When a race starts to the Benny Hill theme tune, you know it’s going to be a long, painful day.
I’d entered the Eastbourne Trackstar marathon a few months ago, on the basis that I’d run two track races before and loved them both. I figured that if I could run for 24 hours round a track, running a marathon should be easy.
It hasn’t been an ideal start to the year, with a calf injury that I just couldn’t get rid of. I’d only run more than 16 miles twice all year (and one of those was on New Year’s Day) so I wasn’t sure what state my endurance was in. I was excited about the race though and it looked like being a good test of whether my calf was fully healed.
I’d run on Eastbourne running track before – once when I did a long training session for the 24 hour race last year and also at the end of the South Downs Way 50 and the South Downs Way 100. I’d got some great memories of the place and was hoping to make some more here.
The race itself was 105.5 laps of the track. That sounds like a lot of laps (and it is) but I’d run more than 450 laps of Tooting running track last year, so I figured this couldn’t be that hard. The set up here was pretty simple – register and get your number and timing chip. Put the timing chip round your ankle and the timing map at the finish line would pick up when you ran over it. Repeat 105 times and you’re done.
So I stood at the start line with 64 other people and the organisers started playing the Benny Hill theme tune. It’s kind of funny if you think about it, but for some reason I’ve always found that bit of music really irritating. It wasn’t the best start but we were off.
As you can probably imagine, with 65 people in the race there was a fairly wide disparity in speeds and it wasn’t long before you had to start overtaking people. And then for the rest of the race it was constant overtaking. It should have been pretty obvious that this was how the race was going to play out, but it ended up being 100 odd laps of going past people, people going past me and weaving between lanes. One particular lowlight for me was one chap after I had overtaken him deciding to come hammering past me and then stop dead virtually in front me. I have no idea why he did this, but I’m guessing from my reaction that he understood that I wasn’t particularly impressed by this.
The one highlight was the playlist. It hadn’t got off to a good start (for me anyway) but the organisers had got into the spirit of the occasion and included these gems:
You spin me round (like a record) – Dead or Alive
Road to hell – Chris Rea
(I’m gonna be) 500 miles – The Proclaimers
Let’s go round again – The Average White Band
Dizzy – Vic Reeves and The Wonderstuff
They also played Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads, which is a cracking tune that I haven’t heard in years. I was singing along to it as I went round and round the track (apologies to anyone who I inflicted that on) and if ever a song summed up a race, that song summed up my race here. I really was on a road to nowhere.
I trudged round and round the track, (very) occasionally smiling as a different tune came on the PA, but mostly just trudging round with my head down. I just wanted the race to be over. Of all the races I’ve run, this was far and away my least favourite. I entered it because I thought it would be fun, but it proved to be anything but. This is no slur on the organisers, who did a good job putting on the event. I just really didn’t enjoy it – I got into a fairly negative headspace early on and really didn’t enjoy the experience at all.
Eastbourne track always seems to be very windy, and that proved to be the case again here. The wind was blowing directly down the back straight, which got pretty wearing after a while. The wind also didn’t help when I was running behind one chap who smelled a bit pungent, as it seemed to amplify the smell and blow it straight at me. Not a pleasant experience but it encouraged a quick piece of overtaking if nothing else!
The organisers took lots of photos throughout the event and my expression looks virtually identical on all of them – head down and pissed off. I obviously wasn’t hiding how I was feeling very well!
On a positive note, I managed to finish 9th, the medal was good and I got some decent miles in the bank. The best news was that my calf held up perfectly, even if my head didn’t do quite as well.
I also learned that track marathons aren’t for me – I figured that out pretty early in proceedings. At least I’ve scratched that particular itch now and I never have to do it again. The next time I plan to see a running track is at the end of the Berlin Wall 100, where the last 400 metres are round the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark. That’s a track I’m looking forward to seeing.