Why am I running around in circles? A report from my 12 hour track race.

I started right on track (no pun intended) at 3 min/lap; this according to a race plan that would have me run 90 km in 12 hours. It wasn’t long before my little toe got sore, despite being taped to prevent such a thing from happening. I sorted out that problem but then, after only 2-3 hours everything seemed to start hurting; my toes, feet, hips. It was soon evident that I had dropped off the pace required to finish 90 km or even 85 km but I didn’t care. I sat down and whined to Clare, who was crewing for me, “I’m sore! Why am I running around in circles?” I think at that point I still had 7 hours to go! I sucked it up and carried on.

I distracted myself with my music, which helped keep my mind off my aching feet and sore toe.  I actually looked forward to when we had to change direction as it was something different and a chance to see people’s faces, instead of their butts!

At the 6 hour mark, I was slightly envious because for some their race had finished and I still had another 6 hours to go!  Mostly I wanted to know if I’d managed to reach the “marathon mark” of 42.2 km but, sadly, I had only managed 40.8 in the first 6 hours!

With four hours to go, my dear friend, Paul, did the math and told me what I needed to do to run the same distance I did last year. Unfortunately, he was talking in terms that my brain couldn’t compute i.e. 15 laps per hour or 6 kmh. I knew I couldn’t count laps and I didn’t trust that I could remember what mileage I was at to be able to add 6 to it! I told him that I was running 3 laps and walking 1 which was all I could manage, so, if I continued to do that, where would I end up? Poor guy had to go away and recalculate the math! But, recalculate he did, and he came back with instructions to run each lap in 3:40 and walk laps at 5 min.  In that way, I would get to 78 km.  At last I had something to really focus on and focus I did, as instructed, for the next hour.  The hour came and went and Paul was nowhere to be seen to help me recalibrate.  There was nothing for me to do but keep going with the same plan and I did that for the next hour. 

With two hours to go Paul reported back to me that I was doing really well and that the last two hours had been the best two hours of my whole race.  “Just keep going”, he said.  So I did.

I was aiming for 6 km/h so every half hour I checked in with Clare to see if I had managed 3 km.  Not only had I achieved it, I had actually gone further.  At this point I had moved up from 15th to 12th place, because people had pulled out.  Both Clare and Paul told me I was gaining on the two people ahead of me.  It took a while but eventually I was only 800m behind the woman in 11th place and she was walking.  I only had to pass her twice and I would be ahead.  Each time I passed her, I said “good job”.  She had no idea I was “hunting her down”. J Paul and Clare kept up their positive words as well as their updates on my position in relation to the woman in front.  Then I was told me she’d gone into the food tent for a rest so that put me into 11th place. I set my sights on the next person in front of me.  He took longer to pass but eventually I did and moved into 10th place, with Paul, Clare and others cheering me on. 

By this point, I had given up on trying to walk a whole lap since it was sorer to walk than to run.  Instead, I ran until something like a twinge in my foot or my adductor muscle told me I needed a break.  I was now focusing on getting as much distance as I could in the closing stages of the race.  I still had constant feedback from Paul and Clare, each one of them updating me on my distance every 2-3 laps.  I cheered as I reached and surpassed my distance from last year, I cheered as I reached 78 km then 79 km and then there was only a couple of minutes to go so I ran my heart out, even sprinting (or it felt like I was sprinting) in the final minute to see just how close to 80 km I could get.  The last 30 seconds felt like the longest I had ever run.  It turned out it was.  The loudspeaker had stopped working so I ran an extra 20 seconds because I didn’t hear the call to STOP! 

The funniest sight of the night was watching Paul running across the field towards me, chair in hand, trying to judge where I would finish!!  I plonked myself down into the chair and Paul wrapped a blanket around me.  Diane arrived to give me a hug. I lay down on the ground and put my feet up on the chair.  While we waited for the final measurements to be taken, Matt, the medic, stopped by to make sure I was okay.  I assured him I was fine and that rather than “needing” to lie down, I had “chosen” to do it, to give my legs a break. 

Once the officials had completed measuring my partial lap, Paul and Diane helped me up, which, in itself, was a hilarious event as I couldn’t seem to sort out where my feet needed to go in order to stand up! It was only as I started to walk that I noticed just how sore my toes and feet were and I could barely move!!  It never ceases to amaze me how our bodies can just keep on giving until we stop and then they say, “I’ve had enough!”

My official distance was 79.882 km in 12 hours (okay, 12:00:20) and I couldn’t help but think “if only I hadn’t stopped to sit and rest” and “if only I had skipped that last rather useless bathroom break” I would have reached 80 km.  Of course, there are no “if only’s”.  There is only what happened and what happened is that, after initially asking myself why I was running around in circles, I found something to focus on and before I knew it, 12 hours was up and I had a new PB for a 12 hr track race.  Something I was quite excited about and proud of myself for accomplishing!

March 18, 2017
Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, ACT
Kilted to Kick Cancer 12 hour track race