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Treadmill 50k World Record - Stuart Leaney - 2016

Race Report - Treadmill 50k World Record - Stuart Leaney - 2016


I’m not going to bore you with my training, it’s on Strava. Some of it was great, some not so, I’ll give it 8 out of 10.

The 50k World Record Attempt

Going into the day I was incredibly nervous, stressed and emotional. The event planning, the strains of having a poorly baby, a job and all the other things we amateurs have to juggle. None of that mattered now, 3 hours of hard graft, of running nowhere - a human hamster if you will.

On the whistle my attempt to be the fastest man to run 50K on a treadmill commenced, the most anticlimactic start waiting for the treadmill to get up to speed, 3:37 min/km to “ease” into it.  I didn’t really have a game plan other than to not lose too much time but certainly not bank any time.

I think it was about 5km in when we increased the speed to 3:36 min/km (3 hour pace). I was wearing my Heart Rate monitor and my HR was 3-4 beats too high. Not to worry it may have been adrenaline. 

About 10km in and I was starting to feel hot, fortunately the gym had a lovely powerful fan to cool me down. We also had 2 banners in front of me to promote both Teenage cancer Trust and also Kings Leisure, but staring at these started to make me feel a little motion sickness, things started to go a bit blurry so they had to be moved.

I had intentionally left my headphones with my friend who would give them to me at 25km, music stirs emotion and I wanted to run the first half as relaxed as possible. At 20km I was running at 3:35 mins/km and on target for the world record. 

The only concern was the heat and my higher-than-normal heart rate, I ditched my HR monitor as it was only going to worry me. My breathing seemed fine and although my quads were a little sore I felt strong and confident. The only other worry I had was a slight stomach ache which was limiting my water intake but I’m not a huge drinker whilst running so this didn’t concern me too much.

Half Way Mark

That’s the easy bit done.

At 25 km I popped in my earphones and put my 50 km playlist on, an eclectic mix of my family's favourite songs. Stupidly, I got carried away and around 30 km increased the pace to 3.34. I remember thinking to myself, 'let’s smash this world record'.  With 16km to go I was starting to feel worse than I had hoped.  I’ve run many marathons and this was not how I should be feeling in a marathon let alone a 50km. I knew it was going to get tougher but all I had to do was stay on the treadmill, it was that simple.

It was at this point where I started to feel claustrophobic. The intensity and droning noise of the treadmill was almost suffocating me. I was entering into a spiral of negativity and one I would stay in for some time.

At 38km, I was really suffering, lacking energy with a mind full of negative thoughts, the pace was too much and I was starting to move from the front of the treadmill to the back. 12KM to go and I’m watching the treadmills console watching each meter tick by, there was no escape from the treadmill, no downhill, no wind assistance just more noise and heat. I stuck at it, gradually feeling more and more tired, my toes falling into that dip at the end of the treadmill between the treadmill floor and the roller. At 6km to go, I turned to my father in law and told him I couldn’t do it, fortunately, he ignored me (it’s not the first time). All I could see was supporters decked out in Teenage Cancer trust t-shirts cheering me on but my mind couldn’t do it, I asked for the treadmill to be slowed down, 3.35, that did nothing, “twice more please”  the decrease button was pressed once, I insisted it was pressed again, 3:37 mins/km. I would love to say the process of slowing the treadmill was a mathematical decision based on clarity of thought but it wasn’t. It was a decision based on preservation, I had to stop myself from falling off the back of the thing I had grown to hate.

Time to Dig Deep

I have no idea how long we remained at that pace, or how much time I was losing and what my buffer was, all I could do was focus on running. Fortunately, I had some experienced people around me, telling me to get to the front of the treadmill to look at a TV in the distance and to ignore the console, I needed to get a positive mindset back, to think I can do it.  I don’t know where the next thought came from it certainly wasn’t a pre-planned motivator but all of a sudden I thought to myself when you pick up 2 of your kids from school are you ready to answer that first question with a “no”, do you want to have to answer the following barrage of “why’s” were you ready to say to your kids “I gave up”?  I wasn’t ready to do that and fortunately, I started to feel a little better.  I knew that if I could get to 3km I could do it, 7.5 laps of an athletic track.  I could sense people were getting nervous, my poor Mum couldn’t keep still, the tension was apparent but I had an air of calm at this point, no-one was telling me what pace I needed to run, I think they trusted I was giving it everything. I didn’t once do any maths I just kind of knew it was mine. We sped the treadmill up a couple of times and with 1km to go I knew it was in the bag, that’s not to say it was enjoyable, it was absolute hell, I felt sick, I was far too hot my legs were numb and my lower abs were agony (haven’t a clue why). With 400 meters to go I got the feeling everyone else now knew it was in the bag and a few people seemed to relax a little, a lovely 10 second countdown and the 50KM point was reached in 2.59.39, and then it hit me. My legs buckled under me, I can’t describe what happened to them, I went from running 3.35mins/km to having no control over them.

Treadmill 50km World Record - 2:59:39

The next 5 minutes was spent in a world of relief, pain and sickness until I eventually rose from my treadmill to consider celebrating with my friends and family.

A few people were a bit worried about my condition but I was fine(ish). I couldn’t quite comprehend what I had gone through to get there and truth be told It was far harder than I had thought. I’m still certain I was/am capable of 2:55-2:57/mins but you can only get out of your body so much on a certain day, and on the 9th of December I rinsed myself for everything I had. 50km condensed into the last 5km and ultimately 7seconds. You can’t do a lot in 7 seconds but it means the world to me.


For the next few days I was in a sorry state, my legs recovered far, far quicker than my mental state, I was an emotional wreck and the simplest of thought was difficult. I was wondering around in a daze, attempting to digest those 3 hours.

Following my successful World Record attempt (I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of writing that) I have been absolutely overwhelmed by people's kind words but more importantly their donations to such an amazing charity, £3K and still going.

I even got the chance to be interviewed by Tom Williams, for marathon talk.  I love marathon talk and have listened to 361 episodes and Tom is someone I admire greatly.  I still can’t believe I had my own marathon talk introduction and got to share my story with all the amazing listeners. 

Listen Here - Episode 362 - Stuart Leaney

I was definitely more nervous speaking to Tom than I was before I jumped on the treadmill.  Many people have asked what it feels like to be referred to as a world record holder, and most of the time I completely forget about it, a dad to 3 kids, a husband, and a full-time job doesn’t allow for too much reflection but ultimately, if anyone “remembers me” I would like to be the bloke who ran for and raised money for a great charity rather than a runner who broke the easiest world record.

About the Author
Check out Stuart's Strava and Twitter.
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