Mark Armstrong: Paying the price for feeling smug about running

Mark Armstrong training run

Mark Armstrong on a recent training run. - Credit: Alison Armstrong

I had one of those smug moments last weekend. 

It was around 7am and I was around two miles into a long run. It was very unlike me, but I had to stop and take a photo as the sun came up on the horizon. It was awesome. 

It was one of those rare moments when you feel very grateful for just being able to get outside, put one foot in front of the other, and get some miles in. I made a note to self to actually try and get to bed earlier so that I can do this more often rather than frittering away hours watching YouTube! 

Mark Armstrong early morning run

Feeling smug... Mark Armstrong on an early morning run - Credit: Mark Armstrong

However, a few miles later I felt less smug. 

I was back at my dad’s and as I made my way from the road to the canal to run along the river Stort into Bishop’s Stortford, I hadn’t bargained for just how muddy and boggy it would be. 

I had my favourite trainers on, the new On Cloudstratus, which I bought a few weeks ago and needless to say they were somewhat less white once I had actually made it to the river (my feet were also soaking). 

It was a stark reminder that the weather is changing and we’re all going to have to give it a bit more thought with regards to where we plan on runs. 

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I have to admit that as shallow as it sounds, the sight of my new trainers caked in mud made me feel a little sad...  

I chatted to Neil later that day and asked for his advice. After he stopped laughing, he told me to get to work on them with a soft toothbrush and some soapy water. They’re looking much better now. 

But it’s funny as runners that we build a relationship with our trainers. Ultimately, the trainers only work as well as you make them, but a pair of box fresh running shoes always gives my training a little boost, at least initially. 

I’m lucky enough to have lots of pairs of different brands but, as mentioned above, I always go back to the On Cloudstratus if I need a little mental edge for a run. I feel like I’ve got no excuse if a run doesn’t go well and I’ve got them on. If I’ve put the Cloudstratus on then I mean business. 

They offer the right amount of cushioning for me but feel responsive for when I want to pick up the pace a little. 

As tempting as it is sometimes, I don’t use them for everything. 

I use different shoes for different workouts (when I’m not injured...). As someone that overpronates I like to have something that offers a bit of stability and for an everyday trainer for easy or steady runs then the Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 and Saucony Guide 14 look after me well. The Karhu Fusion Ortix are also really comfortable to run in.

I’ve also recently been trying out a new brand called True Motion which really do feel different to run in. The Nevos have got a great amount of cushioning to them and they promise to ‘center (sic) your run’ helping in the prevention of injuries... I’m all for that after this year although I realise the strength work I do away from my running will have a bigger impact in avoiding injury than any trainers. 

But the Nevos are pretty squishy and well worth a look if you can (I believe Sportlink will be stocking them towards the end of the year). I’ve been using them for anything a bit more up tempo during longer runs. 

I try to rotate my trainers as much as I can and log the miles I’ve done so I know to be wary when perhaps they are coming towards the end of their running life. I still don’t get rid of them... my wife Alison and I have pretty much got a room for our ‘retired’ trainers – the stories they could tell... 

But I find the trainers I put on for a run set the mind for what I’m about to do. I’d encourage anyone, if they can afford to, to get a second pair of trainers if you’re running a lot so that your body doesn’t get too used to running in one pair. 

Having said all that, it’s not about the trainers if you want to improve. They can be part of it, but it’s certainly more about you and the training you put in. 

However, if the trainers you use can support your biomechanical needs and even give you a little psychological edge then they’re one of the best investments a runner can make.