I must confess that in the past I’ve been a bit of a fair weather runner. Normally after the Great North Run I get a bit lazy until springtime, just going out a couple of times a week if the weather’s not too bad. But this year I’m determined to maintain some fitness over the winter, so have entered a couple of events as incentives to keep me going and (hopefully) not be too naughty over the festive period! The first of these was the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K, organised by Age UK, which I’d never done before. My younger, faster brother Mike was also taking part.
Sunday morning dawned fine but freezing! Still, that’s a lot better than miserable and rainy. It’s great to be able to do an event like this that’s only about half an hour from home, with free parking in Leeds city centre too. With around 9,000 people taking part things seemed well-organised at the start. The inevitable queue for the loo was long, but moved quickly, and it was easy to get into position according to the time you hoped to achieve. With the course billed as ‘fast and flat’ I’m guessing many people had PBs in mind! Personally I wasn’t feeling that optimistic as my last midweek run had been a bit slow. The only downside to cold weather is hanging around dithering at the start line, but luckily spectators are able to stand close by, so I could shed warm layers one at a time and hand them over to my husband Steve – very handy!
After the gun went off it only took a few minutes to reach the starting line and off we went – as is usual, that’s the last I saw of Mike until the finish! I was surprised to begin with quite a definite downhill, but made the most of it and clocked up a first mile of eight minutes, which is fast for me – too fast – I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that for ten kilometres! Kirkstall Road, heading towards the Abbey is a nice, wide road, so it was easy to pass people (and for them to pass me!) if necessary. After a couple of kilometres I didn’t really feel like I was going to achieve anything much, so decided to just enjoy running in such a great atmosphere on a lovely sunny day. Spectators seemed a bit thin on the ground away from the city centre, but I guess it was quite an early start.
The course did undulate quite a bit – not steeply, but it’s maybe a little unfair to describe it as flat. At the halfway point the course does a u-turn and doubles back on itself, so when I reached somewhere between 3 and 4K the leaders were already coming back the other way – wow! As we approached 5K Kirkstall Abbey looked really impressive in the sunshine. The only water station on the course is just after this point. Being pretty well hydrated on a cold day I didn’t really feel the need for a drink, but had intended to pick up one of the promised Nectar Sports Fuel samples – which didn’t appear to be there. Could they have all been taken already? I didn’t stop to find out!
In the second half of the race I rallied a bit – perhaps I just needed to warm up more – and began to think a PB might actually be possible. At around 8K I suddenly remembered I had a jelly baby in my pocket, necked it and put in a bit more effort! As we approached the city centre towards the end I wondered if we were going to go up over the same flyover as at the end of the Leeds Half Marathon. Guess what? We were! The incline isn’t really that steep, but the road does narrow quite a bit there, which makes it hard to pass people who’ve decided to slow down or walk. I didn’t have a sprint finish in me, but did the best I could and stopped my Garmin at 51:20 – almost a minute off my previous PB set in 2011! When the official time came in at 51:17 I was really happy. At my age I’m never going to be fast, so I don’t really compare my performance to others, but if I can keep improving a little bit for myself that’s fine. Mike also got a new PB of 43:31, which was great.
The freebies at the finish were pretty good: water, a For Goodness Shakes recovery drink and a good quality technical t-shirt. However, I did hear that the t-shirts ran out towards the end, which seems unfair – wherever people finish in an event they’ve put in a lot of effort and paid the same entry fee! I also read comments on Facebook that the water at halfway had run out too – bad news for those who are taking longer to finish! Apparently the organisers are working to resolve these points for next year; I hope they do as it was otherwise a really enjoyable event that I would highly recommend.
We didn’t hang around too long at the end as it was still very cold, but headed off home and rewarded ourselves en route with a naughty Little Chef breakfast. Well everyone deserves a treat some time! Next stop is the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York on 20th January, a race full of red hot club runners with the biggest mileage training weeks right over the Christmas period – I think I must be a masochist!