This track season, I’ve only really done races for the club at league matches and I really wanted to try and get some quick times at the end of the season by being put in races against other people of a similar standard.

Watford is well known by athletes in southern England for its open meetings, so I decided to sign up for some races there at the end of the season – an 800m, 1500m and 3000m (slowly getting longer as we move onto road relays and cross country)! The races are done in the evening from around 7:30 pm onwards, starting with the slower heats.

8th August – 800m (Heat 11)

I felt quite fresh in my legs today and I had a really big aim of going for 2:10 in the 800m which I definitely thought was feasible even if my pb was 2:14 since when I set 2:14, I did the first lap in 62 seconds, I had run 1500m 4 hours earlier and the wind was horrible.

When it was time to race, I felt a bit uneasy in my stomach – I don’t know whether it was nerves, but I was uncomfortable.

The previous heat (a slightly slower heat) had the winner go through the first lap in 67 seconds and finish in 2:12. I was expecting maybe the fastest runners in my heat to go out at 64 seconds and then hopefully that wouldn’t be too fast and I could work from there. I was positioned slightly towards the outside of the starting curve.

The race started so quickly. I heard ‘on your marks’ and then after positioning my foot just before the line, about half a second later before I’d fully lifted my head the gun went off and the pace took me off guard. I told myself I couldn’t be left behind, so I went with the pace edging forwards slightly so that I was in 6th (out of 12) by 150m. I hit 200m in around 30 seconds and went through the first lap in 62 – 63 seconds. I was scared of what this would mean for my second lap. Pushing through the second lap, I overtook so that I was second at 600m which I went through in 1:37. I hoped that if I really gave it everything I could dip under 2:10. At 150m, I really began to pump my arms and move my legs as fast as I could.

The last 100m was the worst. At 80m, it felt like everyone was zooming past me, left right and centre. 50m to go and I was finished. For the first time in a long time (I can’t remember) my legs were physically seizing up and I don’t know how I looked but I felt like my feet were stuttering along the floor. I finished 6th in 2:13.48 – a 0.9 second pb. Ultimately, I can’t say it’s what I hoped for, but it is a pb and after that race, I’m hungry to do another 800m, but hopefully more sensibly paced without me completely losing it at the end.

22nd August – 1500m (Heat 8)

I felt ready to race fast today and was determined to at the very least get under 4:25 for 1500m. I was in heat 8 and was in a race with two runners from my club, Gary Evans and Harry Brodie. After a 15 minute jog together coupled with running drills and strides we were ready to race.

The gun went off and the 16 runners in our heat broke away. I settled towards the middle in lane 2, the pace felt comfortably hard (which I later found out was too comfortable). I didn’t have the courage to sprint towards the front of the pack, so I stayed where I was. It was only when I heard the first lap time (72 seconds) that I knew I was running too slow. Gary gasped under his breath ‘What? I’m not having this!’ and managed to break away to the front with Harry and they began pulling everyone else along. I followed trying to speed up. The second lap was 2:22 and I was at the bell in 3:17. I knew it was a hard ask to do a 68 second last lap, but I tried to pick up the pace and close down on Harry up to the final 100m where around 4 of us were head to head, sprinting for the line. Harry saw me out of the corner of his eye and dipped at the line, beating me by 0.11 seconds. I finished in 4:27.00.

I’m frustrated with myself for being too afraid once again to go out fast at the beginning. It easily cost me 2 seconds which could’ve made up the pb I was going for. I’m going to try and learn from this error though for my next race. If there’s anything positive I can see from my 1500m times this season, it’s that I’m firmly under the 4:30 mark when I’m only racing 1500m that day.

5th September – 3000m (Heat 2)

After my half marathon ten days earlier, I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to cope given that on easy runs I’d done last week they were quite painful. Regardless, I was determined to race just to see how I was doing. A personal best was all I wanted today and hopefully at least below 9:30 which would mean running 2 seconds quicker than my best time. My race was quite late and started at 9:40 pm, but that didn’t bother me too much. I was alert and just had to hope I could run fast tonight.

I was in lane 4 and there were 27 people in my race. I hoped I was far enough out to not get boxed in. BANG! The gun went off, everyone went off and I was instantly boxed – people front, right and behind. It wasn’t until around 200m I managed to unbox myself and start moving forwards. The first lap was in 74/75 seconds which was a good pace for me to go at and I managed to sustain it for the second lap, but then the pace began to drop and a group of runners in front of me came into view. I amped up my pace, catching up with the group and pushing past them, but at lap 5 they started to come back at me and I couldn’t hang onto them. Going into the last lap I saw the time at 8:17. I knew it was unlikely I would run a pb but I still tried to push as much as I could on the last lap to finish in 9:35.17. Whilst my legs didn’t quite feel like they had hit lactic, they felt weak and unable to contract as powerfully as I needed – something I suspect was a consequence of having run the half marathon last week.

Although the result isn’t the one I wanted, the positive I can take away from this performance is that I managed to run a time close to my pb (although I feel I did have the potential to run sub 9:15 this season) towards the end of the season after having put my body through such an immense strain last week.

Did you run at any open meets this season? How did they go?