Mark Armstrong: A tough day at the office at Norfolk XC Champs but I'll be back!

Deputy Sports Editor Mark Armstrong completing their first lap for the Norfolk Cross Country Champio

Mark Armstrong at the end of the first lap at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Archant 2022

I’m cold. I’m hungry. I’m disappointed.  

I’m driving myself and my son, Logan, home alongside my dad, who was on childcare duties on Sunday at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships. 

My dad, who is hard-wired to think that anything I do is awesome (something I appreciate – cheers dad), says to Logan: “Your Daddy did well today, didn’t he?” 

Logan stops playing with his Power Ranger before administering the kind of putdown only a child can administer. 

“No! No, he didn’t!” he exclaimed. 

My ears prick up... and I can’t help but smile as I knew what was coming from my deeply competitive three-year-old. 

“He didn’t win!!!” 

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He was right though on both counts. I didn’t do well... and I certainly didn’t win in any form. 

For the rest of this week Logan has been administering pep talks, normally just before he’s supposed to go to bed, about how we need to go out in the garden to practice running so I can do better next time. 

He’s been to the Neil Featherby School of Coaching, I reckon – that boy is going to be a hard taskmaster. 

I fear if his barometer of success is winning these events then I’m going to be something of a disappointment to him. 

I ran as well as the position I had put myself in at the Championships on Sunday.  

As mentioned last week, I hadn’t targeted this race as one to really try and lay down a marker for myself this year. A decision I now regret. 

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A streaky December in terms of consistency along with a cold that just wouldn’t shift meant I knew I was winging it before going into Sunday. 

But none of the runners or spectators for that matter could have asked for better conditions – it was glorious. 

I settled in at the start and I thought this feels incredibly easy... then about a mile into the first loop the first hill hit us. Upon reaching the top, shuffling through some leaves I let my mind wander a little ‘crikey we’ve got to do that hill twice more!’ 

Conditions could have been a lot worse under foot given the amount of rain we had on Saturday. It was just those damn hills – another one at the end of the loop felt at times that I would be quicker to start walking. 

It sapped my legs but I was pleased with how I responded after each hill, managing to catch my breath after. There’s still a bit of fitness there but the endurance in the legs is sadly lacking. 

Upon starting the third lap I found that I had a little bit left in the tank and managed to up the pace a little (not a lot, mind). I managed to overtake a few runners and distance myself from the small pack I had run with for a few kilometres. 

The sense of relief at getting to the top of the final hill made the race almost worth it. I could put the hammer down because if there’s one thing I can do it is sprint. 

I picked off a few more runners on the home straight before passing a Bure Valley Harrier (Joanne Watkins having looked up the results) with about 50m ago. She then produced the kind of sprint finish that Usain Bolt would have been proud of and there was no way I could respond. I was cooked. Well done Joanne – that was some finish! 

It was a great day for the county’s athletics scene – despite the hills(!) the course was excellent and I really hope that next year’s event is also staged at Earlham Park. 

I just need to ensure I’m in better shape next time... I don’t want to disappoint myself again... or Logan! 

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