The Velothon was the 2015 version of the track marathon organised by Sussex Trail Events.
I had done the Lemmings Track Marathon in 2014, so knew what lay ahead. However, the Velothon had less laps. Hurray. Each lap was longer. Boo. Each lap of this 19th century cycling track was 579m, meaning the race was just over 72 laps.
Running a marathon is about preparation and this was the worst preparation that I have ever had for a race. In fact, my participation was in some serious doubt in the lead up to race day. Over the past month or so my anxiety levels have increased day by day. I have regularly been skipping meals and taking more and more refuge in sleep, which becomes the safest place to be during these periods. Getting out of bed each morning has been more and more difficult each day. A corner seemed to be turned a couple of days before the race with a huge amount of help from Nick and a good few tears later I decided that I would give it a go.
So there were 4 of us Burgess Hill Runners at the race. I was in very good company. Philippe has completed so many marathons this year, he’s lost count. Debbie was fresh from a cracking run at Beachy Head and Jamie is, well……..a machine.
In addition to this, the field of 30+ runners had many seasoned marathon runners, including several 100 Marathon Club members. Well it is a bit of a crazy event and the weather was not looking good.
We gathered at Preston Park at around 8.20am to get ready and check out the course. I really was not expecting the course to have such a climb on each lap. The overall climb (and fall) for the whole race was 534m. In addition, on 2 of the corners, there was quite a camber. In my head I was thinking Olympic velodrome. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it?
So, after a quick race brief (no need for a long one – just run round and round for a while) we were off.
One of my main mottos in my sport of choice is that I don’t really worry about what other people are doing. It’s not about them, it’s about me. Never is that more so than on a track marathon. I think that the winner probably lapped me 20+ times. If that troubles you, this probably isn’t the type of event for you.
So the mental and physical battle begins. And as the event unfolds quite a few spectators come to watch. This is a really welcome relief. Some of the parkrunners from the event in Preston Park hung around to watch for a while and more and more Burgess Hill Runners kept appearing. Amazing people. It was wet, windy and the weekend and they gave up their time to give us a helping hand. Amazing. Especially being able to high five this young lady, who shouted my name lap after lap.
So what is there to say about the race. Well, I wanted to do the first half in 2 hours. Part of the prep for pacing for the Brighton Marathon. Well, I got there in 1 hour 59 minutes and 15 seconds. Mission accomplished. It went downhill from there on. A mixture of fatigue and the rubbish build up saw to that. Also, the fact that I’m not ready for a 4 hour marathon yet. All of my races this year have been off road and hilly and not about times, so this wasn’t a bad attempt. I walked bit of the last 3 miles, but that’s not of any real importance at the moment. This pace graph below sums it up really.
One of the big positives about a track marathon is that you get to visit the aid station and your own personalised drinks and food every lap, or every 579m in this case.
You also get the encouragement of the race organisers and the spectators each time you pass. Hats off to the organisers. It’s obviously easier to organise this event that is trail marathon, but it must be excruciating to watch the runners suffer lap by lap. I look pretty miserable a lot of the time when I’ve got my race face on. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like by the end.
So the end came round and the last few laps were knocked off slowly. There were only half a dozen runners left on the track when I finished, but it was great to cheer them in, especially this chap who is a constant source of inspiration (and sweaty hugs).
The running diary is almost full for next year. I think that I will be spectating on the Sussex Trail Events races next year rather than running. If you are thinking of doing any of their races you will not be disappointed. I promise.
Now to carry out the Brighton Sub 4 plan and to work on getting properly healthy.
Take care and once again a huge thank you to Jon Lavis for these photos.