Ashby 20

Ashby 20 – now in it’s 30th Anniversary – is a 20 mile road race ‘organised by runners, for runners’.

Based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch – a small market town in Leicestershire – the race attracts over 1000 runners and is considered to be ‘one of the last long runs’ in the calendar before the major spring marathons. Organised by Ivanhoe Runners, it is a ‘not for profit’ event which adds real charm and has a friendly, local club run vibe to it.

This was to be my fourth time running this event – which includes last years ‘virtual race’ – and I went into it feeling relatively fresh with no real expectations other than to enjoy the day, get some miles in the legs and remain injury free.

With Ashby being less than a 45 minute drive away, we jumped in the car – joined by my favourite support crew – Ruth and the boys – and arrived in Ashby some 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of 10am. Parking was straight forward and with race numbers posted out prior to the event, ensured it was a relatively stress free start to the race.

We met up with Clive and Jill – with Clive also running the event – and made our way to the start line, settling towards the middle of the pack.

The first mile or so is predominantly downhill before you reach the start of the main circular loop, which you run twice. The route – which is described as undulating at best – or as how I like to describe it – ‘hilly as f’ck!’ – but with lots of long, slow climbs as opposed to short, steeper hills. It can be draining – particularly on the second loop – but is an enjoyable challenge.

I’d settled into a steady rhythm from the offset, running with Clive and the conversation was flowing. With so many runners on the course, it was quite congested early on and we found ourselves running at the pace of the runners around us – although on fresh legs it never felt uncomfortable. We were averaging 8:45 min/mile pace – faster than we both probably predicted – but running well within ourselves.

The first loop went by without incident. We were running relatively even splits and by maintaining our pace on the inclines, we found ourselves overtaking a lot of runners which added confidence. The sun was shining, the conversation was flowing and the miles were ticking themselves off. The route, despite being all tarmac is incredibly scenic as you make your way though small villages and country lanes – with road closures (or partial road closures) in place meaning it is traffic free – brilliantly organised by the many marshals situated throughout the route.

At the end of the first lap, we stopped briefly to greet Ruth, Jill and the boys – who had positioned themselves perfectly in a pub garden – and to take some fluids on board before settling back into the pack for loop 2.

By mile 12 I found myself running alone. Clive had been having some slight hip flexor issues so had subsequently eased off the pace – a sensible call. I was still feeling strong so continued to push on up the inclines and before long I caught up with Huw – a friend from our local running club back in Bromsgrove – and we ran the next couple of miles together.

With five miles to go I was still feeling relatively strong. The inclines weren’t causing me any issues and I found myself overtaking numerous runners as they tired on the hills. If anything this was spurring me on so I just decided to go with it – pushing the pace slightly – averaging approx. 8 min/miles for the last 5 miles – which in reflection, is a good indication on where I am in my current training block.

The final mile consists of a long, gradual incline back into Ashby before the victory lap around a park and subsequent finish line. It’s well supported and hearing your name on the tannoy system was a lovely touch.

Despite the ‘lovely (strong) finish’ – upon crossing the finish line I immediately found myself chucking my guts up behind the first aid tent, much to the concern of the first aiders – and general surprise to myself. Whether it was down to the pace, the warm weather or the fact that I hadn’t hydrated enough throughout the race I’m not sure – but after a few minutes, with the help of some sugary Lucozade and some nice words from the first aider, I dusted myself down and rejoined the finish area to collect my medal, hoodie and bag of goodies.

In summary, Ashby 20 is a great race and despite my allegiance to trails, is always one of the first races in the calendar.

No doubt I’ll be back next year.

I finished in 2:53 – some 3 minutes off a route PB but more importantly, injury free and happy with the days work.

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