Ashbourne Half Marathon

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.. I’ve wrote them, just yet to publish, the achievement of running the full boundary deserves something special and I’m taking my time in doing that. 

July is here; with July brings the second half of the year and eyes now become focussed on the Autumn marathons. Then all the mini goals and steps along the way. I’ve had pretty much all of June off of racing and taken an ‘easy’ month. Scaling my miles back and focussing on shorter runs instead of the long slower stuff that I’ve become accustomed to. My left ankle has been flaring up and down, the same sort of injury as before Manchester; but the opposite ankle. But a little more persistent then the other ankle. I’ve rebuilt my shoe collection though and now I’m ready to go again. 

In the week I had the opportunity to run in the Damflask relays with Penistone. One of the main reason I joined a club was for the team events and the extra spin it can put on my running. I was placed in a team alongside Scott Hinchcliffe, Chris Law and Andrew Heppenstall. I gave Scott a lift through to the event. Him talking me through the course, the climbs and drops along the way amongst other stuff! It’s half of the Percy Pud route too, so it’s a little flat in places. We arrived in plenty of time, a warm up trot and Scott was underway to run the first leg. Whilst I hung around chatting. I met a slightly frustrated Scott when he finished, because he came home in 6th and felt he had let the team down. Looking at the results after he did ace. He predicted something close to 19 minutes for his time; on the night, but actually got 18:35. Said he didn’t have enough left in him for the last push home. Chris Law took over for the second leg. Challenge see if he could beat Scott’s time and claw some positions back. He managed to beat Scott and ran an 18:28. Placing us in 3rd past the post for my go on the 3rd leg. In hindsight I probably set off too quick, conscious that I didn’t wanna let the team down. Holding my position around to the pub and loosing it to Rotherham Harriers. With nothing to give on the flat. I began to catch him on the climb; but it wasn’t long enough and he pulled away from me on the downhill. My time much slower than Scott and Chris who are in another league completely, 19:33 for me. Andrew took over for our 4th leg. He felt massive pressure he was saying before the race. But he is a quality runner with a lot to give. Managed to hold in and finish in 20:43 for 5th place overall. So our team ran really well on the night, and we held out for 5th place. With all the other Penistone teams and Barnsley teams alike, running really well. Made me proud to be from Barnsley! 

Photo from 2016, ‘The One Where My Watch Failed’

Today’s challenge anyway is the Ashbourne Half Marathon. Enjoying the races around here, like Buxton and Potters. All possess some sort of challenging hill, slope or mountain. Naturally I invited Bryan along to endure the pain as well. He enjoys a good mountain goat race. We’ve got a good thing going looking for the most difficult. We are yet to find a completely uphill Half Marathon though. So if anyone knows one.. give us a shout! 

Ashbourne Half is a superb challenge, they’ve changed the course a little this year, offers more flat. And a run in the Ashbourne Tunnel. But it has a beast of a hill in the second half, some massive downhills and views across the country. It’s no big city half. Small scale organisation and perfect. Maximum 3 toilets, a finish in a field. A new start line in the market place. A medal for completion. What else do you want? Ran here last year and got 1:25 ish. Got me 7th place.

I managed to sleep through my alarm on the morning of the event. It’s a 9.30 start, takes just over an hour to get there.. so would have to leave at 8 latest, really. Wanted to leave for 7. Woke up at 7, looked at my watch 7.01. Not good. Jumped out of bed, got some clothes together, quick shower. Porridge and Nutella in a plastic dish. I’ll eat that on the way or when I get there, out the house for 7.20. An hour and twenty to destination. Straight through Sheffield City Centre, over to Dore and Totley; then all the back roads. 

I arrived for 8.39 drove around the car park no spots. So parked somewhere on the start line of the old route. But they aren’t using that this year. Saw Bryan in the car park; he must’ve been earlier than me. Quick kit strip off and changed, off to get my number and joined a massive queue for the fun run numbers. Quickly jumped ship as soon as we all realised and joined the Half Marathon queue. Sorry I was the trendsetter. 

