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Running column: A lot of people passed Mark Armstrong at the Valentine 10K but it turned out okay in the end

PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:55 23 February 2018

Mark Armstrong on the home straight of the Valentine 10K. Picture: Alison Armstrong

Mark Armstrong on the home straight of the Valentine 10K. Picture: Alison Armstrong

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Running columnist MARK ARMSTRONG reveals the important lesson he took away from Norfolk Gazelles' Valentine 10K

Mark Armstrong on the home straight of the Valentine 10K. Picture: Alison ArmstrongMark Armstrong on the home straight of the Valentine 10K. Picture: Alison Armstrong

One after the other runners were streaming by me.

A Norwich Road Runner here, a Coltishall Jaguar there – I must have been passed by a member of every running club in the area during the first mile of the Valentine 10K.

I had started the race too near the front but didn’t realise it at the time.

As runners continually passed me irrational thoughts started going through my head – ‘what if I come last?’, ‘this must be going really poorly – what’s happened to my pace?’

Mark Armstrong gives his medal to his daughter, Lara. Picture: Alison ArmstrongMark Armstrong gives his medal to his daughter, Lara. Picture: Alison Armstrong

Normally I don’t look at my watch during the first stages of a race, preferring to trust in the pace that I have settled upon during my training runs.

MORE: Race report from Sunday’s Valentine 10K

But I couldn’t resist on Sunday. When my watch beeped to indicate the first mile had passed, I just had to have a look.

It read 6:38 – far too fast for the first mile (for me) especially when you consider part of it was uphill. I had been caught up in the adrenaline of the race and was trying to keep up with the traffic of the other runners around me, who were clearly quicker than I am.

I knew I had to settle my pace and slow it down a touch unless I really wanted to suffer a torturous couple of miles at the end of the race.

Mark Armstrong gives his medal to daughter, Lara, who's delighted with it. Picture: Alison ArmstrongMark Armstrong gives his medal to daughter, Lara, who's delighted with it. Picture: Alison Armstrong

I just had to let the other runners around me go and find my place in the field, which I did.

I thought I was starting to struggle at the halfway point but fortunately the drinks station came at just the right time. Whether I was starting to feel dehydrated or it just provided a mini psychological boost, I don’t know. But it gave my pace the bit of impetus it needed.

I managed to tag on to a lady from Coltishall Jaguars, who passed me just after the halfway point. She had a nice steady pace that I thought I could sustain – she probably doesn’t know what a help she was in my race but, if I see her again, I’ll thank her!

The downhill section in the second half was welcome and gave me the chance of a little breather. I did worry, as I descended, ‘what if we have to come up the other side?’ but fortunately this wasn’t the case.

By the last kilometre I knew I was on for a good time and picked up the pace. I passed my oblivious pacer (rude eh?) and picked off as many runners as I could. Is it bad that I get a private satisfaction about passing another runner who has overtaken me earlier during the race? It’s the competitor in me that I still struggle to shake off.

I crossed the line in 43:10, knocking off over half a minute from the PB I set at Snetterton in January.

MORE: Get your race diary planned with our event calendar

I had barely crossed the line before my daughter, Lara, wanted to have a look at my shiny new medal, which I was only too happy to pass on.

I’m really pleased with how my race panned out and it was an added bonus to pick up a strong time along the way when my training has been primarily geared to Cambridge in just over a week’s time.

Having done quite a few 10Ks now I know the pace, and level of effort, I can put in across that distance. I’m still relatively inexperienced in the half marathon – Cambridge will be my fourth official race at this distance.

It means I’m still working out what my pace is going to be but Neil Featherby has adjusted my training over the past week to get that nailed down.

I will be in a faster starting pen so I’m aware there is a danger I get caught up amongst runners that are quicker than I am and knock me off my pace.

I just about got away without it on Sunday but I need to show a bit more respect to a half marathon or risk blowing up in the final stages of the race.

BLOB Congratulations to Norfolk Gazelles on arranging an excellent event on Sunday. Superb organisation, a nice route and friendly marshals – what more could you ask for from a local race? It’s one that I will definitely be looking to do again next year.

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