Monday, August 5, 2019

First Track Races - UKWAL 2019

UKWAL Division 1 Match 3 - Wigan, 4th August 2019


Robin Park Athletics Track UKWAL 2019


My running has been going well lately. After all the glute injury trouble following Brighton and the subsequent loss of fitness, I feel like things are now back on track and I'm where I want to be at this stage of the year.

I've been really looking forward to getting stuck in to my Amsterdam Half Marathon training and running hard to hopefully achieve some good results later in the year. And just over a week ago I was sat on the bus home from work, late after a Friday evening on call, thinking about the training plan that was due to start on the following Monday. Then I spotted an email in my inbox. Would I be up for running for my club, Harrow AC, in their last match of the UK Women's Athletics League the following weekend? They were short of athletes and another middle distance runner would be helpful to try and gain a few extra points. Immediately I replied yes and decided to think about the consequences after!

I'd just reached full fitness again, was about to launch into a half marathon training programme and now I was nine days away from running my first ever track race... I'd agreed to run the 3000m and potentially the 1500m if necessary. Although it was exciting, it also felt like a terrifying and crazy decision. I spent the train journey home checking the results from previous matches and questioning whether I really deserved to be in these races.

Luckily work shifts last week meant it was quite easy to shuffle around my planned sessions so that I could still get my Amsterdam training off to a good start while not exhausting myself before the track races. I went to Tuesday's track session as normal and for the first time in a while ran some hard effort intervals, just to prove to myself that I can do it, before ending the session early in order to save my legs.

Saturday came around and I met the rest of the team at Euston Station to travel up to Wigan by train in order to stay in a hotel near the athletics track the night before. That turned out slightly more eventful than planned with a fire alarm and evacuation at dinner and quite a few of the guests attending a nearby nightclub event that finished sometime around 4am...

Sunday morning we walked to the arena (we were meant to get a taxi but it never showed up) and it was nice to sit and watch a few of the track and field events, just taking it all in. I had a few hours to wait until my first event and admittedly I got quite nervous - everyone else seemed so used to this kind of environment that was so alien to me. It might sound silly, but one of the things that was worrying me was the idea of coming last and being a long way behind the rest of the field. But after watching a few events I realised I didn't need to worry about this. People were filling into events all over the place and everyone was supported no matter how well they were doing compared to everyone else. 

My first race was the 3000m at 14:05, so about 45 minutes beforehand I started warming up with some light jogging, drills and strides, and a few stretches. Then I headed round to the start area and before I knew it, was lining up for my first track race. I can't remember an awful lot about the 3000m now! I know I ran the first lap a few seconds faster than I intended to, and then from there tried to remind myself to slow it down a bit and make my energy last the whole way round. 7.5 laps ticked by and although it was tiring, it wasn't quite as painful as I'd expected. Arguably that means I could have run harder, but I was also mindful of the fact I had another race less than an hour and a half later. I finished the 3000m in 12:28:00 which I was thrilled with considering my rough aim was to get under 13 minutes.



Inbetween the races I went for a short jog down the road to Asda to get some drinks and to avoid lactic acid building up before the 1500m. Then just before our start time of 15:35 I made my way down to the track again. Although I ran the 3000m in my race flats, the weather looked set to turn pretty horrible and so I made the decision to run the shorter race in a pair of track spikes to give a bit more grip should the track get very wet. And it did... As we gathered around at the start the rain began to fall and the thunder rumbled overhead. There was a bit of chat amongst the athletes about whether the race would happen or not, but we were called up to the line and got underway fairly quickly. 

I loved the 1500m. Short and sharp, it really surprised me how much I liked it! I started probably slightly too quickly but was able to rein it in within a few hundred metres and then to hold a much more consistent pace than I'd managed for the earlier race. I could feel a slight burn of lactic acid building up, but was able to keep pushing through and the final 100m came up soon enough. With it being my last race of the day I was able to push right up to the line this time and give it everything. I finished that one in 5:47. Despite now torrential rain, we waited for the last few athletes to cross the line before dashing for cover just before the lightning started!

Robin Park athletics track in the rain
Beautiful weather conditions...


Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience of track racing and have found yet another way to keep my running varied and interesting. While I won't be turning my back on the distance running anytime soon, I'm keen to also mix in a bit more of the short stuff because it turns out it's rather a lot of fun! I've stated my times here but in all honesty they don't mean a lot to me at the moment. I don't instinctively understand the times for middle distance races the way I do for 5k/10k/marathon etc. It's a different way of running and I'm sure it's one I'll learn plenty more about. Hopefully these races will support my longer distance running, but more than that it's also lovely to contribute to a team, no matter how small my contribution is right now! 

Anyone thinking about running middle distance on the track, I'd say go for it! It's nowhere near as intimidating as I thought it would be and there's so much to gain. And I'll be back on the track in under two weeks' time for the SAL match on 17th August - exciting times!
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