46th is Not Too Shabby

Despite spending three years at university in Leeds I’d never entered the Abbey Dash until this year.  The Dash has been going 32 years and has a big reputation for being one of the fastest 10k races in the country.  It starts and finishes in Leeds city centre and is an out and back course along Kirkstall Road, turning at Kirkstall Abbey (a ruined monastery built in 1152).

If you’ve been a regular reader of my reports you’ll know that 2017 has been my real breakthrough year.  I’ve set PBs at every distance I’ve entered, with only the 10k (31.55 from 2016) missing.  I ran two great 10ks in May (but it was too soon after London Marathon for my legs) and then the Bedford 10k in June (when it was very hot); all three were between 32.11 and 32.21.

I’m really excited about the San Sebastian Marathon at the end of November, but wanted one last sharpener before then.  A few of my training group had suggested the Abbey Dash so I jumped on board. I even had a bit more flexibility than normal as Sarah and Lexi spent the weekend with their sister/aunt.

I looked at numerous travel options and came to the (very logical in my view) conclusion that getting the 06.41 from Milton Keynes was a wise idea.  I arrived at Warrington Bank Quay at just after 8 and did the very normal thing of jog around the town centre and then 2k over to the local parkrun. It starts and finishes in the lovely Victoria Park and was everything you’d want from a parkrun; the organisation was spot on and the volunteers were excellent.  We set off just after 9 and I settled in behind the two leaders.  I was hoping to run just under 17 minutes, enough to get the blood pumping, but not to work too hard before the big one in the morning.

The parkrun was mostly on concrete paths, but due to large amount of over-night rain a lot of the course was hazardous!   For the first 3k I enjoyed the run and then realised the pace had slipped.  With just under a mile to go I ramped it up and came home in first place in 16.59; job done!  I had a nice chat with the two lads I’d run with, thanked the marshals and quickly got on my way.  I jogged back into Warrington and (via Asda) made the 09.45 train to Leeds.  I had a really good relaxed day seeing old uni friends and got to bed before 10, I couldn’t have wished for better preparation.

In the morning I got the bus into town and met up with my training partner Ryan Burling to do a decent warm up along the canal and to leave my stuff in his car.  The weather was perfect; 5 degrees, bright sunshine and hardly any wind; I grabbed my cap and gloves and headed for the start.  Although we weren’t quite quick enough to get into the elite start we did manage to warm up next to them and line up right behind without too much fuss.  It was a who’s who of amateur British distance runners, from Ben Connor (English national cross country champion) to Jonny Mellor (ran 2.12 at Berlin Marathon, the third fastest by a Brit this year) to Eilish McColgan (10th at the 5000m in the World Championships); I was buzzin’ to be part of it.

The pace is notoriously quick at the start and this year was no different, straight from the word go we flew out with everyone jostling for positions.  Fortunately, I managed to get into a good rhythm straight away and try my best to relax, there seemed to be hundreds of runners around and it just felt effortless.  The first 2km past in a flash (6.07), but I still felt absolutely fine.  We ran round a retail park and came back onto the main road; I was in a good group and just tried to relax as much as possible.  I’d promised myself I’d ignore my watch until halfway and just run on feel.  I had some great support out on the course from different friends which made a huge difference.

During the 4th km there is a slight incline, it’s barely a hill, but at the pace we were doing it felt harder than it usually would.  As we hit the turn I looked down at my watch to see 15.49, a bit slower than I wanted but I knew the course was famous for negative splits and we were going to go back down the hill we’d just come up.  Around 7k it started to feel hard, I was in a good group with a few familiar faces (including James Turner from Brighton & Hove who I have raced a lot over the past couple of years) and we were all giving it everything.  It was around then that I started to see elites dropping out and noticed one guy sat on the side of the road wearing a Luton vest; my heart sank as I knew it was Ryan.  I thought for a second of stopping to see if he was okay, but there was a marshal and a medic with him, I wouldn’t have been any help.

James and I were obviously running well as we kept overtaking people, I was hurting but I felt alive; this is when all the hours of training pays off.  At 8k I saw my mate Alex Bellew, he roared me on ‘Go on El Lad!’ which gave me a huge lift, at 9k my friends and training partners Rachel Robinson and Tom Comerford gave me another massive lift, it really helped me.

The final km is probably the hardest, you turn up hill on a slip road and then round a roundabout before finally seeing the finish up ahead.  I saw the clock which read 31.15; I knew I’d ran a massive PB and with James just too far ahead of me I eased off.  Annoyingly the finish was just further away than I’d calculated and I went over the line on 31.32; I would have loved to have been under 31.30, but that really doesn’t matter!

I finished 46th in a new personal best of 31.30 (chip time) and had broken my own Leighton Buzzard AC record by 25 seconds, I was delighted.  Another big advantage of running under 32 minutes again is it unlocks a few elite entries for races and should guarantee my place on the start line again at the Night of the 10,000m PBs in May.

I had a good hug with James, congratulated Eilish McColgan on her win (32.05 course record) and chatted to a few mates.  It wasn’t long before another two of my training group Jamie Seddon and Paul Mizon turned up; they both had big smiles on their faces.  Jamie had run a big PB of 33.10 and Paul (who’s struggled a lot with injuries recently) ran his second best 10k in 33.19.

We had a nice warm down debrief and got back to the cars.  Ryan was very disappointed, but ok he’ll be back!  The journey home flew by, the M1 really is great when there isn’t any traffic.

I’ve now got 3 weeks until the San Sebastian Marathon, I’ll be decreasing my mileage gradually and looking to have a good run at the Chiltern League cross country next week.