Stop Looking At Your Watch: Podium 5k Leicester

Race Date: 16 March 2024
After finally becoming an affiliated Strider, I wasted no time in making my first official club appearance. My preference has always been track running, but with the season not quite underway, you can imagine my delight when I received a timely email notifying me of a ‘flat and fast’ 5k ‘road race’ on a cycle track in Leicester. With (nearly) five equidistant laps, this seemed to be as close to a track race as you can get – albeit running two and a half times the distance for each lap.
Yasmine joined me on the road trip to Leicester on a rare sunny(ish) Saturday morning, at the tail end of winter (16th March).
This event, hosted by Sportsshoes, boasts an ambitious name: ’The Podium Festival’.  Whilst there were a few food trucks and one (very loud) live band, the event didn’t live up to its name, at least on the entertainment front. In terms of racing value, it was much better!
The races were seeded, with Yasmine setting off at midday and myself half an hour later. When we arrived, it felt like the party hadn’t properly started. Crowds were rather sparse in the early hours of the event. Slowly but surely they began to flock in, with anticipation for the elite races, which were due to start much later.
Yasmine ran well, just missing out on her aim of a sub-20 clocking. Similarly, I just missed out on my aim of a sub-17 clocking. Whilst it was a PB for me, it was also my first ever 5k outside of a Park Run, so that wasn’t too difficult.
As I met Yasmine at the end of her run, she looked quite despondent at the fact that her watch was showing a total distance beyond 5k. I assumed that her watch had malfunctioned slightly, but when my watch showed a 5.13km clocking at the end of my race, I had the same look of confusion etched upon my face.

Alex and Yasmine, neither looking too unhappy

My watch had led me to believe that I was running comfortably under 17 minutes for the whole run, so you can imagine my disappointment when I saw 17:07 on the finishing clock. As Rob Byers wrote in his 2023 Striders report for another 5k podium race (which I wish I had read before), ‘GPS watches are notoriously inaccurate on these cycle tracks’. The lesson here is simple: listen to your own body and don’t be over-reliant on tech.
Interestingly, I saw retired British Olympian and ex world record Park Run holder, Andy Baddeley, at the finish line. He was readying himself for the 1 lap time trial, which he was running a bit later. He was a big inspiration for me on the track, so I seized the opportunity to meet him. I also asked for his expert advice regarding the extra distance shown on my watch. He mirrored what Rob had said and kindly took my Garmin and adjusted the GPS settings from ‘smart’ to ‘every second’, which from his experience is much more reliable (useful tip for you all!). He also confirmed my suspicion that running wide on a cycle track can add a bit of extra distance, as it would on a regular 400m track.
I really enjoyed the flat five lap set-up. It felt long enough to get into a rhythm, but not long enough to drive you into a frenzy, as I’ve heard is the case on the usual 12.5 laps of a 5000m track race. I most certainly will be seeking out another 5k cycle track in the near future, preferably one that is a bit more local, like the Loxley Lash (held in May, June and July).
Fortunately, for myself and Yamsin’s race, the weather had just about held up. But no sooner had my race finished, the skies began to grey over and the inevitable rain followed. This put a bit of a dampener on things, as we had to seek shelter and with the temperature suddenly plummeting, we couldn’t justify waiting another 5 hours until the elite races (featuring the likes of Jake Wightman and Melissa Courtney-Bryant – another ex Park Run world record holder!)
Instead, we decided to stay and watch the one lap time trial. This was really enjoyable! Each runner (who I assume had reached a minimum qualifying time to take part), ran one lap of the cycle track (975 metres) by themselves. There was a £2000 cash prize up for grabs for the whoever clocks the quickest time, followed by £1000 for second and £500 for third. Not bad for around two and a half minutes of running (Yes, you read that right!).
Those with the current quickest time kept hold of a huge £2000 cheque, which they had to pass on to whoever beat them. It was rather amusing watching their faces when the cheque was snatched from their grasp. Andy Baddeley put in a solid performance (clocking 2:39), but the winning men’s time of 2:20 was out of reach. The women’s time wasn’t far off, with the winner clocking a time of 2:34.
After enjoying a well earned pizza from one of the food stalls, we departed before the rain continued to intensify. Instead, I opted to watch the elite races via livestream, from the comfort of my living room.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and rewarding day out. Whilst they aren’t the most scenic routes (and don’t feel at all like a traditional ‘road race’), I would recommend a Podium 5k race to anyone looking to get a personal best. Just remember to scrap the watch!
Positions aren’t that relevant as there were so many heats.
Pos Name Cat Time
Alex Rice SM 17.07
Yasmine Chafer SF 20.05
scroll to top