Mark Armstrong: Running events are back and coming in waves

Runners in the City of Norwich Half Marathon in the rain. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It promises to be a lot sunnier and drier than the last City of Norwich Half Marathon in 2019. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

How do you feel on the start line usually? 

Nervous? Excited? Like you need the toilet... again? 

It’s the best and worst place to be – a mixture of emotions that need to be controlled and harnessed into something that’s going to help you. 

Rolling starts, which were necessary to keep events Covid safe, helped ease many runners back into taking part in events again.  

The understated way you could just go when you wanted (within a certain time frame) has been a nice bridge in restarting racing as we adjusted to running in events in a Covid secure way. 

However, there’s no doubt that it detracts from the feeling of it being a proper race, which brings the best out of a lot of runners, certainly at the front end of things. 

The time trial element is fun for your mid-packers like myself but if you’re one of the leaders then you want to be able work off each other. 

Most Read

That’s why it’s been so good to see some proper starts recently. The Valentine’s 10K had an ‘elite’ start for the leading men and women with rolling starts for the rest of the field depending on their predicted times. 

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group

The Mike Groves 10K last weekend had waves, which meant there was some proper racing going on although the City of Norwich AC runner James Price was well clear of the rest of the field by the end. Mrs Armstrong came third in the women’s field by the way... she’s the proper runner in our household it seems! 

But I’m really looking forward to watching the City of Norwich Half Marathon on Sunday as once again it will operate with wave starts meaning the leading runners will start at 10am.  

It should lead to some exciting racing... and from a journalist’s point of view I won’t be wondering who’s won at the end... a definite disadvantage in terms of rolling starts! 

It should be an excellent event with around 2,000 runners taking part and I would love to be one of them but it’s not to be at the moment. Until I get to the bottom of this hamstring/knee problem then I can’t do myself justice and I would rather not race. In years gone by I would have tried to bluster through it but no good comes of it. Even if the race goes okay (it normally doesn’t) then you’re left wondering how much better it could have gone if you had been able to put some proper training in. 

I remember I had been under the weather for a couple of weeks before the Cambridge Half Marathon a few years back. It had been more than a cold but less than the flu. 

But my wife, Alison, was running and the fear of missing out was just too much. I ran... it was a silly decision in hindsight – those last few miles were utter purgatory – but sometimes you have to live these experiences to know not to do it again. 

I realise I’m lucky to be there on Sunday in a reporter role given that supporters aren’t permitted at the moment, which is a shame, but understandable. 

There will be a few runners that have taken to the sport during lockdown taking on a half marathon for the first time and I’m envious of them. 

All I would say, and it may seem obvious, but a half marathon is a long way - it needs to be respected. Go off too fast at your absolute peril. Take a look at the paces you’ve been running in training and stick to those. 

Magic days where you run a minute a mile quicker than you have ever done before, don’t happen. If you set off too quickly then it will affect your race later on. Trust someone who knows! 

Keep that excitement in check and save it for the later miles when you need it.  

But most importantly of all, enjoy it. We’ve been waiting for a ‘big’ event to happen for more than 18 months now and it’s happening. Let’s savour it. 

BLOB I can’t let this column go without commenting on the amazing performances of John Stocker and Matt Blackburn at the Suffolk Backyard Ultra event that took place last weekend... and quite a bit more! 

John took victory by running for 81 hours straight but both broke the previous world record of 75. 

Matt unfortunately had to pull out at 80 hours with participants having to run 4.167 miles every hour until they could no longer carry on. 

But what an effort by both men – well played. 

How long could you go for?