What? 45km on a treadmill?

It started innocently enough.

Level 4 lockdown in Melbourne and Level 3 in Regional Victoria has been tough on my ultra running community. Daily there are rants in the Facebook group, confusion, frustration spilling into fair dinkum anger.

People are doing all sorts of things to keep motivated and sane during this time. There are “run every street” challenges, speed challenges and returning after a surge in popularity during lockdown 1.0, the backyard ultra.

Personally I’ve found myself in a strange space, working in a level 4 area and living in a level 3, has made life a bit of a balancing act. Mostly, it’s about being very careful about what you say, people are super sensitive and are quick to rip your head off.

For those not in Melbourne or even Australia, the main differences between level 4 and level 3 are that level 4 has a curfew 5am to 8pm and a 1 hr outside your home exercise limit (there are a lot more business wise but keeping it running specific).

So if I go for a 1 hour and 15 min run and then later walk the dogs, my Melbourne friends get angry. Whilst I haven’t been actively hiding what I’ve been doing (because I’m allowed to) I certainly have reduced my input in conversations around restrictions and what running I’ve been up to so not to fan anyone’s flames.

Last week when a group of ladies in the Victorian Ultra Runners (VUR) Facebook group decided to do a treadmill ultra, I showed support and encouragement, only to find myself agreeing to do it myself.

Everyone had different levels of experience, different goals and different treadmills. It was going to be an interesting weekend.

We bought our Nordic Track Commercial 2950 just before the last lockdown in March after our other one died. I haven’t used it very much, I would always much rather go outside with the dogs.

So to keep myself accountable I posted my intention to run 50k on the treadmill on Saturday on Instagram. The weather was going to be crap and it seemed like the best time.

I got so many responses and messages of encouragement. One friend said I should add an extra 10k and sign up for the Great Ocean Road Virtual 60k event.

I went out the day before and bought chips and lollies and other items for my treadmill aid station which I set up on the lap top stand we bought for zwift.

I got up at normal time, had a normal breakfast and jumped on the treadmill.

I set it on a nice cruisy 10km/h, or 6 min per km. It was fine for the first 20km but after about 25 the wheels started to fall off.

Having never run that far on the treadmill before, I didn’t really know what to expect but I didn’t think it would be any different to running out on the roads. Boy was I wrong.

I was prepared for the mental battle. I had tv shows lined up on the iPad and podcasts on standby. I knew it was going to be boring as bat shit. My treadmill is also about a metre from my garage wall so lucky I’m not claustrophobic. (There was no chance I was opening the door, the rain and hail was coming in sideways outside.)

I provided regular updates on my Instagram stories (I’m mel5mac come follow me!) and the messages of support flooded in. I was locked and committed. People were following. At 25k, I regretted my big mouths decision to tell random strangers on the internet about my plans.

I think it was my calves that started giving up first, followed quickly by my Achilles. This had never happened before in a road or trail run so I was a bit concerned.

I slowed and took a few walk breaks but it became harder and harder to get going again. I resorted to watching Taylor Swift videos on YouTube to keep my feet moving. Anything to drown out the slapping of my feet on the rolling mat below me.

At 45k, after ticking the 44km Great Ocean Road virtual marathon box I pulled the pin.

I pressed stop, I walked into the house. I thought about going back in and doing the last 5k but no I didn’t want to hurt myself and my calves were starting to feel hurt.

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