Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Running in circles

Thankfully my calf injury seems to be progressing well. After a worrying run on Saturday where it started to tighten up after 5k, I managed an easy 7.6k on Monday afternoon with Geoff and Alan. It was all good.

Last Monday night at Speedygeoff's group dinner the subject of running on the track came up. One of the ladies said "I don't like the track – all that running in circles. I'd rather be out on the trails". At the time, I didn't quite know what to say.

I love trail running, but I also love the track. You might have noticed that I've only listed my track PBs on this blog. They mean the most to me. Here are my ancient non-track PBs: 36:25 for 10k road, 53:33 for the 14k City to Surf, 81:38 for the half marathon, 1:48:57 for the Cotter 15 mile and 3:11:02 for the marathon.

The track PBs mean the most because I can compare my modest achievements with those of the best distance runners in the world. They've all raced on the track – Paula Radcliffe, Meseret Defar, Benita Johnson, Haile Gebrselassie and Craig Mottram. Even marathon runners such as Steve Moneghetti and Kerryn McCann. I can remember 'racing' Rob de Castella at the old Bruce Stadium many years ago in a 3000 metre event. I was lapped twice. The 400 metre tracks in Canberra or Wollongong are just as fast as the ones in Rieti or Hengelo. No two marathon courses are the same.

The other good thing about the track is how training on it can help you to run faster. A 400 metre track is a great venue for speedwork (especially if you can find a good grass one). It's nice and safe. You don't have to worry about cars, bikes, dogs or falling branches. When you arrive at the track you are thinking about doing purposeful fast training. You run exact distances and can relate the time that you've run for those distances to your race goal time.

You can do your speedwork at venues other than a track if you don't have access to a good one. A flat smooth gravel trail for instance, or a large well grassed park, or a quiet bikepath can work well – that's if you really do hate running in circles.


Blogger wannabecoach said...


I agree with everything.
However I am sure you would agree an 800 or 1500 is no longer a sprint but a distance event.

12:40 pm  
Blogger Scott said...

Hey Ewen

Once every three or four months I've been going to the track at a stadium called "Nagai Park" in Osaka.
From my limited experience I can tell you it's a thrill as even though the stands are empty I can imagine what it would be like to race with a crowd and some company. It certainly helps to focus me and I usually run well when I go there. I think this particular stadium might be used for the coming big athletic meet in Osaka.Anyone coming for that is welcome to write me. I want to go as well.

10:29 pm  
Blogger Spark Driver said...

Good post there. I will have to look into some tracks in the area.

11:14 am  
Blogger Don Juan said...

You're a diplomat Ewen in the face of extreme provocation from a trail runner.
Impressive set of PBs.

11:31 am  
Blogger Stephen Lacey said...

Yeah, great post. I agree with much of what you say, though being focused on the marathon means I don't run on the track so much. But I really like the feeling when you start out on a 1000-m interval rep and you are shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball in a pack of similar pace, all moving fast but gliding along close together, legs barely noticeable as they work into a good rhythm. And the the different aerobic thresholds are reached and the pack quickly opens up. But until that moment, it's great.

Ewen, it appears you never really concentrated on running a fast marathon, or else you have only picked slow courses. Your other PBs suggest you should have been able to run close to 2:50 if you put in the miles and pick a kind course. I recognize of course that not everybody has the same goals.

12:32 pm  
Blogger Southy said...

Wannabecoach - No, an 800m is just a bloody long sprint. A 1500m is just an even longer sprint. But, nonetheless, I love track work. It feels fast & fun to me (although some would say I should never use the words fast & me in the same paragraph).
I really do believe whether or not one races at the track that doing speed work & intervals helps to build strength for the longer runs as well as prevents injuries. A lot of people believe that speed work causes injuries but I firmly believe that done properly speed work prevents injuries by building strength & power. There is even research that indicates that doing speed work causes the body to produce more growth hormone. Of course I love trail runing too. It's a bit like asking someone if they love chocolate or icecream better isn't it. I love both, wouldn't want to have live without either.

1:34 pm  
Blogger 2P said...

Good to hear your calf is progressing Ewen - you can borrow my old mantra of "I won't be cowed by my calves" if you like ;-)

Having made my 12 hour debut on a track this year I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this style of ultra is - much more sociable than long stints alone in the middle of nowhere - having said that - long stints alone in the middle of nowhere has its appeal too...

