Harry Smith in the Ashridge Standard Distance Duathlon

Taking his place in a high standard field, Harry Smith was ready to leave it all on the line in the Ashridge Standard Distance Duathlon

Bringing together the cream of the crop on the national stage, the stakes were high at the Ashridge Duathlon Standard Distance event, with an opportunity to qualify for the 2022 World Championships up for grabs.

That of course meant some tough competition for Harry Smith as he looked to vie for one of the top age group positions. Looking at his recent performances in the EA Virtual Road Relay competition, Harry had every reason to be optimistic, certainly with regard to his running form.

In both rounds he turned in an outstanding display, clocking times of 25:29 and 25:48 for the 5-mile distance. As for the cycling, Harry is also very strong at that and devotes a good proportion of his training time to it.

The weekend before doing battle at Ashridge, Harry had a little warm up for the big event in the shape of the Southampton Fast Twitch Duathlon.

That race was held on the edge of the New Forest and was a Sprint Distance event consisting of a 4.5km run, a 23km cycle and 4.5km run.

Completing the first run in 16:09, at an average pace of 5:24 minutes per mile, Harry went on get the bike leg done in 33:49, despite the windy conditions. He then followed that up with a 16:35 for his second run at an average pace of 5:34.

With an overall time of 1:08:15, Harry finished in 2nd place out of 162 competitors. And that that was despite the fact that he’d ran a  marathon in Cornwall with a couple of friends just four days prior!

As the Ashridge Duathlon was a Standard Distance event, that meant a Harry would be undertaking a 10km run, a 44km bike ride and a 5km run. Both the runs were on trail and the bike ride was undulating, but that actually suited Harry as he’s strong on the climbs.

Harry Smith on his first run

Harry gets the ball rolling, setting off on his first run

Blasting round the first run in a time of 32:41, Harry made an excellent start to the proceedings. The distance did come up slightly shorter than 10km though. In fact it was just over 6 miles but it was still a magnificent run from Harry, giving him an average pace of 5:26.

Only two men in the entire field were able to go quicker than that and one of those was Jamie Price, it man who finished ahead of him in the Southampton Duathlon the previous weekend.

Harry moves onto the bike phase

Harry moves onto the bike phase

Completing the 24 mile bike ride in a time of 1:04:01, Harry was 7th quickest in the field, leaving just the final run remaining. Clocking a time of 16:49 for the second run, it was a great way to round off an impressive performance from Harry.

Harry soars along on his race bike

Harry soars along on his race bike

Although it came up short again, Harry still recorded a strong average pace of 5:44 in the second run and that put him 5th fastest. With his transitions incorporated in, Harry’s final time for the race was 1:54:44. That put him 5th overall and 2nd in his age category.

Harry gets his second run underway

Harry gets his second run underway

When you consider the standard of the athletes he was up against, that was an absolutely fantastic result for Harry and he had every reason to be pleased with his efforts. And he certainly felt like he put everything into it.

Harry on his second run

Harry powers along toward a remarkable 5th place finish

It turned out to be a pretty close race at the front of the field, with the top five all being separated by under two minutes. It was Ant Gritton who came out on top in the end with a finishing time of 1:52:53.

That put him 9 seconds ahead of Jamie Price who was 2nd in a 1:53:02. Alex Doherty was 3rd finishing up with a time of 1:54:17. Then it was the battle between Royal Navy man Daniel Soltys and Harry for 1st place in the 25 to 29 age group. Daniel won the battle by 20 seconds in the end, finishing with a time of 1:54:24.

Harry on his bike in the Ashridge Duathlon

It was a hilly route which suited Harry quite well

In a field of 266 competitors, it was a top class display from Harry and was enough to see him qualify for the 2022 World Championships. The event is actually due to be held in Australia, so whether he’ll actually get to go or not is another matter, but either way, it was a terrific achievement from Harry.

In the form that he’s in now, Harry would love to find a decent 5k or 10k road race to see what sort of time he can produce. No doubt there will be a big PB awaiting him when he does.