Sunday was the Leeds Abbey Dash – a 10k out-and-back road race that is flat, fast and perfect for PB chasers. This was the second race I ever did last year and although I hadn’t really been that fussed about doing it again, circumstances conspired to take me to the start line.
It’s fair to say it’s not the most exciting, interesting or picturesque race. It starts in the city, goes out along the A65 Kirkstall Road, turns round at the Abbey, and comes back again to finish at the Town Hall. The surface is good, the weather can be just right, and the support is pretty good for most of the way. It is a massive race though – somewhere around 10,000 entrants I think – so can be a bit busy.
When I got to town for the start last year I was cold, terrified and alone. This year I was cold, excited, and surrounded by friends. I also had the good wishes of all sorts of people, some I know in real life and many I don’t, going round my head.
My race mantras:
As you can see I was targeting an average of 8:51/mile to get me round in under 55 minutes, and I was fully expecting it to hurt.
Before the start I chatted with some of my lovely Harrier friends and vented some of my excitement in the silly mass warm-up.
The start was just behind Wellington Street this year, and apart from the walk from the baggage tent at the finish area, it worked well. The pens were clear for each time group and well separated, which meant everyone was in the right order and there wasn’t too much jostling along the run.
It was chilly waiting around, but I don’t think it was as cold as last year. It was cloudy and there was no wind – absolutely perfect.
I had made arrangements to run with my friend Graham from Harriers and his mate Kevin, who said he would pace us to a sub-55 finish. I couldn’t find them at the start though so I just had to set out alone. I did bump into my friend Karen though. She also had a race mantra written on her hand. This made me laugh a lot.
I went off without really having chance to think about things. I started running, checked my watch after quarter of a mile or so, was right on target so carried on. I could tell already it was going to be tough, but I just kept on putting one foot in front of the other at the same rate.
Graham and Kevin came up behind me around the 2k mark, so then we stuck together pretty much the next few miles.
The route had a little kink through Cardigan Fields leisure complex this year because of the different start, and that was a bit annoying, but apart from that it was up the A65 Kirkstall Road as usual. To the Abbey, turn round, grab a drink, and head back. The kink did mean that I missed seeing the leaders come back past, which was annoying, as I do enjoy cheering them on.
I made it to 5k in 27:40, which was right to schedule, but was really feeling it by that stage. I knew the Harriers support crew were just down the road, and my friends were a little further on, so I just had to dig deep and keep going. I kept checking my mantras and thinking about my form to get me through. Most of the race from 2k to 7k is a bit of a blur – I think I just embraced the pain and went with it. The data shows that my pace was reasonably consistent, and my cadence stayed nice and high at around 176 steps/minute.
I happily told my non-running club friends that I hated them on the way past, and then when I got to Cafe Enzo, where Alix, Helen, Stevie and Sam go for brekkie and then to cheer, they weren’t even ready for me! No pom poms out or anything! I shouted at them to “look lively”, grabbed my water and sped off, shouting back that I did love them really! I hope this amused rather than annoyed my fellow runners.
Now things were getting really tough. Kevin kept me honest, and as we got to 9k he dropped back to gee Graham along as my friend Shami had said she would be there for me at 9k. Shami is a little rocket. She had done her race (in 40:43) then walked back to help me through the last bit. It was much-needed and appreciated, and having Shami run alongside and shouting at me helped to keep me upright and going forward for the final few minutes.
For once there was no real sprint finish. I had used up every single drop of energy and just managed a slight gear change thanks to a final talk with myself about running tall, strong and smooth.
I passed a load of people in those final few minutes, got over the line and managed to not fall over. I crossed the line with absolutely nothing left in me.
Chip time: 54:41. That’s a new PB by 1:16 and a massive improvement of 15:12 over the same race last year. Yes, more than 15 minutes quicker in 12 months of training.
As soon as I got through to collect water and my tee there were friends everywhere smiling and congratulating me. It was fun to bump into so many happy and knackered people. I then went to the pub with the Harriers and recovered with a double gin and slim. Heaven!
It really was a tough race – I felt on the limit with every single step. As one of my friends pointed out I maintained my current quickest 5k pace for twice the distance, which is no easy task. But this does mean that I should be able to get a quicker 5k done soon!
A lot of people don’t like the Abbey Dash. It’s not pretty, and it’s not the cheapest. It’s busy and it can get a bit dull.
But it is perfect for a PB attempt. And it is the first race I have done for two years in a row. Both of these things mean I’m going to have to keep doing it. And I do enjoy it, although my legs beg to differ.
By the way, I do run normally most of the time, it’s just that I’m always so happy to see friends that I have to wave to them.