Marathon #3 – Excalibur 3 ‘Track Wars’

Track Marathon
Track Marathon

So Friday 1st March brought an early marathon for month 3. It’s been a busy start to my challenge, having just run 3 marathons in 5 weeks. Now I get nearly 2 months off before the London Marathon. That will give me a chance to do some different training, but more about that later…

This marathon was one of the ones I picked as it would be a bit ‘different’. This was a track marathon, yes, a marathon, round a track. 400 meters, over and over, 106 times!

I was kind of looking forward to it. Having done better than expected in marathon number 2, 2 weeks ago, and having had some good workouts since then, I was feeling confident.

I had done a 30 lap test run at my local track, so felt all would be good.

Track Pic

So, first the good news…. I finished it in 3:56:07. That’s a PB by 1:38 🙂 Really pleased with that of course.

Another plus is that the running surface is perfect, a nice flat bouncy track. And another, drinks are easy! A well stocked drink / food station on the straight, you can leave you own drinks, pick up a drink and put it down by the track ready to pick up later, I even had time to pop to my bag next to lane 8 and grab my headphones when the going got tough.

So what was the bad news?

Well, as various people had warned me, running round a track 106 times will drive you nuts…. and yes to some extent it did. Not because it’s so boring, or made me dizzy, or made me lean to one side! No, with the track running it was just the number of laps that got to me.

When you reach about 21 miles in a marathon, it tends to be around crisis point in one way or another, you are tired and vulnerable. Normally, the strong part of your mind will step in – “It’s just 5 miles, just get this next mile done, you got this!”. However, on the track, the screen was telling me I’d run a whopping 84 laps, and this time a not so strong mind delivered the realisation that “OMG you still have 22 laps to do, are you kidding me?!”.

In a road marathon, usually everyone is running 26.2 miles. If someone is running near you, that must be running a similar pace to you, they probably have similar goals. Not the case on the track. You regularly see the whole field, people running a 10k, people run / walking an ultra, people dressed as up. I found that quite a distraction. Never been good at running past people walking.

Another issue was the whole lane etiquette thing. So obviously everyone wants to run on the inside of lane 1, otherwise you are running a lot further than you need to. But with runners going at such different paces, and some with headphones in, that gets tricky. And it’s not just about who is in front of you, will you undertake, will they leave enough room, have they heard you…. there is always the constant issue of knowing who is behind you about to run past, as you really don’t want to be that person slowing them down.

So I set out running at an ambitious pace of around 8:20 mins per mile. I knew there would be a controlled degradation of that pace, but didn’t expect the second half to feel so difficult.

Why did it feel so hard? The mental aspects of so many laps was definitely a factor. The pace I started at also was a factor. I also feel that the track is an issue. Yes it is springy and responsive, which makes it possible to run a bit faster, but my theory is that this takes it’s toll on the body. I was wearing compression sleeves on my calves, but my thighs and hips really did feel it for the second half.

Oh and one more bit of bad news. Started running the first lap and noticed my watch was showing no Heart Rate data. That didn’t mean I was dead, but did mean the HR sensor was not working. I’ve had it before, but means switching my watch off to wake it up. I didn’t want to switch my watch off and have incomplete run data, so had to sacrifice the HR data. I love analyzing the data on my runs, and a key part of that is seeing how my HR rises during the marathon, so I’m pretty grumpy that my fastest marathon run has no HR data 🙁

Anyway, job done, 3 down, 9 to go. Really pleased to get a PB in the bag on this challenge. Next it’s off to London at the end of April to run the greatest marathon in the world!

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