How track sessions helped me break a running plateau 

By Jess

What a beautiful sunny gorgeous day! And it just got better. Today I got my second PB of 2017 at Hampstead Heath parkrun – 22:23! I am absolutely over the moon with my new PB. Compared to last year I’ve knocked over a minute from my 5K time. Having struggled to run PBs previously I looked back to see what I’ve done differently and I think the major difference is that I’ve taken up track running for the last six months.

Six months ago, a couple of friends from parkrun mentioned track running and said it was a great way to train and improve speed. At that point I’d plateaued for almost three months and I was desperate to get a PB. And I needed to do more training runs in preparation for the London Marathon. So I decided to give it a go. 

I was wary and nervous at first. I had been running for a while, but I dreaded the idea of running with the elite runners and being the slowest. As it turned out, there were lots of groups, so I could run with people at the same level.

My first run at the track was really difficult. Everyone was doing 12 laps of 400m. I did the easier version (10 laps of 300m) and I could barely keep up with the others. The day after my first session I could barely walk and my calves were in pain for over a week. 

But somehow I kept going back. It wasn’t easy. I found myself gasping for breath even after the first effort. But having people around me really pushed me to dig deep. Sprinting around a track was the type of thing I would never do on my own. I would never run at speed, time and time again, trying to improve my times week on week. But over time I learned to run faster and for longer. It was like I learned to switch up a gear. Just like that.

When I’m on the track, a lot of the time I don’t think about anything. Sprinting is so different to normal running. When I’m going for a long run on my own my mind wanders off but when I’m running on the track I just think about keeping up with the person ahead of me. I try not to think about how many laps I’ve got left or how tired I am or how little rest I’m going to get. When we do repeats we normally get a minute rest starting from when the first person in the group crosses the line. So there’s an added incentive to keep up with the group leader. 

But it’s worth it, because you do get faster and it’s amazing to look at your progress. And hard work ALWAYS pays off. You get rewarded with PBs.

To those who are thinking about joining a running club, I would say, do it! People are often put off from training on day 1 because they think that track is only for the fast runners. They’re not. It’s always a bit nerve wracking to do something new but go with an open mind and you will reap the benefits. 

The day I got my club vest! So proud to be a member of Highgate Harriers!

P.S. If you’re nervous about track running you could always go to the track on your own to try it out. A few tips to get you started:
– A standard running track is 400m around the inside lane. 

– Do your hard efforts anti-clockwise in lane 1 and move out to an outside lane to overtake. Just be mindful of other people on the track – they might be going quicker than you, and sometimes they overtake at speed! 

– If you’re just warming up or cooling down move to the outside lane – sometimes people do 100m sprints on the outside lane so just watch out for people in general.

– Often multiple clubs use the same track so just check which one has the best session times for you, but as I said you don’t necessarily need to be part of a club to run on the track!

– If you’re unsure about joining a club, you can always have a couple of trial sessions – most clubs have a policy where you can try out sessions before joining officially as a member!

GOOD LUCK!!!

– Jess

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