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Mark Armstrong on the mind games of an early morning run

I try to gather my senses as quickly as I can to stop that horrendous sound for fear it will also wake up my son, Logan. If he surfaces, bringing his five-year-old energy to proceedings (‘I have to have two breakfasts, Daddy’) then it’s going to make it very difficult to get out for this early morning run. 

Fortunately, he’s soundo, probably dreaming of being one of these ‘Ninja Kidz’ that I regret letting him start to watch on YouTube… (the viewing standards of what we let our children watch might have slipped in the summer holidays in the search for a moment’s peace here and there…) 

I manage to tiptoe down the stairs making a beeline for the kettle and a much-needed cup of tea (Yorkshire Tea, obviously, there’s no rubbish in this house). 

Whilst I wait for the hot water to boil, it strikes me: ‘I really don’t want to go on this run…’ 

It’s the first time I’ve felt like that in a long time, which I’m very grateful for during this block. 

I try to shut that thought down as quickly as I can, reminding myself that 10 weeks ago I was barely able to walk in the mornings when getting out of bed due to my Achilles pain. 

I tell myself this is a good thing; I shouldn’t always feel comfortable about running – this will stand me in good stead for those latter miles in Berlin in just over two weeks’ time. 

I slurp my tea and just stare at my running kit. ‘I really don’t want to go on this run…’ 

I remind myself there’s no good reason not to.  

This is just the tapering mind games starting; I often struggle when the training I do now won’t materially affect what happens on race day in a positive way. Basically, I can only mess it up from here… 

I have second thoughts about what trainers I’m going to wear for this eight-mile run which has got a bit of tempo in the middle. 

‘You could just not bother, go back to bed, saves you making a bad decision…’ 

Nope, the trusty Asics Superblast go on (my favourite shoes at the moment). I love running in these and feel confident every time I put them on… and I need all the help I can get on this particular morning. 

It’s nearer 6am now and I’m getting nearer the front door; ‘I’m not bailing out of this run,’ I tell myself. 

I slip my running belt on with a 250ml soft flask of squash. One cup of tea isn’t going to be enough to get through this… 

I head out on to my driveway, the crunch of the gravel punctuating the silence around me. 

I go through what, in truth, was a rather half-hearted warm-up before taking my first steps. 

‘Crikey, this feels hard…’ 

My legs feel heavy, which isn’t surprising given I have just come off my heaviest week mileage wise and a 20 miler a few days ago. 

‘It will get easier,’ I tell myself. ‘Just keep turning your legs over.’ 

My watch beeps telling me that I need to start increasing the pace for the tempo part of my run. 

‘Crikey, I don’t want to do this…’ 

I shut down those thoughts (again) and try to turn my legs over faster. 

Very gradually, my pace starts to increase and I start to feel better, my lungs starting to warm to the task at hand.  

I look up and see the sun rising on the horizon; ‘Maybe this is worth it,’ I tell myself, and I have a little look at my Superblast trainers again; it’s not healthy how much I like these trainers. 

The tempo section ends and I’m finally feeling really good; the warm down gives me a chance to think about what I’ve got on for the rest of the day. 

As I re-enter Armstrong Towers, I take a look at my watch: 7.08am. 

I barely have time to get my shoes off when I see Logan settled on a beanbag in our lounge. 

He looks me up and down in the slightly disheveled state he’s used to seeing me in after a run and says: ‘Daddy, can I have a chocolate spread sandwich?’ 

‘Yep, give me a minute mate…’ 

As I ready his breakfast (his second I later learn as my wife, Alison, had already provided the first) I congratulate myself on winning the battle that morning. 

I’m feeling good and I even have the presence of mind to put some sliced apple on the side of Logan’s plate in the hope he eats something nutritious before school. 

He eats the sandwich and leaves the apple. 

You can’t win every battle, can you? 

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