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Running column: How being a runner helped Mark Armstrong meet a princess

PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:42 02 November 2018

Lara meets Ariel at Disneyland Paris. Picture: Mark Armstrong

Lara meets Ariel at Disneyland Paris. Picture: Mark Armstrong

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How an impromptu buggy race saw Mark Armstrong break into a sprint for the first time in a while

Lara, left, with her favourite princess, Ariel, and her cousin Monique at Disneyland Paris. Picture: Mark ArmstrongLara, left, with her favourite princess, Ariel, and her cousin Monique at Disneyland Paris. Picture: Mark Armstrong

It’s 8.30am, there’s a chill in the air, and I’m wondering what I’m doing up so early.

There’s a sense of anticipation as a group of around 100 people wait for a rope to be lowered for this ‘race’ to start.

It was like any other start line around the country, except on this occasion, my competitors weren’t the sort you would have seen at Trowse on Sunday morning.

There was very little lycra on display and not a portaloo in sight.

There was some sensible training on the Field of Pain this week in the very warm conditions. Picture: Neil FeatherbyThere was some sensible training on the Field of Pain this week in the very warm conditions. Picture: Neil Featherby

I was stood behind a buggy with my four-year-old daughter, Lara, around 200 yards from where she would be able to meet her favourite princess at Disneyland Paris - Ariel (The Little Mermaid for the uninitiated).

I wasn’t really sure what the etiquette would be once the rope dropped and the race started to get to the front of the queue. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be spending half the morning waiting to meet a princess...

I didn’t have to wait long to find out when the woman next to me took off like Usain Bolt. There was a split second where I asked myself ‘are you really going to start running?’ Then the competitive instinct kicked in and I was off.

I felt ridiculous, but I didn’t really care. Looking as silly as all the other people was worth it as I did my best to get as far up the queue as my legs (and buggy) would allow.

At one point I was going so fast that I was worried Lara might tip out the buggy. I think she thought it was the best ride she had been on all week judging by the smile on her face!

I wasn’t first but we were just high enough up the queue for me to catch my breath before Lara got to meet and have her picture taken with Ariel. Did I feel silly? A little, but I’ve long since lost my sense of self awareness if it means keeping my children happy!

After not running for a little while to let a few niggles settle down I wasn’t expecting to make my comeback with a dash to meet a fictional character.

But the calf that has blighted my running for a couple of months feels like it is starting to settle down and I feel ready to find a new running routine with the main goal being a marathon in spring time next year.

I really want to get back out regularly, particularly after seeing so many people in action last weekend.

Someone I’ve trained alongside on a few occasions, Craig Bowen-Jones, was in action at the Frankfurt Marathon and unfortunately didn’t get the time he was looking for.

To go well under three hours for a marathon is the Holy Grail for many runners but Craig’s commitment to his training deserved more than the 2-55:22 he got (still a 40-second PB).

It brought home to me once again how running is all relative. One person’s couch to 5K is another person’s sub three-hour marathon.

The beauty of running is that there is always another race and I know Craig will be doubly determined to put it right in spring next year and go under 2-55.

He’s someone I aspire to in my training with the way he juggles a demanding job with posting some excellent times.

I’ll never be in his league…but I reckon I could give him a race to meet a Disney princess…

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