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A weekend of PBs and some key learnings

This weekend I took part in my first 24-hour track race. I had set myself a target of getting PBs for 50 km, 50 miles and 100 km, and I wanted to run 100 miles within 24 hours. I hit three of these targets, met many amazing people, discovered many things about running around a 400-metre track for hours, and had some insight into how my body copes with running at this speed for longer.

Ray running with LisaThis weekend I took part in my first 24-hour track race. I had set myself a target of getting PBs for 50 km, 50 miles and 100 km, and I wanted to run 100 miles within 24 hours. I hit three of these targets, met many amazing people, discovered many things about running around a 400-metre track for hours, and had some insight into how my body copes with running at this speed for longer.

The event was organised by Rasselbock and held at the Iffley Running Road Track in Oxford (the track where Roger Bannister ran the first 4-minute mile in 1954). This is the second Rasselbock event I have taken part in, and I would recommend them. Their events are well-organised, low-key, fun, and very affordable.

The Event
The event comprised several sub-events, including a daytime 6-hour and 12-hour race, a night-time 6-hour and 12-hour race, and a 24-hour race. All based on running laps around the Iffley Road Track. The 6-hour and 12-day races started at 9 am Saturday. My race, the 24-hour race, started at 10 am Saturday. The night-time 6-hour and 12-hour races started at 10 pm at night.

Ray runningSetting your own targets
In a 24-hour race, the runners set their own personal targets. For some runners, it is as simple to see how far they can get in 24 hours. Of the 18 of us in the 24-hour race, 7 ran (or walked) for the whole 24 hours. Whilst I had wanted to run the whole 24 hours, my key targets were PBs for 50 km, 50 miles, 100 km, and ideally 100 miles.

Isn’t it boring to run around a track, over and over?
One of my worries before the event was that running around a 400-metre track for hours would be boring. However, it did not work out that way. The people on the track are the key point of interest. There are faster runners and slower runners. Some ran for 24 hours, some walked for 24 hours. This means you passed the same people (or they passed you) repeatedly, and you periodically chat, pass greetings etc. Every two hours, we changed direction, from anti-clockwise to clockwise and back again – to prevent injuries and such.

Selfie with RachelA great example of this human element was Rachel Dalton, a fantastic runner from Derbyshire who took part in the 12-hour race and won it with a massive 275 laps, 110 km (68 miles). She was amazingly positive, chatting all the time, encouraging everybody else. I grabbed a selfie with Rachel at the end.

Another high was meeting another runner from Nottingham, Lisa Marshall, with lots of shared contacts.

How did I get on?
Despite the rain, the run started well for me. To get my PBs, I need to start reasonably fast but not too fast. This was new territory, so it was all about discovery. My key times were:

  • 5k 28:01
  • 10k 54:03 (this was perhaps a tad too fast, since the second 5K was about 2 minutes faster than the first 5K
  • Half-marathon 2:03:22 (this seemed like a good pace, given my half-marathon racing pace is about 1 hour 35 minutes.
  • Marathon 4:15:39 (again, this seemed reasonable as I race marathons in about 3 hour 40 minutes.
  • 50k – this was my first target. My PB was about 5 hours 30 mins, and I managed 5:17:48
  • 50 miles (80k) – this was my second target, my previous PB was just under 12 hours, I managed 10:05:22 – nearly two hours off my best. Which perhaps should have been a warning sign that I was going too fast.
  • 100k – this was my third target, my previous PB was a little over 15 hours, and I managed 13:01:25, well over two hours off my PB.

What happened next?
OK, you can probably guess that I did not get the 100 miles in 24 hours, nor indeed did I run for 24 hours. I struggled to eat properly from about 9 hours into the race, a little bit before I reached the 50-mile mark. I tried nibbling different things, but my stomach was rebelling. From 13 hours onwards, I felt like I was going to be sick and eating anything was out of the question. I tried having a couple of rests, I tried walking, but the feeling of nausea had set in, and it was the only thing I could think about.

I was pretty sure it would not get better, so I called it a day at 15:05:33, having completed 272 laps, 111.2 km, 69.1 miles.

BTW, a big shout out to Lisa from Nottingham, who hit her target of 100 miles in just over 21 hours. The fastest runner was Matthew Coulson, who managed an amazing 504 laps, 201.6 km, 125.3 miles 23 hours 35 minutes and 56 seconds.

Why did I get so pukey?
Normally I am pretty good at eating and running. In this event, according to Strava, I burned almost 9,000 calories. Usually, when I am running for a long time (which can be days for a longer event), I am running my body at a slower speed. For example, on a three-day race in the hills, there is a lot of walking up hills, climbing styles etc. In this race, I was moving faster for longer. When I run a marathon, I only eat four gels. For these faster, longer races, I need to experiment with different strategies for food until I find one that works.

Learnings for the Future
The first learning is not to be worried about the boredom of running around the track, the people compensate. The second learning is that I need to deal with eating when running faster for longer. The third learning is that if I want to run 100 miles in 24 hours, I should not also be chasing PBs for shorter distances.

Track routeI also discovered that there is quite a big difference between the official difference and how far my watch says I ran. As you can see from the map below, you will note that I spent a lot of my time not in lane one (the official distance is based on lane one), and from time to time, I left the track to get food, drink and visit the facilities (there would also be errors in the gps tracking) – my watch thought I had run 118 km, rather than the official 111 km.

2 replies on “A weekend of PBs and some key learnings”

This is one I really can’t get my head round. To me, ultra distance is about seeing amazing places, about being in nature. I’m not goal driven though. So I can understand why it would appeal to you, Ray.

I never thought about how people would make this amazing though. It never crossed my mind that you would see both slower and quicker runners, throughout. Im not sure why, I never thought of this.

I love that you have hit three PB’s, but more than that, I love how you have seen it as a learning opportunity and, as always, kept so positive.

Well done amd thanks for another insightful and informative read.

Interesting stuff Ray. Being the sort of person I am (!) and given my eyesight problems and the limitations that imposes on me for night time running, I reckon this is the only kind of ultra I would be able to do. For some of us, there is something quite appealing about running round a track for 24 hours!
The difference running faster for longer made on the body was very interesting. It showed that ‘ultra running’ is not just one event, but many events, requiring different strategies. Also I think you’re bang on when you say to achieve your 24 hr target you need to forget all about other pb’s along the way.

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