Met with Bryan again for a quick photo. 

Mid Number Pinning

Off we went then ‘Team Barnsley’ for a warm up in strange land. Got my eBay treads on too! And Martin Ball’s Penistone Vest. Cheers Martin. 

We managed to time it just right and make it to the start in the market place for 9.25 ish. Quick hand shake, chat and look around. Bryan was taking it easy, enjoying it, scouting what the course is like and coming back again next year to smash it. I’ve already done that. But wasn’t in smashing it shape today. Didn’t tell Bryan but ankle was feeling annoying every other stride in my warm up. 

Now stood on the start line, alongside Phil Skelton from Steel City striders. A fellow hilly Half Marathon addict. He placed just in front of me at Buxton and I’ve been just a place behind him so many times this year. I’ll beat him one day. But not today; racing legs aren’t quite ready yet. Neither is racing mentality. 

We was off. A quick lap of the town centre to begin with and then out onto the country. I was anticipating climb after climb and drop after drop. The town centre lap was fast and I was out in the lead for the first mile. Thinking what the hell am I doing here. It was the same sort of individuals here, then there was at Buxton. Where I managed to finish 3rd. We came back through the start line after our lap and onto a small sharp climb, where I quickly settled down and dropped to 4th. Pace was smashing. But didn’t bother setting my watch so I could view it. It felt like a sub 6. And then after the climb, dropped and rolled out to flat. Where I could tick over mile after mile. Before we hit a bit of a climb after 5k had passed. Rejoining onto the old route and then followed by a massive drop. The major one I was expecting was the Stairway to Heaven as Bryan is now calling it, around mile 7! Truly a massive climb on a cattle grid protected road through a sheep field. I managed to catch up and now found myself in 2nd place after the first climb. I settled comfortably here for a couple of mile as we winded through all the country roads between Mapleton, Thorpe and Ilam. At Ilam, that’s where we met the massive climb. The stairway, having an ace battle for 2nd and 3rd along the way. I knew what to expect here, so just planned on taking it easier and conserving my legs from the climb, so I could attack the following downhill. Pace slowed massively to minuscule footsteps. But I ran up the full hill. Dropping to 3rd place and about 10 seconds into 3rd, but a big downhill down. And I planned to attack it. And made some ground up, and time. Narrow country lanes and a precision of cars, horse boxes, vans, bikes followed behind until the road opened out. But probably made me run a little bit quicker! Could see Phil out in front and something inside of me kept saying you can catch him. But my legs couldn’t pick up the pace anymore! Onto a little out and back bit, us in 2nd and 3rd running neck and neck. About 400m behind Phil. 10 mile time in 1:00:20. So not too bad. Target here today was minimum beat last years time. Then to try and beat Buxtons time this year and then try to beat 1:20. Anything else was a bonus. 

I was on pace for 1:20, I knew that by the 10 mile mark. But couldn’t afford to let pace drop. Cause there is a small climb at the finish. The battle was great for the position and maintained both of our paces. I knew I had kick in me. But my ankle was saying otherwise, beginning to feel truly uncomfortable, altering my running style to compensate. But still soldier on. Nearly back now. Going into Ashbourne Tunnel, I took a wide run and turned sharp and then it began to ache massively. Then I reminded myself that one of the inclusion kids yesterday gave me a massive boot on the leg! Couldn’t shake that thought. And settled into 3rd place. Running through the town centre now. Finish line isn’t far away. And can hear the noise. Quick cross over the road and finish line in sight. 

I finished in 1:19:20; watch time and 3rd place. Despite my aching ankle! I did truly enjoy it and it’s good to be back racing; nothing can beat getting up early on a Sunday morning, driving somewhere an hour or so away and racing. Widening your scope and horizons through the form of running. Isn’t it ace! 

Strava Link:

Got a few small challenges coming up this month. So we’ll see how they go! But it could be a busy week, Trunce, Spencer’s Dash, Hunshelf Amble; all fantastic local races!

Just Keep Running.

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