Hugh Armstrong battled with injury throughout 2021 and appreciates the simplicity of being able to run more now.
2019 was a breakthrough year for Hugh Armstrong. The 27-year-old from Ballina in Mayo had returned from six years in America at Providence College to make a stunning debut in the marathon clocking 2.14.22 on the streets of Dublin that October.
Armstrong had started a new job working as an accountant for An Post and was being coached still by the legendary Ray Treacy.
In 2020 Armstrong kicked on running 2.12.26 for the marathon in Seville, less than a minute off the qualifying standard for the Tokyo Olympics which were to be held the following summer.
Eager to get to Japan, Armstrong worked hard in training but the lack of races due to increased Covid cases and lockdowns across the globe meant he was forced to extend training blocks when disaster struck, and he “busted” himself.
“I had two sacral stress fractures, I done the right one in January initially…I was coming back from that around July and then I done the other sacral, the left sacral. That was tough, especially the second one, to have to go through it all again. I took it more patiently the second time and did a lot of rehab and got myself back thankfully,” he says.
That experience while frustrating for Armstrong taught him a lot. He worked hard on his rehab which included swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, and gym work but was out of action for a prolonged period. He describes this as “good in a way” and it is clear that he appreciates running more these days.
“When you're injured you realise how much you're addicted to running and how much you miss it when you can't do it. It was almost good in a way because now when I'm going out for a run this year, I'm kind of like, this is great, just to be able to go for a run as well as being able to compete.”
He has got off to a good start this year. Following time spent in Mayo during the pandemic when he was working remotely, he moved back to Dublin in January where he joined the Dublin Track Club which is overseen by Feidhlim Kelly.
Last month he won the Wrexham Marathon and secured qualification for the European Championships in Munich. He describes his performance in Wales as a “good day out.” Armstrong ran most of the race alone with the pacers dropping out after 11 miles.
“I was fairly pleased for a number of reasons; I was able to hold the pace on my own for the last 15 miles, I had come back from the injury successfully and I had won the race, got the European time and a new Welsh all comers’ record.”
It will be a busy summer for the Mayo man who will also sit two accounting exams in June. He currently balances work and training as well as his studies but says this is good as it is “something to switch” his focus all of the time.
The big challenge this summer for Armstrong will be Munich. He will be joined on the Irish team by Kevin Seaward and more than likely one more athlete to make up what he thinks could be a strong team. He is optimistic about their chances.
“In a championship marathon anything can happen but if the three of us put ourselves amongst it, there's no reason why we can't win a team medal.”
Having battled injury Armstrong is now ready to take the next step in his career and make the podium for Ireland.
Hugh Armstrong was speaking as an ambassador for the Irish Life Dublin Marathon and Race Series. Entry is open for the Irish Life Dublin Race Series; 5 Mile, Fingal 10km, Frank Duffy 10-Mile and Half Marathon at IrishLifeDublinMarathon.ie. The Irish Life Dublin Marathon on Sunday 30th October is sold out.