The Art and Science of Running Around in Circles – Stromlo 12 hour

Storm Clouds over Mt Stromlo - Images Russell Baker

Running around a 1km circuit sounds simple on paper – the reality is hugely different and very much the sentiment from many of the competitors after the inaugural Injinji Stromlo 12 hour track event held this weekend just gone.

Dan and Marcus signed up for this run a few months ago, thinking that it would be a good long last hit out before 6ft track in a few weeks. Afterall, we’ve run for anything up to 30 hours on the trail, how hard will 6 hours around a track be? We could smash this and get some high kms under the belt too.

How naive we were, and Dan more so. It’s fair to say that as trail runners we have the up most respect for our track counterparts. In the early hours of Sunday morning,we were left fascinated and awestruck by the advice and comments from someone who is a true world leader in this type of running, Martin Fryer.

You could see the passion in Martin’s eyes and feel it in his voice as he ran through some of the strategies he uses for keeping himself focused and interested in these mamouth mental battles. And this is precisely what these types of events are from what we can see. The huge battle against the demons that pay you a visit as you continue around and around.

As trail runners we’re blessed with the ability to see differing sights and sounds as we bounce our away along from checkpoint to checkpoint. In a track race, it’s the same faces, same start line, same finish line, same crew stops, same bends in the track, same inclines and declines. It’s same, same, same…

Both Marcus and Dan are no strangers to track races, having competed in the first two Narrabeen 12 hour events. Dan is the first to admit that these events don’t float his boat hugely, but as runners, it’s good to mix things up and do things you don’t necessarily think you’ll like – it certainly gave us even more respect for the guys and girls who make this their chosen thing. With this, we’d like to offer big congratulations to Oli Zambon (120kms) and Pam Muston (113kms)  for their respective wins.

Ewan Horsburgh and Dan clock up some fast early laps

Lining up at 6:30pm, Dan shared a laugh and a joke with Ewan Horsburgh, current C2K champion. He said we should take the first lap out hard and see who would come with us. Dan’s goal was 65-ish kms for the 6 hours, which he thought was very achievable – maybe even nudging 67-68 if he was lucky. He now knows that having not done any kind of serious road running for some time, He’s simply not as conditioned for this type of event as he thought he was.

Jackie Fairweather set a cracking early pace

Dan started fast and hard,  clocking up a 4:20km first lap with Ewan. Those who’d gathered to watch us laughed at how hard they’d gone in the first lap, but Dan knew to stand a chance of nudging beyond 65kms, he’s have to get that extra km or two in the bank early. Dan planned to do 12kms in the first hours and then consolidate with 11kms per hour for the next 3 hours, before seeing how well he could hold on for the last two hours.

All went to plan until 4 hours. Going a little too hard early meant that Dan’s stomach got all upset and decided to throw a tantrum. After 3 hours I was struggling to maintain the mental focus, but he ploughed on. By 4 hours he was pretty shot and spent the next hour feeling sorry for himself and taking a trip or two to the bathroom to unleash the fury in his stomach. The simple result of going too hard, but hey better to have had a shot than to not know what might have been he thought.

By 5 hours Dan decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and  to start running properly, pushing out a healthy last hour for a grand total of 59kms. Having spent most of hour 5 walking and deciding that he hated track events, Dan was pleased to have hit what he did, but overall was disappointed in the way he’d approached this event. Still, it’s very early days for Dan this year and the positive is that he got a good long distance run in ahead of 6ft track.

Marcus in full flight and secured the Team win for Ultra168

For Marcus, starting your 6 hour run at 00:30 is not the most appealing of thoughts, but he hit things far steadier than his over eager partner. And steady was the name of the game as Marcus just kept on chugging away at the track, clocking up the kms. Again the mental focus and preparation is probably one of the most important aspects of these races and I think for both of us, those mental demons played a big part.

Bry picked up the pace after a shoe change and snared second place

As daylight drew, Marcus picked up the pace and looked stronger and stronger, but he was still a few kms behind myself in the overall battle for Stromlo world domination 🙂 That said he sprinted around the final lap, just narrowly missing Ewan and his overall target by just 300m. Awesome, we get beaten by a guy who runs the whole thing himself – he is C2K champ though!

Ollie Zambon takes the overall win

As we sat in the awards presentation, we all agreed that while these track events play torture on your mind, they’re good for the soul. They make you stare down the barrel of despair and ask you if you’re really up for doing this type of event. Personally I’m in awe of the guys like Martin Fryer, Jo Blake and Dave Kennedy to name just a few. They have the patience and mental fortitude of a blunt nail to to able to continue to run around in circles like that… hmmmm… that’s just give me an idea for another article… watch this space!

Thank you to Russell Baker and Phil Essam for the images

Like our articles? Take a second to support Ultra168 on Patreon from as little as $1 a month!

6 thoughts on “The Art and Science of Running Around in Circles – Stromlo 12 hour

    1. Absolutely Tym, the knowledge Martin has is staggering and what is even more impressive is that he is still today constantly experimenting after many years of trial and error.

  1. Great article Marcus

    Thank you for coming down with Dan and giving our inaugural event a go. It is a very different type of running and you do need to get your legs “road ready” and your head “rock steady”. The best thing of all about doing these types of events is that they encourage proper pacing and mental focus development as well as forcing you to defeat the inevitable demons which arise. In longer races (24h, 48h, 6 Day) the demons come back regularly in different guises along with other physical challenges (nausea, blisters, lack of sleep, etc)- are we having fun yet? Maybe you understand now why I talk about the different mental states that I use in these races- Scientist is analytical, Hippy is experiential, and Mongrel is willpower. You just need to know what mode of thinking (or combination) is needed at each part of the race.

    Seriously though, I hope you guys recover well and absolutely smash your upcoming trail events to pieces. I am looking forward to 6 Foot in a few weeks and hope to give my newly minted M50 category a very good nudge.
    See you there on the trails…..

  2. Well, I certainly picked up some good tips with the report. And wise words from Martin.

    You guys do write seriously funny race reports for events that are so challenging . Please keep it up.

    So Martin F is in the M50 category, that means he will probably be about 90 mins up on me. Please don’t humiliate me too much at 6ft….

    Great work Ultra168


Leave a Reply