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Running column: After reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly of this year, Mark Armstrong looks ahead

Mark Armstrong on a training run. Picture: Alison Armstrong

Mark Armstrong on a training run. Picture: Alison Armstrong

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Start thinking ahead now about what you want to achieve in 2020 or face missing out

Conkers falling from the trees, Strictly Come Dancing well under way… my daughter Lara's ever-growing Christmas wishlist - just a few signposts that 2019 is starting burn out.

It's nearly October and this year feels like an absolute whirlwind. Worryingly the years pass by quicker and quicker as you get older.

Not a day goes by now without a race popping up on one of my social media feeds… unfortunately it's not possible to run them all, as much as I would like.

Normal people (those crazy types that haven't discovered running yet) use the end of a year to make resolutions and think about what they are going to do better in the next 12 months.

Runners can't afford to leave it that late because if they do the likelihood is that main event they wanted to target is sold out.

With that in mind I've really started to reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2019.

The Good

The good has got to be the Wroxham 5K when I went under 20 minutes for the first and only time… so far. Embarking on a speed training program was the best thing I could do with all those marathon miles in my legs. Combining those sessions with the endurance I had built up was a recipe for success. Note to self… repeat next year (but go faster).

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The Bad

The Greater Manchester Marathon at the start of April was one of those experiences I will always remember. Having undergone months of hard training the decision to make the weekend of the marathon a family occasion was about as sensible as getting my son, Logan, to look after my phone for me. Yes, that sounds selfish, but doing a marathon is exactly that. Apparently, a five-hour journey with your two kids the day before, your wife having a sickness bug and having a teething baby, isn't the ideal preparation to run under 3:30 - who'd have thought it eh? I'm planning on returning to Manchester next year… on my own.

The Ugly

My Hoka Gaviotas have become my absolute go-to trainers for shorter distances - they are the trainers I did the sub-20 in and I feel like I could keep up with some of the CoNAC boys… for about 100m. However, using them for the first time on a 20-mile training run because I couldn't contain my excitement at having new shoes was not my finest hour (okay three hours)… but my feet just about lived to tell the tale #compeed.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group here

So what do I want 2020 to hold?

I understand why people want new experiences in their running - that's exactly what my wife, Alison, wants out of running - she's running Run Disney this weekend in Paris dressed as a Disney princess.

But I want next year to be like the one I've just had, but better and faster. That might sound a little boring to some people but I still view myself as a relative newcomer to running. I want to see how much more I can push myself at 5K, 10K, half marathon and of course, the marathon.

My coach Neil Featherby often tells me that 'winners never fail', illustrating that however your race panned out, good or bad, as long as you learned something from it then you're on the road to becoming a better runner. That's why of course you often learn so much more from the bad runs.

So I want 2020 to be about using all that experience I gained this year to make me a better, faster, more rounded runner.

Now where's that race planner…

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