Mark Armstrong: Getting comfortable with the grind at the Dereham 10M race

Mark Armstrong Dereham 10M

Mark Armstrong at the finish line of the Dereham 10M - Credit: Total Race Timing

I haven’t done many 10 mile races and I’ve developed a bad association with the distance after breaking my ankle the day after the Bure Valley 10 in September 2019 (ridiculous, I know). 

As someone who prefers the shorter, sharper distances where that pain is intense, but over a shorter period, I find 10 miles is just outside of my comfort zone as an effort. 

10K remains my favourite distance but as I’m running the Chicago Marathon later this year, I have got to start getting comfortable with that grinding struggle you have to cope with over the longer miles. 

The Trowse 10K last month had given me an idea of where my fitness was ahead of Sunday at the Dereham 10M - the third race in the 2022 Sportlink Grand Prix series. 

I decided to go off at a seven-minute mile pace and see where I was midway through the race. 

This felt pretty comfortable early on and once I felt like I had dialled into that pace I ignored my watch and started to run to feel after four miles. 

In hindsight this was a bit early and I should have stuck to the original plan and remained at seven-minute miles before assessing and sustaining or picking it up. 

Most Read

I quickened up over miles five, six and seven, which had a juicy hill in it, and I had a gel as I was starting to get an ‘empty’ feeling in my stomach which I’ve learned is a warning that I’m going to need some energy soon if I keep this level of effort up. 

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

However, what felt fairly comfortable at the start of the race was now becoming difficult and when we emerged back out on to the main road, I knew I could be in for a rocky last couple of miles. 

The bad thoughts were starting to enter my head… 

‘You’ve got this wrong.’ 

‘Why did you get greedy midway through the race?’ 

‘Why do you put yourself through this?’ 

I’m not very nice to myself during races sometimes… 

I knew I had to show a bit of mental fortitude and as runners started to come past me in the final mile, I had to just hang in there during this bad patch. 

I was absolutely begging to see the fluorescent green nine-mile marker… so much so that I started to convince myself that anything vaguely green in the distance was it. 

It was a bitter blow each time when you realised that it was a small tree or a marshal. 

I was feeling pretty ropey by this point and having to remind myself how hard I’ve worked to get back to this point after the calf injury earlier this year. I’ve been so desperate to put myself in this position again and I really don’t want to take it for granted. 

Suddenly, there it was… the ninth mile marker… relief. 

What heartened me still further was a couple of the runners that had overtaken me in that torrid ninth mile (a 7:32) were starting to come back to me. 

There were signs of life after all and passing them energised me to keep pushing. 

Digging deep, I came into the last 400m and appreciated all the support as I came towards the finish. 

But then one comment stood out… ‘Come on Alison!’ 

Crikey… my wife was right behind me. The initial thought that I was glad she was having a good race after a tough experience at the Trowse 10K was soon overtaken by the fact I didn’t want her to pass me!  

I’m still not ready for that and to be fair she’s probably too nice to do it! 

I surged for the line, coming home in a time of 1:10:27 (a new personal best) before slumping to the side with a bottle of water. I hadn’t realised quite how hot I had got during the race - I was absolutely soaked through and I couldn’t drink enough for the next couple of hours as I tried to rehydrate. 

Whilst I was a sweaty mess on a patch of grass, Alison was all effortless smiles asking how other runners’ races had gone.  

I did get an insight into how hard she had pushed herself however when we tried to go for a warm down only for her to have to stop after all of 300m as her legs had seized up too much. 

My legs had held up pretty well but any smugness at this evaporated when I got home upon walking through the front door. 

Alison had won a trophy due to her placing as second senior female and she quite rightly was afforded a hero’s welcome from our children. 

My four-year-old son, Logan, then turned to me and asked: “Where’s your trophy, Daddy?” 

“I didn’t win one mate, but I had a decent race.” 

The confused, slightly disappointed look on his face said it all. 

You can always rely on children to bring you back down to earth with a bump...