To distract myself from missing out on marathon running this year, and enticed by the thought of doing less weekly mileage, I reckoned I’d have a go at the exact opposite: track racing.
Unfortunately it turns out it’s every bit as tough as road running, just more intensely tough for a shorter period of time. And the first session I tried of 10x200m (with 60s recoveries) looked like an absolute doddle on paper, but trying to do the reps in 30s soon took its toll – stinging lungs and a tweaked left hamstring. This was going to tougher than I thought. An early ‘tester’ race in the 800m was another eye-opener. After a slightly keen 64s first lap I well and truly paid the price on the second lap, with lungs that felt like I was breathing fire and spritely legs suddenly turning to lead.
One of the toughest training sessions has to be 4 x (200/400/200) with 200 at 800m pace (i.e. flat out) straight into 400 at mile pace, then straight into a final 200 at 800m pace. Try it sometime. After the first one-and-a-half of these you’ll be ready for an early bath. Seriously, I would rather do 10 Sherbrooke loops than that session again!
Despite the training being brutal, the taper for this 1500m race had gone well and the legs were feeling good. And it was to be a rare chance to run on THE track used from the Commonwealth Games (which had been taken up and moved to Grangemouth) it was all looking good. At registration I was told that I had to be at the ‘call room’ at least 20 mins before my event, which was all starting to sound a little bit serious! But that aside there was a friendly atmosphere and a few familiar faces from the road racing world.
After 2-mile warm up jog, plus some strides and drills (I hope coach Paterson is reading this…) and we were ready to head out to the track for some nervous chit-chat at the start line, and everyone asking everyone else what age category they were in and trying to work out who was racing who. And before we knew it….
BANG! The first 300m were fine, I got there in 51s. The next lap was OK too, although a seriously dry mouth was making it hard to breathe, but was there in 2.04, so still on course…until…
Uh-oh, the dreaded 3rd lap, and this is where things are starting to tighten up a bit. With the leader opening a decent gap ahead of me, there was nowhere to hide on the back straight into the headwind (which to be fair wasn’t that strong) and I was starting to struggle. I made the classic mistake and eased off slightly, thinking “I’ll just save my energy and run the last lap extra fast”. No. No you won’t. Come the bell for the last lap all those thoughts of a Mo Farah-esque 59s blast for home were well and truly shelved. I wasn’t catching the guy in front, and by that point I didn’t really care who was just behind me! One last back straight negotiated and 200m to go so started to flap my arms a bit faster in the hope that my legs would follow suit. And then some cheeky character, who was running the sort of last lap I’d hoped to, eased past me. I just about stuck with him, but couldn’t quite draw level. I could hear the shouts of the Bernie O’Neill from the Harriers and the some of the Greenock Glenpark crew cheering me up to the line, but there was nothing left in the tank.
I finished with 4.29 which was 3rd place overall, and first in my age category (35-39) so bagged fancy national gold medal. Feels a bit strange getting a gold medal when you’re third, but who am I to question the judgement of the organisers! Gordon Barrie (Dundee Hawkhill) was 1st in 4.18, and Thomas Brannon (North Shields Polytechnic) was second in 4.29.
A good day out and a great race, and as much as it burns I can’t wait til the next track race. Roll on round 2 at the BMC track meet in Glasgow in 2 weeks.
Hopefully some more of you will give track running a bash, it makes an interesting change from road running. On the plus side it’ll make your 10k/Half/Marathon pace seem easy!