Mark Armstrong: Whose opinion do you take notice of?

Mark Armstrong training run Wacton

Mark Armstrong on a recent training run. - Credit: Alison Armstrong Photography

As you get older, possibly wiser, you learn to care a lot less about what others think of you.  

There are always people whose opinions you value or need to take notice of – your family, your boss at work, your close friends – but that circle of people gets narrower and narrower as the years pass. 

I don’t care what most people think about my running. For every person that thinks my 5K personal best of 19:05 is great, you will find others who will think it’s average at best. 

There are some people who don’t go running for themselves. They do it to live up to a character they have created and it can be dangerous trying to live up to that. 

Easy runs become steady. Steady runs become tempo. All because these people don’t want others to think poorly of them and their running splits. 


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I’ve done it. It has taken a few injuries to get to this point. 

The truth is the only person you need to be accountable to is yourself. 

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It’s why I’m perfectly happy to give myself a day off running if my legs feel tired or if my first mile of a run takes me 10 minutes (and yes, that still feels hard sometimes). 

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I would still urge others to do the same and to constantly ask yourself how you’re feeling before every run. I’m not telling anyone to overthink but with experience comes an understanding of when there is a problem or when there is something you can manage and run through. 

If that’s not inspirational then I’m totally okay with that, but it might just save someone an injury or two. 

My column a couple of weeks back certainly stirred a few people, annoyed that I would suggest sometimes the best thing you can do for your running is to have a rest. 

A certain reader sent a letter, which found its way into this newspaper, urging for there to be ‘more Neil, less Mark’. Fair enough – everyone is entitled to their opinion and I would be surprised if anyone found me more inspirational than Mr Featherby’s musings. 

Heck – I find him inspirational – that's why I want him as my coach! 

Neil has run every day more than 40 years, straddling the line perfectly between being inspiring and being insane. 

He’s run for his country all over the world, won marathons, ultras, set up the best running shop in the country. And that’s just running – let's not get started on his boxing and football escapades! 

Yes, there should be ‘more Neil’ - and there is. Check out his online column. 

But I’m not planning on there being ‘less Mark’. For every runner that identifies with Neil’s column, there is one that can empathise with what I’m going through as a pretty average runner who is just trying to get the best out of himself. 

Everyone’s running journey is different and it is completely any reader’s prerogative how they go about their running. 

But quite why anyone feels the need to denigrate someone else and their opinion is beyond me, but that’s the binary world we now occupy. 

So, to the reader so offended by my advice, good luck with your running. 

I hope you enjoyed Neil’s column this week. 

<BLOB> Good luck to everyone competing in the Round Norfolk Relay this weekend. It promises to be a wonderful couple of days showcasing what Norfolk running has to offer. 

Perhaps one day I’ll get to run in it but until then I’m happy to be a very interested spectator. I hope it’s a cracker. 


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