Sunday, 10 March 2013

Why? The Groundhog Track Marathon

Why run 105.5 laps of a running track?  It wasn't for the scenery and I doubt that many people will get this, unless they have tried it.  The atmosphere was great and this was the perfect course for a marathon PB, being able to track pace accurately, drinks every 400 metres, reasonably sheltered conditions and absolutely no chance of getting lost.  And I was never bored.
About 54 runners set off at 10am on a bleak, wet Saturday morning, at the Telford athletics track.

The start line
I quickly settled into 8th place, running just under two minutes per lap, faster than my planned 2:05 a lap for my target of 3h40m.  I felt good, despite the cold and drizzle, sitting on another runner's shoulder for lap after lap, while C took photos.

There was a fantastic buzz around the track.  There were plenty of familiar faces from previous marathons.  This wasn't the sort of race that new runners were likely to enter after all and I was lucky to be quick enough to run on the inside of lane one.  The slower runners were asked to run in lane two which, by my calculation adds on half a mile over the marathon distance!  Even the organiser was running.

I was surprised to be lapped by the eventual winner on lap 4.  It wouldn't be the last time that he passed me, but I was passing many more runners too.  The first sixteen laps flew past before I grabbed my first drink.  Being able to get a drink every 400 metres made a big difference.  I'd filled a few bottles with my usual electrolyte and, despite the cold, was soon regularly thirsty.

I did manage to keep count, but there was chip timing and a whiteboard updated with our lap counts every 5 laps which helped keep me on track.  I know that nobody who hasn't run a track marathon will believe me, but I was never bored on this run.  Keeping going at PB pace for over three and a half hours required a lot of concentration.  Breaking it down, the first 20 laps were a novelty and flew past, 20-40 I was feeling good and enjoying running at a quicker pace that I'm used to.  On the middle section I was still feeling good, especially passing halfway in 1:43:30 and thinking that I was comfortable for a 3:40 finish.  Laps 60-80 were a bit darker as I was having to concentrate now, was feeling the cold and my legs were beginning to wobble a little.

Over the final 25 laps my pace was slowing.  I felt relaxed and was breathing easily and this section was OK mentally.  But physically, my legs were getting wobblier and there was a headwind picking up on the exit from the final bend.  I wore headphones for the entire race, with the music helping to block out distractions and keep me focussed.
Groundhog medal
C returned for the last ten laps and I ground them out, just thinking about the finish now.  I knew my 3:40 target was safe and thought I'd get just inside it.  Crossing the line for the 105th time, my name was called out for my final lap and I went for it on the last lap, finishing strong in 3:37:11, taking almost 13 minutes off my marathon PB.
Finishing the Groundhog Track Marathon
I was pleased with my splits, running 1:10 for the first third and again for the middle third, slowing to 1:17 for the final third.  I just missed out on the goodybags for the first ten runners, finishing eleventh by 21 seconds.  If I had realised I'm sure I would have found those seconds from somewhere, but it was almost impossible to be sure who was ahead and who was behind by the end of the run.

A big thank you to COD RC and all the support on the track for organising the Groundhog Marathon.  I hope to be back for another one of their events.

Here's the route of my 45th marathon.