few weeks. 

But then I resolved that this was another part of the recovery process that needed to happen.  

This is why I’ve been going to the physio, doing the strength work, cross training and plenty of running. 

I also thought I’m not sure I can attend another event when I’m not running it! 

So, the big decision was made... I was racing. I could now focus on all the other trivialities that come with toeing a start line. 

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After obsessing far too much over whether to wear sunglasses during the race, I made my way to the start. 

I settled in at the back of the first wave of runners due to start, well away from the faster people at the front. When I initially signed up to the race, I hoped to be in vastly better shape than I was but I was just grateful to be there after such an injury interrupted start to the year. 

I’ve missed that pent-up nervous energy I feel on any start line but I’ve learned to simplify the many random thoughts that enter my head before the gun goes... don’t go off too fast (or words to that effect... this is a family newspaper). 

I didn’t want to get sucked into anyone else’s race whilst I also knew there was no point in trying to run even splits on a course like Trowse due to the hill which has to be run twice.  

I let everyone go and settled in after a kilometre, pretty pleased with how the pace was feeling. 

Any temptation to get carried away was kept at bay by the bottle neck effect of running beside Whitlingham Broad during the second kilometre. My pace slowed, but rather than get frustrated and expend too much energy weaving in and out of runners, I tried to look at the bright side and the fact I was still running well within myself. 

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As soon as we were back on the road, I decided to pick up the pace until we got to the dreaded hill. There are some people who will claim it isn’t a hill. I’ve lost count at the number of times, admittedly more experienced runners than me, have said: ‘That isn’t a hill!’ 

Well, it is, certainly in my eyes. However, the great thing about this course is that you get to come down the other side of it shortly after. 

As I started my ascent I turned my watch face on to a screen where I couldn’t see my current pace. There was absolutely no good to come of glancing at my Garmin during that part of the race. 

I wanted to keep it steady without completely burying myself in a pool of lactate acid. 

When I reached the top, I almost literally breathed a sigh of relief as my lungs filled with air and my legs started to feel functional again. 

I hammered it down the hill with only a brief thought to how odd it would be to camp at Trowse over the Easter weekend and wake up to seeing hundreds of runners flying past your tent... 

I still felt good and tried to keep it very steady back along Whitlingham maintaining as much positivity as I could. 

‘My legs are feeling strong.’ 

‘I’m wearing my fastest shoes.’ 

‘So many people are wearing Saucony Endorphin Speed or Pros... I must try a pair!’ 

Just a few of the thoughts I was distracting myself with as I started the second loop. I knew if I could get through the hill again relatively unscathed then it could be a really enjoyable couple of kilometres.  

I ran within myself up the hill again, arguably too much so, but I wanted to make sure I could take advantage of the following downhill. Once again, I stabilised as I reached the top and after the drinks station, I was told by Jane Clarke in no uncertain terms to get going (it was appreciated!). 

I was almost waiting for that ‘goodness when will this be over?’ feeling but it never came and I thoroughly enjoyed the end of the race. The support was excellent and upon rounding the corner into the race HQ at Norfolk Snowsports Club I even managed a bit of a sprint finish. 

It was a great benchmark run and most importantly of all my troublesome calf felt fine, even in the days after it. 

I hope to run faster this year, of course, but I’m not being greedy. For the moment, it just felt great to be part of the racing community again rather than an injured outsider looking in. 

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By cherishing that feeling, hopefully I can make some better choices when the training cranks up again.