Leigh Track Marathon 🥈

Another massive disappointment chasing 2:45 and perhaps time for some honest reflection on my training and goals.

I’d been looking for a track marathon or shorter ultra for a while because I believe they’re brilliant formats for distance events – they’re very social, the support and refreshment station is every 400m and you don’t have to carry anything so when I saw the Time2Run Leigh Weekend on the Track I was in.

It’s only an hour away from home and I figured after the massive disappointment of Paris Marathon a few weeks ago, I might have carried that fitness on over the gap and could try for 2:45 on the track where in theory, conditions would be optimal for it.

With this in mind, I had a simple goal of going out at around 6:17-6:20 pace and hoping I had the fitness I’d planned on. I wasn’t especially bothered about positioning or racing, just a time trial but looking at last year’s results I’d have been pretty unlucky if I ran 2:45 (or under 3) and not take the win but it seems to be my lot these days that no matter what time I run there’s always one person faster that weekend!

We drove over to Leigh, parked up right by the track on a glorious, somewhat warm and sunny morning and picked up my number from the Time2Run folks by the track and as track races tend to be pretty small affairs there wasn’t much more to do than chat and wait for the start.

The weekend on the track was split between Saturday having a 10k, half and full marathon all setting off at 10am and then on the Sunday, a 6 hour timed race so with just over 40 people on the track over the 3 events it was a little cramped, especially since we were told we couldn’t use lane 1 because “it was wearing out”.

I stress that this was a polite request from Leigh AC not the organisers but a bit frustrating especially as early in the race you can find yourself having to go out as far as lane 4 to lap people and that running in lane 2 essentially adds 7m a lap. Not much but over 105.5 laps it’s nearly an extra half mile so it does potentially add up but looking over my race, it’s not exactly the killer blow!

The race

I set off pretty fast on the first lap, mainly to get out of everyone’s way before settling into my goal pace and for the first few miles, ticked off the first 5 miles comfortably in 6:14-6:17 pace but felt I was working just a tiny bit too much this early. In the direct sun it was pretty warm and I was sweating a lot already so I eased back into 6:2x’s pace and just carried on.

Went through 10k in a little over 39 minutes and felt good – perhaps a little off pace target but otherwise happy and feeling that the first 1/4 was going to plan and maybe it would be a good day.

It’s nice to be able to switch off at a track event and so the half marathon came around pretty quickly but at this point while it still felt comfortable and controlled – I was already behind goal pace by a few minutes and again my goal had evaporated early and 1:26ish for the half wasn’t going to get me anywhere near 2:45.

At this point, it’s easy to do the maths and I knew that I wasn’t going to be negative splitting anything and even a sub 2:50 was gone too. I’d come into the race with 3 goals – 2:45, a sub 2:50 or a PB (sub 2:54) and it was only halfway and looking like none were going to happen.

I’m not really sure if it was my head or legs that went first but after having gone round the track comfortably for the first half of the race, I could hear someone closing in on me and it could only be Chris Ward who went past me looking strong (he went on to win by a few minutes and then returned the next day to run 40 miles and win the 6 hour race too! Very impressive!)

So another year, another block of training that it seems didn’t remotely tally up with my goals was on the cards.

Le bonk

The grim realisation that having led for probably 15 miles or so meant that not only would I likely not meet any of my time goals but also be well beaten just sapped me – my legs that were happily moving while the conditions were good suddenly turned to concrete and my pace plummeted like I was dragging a weight.

The track went from bouncy and fast to a hellish torture surface stealing every bit of energy from my stride and there was still 40 laps to do.

I took on more water and gels but again, I was cooked and way earlier than I’d hoped. My aim was to at least get to 20 miles feeling strong so to be totally done after 16 was hard to stomach and I had a lot of time to contemplate what to do next.

On a track, there’s nowhere to hide..

It felt like Chris lapped me pretty quickly once he’d passed and I suspect he sensed a good chance to capitalise and raced well – mentally it’s crushing when someone does this to you and you’ve got nothing in response.

Going backwards

My previous track races have gone well when I’ve run to feel rather than rely on my watch but since I’ve recently bought a new Coros Apex I wanted to use it but they lack the accuracy needed on a track so seeing the watch tick up to 24 miles while nice was a mixed blessing because hearing you’ve still actually got 13 laps rather than the 8 your watch is trying to tell you takes even more out of you! If I wasn’t trying to time trial this for a PB I think I’d actually turn off the watch and rely on the RD calling out lap splits and just run.

In the end, I take little consolation from a 2nd place finish because as with my 2017 London marathon I blew up very early and need to ask myself more questions about my ambitions vs training.

My time was an absolute mile off what I’d hoped for – as a minimum I’d been aiming for a PB so to only finish 7 minutes faster than I’d run in Paris where I was so ill only a few weeks ago is disappointing to say the least.

The event

Absolutely great fun, the support and organisation along with chip timing meant everything was nice and easy and I’ll absolutely add the Leigh Weekend on the Track to the calendar for next year and if anyone is considering a track race then this is one to look up. Thanks for all the support and cheers even though my day ended in a pretty dismal failure for me in respect of my targets.

Coming up

Looking back, I guess once again I perhaps had bigger eyes than stomach and my training and commitment simply weren’t great enough and I was unrealistic in thinking that I had the legs to do the amount I did and expect 2:45 to just happen.

I’m going to refocus now and the marathon takes a bit of a backseat and I’m looking forward to some more chilled ultras over the next few months.