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Leeds Abbey Dash

The 10km distance has and is my preferred distance when it comes to road racing. For the first few years, I could rock up to a race and enjoy it. With my first charity challenge and being new to running I managed to set 20+ personal bests in a row at this distance. I have also enjoyed some really good break through performances at this distance. Breaking 40 minutes at the Sheffield 10k in 2014, then going down to 37 two months later. In 2015 I got down to sub 37 and since July 2015 I’ve hovered in and around 36 minutes. I clocked 36:02 at Dewsbury in Feb of last year and I posted 36:05 earlier this year at the Shakespeare Spring 10k. However, last April I posted a 35:14 time at Cheshire 10k.

Now, I’ve not got anywhere near that time since. The closest I’ve got is running 28:38 in a 5 mile race which is still 3 seconds a mile slower. For the rest of last year and the first part of this year it became a massive source of personal frustration. I questioned everything I was doing etc and it meant I wasn’t enjoying my running and at the back of my mind I had this doubt about if I could get near that time again. The fact that since then I’ve done 8 10k races since and the closest I’ve got was 36:05 (5 seconds a mile slower over the distance) really made me doubt myself. However, at the same time I have done the Cheshire 10k twice, once in November 2015 and again the following spring and both times I had it short……

Now before you all say you can’t judge your Garmin, hold on a minute! I can back it up with some stats. Evidence number 1; November 2015 I was doing my challenge for the Children’s Hospital. On 7th November I posted 36:18 at Cheshire 10k. My average pace that day was 5:57 per mile. The following week I ran the Leeds Abbey Dash and did 36:59 and guess what my average pace was…. yep 5:57 per mile. Yet I was 40s slower. Now you can except a difference of a few seconds on watch to chip times but 40s. I was shocked that day but was assured the Cheshire 10k was the correct distance.

Then to last year at Cheshire 10k. I posted 35:14 that day again same race, same route and same distance on my watch 6.1. On that day my average pace was 5:46 per mile. Had it been the full distance it would have given me 36:53. Which based on my training and Dewsbury back in Feb was probably spot on. No wonder it felt impossible to achieve that time again as while it’s an official 10k time, I was in truth over reaching in my goals. Instead I should have been aiming for just under 36. This is why I’ve been so frustrated at 10k races. I’ve been going off at my official PB pace getting to the back end and blowing up! Causing me to run the wrong side of 36 minutes.

So, this brings me to the Dash this year. I decided to forget about that time and focus on a new goal. That goal was to break 36 minutes. I also entered the Trafford 10k as a back up in case the Dash was too soon. In October I tweaked my training to start doing long reps on a Tuesday at a quicker than target pace. For the first time ever I did 8 x 1000 all around target pace. This along with shortening my recoveries on my Thursday track sessions allowed me to start to feel stronger. I added in a second medium long run, to rebuild my endurance.

The training along with two hard cross county races, meant I felt stronger than ever. I ran a season best 10 days out from the Dash over 5k, so going into the races I set myself 3 targets;

  • Run a season best (quicker then 36:05)
  • Dip under 36 minutes.
  • As quick as possible

Knowing the course I knew I needed a good first two miles. A smart 3rd mile up to the abbey and then a strong 4th and 5th mile. Then finishing as strong as I could. Conditions could not have been better, despite it being cold for me it was perfect racing conditions. I spent the build up chatting to plenty of fellow runners, including old club mates. All kept asking me what my goal was. For once I didn’t set myself up for a fall as I simply replied with have a good race. It kept the pressure off.

Soon it was go time. I was soon jostling with other runners as we set off towards the Abbey. After a quick start I soon settled in to a sub 5:40 first mile pace. I wanted a quick first mile but not too quick in which it would cost me later. The first mile soon flew by and I hit it in 5:37, we soon did the bottleneck section round the retail park. This year I managed to get a good position going round the inside so as not to lose any pace. This allowed me to put the foot down on the way out. From mile two the route began to climb, at first you don’t notice it and it allowed me to clock a 5:41 second mile. I felt really good and had got into a strong group. I knew I had to be strong but smart for the next mile as it climbs up to 2.5 miles, then a quick drop before a longer drag up to halfway. I had got on to the shoulder of David Tune and made sure to stay with him on the climb, it was only on the final part of the climb did pace slip over 6:00 minutes, hitting 5:50 for the 3rd mile but I stayed with the group as we rounded the turn around point. For the record I recorded a 17:46 split.

I took the turn round part to get my breathing under control and go again. I soon picked up the pace and started to pass folk, I wanted to be a bit faster on mile 4 as I only managed 5:48 but I then ran the fastest 5th mile of my life as I managed to find another gear. I was chasing David who had pulled away but I was running sub 5:40 pace. I could hear people shouting me but I was in the zone. My average pace was still below 5:47 which was my target. I hit the 5th mile with a 5:38 mile. This felt amazing to see and even though I was feeling tired I dug in and really pushed on.

I hit the 9k marker and knew this was a bit of a crap section as you had a drag up a slip road. Pace always drops, I got round the bend and saw the finish line, I kicked as hard as I could as the crowds cheered. I soon saw the clock and it was ticking closer and closer to 36 minutes. I kicked again and came over the line. Gun time was 35:59 and chip time was 35:50. BOOM !!!

It was like a massive weight on my shoulder had been lifted. I knew due to the field I weaved a bit in the first few miles so ran over distance. Watch clocked me doing 35:34 for 10k. My average pace was 5:43, the quickest I’ve covered the distance, regardless of what Power of 10 says. To prove that. I was ahead at every mile compared to Cheshire. It meant to achieve a 35:14 over 10k I would have had to run the final mile in 5:16 pace. Now I’m not a negative split runner and it’s only this year I’ve learnt to run more evenly. So either Cheshire was short or my watch had a serious issue both times at Cheshire. Anyway I will be doing Cheshire in the spring so will be interesting to see how that races goes.

In the mean time, it’s a massive buzz to break the 36 minute barrier. My goal now is to run regular sub 36 10k times. Then slowly chip away towards my goal to break 35 minutes. However, I type this nursing yet another chest infection! so hoping to have got over this in time to race the podium 5k next Saturday.


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