Leeds Abbey Dash 2016

I’ve not had much luck with the couple of 10K races I’ve had this year. One of my goals for 2016 had been to go sub-40 at 10K distance – but so far I’d not achieved this. For the first of these attempts I just couldn’t keep going in the heat and for the last 5K I completely lost the pace and walked frequently. On the second of these 10K attempts I was injured and found hobbling around the course just couldn’t be done at speed.

A friend mentioned she was doing the Leeds Abbey Dash in November and has on occasion suggested we should pace each other to a sub-40 10K, but thus far our calendars hadn’t really made it a possibility and we’d never actually met in person! I wasn’t sure at first because of the travel time, but eventually decided it was a great idea and it could be a fun race.

We’d both planned on meeting up the day before the race in Leeds so we wouldn’t need to travel up on the day. Again I was unsure about this as it was “only” a 10K, but eventually I decided that driving for 2 hours before a race isn’t the best, so I drove up to Leeds the day before. Once I got there I met up with Gen at the train station, though her train had been delayed by about 20 minutes. It was an easy afternoon, and I got to take some photographs of Kirkstall Abbey (a place we’d be running past during the race) whilst we talked about running. After all, what else would runners talk about the day before a race?!

In the evening I had a beef lasagna and was all ready to tackle the race, though fully expected my time to be about 42 minutes. I then relaxed for a few hours, wondering what the race would be like.


Race Day

I hadn’t thought about it being Guy Fawkes night on the Saturday and found fireworks kept me awake until about 23:00. I then woke up at 02:20 and didn’t really sleep much after that until I got up at 06:00 for breakfast. Just as I would with a half or a full marathon, I’d packed breakfast with me so I could have something I know before the race. This usually helps to minimise the risk of a stomach ache or worse during the race.

After breakfast I met up with Gen and we headed towards the start of the race. There’s quite a few expensive car parks around, but found one on Wellington Place that was £3 for Sunday. We then headed to the start and found where our starting pens would be, but it turned out the baggage drop for Gen was near the finish which was in a completely different location so we walked over to that in the freezing cold. I guess it was good though as it kept us moving before the race start so we were probably warmer than we could have been.

Gen did her warm up around a nearby park, and I decided (unusually!) to do a lap of it as well at a slow pace, just to try and not feel the cold as much. From there Gen went to the sub-40 pen, and I went to the front of the sub-45 pen, fully intending on catching the sub-40 racers. Just before the race starts they move the pens into position one by one so that everyone is starting in order, and at the same time – it’s probably a good way to use pens actually.

As the race began I could see the sub-40 pacer ahead of me and I was determined that I would get closer and would try and stick not too far behind by half way. As it happened, I covered my first mile at 6:13min/mile pace and had caught up with the pacer already, but I stuck behind him as I figured it wasn’t that likely I’d be able to stay that close for the entire race, let alone in front of.

Not long after this I caught up with Gen and said “hi” to her as I passed, just as the route turned into the car park of a retail park. On the way out of this though there was a pedestrian in the middle of the runners who seems to have not seen the runners coming and got trapped amongst us. Fortunately nobody was to my immediate right so was able to quickly dodge out of the way, but it was pretty crowded.

After the second mile had passed it was then a continual up-hill climb to Kirkstall Abbey and I found myself really wanting to walk. I knew that if I did though then I would be disappointed with my time no matter what I got so forced myself to carry on and fortunately it did level off again briefly. At 5K the route then had a hairpin bend to go back in the opposite direction, so I glanced at my watch and saw 20:12. If I’d been running a 5K I’d have been incredibly disappointed, and I thought to myself that if I could somehow manage to do the second half in the same time then it won’t be sub-40 but perhaps I could narrowly get a PB.

I kept running, and for some of the fourth mile it was down hill, which was something of a relief after the long gentle incline. When I saw the 7K sign I found myself really wanting to walk again, and I’d lost ground behind the sub-40 pacer so figured that a PB was probably unlikely now. By the time I reached 9K and the climb back up to the city centre and town hall I decided that I’d probably set off too quickly and now I may as well walk up the hill as I wasn’t going to get a PB or meet my goal.

After walking for about 20 seconds I decided to make one last push and started to pick up speed again for the remainder of the hill and started to get up to sprinting speed as I crossed the line. As I did so I stopped my watch and saw 40:04 – I couldn’t believe how close I’d come to beating my goal! My legs at this point felt fine and I realised immediately how stupid it was of me to have started walking without having at least looked at my watch first. Strava however indicated my 10K PB was now 39:47, but that was only because I’d run slightly over 10K from weaving around people.

My official time was also 40:04 and I finished in position 637 out of 8664 finishers putting me into the first 7%. After finishing they handed over a white chocolate Lion bar (which was incredibly tough due to the cold weather!), a bottle of water, and then a finishers tee. It was great to meet Gen and she was really good company; hopefully we’ll get to race together again in future (thanks for putting up with me Gen! Was appreciated!). I’ll almost definitely be back in Leeds for next year’s Abbey Dash as well!

I’d surprised myself – I didn’t think I could PB, but I did and by a whole minute more than the PB I’d set in training at the start of the year. This being my first PB since I was injured is something of a relief and hopefully means I’m now back to where I was before. Now I can continue working hard and hopefully set some new PBs in the spring, with new (or similar) goals. I’ll be aiming for a sub-19 5K, sub-39 10K, sub-89 Half, and a 3:10 marathon. I’m quite a way off for some of these goals, but I’m sure they’ll help to push me harder.


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