“Watch out for that man!!!!” said race director Jay whilst pointing at my treadmill display screen, alerting me to a chap fast approaching on a run around Venice. Alas, I was not in Venice but 2hours into The World’s First Treadmill Marathon, staring into the abyss, waiting for the end with 14 others at a David Lloyd centre in Worthing…
4:30am and the alarm goes off on a cold February morning. I creep round the house collecting my running gear and jump in the car to make my way down to the David Lloyd centre in Worthing. I have questioned my sanity levels a hundred times throughout my running adventures but this must have been one of the bigger moments.
I had previously ran marathons with Sussex Trail Events (STE) up and down a multi-story car park, out and back along Southend pier and round & round the Amex football stadium.
This outing was to be a marathon race on a treadmill. 15 lucky people would bag all available treadmills in the Worthing David Lloyd at 6:30am on a Sunday morning to run 26.2 miles.
On any normal day I would give an absolute NO to this, but having done all STE’s previous whacky marathon races I now find myself in an elite group of four insane individuals battling it out to become the last man standing for the trophy. (To be honest if a trophy is not presented to the last man then take this as read Jason McCardle than one will be provided!). It’s a tough position to be in where I dread the next race blueprint I receive from the STE team in the knowledge that I have come so far to ever say no to a race suggestion in this series. Problem is I feel my competitors all think the same, some with mental stamina and in most cases experience that far outweighs my own. At a very approximate but educated guess from the four that remain (Myself, Paul Sargent, Mark Johnson and David Lewis who are fast becoming my personal heroes and role models for running) I think there is near enough over 1000 marathons run between us, a fair few Ultras up to 100miles long and a number of sub 3 marathon times to boot from the lead runner that is Paul Sargent!
I arrived in Worthing just before 6am, still dark and met with the other 14 runners.
After a very short briefing from Chris and a group photo for the World’s first treadmill marathon race we were allocated our treadmills (freshly calibrated to allow continual use until the marathon distance was completed). Luckily for me the one I had was the same model as my local gym so I knew what some of the buttons did. Others were less fortunate, pressing away at the touch screens trying to get settled, sometimes resulting in accidently stopping their treadmills to the sound of “NO!!!”. I decided not to touch anything from early on apart from the incline and speed.
I had with me a towel and two spare vests on the arm of my machine. Running indoors is a sweaty affair. I also had some mars bars, salt tablets, a water bottle and a picture of the wife and kids to keep me company for the 200 odd minutes I was to be stuck on this machine.
For the first hour we were alone in the gym without its members as the centre was yet to open. A few of us were getting excited to see the members flock in to keep us company as banter was good but brief. We talked through running CVs but this did not last long as I only had runner 1 on my left and runner 2 on my right to talk to. Our STE hosts were being polite, doing the rounds and having a chat with us every so often.
Approaching the 10km point I was dripping. My vest wet through, the first salt tab went in. A few people raising their hands for the toilet at this stage. Yes, we had to raise our hands. A marshal with a clip board would approach, take note of the distance etc and pause the machine. I wanted the loo but did not like the idea of getting off the revolving belt only to have to get back on. I stayed on the machine for the entire duration of the race.
The mental game for this one was tough. As with all of these mad STE races the novelty wore off for me early on and the grim reality of how long I was going to be stuck in this race dawned on me in good old STE traditional style. I would frequently look at my neighbour’s machines to see where in the race they were. I’d put myself in 4th just by looking round the gym and judging the speed of everyone’s belt.
David William next to me was 3rd so it was game on between us really. (We had remembered each other from the Southend Pier marathon and had finished close at that one). For the first 2hours 30mins David was around 2km in front but at the 30km he had dramatically reduced his speed. This gave me a bit of a lift and so the speed on my treadmill increased.
I caught up around the 35km mark, both of us constantly monitoring the others screen. This had cost me my legs though and so I joined him on the walk/run march for a few minutes before getting the speed back up again.
A few treadmills down from me Paul Sargent was just about to win the race. All the marshals gathered round to monitor the finish. Seconds under a sub 3hr marathon for the finish Paul came in first (no real change there then) to some mid interest to the David Lloyd members.
Back to David and I where we were very quickly losing our senses of humour. Seeing Paul finish at each of these always gave me a bit of a lift as I knew that usually the finish for me would not be too long coming. Pushing through the pain and after finally getting rid of the nausea I sped up to the fastest pace I had put in for the whole race. Approaching the 42km mark the crowd now gathered round my treadmill. I started screaming at Chris…. again. Seems to be at every one of these I’m shouting at Chris for either my time, lap count or how long left. He advised that a marathon is 42.195km as I was shouting at him and my machine once I’d hit 42km. Those last .195km seemed like a life time but finally it came and I hobbled off my treadmill much to the other competitor’s disgust. I’d managed 4th.
The beauty of this one was the facilities that awaited us after. I hit the big boy’s sauna club with Paul and grilled him on his training and diet regime before loosening up with a few laps of the pool whilst the race came to an end.
The folk at STE then treated us to breakfast. Breakfast and more running stories from the cream of the long distance running crop. We could have stayed right on through lunch exchanging race stories and how we all managed the work/life/running balance.
A great time and race for all I am sure in hindsight but please, lets not do that again! x
P.S thanks a million Jon Lavis for the photos