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Running column: Mark Armstrong on his Freethorpe 10 experience and his struggle with safety pins...

Mark Armstrong enjoyed his Freethorpe 10 experience. Picture: Sally Bliss

Mark Armstrong enjoyed his Freethorpe 10 experience. Picture: Sally Bliss

Sussex Sport Photography.com 2018

Running columnist Mark Armstrong recounts his Freethorpe 10 experience whilst revealing a very personal struggle...

I don’t get on well with safety pins.

The only person who knows the extent of this personal struggle (until now) is my wife, Alison, who before every race is tasked with ensuring my number stays affixed to my shirt. She’s a lucky lady.

On Sunday, as I made my final preparations before the Freethorpe 10, I made the near fatal decision to have a go at doing it myself.

After a lot of fumbling, and a few drops of blood spilt, I admitted defeat and Ally had to do the honours for her hopeless husband.

Fortunately, I was just about passed fit to run, despite now having a forefinger that now had a few too many small holes in it.

I didn’t quite know how much I needed this race, because to say I was race-rusty would be an understatement.

You often hear about elite level athletes not leaving anything to chance before an event and they go through the ‘process’ before so they know exactly what to expect before they must perform.

Now I’m clearly not at this level, but at least I learned that come the Greater Manchester Marathon in April I need my wife there to put my number on for me…

I’d heard good things about Freethorpe as an event and I wasn’t disappointed. The weather was pretty horrible in places thanks to that fearsome wind (did anyone else think they were going backwards at mile seven?) but what do you expect when you sign up for a race at the end of January?

I was struck by the sheer number of volunteers, whose good nature at least went some way to temper the difficult conditions.

This was what my coach, Neil Featherby, had described to me as a “key session” in my marathon training. My pace and the discipline I could show would go a long way to setting my agenda for the next few weeks.

Priority number one was to avoid injury so running hard for all of it was off the table. With Manchester just nine weeks away come Sunday I can’t afford to miss out on a couple of weeks’ training.

It meant that I had to run within myself for the first five miles and I’ve got to admit I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

When a race starts a competitive instinct kicks but I knew I had to keep that in check – this was a training run, nothing more.

Neil has really carefully managed my programme so far whereby it’s simply been about getting the miles and the endurance into my legs for what’s to come over the next couple of months. A slight pull or tear that could result from going too hard, wouldn’t be ideal.

I behaved myself for the first five miles before gently increasing the pace over the second half and the fact much of this came when the conditions worsened made it a really good training run.

So I got home in just over 1-16, not my fastest 10 miles, but not too shabby for where I am in my training. Most importantly, there were no new niggles and my calves appear to be behaving for now. All those stability exercises I do most evenings in front of the television are working…

I was slightly humbled however when interviewing men’s winner Ash Harrell afterwards when he revealed that he’d just done a seven-mile warm-down at the end of the race.

And I bet he knows how to put a safety pin on…

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