I’ll start this review with the caveat that no proper training was done in the run-up to this race! The Leeds Abbey Dash was the first event I’d done since the Yorkshire Marathon in October. In the four weeks following the marathon I’d had some ‘recovery’ time, just doing two or three short-ish runs each week. It’s amazing how easy four or five miles feels after marathon training, really enjoyable! Then the Sunday before the Dash I thought I’d better remind my legs what 6.2 miles feels like, although not very quickly. So that was my race preparation! I set my 10K PB of 51:17 at the Abbey Dash last year, but hadn’t done an autumn marathon then, so wasn’t stressing about the fact that it probably wouldn’t be improved this year. My younger (and faster) brother Mike was also taking part, having done lots of cycling over the summer but not much running.
The race start arrangements had been changed this year to accommodate more runners – around 10,000 as it turned out! Instead of setting off on The Headrow next to the Town Hall as previously, runners were penned according to predicted finishing time in a car park before (theoretically) being set off in waves to the start on Wellington Street a short distance away. This was a good idea, but didn’t really work well in practice. The Elites and sub-45s set off from their pens, but nobody bothered to close them off afterwards, so all manner of random people jumped in behind, with the result that the different abilities became all mixed up. A couple of extra marshals would have come in handy there. We couldn’t hear the official start from where we were being held, so it was a case of start jogging, go round a corner and oh, there’s the starting line! Bit of an anticlimax, but at least runner traffic was flowing fairly freely.
Setting off I felt pretty good – better than last year in fact, when I felt a bit sluggish for the first couple of miles. For those not familiar with the event, it’s basically an out-and-back course from Leeds along Kirkstall Road to Kirkstall Abbey. Not the most scenic of courses, but billed as fast, flat and perfect for a PB. However, there are definite undulations, especially on the approach to the abbey itself, but nothing too troublesome. The repositioning of the start meant that this year there was a new loop around the Cardigan Fields leisure complex, complete with sneaky speed bumps that almost caught out a few people! Support along the route is sporadic, possibly due to the early start. There was one water point at halfway, although I didn’t stop there as I was well hydrated to start with. Some runners were clearly not very well up on race etiquette, chucking their empty plastic cups all over the road for others to slip on – a word to the wise on this subject in next year’s race instructions might be useful!
As expected, this wasn’t to be a PB day for me, and I came home in a very mediocre time of 54:07, just a few seconds faster than my time at the York 10K in August. Mike came home in a much more respectable 44:27. I think I might actually benefit from doing more of a proper running warm-up before a 10K race rather than just a few stretches, as it sometimes seems to take me a couple of miles to get into my stride. Something to bear in mind for next time! The steep-ish flyover just before the final approach to the finish line, which also features in the Leeds Half, is always a bit unwelcome. As I was going up there I passed a guy in a wheelchair who was really struggling. I was so tempted to stop and give him a push, but thought that would probably get him disqualified, so hoped a few words of encouragement would help instead. What a great effort.
All in all the Abbey Dash is a really good event. It’s well-organised, there’s always plenty of parking in Leeds and enough portaloos so that you don’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. And now it’s also part of the Runbritain Grand Prix series there are some really top-level runners in the field. Driving into Leeds we were listening to Radio Aire for race news, and I became increasingly annoyed at their describing the event as a ‘fun run’. As far as I could see everyone taking part was striving to do their absolute best at whatever level, and the winners’ times of around half an hour are certainly seriously good results!
Next up on my schedule is the Brass Monkey Half Marathon here in York on 19th January – something that will (hopefully) keep my mince pie consumption to a minimum over the festive period. If only my mum-in-law wasn’t so good at making pastry this would be a lot easier!