Mark Armstrong: It's time to stop chasing who I used to be

Mark Armstrong training run

Mark Armstrong out on a training run - Credit: Alison Armstrong Photography

January is a busy month for the running community. 

We welcome all members... and we see a huge intake in membership of our unofficial club. 

How long that membership lasts is up to each individual and the decisions made early on will determine if this lifestyle is temporary or permanent. 

Personally, I love seeing people come to the sport and they display that wide-eyed expression, which says: “Why on earth have I not been doing this all my life?!’ 

It’s amazing and it’s a feeling to cherish. 

Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t last. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel amazing still – it does, but in a different way. 

Once that shiny new gloss is rubbed off a little, you have to assess what you’re left with. 

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You have to redefine what you want out of running and why you want it to be a part of your life. 

It’s a relationship, and like any other, it needs time and effort to get the most out of it. 

You have to strip it back and ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ 

I’ve been asking myself that exact question recently and it’s not an easy one to answer if you think about it deeply. 

There is often more than one reason but I believe one of the main reasons I run is to build self-esteem. When my running is going well then it feels like everything else is.  

It’s a double-edged sword, of course. It’s all relative but in my eyes my running hasn’t been going well for the best part of a year now. 

I’m desperate to get back to where I was when I came very close to breaking the 40-minute barrier for 10K.  

But I’m too desperate for it and I’m making bad decisions as a result. 

I had a heart-to-heart with Neil Featherby earlier this week explaining how I feel and why I always feel like I’m taking one step forwards before taking two back. 

A calf niggle after the Norfolk Cross Country Championships has really got me down. I know it’s minor but it’s been the straw that broke the camel’s back bearing in mind how much running I missed last year due to injury. 

My desperation to chase the fitness I lost and times I’d like to post is clouding my judgement and a lack of patience is undermining my training. 

Expectations have been set far too high and it isn’t healthy to live your life through this Amazon Prime mindset when you expect everything to happen the next day. 

It doesn’t happen with running. I’ve got to get comfortable with slowing down and building my body back up again – I can’t allow myself to look beyond that at the moment. 

It’s no use looking too far down the line because it creates pressure, which then leads to poor decision-making in terms of my training. 

It’s why I’m getting back under Neil’s coaching wing as soon as the calf clears up. I need that check on me and reminder to take things slowly and build a far more solid base. 

When done correctly, running make you feel great, whatever level you run at. 

Running is a huge part of my life and that’s not going to change... but how I approach it has to if I am to get out of this negative spiral. 

‘The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.’ Leo Tolstoy