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Running column: Mark Armstrong reveals the last goal he wants to achieve before end of the year

Mark Armstrong and wife, Alison, after he had been dragged through the last six miles. Picture: Edinburgh Marathon

Mark Armstrong and wife, Alison, after he had been dragged through the last six miles. Picture: Edinburgh Marathon

Archant

I feel really lucky this year.

At the start of 2017 I wanted to set new personal bests in all distances from marathons through to 5ks and, despite sometimes feeling like I’m made of glass, I’ve achieved this.

But when I look back to a defining moment of this year it was at my lowest ebb round the Edinburgh Marathon back in May.

As I gradually ground to a halt shortly after the 20-mile point, becoming more and more nauseous the more I tried to keep running, I vowed that I never wanted to feel like this ever again (or swallow another energy gel).

I had well and truly blown up and the only reason I managed to complete it was that I had my wife, Alison, with me, trying to keep my spirits up and ensure that I kept putting one foot in front of the other to get over that finish line.

She sacrificed her race that day to make sure I didn’t DNF in my first marathon – my worst fear going into the race.

MORE: Relive Mark Armstrong’s Edinburgh Marathon experience

I’ve absolute no doubt she would have set a new personal best that day had she not held back to drag me through.

But I’m learning that’s what the running community does for each other.

Despite being an individual sport there is a real sense of camaraderie – an antidote to a lot of the nastiness I see, normally on social media, when it comes to covering other sports, particularly football, where a sense of tribalism makes people say some very silly things.

But runners aren’t like that.

Of course everyone has their own goals but it can be just as satisfying helping others reach theirs. It’s not nice seeing other people struggle and during races I now do everything I can to help others if I see them in difficulties.

Sometimes a simple ‘come on mate – you’re nearly there!’ really does help.

I lost count of the amount of people that asked if I was okay towards the end of Edinburgh.

But the experience shaped the rest of the year – I decided that I needed to sort out my pacing and started following a structured programme put together by Neil Featherby. With personal bests set at every distance the results speak for themselves and I would encourage anyone looking to take their running to the next level to follow a specific programme.

MORE: The importance of having a goal for runners

You can’t wing it as a runner if you want to maximise your capabilities and, if I’m honest, that’s what I tried to do in preparation for Edinburgh.

I’m happy with where my running has taken me this year but there’s one thing left to do and it involves repaying the debt to my wife.

This year she’s run an impressive 964km – I’m sure you can therefore guess what she wants to get to before the New Year.

Yes, with the big 1,000km mark tantalisingly close she now has just under a week to run 36km.

The slight complicating factor in all this is that she’s six months pregnant. Therefore there are going to be lots of little runs between now and the New Year to ensure she reaches her goal, just as she helped me reach mine.

It’s my time to cajole her round the countryside lanes back at my dad’s over Christmas to reach the landmark before I really kick my training into gear.

I’m acutely aware of the beautiful chaos coming our way from around March/April time when another Armstrong enters the world.

Therefore I’ve got a couple of months where I will be able to devote a decent proportion of my spare time (what’s that?) to running before entering a sleep deprived state of nappies, baby grows and midnight feeds.

I genuinely can’t wait.

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