Each year the track season brings the same challenges, so here HOKA ONE ONE athlete Jenny Nesbitt reflects on the lessons that this 2019 has reminded her of already.

Fresh from a 3000m PB at the Belfast International on the 1st of August, Fast Running asked the GB and Wales international to give us the low-down for excelling on the 400m loops. Without further ado, here’s Jenny’s best advice.

Track season comes around fast. One minute you’re grinding through the mud, wind and rain beating you apart, the next thing, you’re standing on the orange oval, 5mm in your spikes, ready to grind out some laps. Both just as challenging, both worlds apart. #TrackSeason brings with it many things, so here are my top 10 things to know.

There are laps. Lots of laps.

Seems pretty obvious really. Run a 10,000m? Yep, that’s 25 laps. 5k? 12.5. 3k? 7.5. The less laps, the pain comes sooner. The more laps, its a slow burner. Prepare for pain!

Toilet facilities are *usually* better.

Cross country is the season of porta loo’s. Track season usually means that you get a bit more luxury – think toilet paper, flushed toilets. Don’t say the summer season doesn’t treat you.

Photo: Adrian Royle

Your calves will never feel the same again.

If you know, you know. Track spikes are not forgiving. Your calves feel a whole new level of DOMS the morning after a race. Get them in some ice or on a foam roller, you’ll thank me later.

Working out lap times is harder than GCSE maths.

You might need to get a degree in maths to figure out how fast you should run each lap in. Want to run 15:30 for 5k? That will be 74.4s laps. Trying to figure out how fast you have the run the last km in to hit your target time as you come though 2./5 laps to go. I dare you to try work that out whilst swimming in lactic.

Photo: 21C Photos Ltd

The last 100m of every race feels way further than 100m.

You round the bend and see the finish line. Only 100m to go. What feels like a minute passes. Still 90m to go. Again, what feels like a minute passes, STILL 90m to go. You give it all you’ve got left over the last straight, just close your eyes, move your arms and pray you make it before your legs collapse!

Power of 10 becomes your best friend.

Stalking is a real thing in athletics. If you ever ran as a junior, you would stand on the start line and ask everyone what their PBs were, for a guaranteed lie to be the response. Now a days, a quick power of 10 stalk, and you’ll know your competitors PBs better than they do. In fact, one click on a results link can lead you down a very deep hole of results stalking. Watch out!

Insomnia is a thing.

Lying awake at 3am post race is normal. Don’t worry about it, you won’t fall asleep anytime soon. It’s the season of no sleep. Have a good race and you’re buzzing. Have a bad race and everything possible floats around your mind. When you eventually fall asleep at about 6am, its unlikely you’ll see breakfast! [This might be linked to the next tip – Ed.]

Caffeine is essential.

I don’t want to claim that you have to drink coffee but I know I would not be able to survive 10pm race times without an early evening espresso. A great buzz at the time but the after effects last long into the night. Hello more insomnia.

Each track race is a mini reunion.

Runners are a special type of breed, which is why so many of your pals are runners too. The only problem is we’re located all over the country (and the world). Track races are defiantly a mini reunion too, catching up with long lost pals, who you most likely saw at the last track race. Warm downs aren’t so bad when this is the case.

Irish National Champs Photo: Lindie Naughton

Learning to kill time the day of a race is a skill in itself.

Race at 9pm? Good luck trying to keep yourself occupied all day without wasting unnecessary energy. Netflix will become your best friend (if it isn’t already). My top tip is to sleep in as long as you can. Breakfast at lunch time… ideal!

One thing I really can promise you though is that there is nothing that can replicate a race on the track. From the mentality needed, to the buzz, to the laps, to the caffeine high and the friendships made. I urge you to give it ago, if only once. Even if it is for the beer mile. Lace up those 5mm.

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