My Track Cherry was popped at West Suffolk Athletics Arena in Bury St Edmunds on Monday
I do not know the exact figure, but in the last year I must have ran a long way over a thousand miles, in Asia, North America, Australasia, Europen and South America.
From roads, trails, hills, beaches, parks, rivers and big cities. But never on a track. Until Monday!
It was the Suffolk Athletics Track 5,000m Championship in Bury St Edmunds. And I was the Track Virgin.
Upon arrival at the Arena, the first thing that hit me was the sheer size of it. It looked more like 4000m than 400!
I remember watching Michael Johnson demolish the field at Atlanta 96 in his gold spikes over 200m and 400m with his chest out and thinking he was the fastest thing, let alone human, I had ever seen.
If you have never seen it, watch this.
Having watched countless footage on TV from Olympic Games & Commonwealth Games down the years, it must be the speed of the athletes that makes the track look so small.
However, I am not Michael Johnson! And arriving to see the Junior race in action, it looked like ants running round and that they would never make it round. Not what you want to see when you are a little apprehensive!
Michael Johnson in his iconic gold spikes on the way to World Record 19:32 200m
The one thing everyone had said to me when I informed them I had never ran on a track before, was “Oh you ‘ll run much much faster ” – No pressure there then!
How much faster though? 1 second a mile, 10 seconds, 30 seconds? NO IDEA!
Then I was informed by one of the other runners that people will get lapped.
My mind scrambled and feeling very intimidated, fellow Ipswich Jaffa Helen Davies then arrived.
For those who do not know who Helen is, she is a Club Legend and Suffolk Athlete of the Year winner who has represented Team GB in both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games, winning a Bronze Medal in Barcelona.
She was the main reason why I joined the Ipswich Jaffas in the first place. This tipped it over the edge, I am now thinking…
“The track is absolutely huge, I have to run super fast or else I am going to get lapped, and I am being watched by a member of Team GB! “
Having munched down at least three Chupa Chups (unfortunately one was Cola flavour – the worst!), I regained some kind of composure and after entering and collecting my number, I watched the over 20 minute male race.
This helped as I got to see where the race actually starts, and I tried to speak to as many of the other runners as possible to get their insights on track running and try to pick up a few last minute tips.
After watching the start of the Women ‘s race, I headed back to the Car Park to collect my vest from my car, only to be greeted by quite possibly the world ‘s biggest puncture!
BRILLIANT. As if I didn ‘t have enough to worry about, I now knew that whatever happened in the race, I would have that to deal with afterwards.
For anyone who does not know me personally, I am not sure I could change the oil or washer fluid in my car, let alone a bloody tyre!
I decided to send a pre-race text to the AA, aka my Dad, and asked him to meet me at the track after the race so we could fix it. By we, I mean him of course.
With zero expectations having never ran a 5k or on a track, I had no time in mind, I was just going to try and stay with the leaders for as long as I could.
Fortunately I was able to keep pace for the majority of the race in a group with two other Jaffas.
The runaway leader was never in risk of slipping up, but the three of us ran a great race.
Renowned for having a strong finish and a 5k specialist, one of the other two runners in our pack pulled clear out of the last bend to claim 2nd by a couple of seconds, but I was able to break off and chase him most of the way over the last 150m and claim 3rd place in 15:57.
Unfortunately the momentum he had meant that by the time he was alongside it was always going to be difficult to catch him.
The biggest thing I found was probably that not running out and back, or away from the finish, always gives you a feeling that you are making progress.
You are never more than 200m from the line which psychologically allows you keep yourself going, whereas a road or cross country route, there are times when you are running alone with no spectators or atmosphere at all.
That ‘s what I think anyway!
The crescendo of nerves and adrenaline as each lap passed and the lap counter ticked down was like nothing I have experienced.
The feeling as the bell rang to mark the start of the final lap gave me such a rush that you cannot fail to get a boost over the last lap.
To have secured 3rd place in the Suffolk Athletics 5k Track Championship with so many unknowns was a fantastic outcome, and I now can ‘t wait to get back on the track.