4:17 pm  
Blogger R2B said...

There is no hiding from the stats of a track performance.You are so right that you can compere faithfully the same distances ever time.

I also find that when i go to the track that the atmosphere is one were i am ready for speed!

Nice Pb's and well worth being proud of!


7:49 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

You've inspired me to think about doing some sprint/track work. Maybe I'll check out the grass oval only 200metres from my house!

9:40 am  
Anonymous Steve said...

Firstly, can I borrow your marathon pb.

I'm 46 and only just started training at a track and it certainly breaks up the long distance training. I look forward to every Tuesday night (track night).

7:48 pm  
Blogger Eddie said...

You have convinced me Ewen. i have a 400m grass track 2k's from my place. I think it is time I took advantage of it and did some speed work.

9:01 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

I remember my track days fondly, both the racing and training. Must say I never ever liked being lapped in a race. It is even worse when you get lapped again and again!
Can't see me rushing back to race on the track anytime soon though.

11:07 pm  
Blogger miners said...

interesting thoughts there ewen. My recollections of the track involve bare feet on grass with creosote grimed up between the toes. However, I've begun to get tempted back on - the recent speedwork has been really enjoyable, and ideally, the track is the best place for it.

might meet you at a meet somewhere ;)

3:55 pm  
Blogger Stu said...

Good to hear that the calf is on the improve!

My experience of people who say they don't like running in circles have generally not done it!

I really enjoy doing my speed work on the track for so many reasons, but safety, no holes and there is nearly always someone else around to join in with.

4:20 pm  
Blogger PortRunr said...

Good to hear the calf is coming along. I might give a grass track nearby a go myself as I have some speed work to do at the moment.

4:42 pm  
Blogger miners said...

btw - keep at it with those movie quotes. If there was an encouragement prize for greatest number of (unsuccesful) attempts, you'd be doing pretty well ;)

5:06 pm  
Blogger CJ said...

Sorry Ewen - still haven't convinced me!!!! But amazing PBs from you.

4:10 pm  
Blogger iliketoast said...

I can see your point of view but I haven't found the same fondness of the track. I lie a long run along a path where my mind can wander whilst me legs go into auto-pilot.

I hope you calf recovers quickly and isn't problem anymore.

7:20 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

As you know :) I have access to a track but also some good point to point measured locations which I am using to my full advantage. Certainly I'll be headed down to Rotary for a bit more circle work, just to keep things varied.

Actually also really looking forward to the ANSW Summer program which will be my first circle work done in anger!

9:26 pm  
Blogger Hilda said...

That should be the reason of my slow pace, I have never train in a track! :P

Hope your calf ends recovering soon!

Thanks a lot for your comments!

8:38 am  
Blogger KIT said...

Great to hear the calf is on the mend!! I hate that post injury anxiety when you set out for a run.... but when you get home ok you can't beat that happy feeling!

7:47 am  
Blogger Wobbly man said...

Don't the trains annoy you? ;)

8:46 pm  
Blogger Jen_runs said...

Thank you for your comments of late & I'm sorry I haven't stopped by sooner.

I'm glad to see that your calf is recovering. I haven't done any track work but I always thought that I would get bored running round & round in circles. But my recent injury has taught me that it is possible to find enjoyment in that - & that was even when I was by myself, nevermind in a race!

11:13 pm  
Blogger D said...

I agree with you and will add that the track is the best place to learn pacing and consistency. It also adds mental training to your routine. When I was training for my first marathon - I had been out of town over the Christmas holiday and ran my first 22-miler on a highschool track. At that point I knew if I could runn 22 miles on a track (it does get rather boring) I was definitely going to complete the marathon. Also, there aren't many distractions on a track so you can really focus on your workout.

12:01 am  
Blogger Hilda said...

Hi Ewen!!

Your words are always so wise!!
You just explain me the clue of the struggle.

Your are always giving me hope!

thanks, thanks!!

2:02 am  
Blogger Vicky said...

Thanks for your comment my way Ewen. I like your blog!

Track running is one thing my programme is missing at the moment and in fact something I have not done much of at all in recent years. I do have a good grass track fairly near by too, so no excuses!

After the Auck Half I might just have to start heading down there on a regular basis! Thanks for the inspiration.


5:00 pm  

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