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Running column: Finding the last piece of the puzzle to make sub 20-minute 5K breakthrough

Mark Armstrong needs to up his preparation for the Lord Mayor's 5K in July. Picture: Cambridge Half Marathon

Mark Armstrong needs to up his preparation for the Lord Mayor's 5K in July. Picture: Cambridge Half Marathon

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The Lord Mayor's 5K is fast approaching and Run Anglia editor Mark Armstrong wants to earn his place on the start line

The Lord Mayor's 5K at the start of July is just over six weeks away… and I'm not ready for it.

A slight niggle in my calf wasn't helpful a couple of weeks ago but after a bit of rest and conditioning I'm back in play and feel physically recovered enough from the Greater Manchester Marathon to enter into the next training block.

But I'm a couple of weeks into it now and, worryingly, my times are not where they need to be.

"You are where you are," said my coach Neil Featherby, which of course is right.

I can't do any more than I am at the moment, which is as much a source of comfort as it is a concern.

Athletes are often told to 'trust the process' - a motto I've always found slightly irritating to be honest - but it's something I've got to get my head round.

I've got total trust in Neil's training methods, whether I can carry them out and make the progress necessary in time for the Lord Mayor's is another matter.

But perhaps I'm looking too far ahead even if it does seem to be coming on the horizon all too quickly. I should be taking it one session at a time, and see where I am when July 6 comes around.

With it being so early into this training block I'm yet to have completed a session thinking 'Yes! I can do this!" - these moments are why I love running so much.

But I'm finding the effort sessions extremely difficult - the legs and lungs have got a little too used to my marathon training schedule, although that does seem a lifetime ago now.

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For example towards the end of a mile rep I'm finding that my body is crying out for me to stop… and this is at a pace that I'm going to have to sustain for three miles (and a bit!).

But then not long into the four-minute recovery I feel okay, which perhaps means there is more to unlock mentally to push myself harder and faster.

I remember speaking to Iona Lake last year before she went to the Commonwealth Games that she would often endure a lull during a race where it felt more difficult than it should only for her to be able to wind it up towards the end. Her stats after the race showed that physically during that tough spell she wasn't working any harder than she should be.

CoNAC team-mate Logan Smith also spoke about something similar this week after he set a new personal best at the Loughborough International in the 3000m Steeplechase.

Logan saw a photo of the end of the race where he was one of the only runners that wasn't slumped on the floor. This told him and his coaching team that perhaps there is a bit more effort to unlock and go even faster.

Logan and I are at very different ends of the athletic spectrum… I'm willing to bet he has a lot more discipline in his life than I do.

But if the elite are finding it difficult to go to 'that place' in your mind when everything is telling you to stop running then it's no surprise an average Joe like me is having a few problems.

I feel so lucky to have been offered a place at a prestigious event like the Lord Mayor's 5K but I know I need to earn my spot and not look out of place in such elite company.

Getting comfortable with being very comfortable again could make or break getting under that 20-minute barrier.

It could also be the difference between an athlete like Logan being a very good club runner or one day representing his country on the biggest stage.

Holt 10K

I'm looking forward to attending the Holt 10K this weekend. There are still places available for anyone that still wants to take part in the sixth event of the Sportlink Grand Prix series (register here). You can also register on the day as long as you have a device that can access the Total Race Timing site.

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