Crawley Track Marathon

Races like this lend themselves well to efficient and comprehensive race reporting; 

  1. Let L=0
  2. Start race
  3. Run half a lap
  4. Run a whole lap
  5. Wave at lap counter
  6. L=L+1
  7. If L <105 then GOTO 8
  8. Finish Race, have shower, catch plane


Simple. However even a race that is nothing more than laps of a 400m track can be very complicated. 

I had no idea what to expect form this race and was quite excited as I hadn’t done anything “new” for a while. I have always thought it was stupid to run around a track for so long until I met John Cooper (who was here) at the Dartmoor Discovery last year and he spoke about the 24 hour races. They are quite unique, how many races do you get to see the leader throughout as well as all those behind you? 

The rain had indeed followed me from Snowdon and the track looked pretty miserable. I registered and was introduced to my lap counter Senny and got given a document of the rules of the track. 

It started as I recall a 1 mile race started earlier in the year. 40 runners settled into a stride and it was clear from the start who were going to be fast and who were not. I hovered in around 6th place and settled into a pace I thought comfortable. I was running about 7mm and waiting for the heaviness of yesterday to fade. 

It’s only from doing lots of doubles/triples that I know to expect the early pain of the second/third run to fade away. This time it was only a few miles and my legs started to feel normal. They start to hurt again later on as they would if I was just doing a one off. 

I had done less than 10 laps before I got lapped by the leaders, they appeared to be using this as an attempt to get a good time. I couldn’t say whether tracks are ideal for getting a pb, I can’t see why not if you can switch your brain off. 

I met a fellow Fetchie “Joe Hawk” who was struggling with an injury having done Beachy Head yesterday. It was great to talk to him and always good to put a face to a person you have only spoken to online. There were many others here who had also done Beachy Head the day before, I think I was the only one who had done Snowdon. There were a few off to Dublin that afternoon including Joe. 

It was not as mentally tough as I’d thought it would be. I was told to slow down at some stage as I was “missing all the scenery”.  It was quite a mental effort remembering to wave and shout at my lap counter each time and I did forget occasionally or shout and get no response. I tried to count the laps I was doing but only got as far as 7 before giving up. I had my garmin on and it was quite accurate at clocking the 0.25 every time I went through the line. I thought I had it covered. 

Around half way I looked at the 13.25 on my watch and assumed that I had completed half the laps. I asked my lap counter to check at about 13.75 and by the time he counted it was 14 miles and I was told that I’d run 50 laps. I could not believe this as my watch claimed I had done 56 and it did not feel like I was running that slow. I had a bit of a moan and was upset for a while as I tried to figure out who was wrong, the lap counter or my watch. 

I studied the figures closely for a while as my Garmin spat them out and noticed slight discrepancies in what it was recording. I still could not believe that it would overstate what I’d run, if anything it should understate it. After a few more laps and having got much wetter I realised that I was on the brink of becoming the type of runner I didn’t want to be. 

For a while I was living in numbers, checking every 400m like some anal triathlete. The rain and tiredness may have something to do with this diminished state of mind, I think I just wanted to get back into the warm again. I decided not to worry about it anymore and just run around until I was told to stop, like Forrest in those college football games. 

A forgotten friend

After that I started to enjoy the race again and after all that is why I was here. After 18 miles I went for a toilet stop and looked in the mirror to discover that both my nipples had exploded. It was a truely horrible sight, like I'd been shot twice. I'd remembered to put the vaseline on that morning, the problem was that I forgot to do the same before Snowdon and there was no going back.

I returned to the track and someone made a comment. I said I'd only known about them for a few minutes and he'd said they had been like that from very near the start. Those poor people counting laps must have seen then 100 times.

The winner I think was about 4 miles ahead of me, meaning he must have overtaken me at least 16 times. He was doing it much more towards the end. I put on a sprint for my last lap which took about 80 seconds and ran over the line. It felt odd to cross the line at the same time as others and for them to continue running. It also felt odd to hear the the man just behind me (who I lapped at least twice) had less to go than me near the end.

I'm sure I ran more laps than I needed and it bothered me for about 10 minutes during the race but by the end I was relaxed and pleased to have finished this odd event. This was only staged to allow people to complete the "triple" which used to be Beachy Head, Snowdon and Dublin. Snowdon had been moved to saturday making this combination impossible. Crawley was chosen as it was right next to Gatwick airport which was just as well. I didn't realise I would have been pushed for time getting there but I was.

I met Roger Biggs who had just accepted my entry to the 100 marathon club. We spoke a bit and I spoke to Pam Storey too about running, the 4 to go and other stuff and she insisted that I went inside to get warm and sort my nipples out. I also chatted breifly to John Cooper who got me thinking about track races in the first place.

The second most disgusting photo I have of me

I'd love to do a 24 hour race, I just can't fit it in with all the other stuff.