One Track Mind

When I was in primary school, a teacher of mine tried to put me forward to run a hurdles race at a county schools championship. I wouldn’t let him. Although I really enjoyed the hurdles and wasn’t bad at it (I was tall for my age and the hurdles were quite low!), the idea of competing in an actual athletics arena in front of ‘people’ really freaked me out.

Weird really, since I spent a good chunk of my childhood and teenage years on the stage in one form or another. It was outside of my comfort zone because I didn’t consider myself sporty. I really regret not saying yes to that race.

Going to the track now is one of my favourite things about club running. I had a cracker of a session last night.

Coach Mark had arranged for several of his coachees to be down there to see him. We were all doing different sessions at different start times so he was trying to record our splits across half a dozen different phones and stopwatches. He dropped his notes in the infield mud at least twice. It’s hard work being a coach.

It was muddy because it was wet. The chilly January weather has been making way for a bit of rain the last few days, and last night it was absolutely sheeting it down. We were soaked, cold, running round and round in circles at the edge of our capacity, and absolutely loving it.

Day two of the Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon

Runners are so weird.

Part of the reason for loving it is how much easier it is to do your best times on the track. Because of the possibility with my compartment syndrome that a normal tempo session can become a lactate threshold session by accident, I’m strictly on the low impact side of track at the moment. Last night was another 10 x 400m session. Coach Mark and I hadn’t decided on a pace so I went out for my first lap running completely by feel. I felt fine, so I did the same for the other 9.

Now, I don’t usually go into the details of my pace and splits because they are not usually impressive enough to be of interest, but I was seriously pleased with myself last night so I’m afraid you’re getting some numbers to read!

I ran 10 laps in splits of 2:11, 2:10, 2:11, 2:11, 2:11, 2:08, 2:10, 2:07, 2:07 and 2:04. So not only was I consistent, but I got a bit faster towards the end of the session.

There was a very friendly coach from our other Ealing running club (ESM) there last night, coaching his brilliant juniors who are just amazing. I asked him what the fastest female elites run 400m in and he reckoned about 53 seconds. Now I’m sure 1 minute 8 seconds across 400m is a hell of a lot of time if you’re a professional track athlete, but I’m so chuffed to be ‘only’ that much slower than the best of the best!

Altogether I ran 4k in 21:30, which if translated into a full 5k would be just sub-27 or about a minute faster than my current PB, which was set early last summer. Even better, my pace for each cumulative mile showed negative splits of 8:50, 8:40 and an 8:30 pace for the final half mile.

And…whispering this…I wasn’t even running flat out. I was working hard, but I was trying not to push my legs too far. So maybe that return to form is on it’s way. Maybe a sub-26 is out there after all. Eventually.

The other reason for loving track is that regardless of how fast or slow you are, 400m isn’t very far so effectively you’re all running together whatever your speed. My fellow coachees were all running different sessions but we could still give each other encouragement on the go – my long run buddy Catherine was doing a 5 mile progressive session, so she had enough breath to speak to me when I went past. I didn’t have enough to reply, but I’m sure she didn’t mind. My friend Jenny was running mile reps and was going faster than her mile PB, and ended her session with a sub 90 second 400m lap – amazingly she managed to shout some encouragement to me on the run as well despite the fact she was running faster than Usain Bolt when he remembers he’s left the oven on.

My favourite thing about last night though was that rogue fast split of 2:08 for my 6th lap. As I was heading down the home straight I could hear Coach Mark yelling at me….one of the superfast guys from our club (17:10 parkrun PB fast) was coming up behind me running his session, and was just making his move to go wide and overtake me a few yards from the ‘finish line’. Well we couldn’t have that – I found a bit of acceleration and beat him to the line.

Despite the dubiousness of the circumstances I am claiming this as a win. Annoyingly since this will never happen again and certainly wouldn’t ever happen in an actual even race, no one had a camera handy. Therefore here is my artist’s impression of this glorious moment, recorded for posterity.


I love track.

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