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Leeds Abbey Dash - Matt Kitching

What’s your best race result? That one that stands out above the rest? Your proudest achievement, and a time that you simply never thought you could run?

For me the 2019 Abbey Dash was THE ONE.

Except that it wasn’t. The 2019 Abbey Dash in fact, did not happen.

It did happen. Or at least 9,977m of it happened. Just not the 23m that would make it a legitimate 10k road race. And those missing 23m (in my case, equivalent to about 4.3 seconds) caused all the results to be scrapped.

Not to worry, eh? There’s always another race, and 10k road races happen all the time… unless the year is 2020 and there are more important things than road races taking place.

And so it was that it took 24 months before I toed the line at the 2021 Abbey Dash. Back at the scene of the crime. Let’s hope the race director brought their tape measure this time!

The Abbey Dash takes place in Leeds. The route is simple – start in town, head out in a fairly straight, fairly flat line to Kirkstall Abbey, turn around and run back. The course makes it a fast race, but the field is what makes it truly special. This year’s race was won in a time of 28:46, and 27 men broke 30 minutes. The women’s race was won in 31:19, and 19 women broke 35 minutes. The depth of the field is incredible and pulls you along to a super quick time.

The proximity of the event to my family home however is what makes it a staple of my racing calendar. My parents and I have all run this race four times now. In 2019 we were even joined by a group of Hoopsters, all sold on the 384-mile round trip by my guarantee of a PB. That made the whole course measuring debacle even more awkward. Apologies again to you all… though the Sunday roast and pints arguably made the trip worthwhile!

So, it’s fair to say I went into this race with a chip on my shoulder. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve answered the question: “What’s your 10k PB?” with a 10-minute monologue about extrapolating times?

There’s not that much to say about the race. The Abbey Dash is the same every year: it goes out fast, and it stays fast until it gets so painful your vision goes a bit blurry. It’s not particularly scenic. Kirkstall Abbey is nice enough, but frankly it’s the kind of race where you spend more time checking your watch than taking in the sights.

The race went well. In a weird way, it was basically a re-run of 2019. I went off much quicker than planned, felt better than I should for that pace… until I didn’t feel better than I should for that pace, and finished with a time just 6 seconds different from 2019. Let’s hope the one key difference this year was the course length!

And so, after two years I can (I hope!) legitimately say that my 10k PB is 31:42. A time only good enough for 66th place – this is the Abbey Dash after all - but finally, a result I can call my best.


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