For some time now, maybe a year and a half, I've been training on the track. At least once a week, sometimes twice, I go around and around and around, lap after lap, clocking up the metres.
Why do I do it?
I have been training on a Tuesday evening with a club since 2009. Originally with Pitreavie AAC who are based in Dunfermline, Fife, but I then moved to Edinburgh and started training with Edinburgh AC.
We have a coach and every Tuesday we are given a set of reps to do, each week it works on a specific goal, endurance, speed, lactic threshold but it's always about 6 miles of work.
Before we even start the reps I do a 3 mile warm up and then drills and strides to get the body ready for the abuse I'm are about to give it!
But this doesn't answer the original question, why do I train on the track when I race on the road?
It's a great squad!
The team spirit really helps you push that bit harder every week, you always give it more when you have a coach watching you than you would if you were on the track on your own.
It's a mixed ability group.
What I mean by that is, there are members of the squad who are running sub 5 minutes per mile while others are sub 7 minutes. I like this mixture. The guys who are running sub 5 minutes inspire me. Some people might think they can't train with such athletes but I don't feel that at all.
We are all there training with the same goals, all giving it are best effort, they are just a bit faster, that's all. When I started at Pitreavie AAC, I was always the last person back from the run, the slowest runner with my 11 minutes a mile pace.
This could have put me off but instead I focussed on catching the second last person each week and one day I kept with them for the full run, the following week I would aim for the next group and even if it took me weeks or sometimes months to finally keep up with that next group, I improved. It's no different on the track, I am still chasing the front runner and one day, I might catch them!
Its traffic free.
No need to think about crossing roads or dodging pedestrians. You just run. This has been really beneficial, especially for my second track session of the week, half marathon training. I've only been doing the second track session for the first part of this year and I'm yet to put the training in to practice but its even more laps. 10miles in total or 30 laps!
The track allows you to have constant running and not have to think about messing up your pace with hills or sharp turns. It's great for learning a specific pace and teaching your body to run at that pace.
The boredom focusses your mind, you can concentrate on your running form, minimising the contact time for each step, perfecting your pace. It's great mental training as well as physical. A stronger mind helps when things get tough during a race, something I have probably lacked in the past.
If I'm honest about long distance racing, I've probably given up a number of times when things got tough but on the track, there is nowhere to hide. Its just you, the red track and your body. It's a great way to learn how it feels to push yourself in a safe environment, if you blow up or have a really bad session, you're only 200 metres away from where you started.
I've done a number of half marathon sessions on the track at target race pace and had to stop due to really bad stitches or stomach issues but each time it has happened I know I can stop and call it a night if required. If it had been out on the road, I could have been 5 miles from home!
I really enjoy the track sessions see them as a key session in my weekly training. I've seen then benefits in my shorter distance races with great times and I'm going to put the training into practice this weekend and see if I can bring it all together for a possible personal best over 13.1 miles.