Leeds Abbey Dash - Preview


Favourite for this Sunday’s Leeds Abbey Dash road race, Nick McCormick, has targeted a 29-minute clocking in his first outing since early-August. The Morpeth Harrier will open and close his account for the domestic season at Leeds, as he jets out to Australia next month in his quest to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games in 2012.


The Leeds race has attracted high quality fields for several years and is renowned for being one of the country’s fastest 10 kilometre courses. The event has produced winning times under 29:40 for the past five years, and McCormick has cited the competition’s regularly strong entry lists as a reason for making his return at the Yorkshire race.


“I am genuinely hoping the field is strong, as it has been over the past few years. I would like a competitive race to really push the best out of myself, and of course to finish as high as possible,” he said.


“My race performance will all depend on how I feel when I wake up Sunday morning and of course how the weather fares. But I know it’s a fast course and I think 29 minutes if not quicker could be within my grasp.”


The former Great Britain international last donned his race vest on August 6 at the Aviva London Grand Prix held at Crystal Palace, where he finished eighth in the Emsley Carr Mile with a time of 3:58.78. Since that day, McCormick has struggled with Hagglunds deformities in each foot, a condition which affects the Achilles heel.


Described by the Hexham-born athlete as a “niggle,” the training missed due to the deformities forced him to pass on both the Northern and National Road Relay events as well as the National Cross-Country Relays at Mansfield.


However, McCormick is now fighting fit ahead of Sunday’s race and hoping his later-than-usual start to the season could prove a blessing in the long-term.


“My late start to the Autumn season has meant I missed all the relay events on road and cross-country, which I’d normally use as a starting point,” the former Loughborough University student said.


“It’s been good to get back training for several weeks and you never know, missing those early races and forcing myself to take some time off could prove a blessing in disguise next year.


“I’m looking forward to finding out where I’m at in terms of fitness to be honest. There’s nothing better than a race to see how your training’s gone. I’ve managed to run five weeks of consistent 100 miles per week so I think I’m getting back to where I would’ve liked to have been had I not had a late start.”


After Sunday’s race the 30-year-old will have two more weeks in the UK before flying to Australia to link-up with former coach Nic Bideau, and his stable of athletes, which includes Australian internationals Collis Birmingham and Ben St.Lawrence.


McCormick, who has not represented Great Britain in an outdoor track championships since 2006, is hoping his stint in the southern hemisphere will make that vital difference in ultimately securing his place on the British team in 2012.


“It’s Olympic year and everyone has to make sacrifices to get a place on the Great Britain team. And I haven’t made a senior outdoor team since Gothenburg in 2006, so I need to work harder than ever to make it in,” he admitted.


“The plan is to return from Australia in March 2012 having already run at least the B-Standard (13:27) if not the A-Standard (13:20) for the 5,000.


“I will then hopefully have a little break before getting back into hard training again ahead of peaking for London in August.


“The Melbourne Track Classic held in March will be regulated by the IAAF so I’m anticipating a loaded field conducive to fast times, so that will be my target race for the standard.”


Three Kenyan athletes are rumoured to be starting Sunday’s race, but if they fail to turn up or fail to shine, McCormick is expected to reclaim the title he last won at the Abbey Dash in 2005 with a time of 29:17.


Other leading entries include the Eritrean duo from Shettleston Harriers, Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab (29:19) and Tsegezab Woldemichael (29:09). McCormick’s Morpeth team-mate, Ian Hudspith (29:08) is also due to race, after posting high-ranking times at the Northern and National Road Relays.


Liverpool Harrier, Jonny Mellor, has had to unfortunately withdraw from the contest due to illness. A shame, given Mellor’s outstanding performances at the Great South Run and National Road Relays.


In the Ladies race on Sunday, there is expected to be a close-fought battle between two of Great Britain’s Marathon entrants at the World Championships earlier this year.


Susan Patridge (33:19) of Leeds City will lock horns with Chester-le-Street’s Alyson Dixon (33:26), as they continue their rivalry on the roads. The score is currently 1-1 in 2011, with Partridge finishing almost 15-minutes ahead of Dixon in Daegu and a reverse at the Bath Half-Marathon in March, where Dixon triumphed by over four minutes.


The resurgent Rebecca Robinson of Kendal should also be near the sharp end of proceedings, as she looks to return to her 2009 form which produced a winning 33:16 performance at the Abbey Dash two years ago.


Beren Cross