Kirkstall Abbey 7 Mile Race 2012 Review

Have you ever been doing something and got so engrossed that you later looked at your watch and wondered where the time had gone? Well, that was me a couple of weeks ago during the Kirkstall Abbey 7 Mile multiterrain race. For me, it was yet another return after some little irritating injuries – tendonitis of the foot, probably due to my running shoes being a bit too small for comfort. I thought I should write up a quick review of this one as it was a fairly tough but also a very fun race to take part in, and my first multiterrain run. Here’s how it all panned out.

Reaching The Start Line

Unfortunately I had missed out on almost a handful of races due to my tendonitis injury. A swift change back to older running shoes had served to cure that problem but had flared up my achilles tendon, so I just gave in and took a couple of weeks off without any running at all. When the day of the KA7 arrived, I was a bit flabbier and a little less fit, and although I had been frantically trying to get my hands on a new pair of running shoes, I settled for the tight ones, but loosened the laces over the top of my foot to ward off and tendon trouble.

My friend and I jogged down to the start point, which was just down the road from where he lives. So that gave us a nice steady opportunity to warm up for 15 to 20 minutes before the main event. After milling around aimlessly in and out of one of the visitors’ buildings at Kirkstall Abbey, we eventually found out where our bib numbers were; they had to be collected on the day rather than appearing in the mail. So that was it, a few stretches and a little bit more jogging to keep warm, and then it was time to get ready at the start line.

The Good Old Cowardice Strategy

Taking another look at my watch. Yep, it really did take me over 1 hour 4 mins!

As in many of the races I have entered with my running buddy, we sloped off to the back of the pack ready for the klaxon. I don’t really know why we do it. It’s obvious that if we stand at the front, a herd of faster runners will quickly overtake, and maybe it’s a psychological thing. If we start at the back fewer people overtake us and that’s less of a downer on our enthusiasm.

The main problem is that the first mile or so of this race is up Abbey Road, on the pavement as the roads are not closed for this small club race. That means there are few opportunities to overtake before the whole field gets stretched out. Always a tough decision to make about where to start in the pack, but these days, I think I’d rather be further forward, holding people up but keeping a good position overall, rather than having all the hard work of overtaking slower people to do.

Anyway, on this day, our strategy was to start near the back. We traipsed up Abbey Road as a long stream of runners, and fairly quickly we were met by a couple of participants walking back towards the start. Odd, I thought, until I saw one of them had a face covered in blood. He must have got tripped up and whacked his head on something. He was walking and conscious so I guess he was okay – fingers crossed!

At about this point, I was, let’s say, “made aware” of the nervousness of one of the runners in a small group in front of me. He was dragging a trail of thick hot flatulence along behind himself, and I was stuck on the receiving end. Not good. Before he had the chance to scorch the number off the front of my shirt, I decided on a quick hop down onto the road, overtook, and skipped back up in front, and into the wonderful clean air!

The Pain Of Multi-Terrain

Once we had got up the hill, we were confronted by marshals steering us onto a mud and gravel track leading down into a wooded area. This was all very exciting for me as most of my running up to this point had been on the road. I wasn’t excited for long though. I found it really tough mixing things up on gravel, sloppy mud, grass and various other surfaces, hopping and jumping over tree roots and cowpats.

The first half of the run led us to a nearby canal and the path was very well maintained. I was overtaken by an older runner, and decided to stick on his shoulder for pacing – and this guy had a good pace on him! By the time we’d got past the 4-mile marker I was feeling it and starting to struggle. A steep grassy bank finished me off as “Old Guy” snapped the string and left me in his wake, skipping up the hill while I got out my crampons and oxygen cylinders, and started my ascent.

A little later, I got overtaken by a small group of two or three other runners while I took a quick breather and had a drink of water. I ran with a young lady for a mile or so, chatting about running clubs and the fact that neither of us had yet bothered to join one! Eventually, we reached another gravelly uphill section and I had to walk it, allowing my temporary running partner to scoot off. What I hadn’t realised was that this gravelly hill led us back onto Abbey Road and the last mile or two downhill to the finish.

Glad to be back on the road – and going downhill – I forced myself to concentrate on a good fast cadence, and pushed myself.

Time Shock At The Finishing Line

After a brief conversation with another girl about whether the 6-mile marker was a future event or one we’d left behind us – we reached the 6-mile marker, and I had to push on. Finally, we were shepherded off the road and back into a grassy field in the grounds of the Abbey. Almost there.

Once I was back onto the footpath, I increased my speed but couldn’t be bothered with a final sprint. I just looked at my watch, expecting to get home in just under an hour. However, after a long double-take, I realised that I was pushing past 1 hour 4 minutes. A little bit disappointing, I have to confess. But I suppose I can blame myself for not having got many runs in during the month up to the race.

And on the bright side, it was really nice to finally get another race under my belt. I offer my thanks to Kirkstall Harriers Running Club for organising it. It’s a good one, and extremely picturesque, far better than just plodding along a road for an hour. My running buddy came home a couple of minutes after me and was pleased with it. Maybe this is one I’ll have to revisit next year, hopefully after a summer of sustained running, rather than one of niggling injuries.


Neil (nickname Ironman) is an avid runner and sports fan, who writes about all things triathlon-related, especially running and cycling. He also writes about sports injuries and regaining fitness - mainly from personal experience rather than academic knowledge - although he does study that too!

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