Mark Armstrong: Gone with the wind - the story of Mark's Snetterton 10K

Mark Armstrong Snetterton 10K

Mark Armstrong on the home straight of the Snetterton 10K. - Credit: Alison Armstrong

Let’s get it out there straight away – I went to Snetterton to post a sub 40-minute 10K and it didn’t happen. 

There are mitigating circumstances of course (aren’t there always) but the truth is I wasn’t quite fit enough to do it in those conditions. 

As soon as my wife Alison and I arrived at the track we could see the flags billowing in the wind. Alison, who was running the 5K, then pointed out that a bird was struggling to fly against the wind – we had to laugh – we knew this was going to be tough. 

Now, let’s be honest, it wasn’t a gale by any means but it was definitely enough to affect performances. 

After many conversations with my coach, Neil Featherby, in the days leading up to the race, we decided to settle upon 6:30 minute miles for the first three before seeing if I could increase the pace in the second half of the race. 

I was disciplined and adhered to this plan but mile four was a wind-party. I threw in a 6:41 and I knew I had some time to make up. 

Fortunately, at this point I remembered something else Neil had told me when I had asked him about running into any potential wind, which is always a possibility at Snetterton. 

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He told me to try and draft in with other groups of runners. Unfortunately, there was one lone soul who was running at a very similar pace to me. 

I decided he would be my drafter... poor lad. 

There was no communication whatsoever but we knew we could help each other out on this... okay I knew he could help me out... 

Sporting one of Nike’s carbon-plated race shoes I knew he’d understand a runner looking for any kind of competitive advantage. 

Every time the wind was right in our faces for mile five, I tucked in behind him (in a socially distant way obviously). 

Mile five was done in 6:25 – ‘that’s better’ I thought... perhaps there is something left in the tank here.  

There was still work to do to make up for the time I had lost in the earlier miles and I gave it absolutely everything I had in the last mile. 

I went back to some of those freezing training sessions completed in the dark round the mean streets of Wacton... so many times when during intervals I wanted to stop but I wouldn’t. 

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My new running mate was proving an excellent windshield but then I felt him slowing down so I knew I had to take on some of the work. I overtook him and just after my watch bleeped to tell me mile six was done in 6:13. Was a sub 40 on? 

I entered the long home straight and I afforded myself another glance at my watch.  

Thirty-nine minutes had passed and I could see the finish line.  

However, I was still more than a minute away from that glorious moment I could stop and sink on to the railings at the side. 

I knew coming into the home straight that I wasn’t going to do it and I let out something of a roar of frustration... I tend to do things in races that I wouldn’t dream of doing in everyday life! 

But as 6.21 miles (10K) tipped over on my watch I hit bang on 40 minutes. I had almost paced the race absolutely perfectly... it’s just I had another 150 metres to run! 

That’s one of the risks in going completely off a GPS watch I suppose as they aren’t 100 percent accurate and I believe a fair few other runners fell foul of this. 

My official time was 40:35 – a really solid run in the conditions but the overriding emotion was one of frustration. 

But we go again... other races are booked in, notably the Valentine’s 10K when I can potentially have another stab at a sub 40 10K. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for perfect running conditions on that day. 

But doesn’t it feel wonderful now that there are more races on the calendar we can target? 

It was also great to see so many smiling faces at the end for people that did achieve their goals. Alison was one of those in achieving a new personal best of 20:50 – that PB feeling really is one to cherish and something I’m constantly chasing. 

There will be a fair few runners targeting good performances in the Sportlink SMile event taking place at the UEA Sportspark, organised by Athletics Norfolk this evening. 

I can’t wait to see the four quarter-finals when the cream of the county’s fastest runners will battle it out.  

It promises to be some evening.