Report by Arne Dumez
Marketed as one of the fastest road races in the country, the Age UK Abbey Dash always draws a uniquely deep field of distance runners – especially this year when it did not clash with the national XC relays in Mansfield. Coach Matt Welsh and co-team managers Stephen Gardner and Arne Dumez were among those attracted to the prospect of a fast time, so they hopped on the train to Leeds. After a delayed journey up t’ Yorkshire (flooded tracks, urgh) they plopped themselves into the cheapest hotel they could find and prepared for what promised to be a cold, crisp but gloriously sunny race morning.
Let’s look back at the 2019 track season. Matt had improved on his previous times over the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m distances, with Steve very hot on his heels… The two were separated only by a fraction of a second when they ran 15:18 over the 5000m. Their 3000m times are only a few seconds apart too. Over the 10k though, things looked more clear-cut. Matt was a regular in the 32min club, while Steve had only ever run under 34mins once that summer. Granted, it was on a horribly hot and humid day on the Tooting track where most would have DNFed, but we’re just looking at the numbers here. Steve was determined to finally put down a 10k we all knew he was worth.
Unsurprisingly, they were pretty much inseparable for the whole race. Respectively fueled by very different Nando’s pittas, the two amigos set off quick and hit the first mile marker almost exactly five minutes in. In such a deep field, that pace is far from outstanding so they blended into a big pack and bided their time. At the halfway point, the U-turn separated the men from the boys – the pack suddenly didn’t look quite so healthy. The second half was to be a tale of quiet rivalry. Steve was hoping for a low 32min clocking, so by the 5Mi point he knew he was on-pace for at least that. Nice. Matt was charging forward, he knew full well he was headed for something special. In the end, Matt turned on the afterburners and put another few seconds into poor old Steve. Matt narrowly missed the top 100 for 102nd in 31:47, Steve was right behind him in 31:55.
Arne was only part of this saga for the first 1km or so. He had had a more ‘up and down’ track season and had been focused on training for his marathon debut in Valencia. The five weekends leading up to Leeds had been dedicated to 20Mi runs and the required recovery. He wasn’t expecting much from his legs that day. The first 5km confirmed him in his cautious approach. After gradually working his way through the field – despite worryingly slow splits at the 3 and 4km marks – he reached the halfway point determined to prepare himself for a disappointing but respectable run. He was very surprised to feel his legs wake up at 6km! Suddenly, he was back on track. This didn’t properly sink in until the 6Mi mark though, when he nervously checked his watch and saw that he could still dip under 33mins if he got a move on and really hurled himself at the finish line. He did just that and found himself flying past 6th female Danielle Hodgkinson right before the line. He walked back to the hotel with a 32:51 PB to his name and a sigh of relief wooshing out of his mouth. It’s always great to bag a confidence boost like that just 40 days out from the looming marathon. Only four weeks to go…
Overall, this was an incredible race. The men had to break 30mins just to appear in the top 28… Charlotte Arter won the women’s race in a new course record of 31:34, obliterating Eilish McColgan’s previous 32:05 mark. Defending men’s champion Adam Craig had to settle for third in a new PB of 28:45, with Omar Ahmed taking the win in a new course record of 28:38. This race is one of the modern icons of British road racing and we are very proud to have been a part of it for the past two years now. We will definitely be back next year!
102. Matt Welsh (31:47), 107. Steve Gardner (31:55), 150. Arne Dumez (32:51)