Kirkstall Abbey Marathon

November 18th 2017


On quite a windy morning we made a drive out to Leeds and parked up on a social club car park. It was free parking and into the social club for the loos (as there would not be any at the start) and to collect race numbers. We warmed up in the car until it was time to make the 10 minute walk to the start line. I took a bag to leave at the start with supplies in and would leave my coat in here. The wind was quite chilly but it was a nice dry morning. Kirkstall Abbey is a beautiful spot to start a race and a lovely abbey to look around.

There were two waves of starters due to the different race distances. One group set off at 9am and other 5 minutes later. Mine was the second group to start with marathon and ultra-marathon runners.

The 8.8 mile out and back route was multi terrain and really varied. Firstly, we ran around the area of the abbey, then onto a main road. The footpath was closed in one section, so we ended up having to run directly on the road but there were marshals on route to warn motorists of runners. After around a mile on the road we took to the trails. It was really well marked with arrows and marshals pointing the right way. The trail took us down a steep path and running next to the river. Then onto a housing estate briefly, up and down some small hills and back onto trails. Running through the next field there is a brief decline before a gate. I went down into a pothole and went over on my left foot. I almost cried in pain, instead I swore and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue. I hobbled for 5 minutes along the paths. I decided that if I was going to finish I needed to be able to at least run/walk so I jogged a little and tried to put the pain out of my head. Despite my foot I was really enjoying the change in scenery, from woods to rivers to fields. It was lovely. There is a hill at around mile 3 across a field. I ran a little but mainly walked to the top. I decided this was a walking section for the next lap.

 The course looped back around via the road onto the canal path. This section is an out and back along the Leeds/Liverpool canal and it loops back onto the first part of the course via the river. Here it runs along the river, up a very short hill (which I walked) and then along the road back to the Abbey. By the time I made the first 8.8 mile loop my foot wasn’t hurting as much and I felt that I could continue. I was in a really good frame of mind as I was watching for wildlife and the constant turns and changes meant the course was definitely not boring.

The second loop had no more falls and I was loving it. The temperature was cool but just right for running. I had to stop at one of the aid stations on this lap just to top up water and had a quick drink of coke. This picked me up even more and I only walked on the slight hills. The third lap seemed to come really quickly and I wasn’t tired and felt I had enough energy to complete the course well. The marshalls continued in their friendly encouragement. Last lap they would cheer. It was lovely to see some familiar faces on the course too and they waved and high fived as going past. Up the last hill I knew I would run all the way back to the finish point and when my Garmin ticked over at 26.2 my time was 4.23 which is the fastest I had run this distance. I was really pleased as everything had gone well even though I had buckled on my foot. My official time was 4:25 with a total of 26.47 miles due to the 8.8 mile loops. As I finished with a smile I felt I could still carry on and do another loop for the ultra-marathon. I had never felt like that upon completing a marathon before.

I absolutely loved this marathon. The support is fantastic from marshalls and runners. The goody bag had a chocolate orange in it and a bottle of beer. I swapped my chocolate orange for a selection box, brilliant! Chocolate and beer is a perfect goody bag in my eyes. I received a nice medal too.

After the race we went for a take out cuppa at the little shop next to the Abbey and could use the loos there too. A 10 minute walk back to the car never felt so easy. Thanks Grim up North for a great race.