The Ashby 20 mile race is a popular event in the lead up to spring marathons. For many it will be the last long race before pounding the streets of London in a few weeks time. In contrast to last year we were treated to wall to wall sunshine which illuminated the mainly rural route. This race runs through two laps of about 9 miles each with a bottle neck that runners run up and down at the start an finish.
I turned out at Ashby after doing consecutive long events the weekend before. I had mainly rested in the preceding week apart from a game of squash and a six mile steady run. I had also been given a travel vaccination the day before the race, the doctor advised me not to run but he didn't advise it with any conviction so I traveled to Ashby with a live yellow fever antidote swimming inside me. By 10am on race day I was stood on the start line feeling rested and confident. There was a good turnout of runners from Grantham Running Club and we all looked set for a good day.
I intentionally started, at a steady, not easy pace. Last year I had run 2:15 on the same course and I wondered how my fitness would compare. The first lap went well and I arrived a 10 miles feeling fresh but like I had put in a bit of effort. I noticed that I ran through half way in 1:09ish which was a bit off pace but I was encouraged that I was running strong and feeling good. The are plenty of undulations on these rural roads. The Stamford 30k is widely agreed to be a tougher course but nonetheless there are testing undulations at Ashby. They seem to continually arrive just after you have got back into rhythm after the previous one. There are frequent water stations spread out at useful intervals. the water stations also offer a bit of food, jelly babies, chocolate, I even picked up a high five energy gel which was most welcome at a time when I was starting to flag.
I tried to keep my pace through to 15 miles. I try to break this race down into 5 miles segments and I was reminded on the first lap that the part at 10-15 miles was going to be tough when I passed later. I got my head down and seemed to carry a good pace through to 15. The next milestone that I allowed myself to think about was 18 miles, after that two left, one of which includes the glory mile.
Somewhere between 17-18 miles the wheels came off big time. I slowed quite dramatically and suddenly in a way similar to hitting the wall at the marathon. 18-20 was no fun, it was stagger home time. I was surprised how at the Belvoir Challenge the week before I had run a miserable event only to come to life with three miles to go. The opposite happened at Ashby.
I was grateful to finish 113th in 2:20:51, a bit disappointed with my time but encouraged that for the first time in ages I had felt good apart from the last three miles. The best part about Ashby is the goodie bag which includes a cheese barm (you can't say fairer than that) and a hoodie - yes a hoodie, this year it was black. In my view the Ashby race is a top event and if you haven't run it - you should!
A good day was ended watching England beat Wales in the rugby whilst explaining to other club members that they hadn't received two texts from the Ashby organisers with their race times attached but instead the first text was a text from the race the year before....