Mark Armstrong: What are you looking forward to most when normality returns?

Mark Armstrong with daughter, Lara, after completing the Trowse 10k on Sunday. Picture: Alison Armst

Throwback to Mark Armstrong finishing the Trowse 10K in 2017 before having his medal stolen by daughter, Lara. - Credit: Archant

You’re about to enter a time machine. 

It’s 2022. 

Everyone has had the Covid-19 vaccine, people actually meet up rather than have meetings over Zoom and you don’t spend far too much of your week looking for a supermarket delivery slot. 

Parents (and children to be fair) even look back on home-school with a degree of fondness... okay I’ve gone too far. 

More importantly than all that... you get to run and race alongside all of your friends again. 

You can get your 2022 diary out and plan the races you want to do. You can book a Premier Inn and ‘make a weekend of it’ somewhere in the UK or beyond.  

Your biggest worry is that you got rejected, again, by the London Marathon for a place (note this year’s ballot results come out on February 8). 

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We should always try to make the best of the circumstances we have now and I don’t like having to look so far ahead to a time when realistically things will be wholly different. Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one will know there just isn’t the time to waste. 

But you can’t escape the feeling that, at best, we have had to press pause on so many of the liberties we took for granted. 

The last proper race I did was the Bure Valley 10M in September 2019 – the abiding memory of which is the brilliant volunteers having to push our car out the mud to get out of the car park afterwards! 

I miss that race day feeling so much – the nervous excitement at the race HQ, pinning a number to your shirt (with difficulty in my case), overthinking what clothes you’re wearing, queuing for the toilet (okay, no-one misses that). 

I miss talking to people before the race – the determined runners who know they’re going to run well, those that are getting their excuses in why they’re not quite at their best, others that are running an event for the first time. 

I still daydream about the races I want to do. The thought of perhaps one day running the London Marathon, the Bournemouth Half Marathon (again), my wife, Alison, and I running the New York Marathon for our 40th birthdays. 

But I’m almost as excited about the local race scene coming back – the Wroxham 5K Series, the Trowse 10K (even the hill... twice), the Lord Mayor’s 5K, the 10-milers at Bure Valley, Dereham and Freethorpe – there's too many to mention – we're that lucky to have a great race scene in Norfolk. 

We must not forget parkrun either, obviously. When that comes back then it really will feel like ‘normal’ life has returned. If we can sit in a café afterwards with our friends and drink coffee and eat cake then even better. 

It’s all these things that keep getting me out the door at the moment – not always, I’ll be honest. Some days are just too draining and the thought of doing a hard session feels too much. 

Neil Featherby, as my coach, knows this and has given me a loose framework to try to cement a lot of the gains I made towards the end of the last year. 

I did my first interval session (6x600m with 2min recoveries) in a few weeks on Wednesday and it was something of a shock to the system. I’ve lost a bit of speed, but the most important thing is that I did it. If I keep doing it on a consistent basis then that will come back. 

Consistency and routine are key to improving as a runner which is difficult because so many areas of our lives lack thanks to the Covid restrictions. 

It doesn’t have to be like that with your running, but you need to cling on to what you want to do on the other side of this. 

And I want to race, and race well. So that’s why I’m going to spend what looks like the majority of 2021 maintaining, keeping that good running base, before collecting all the personal bests I can muster in 2022.