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Run Bolton Abbey 2017

Run Bolton Abbey,

Sunday, 12 November, 2017.

“Do you fancy running this new event, it’s around Bolton Abbey?” was a question put to me. I reckoned I was up for that; after all, Bolton Abbey may be big, but it’s not that big. I duly signed up. Only later did I realise just what it was, in fact, that I’d registered for.

This Run Bolton Abbey event was being staged for the first time, raising money for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. There were four different races on offer; a 2k, 10k, ten-miler, and half-marathon. I’d signed up for the 10k, as had several other Pumas. Enough of us, in fact, for it being worthwhile Neil Coupe digging out the minibus once more to get us there.

The Pumas pose before the race. It was wise to keep as warm as possible until the very last minute.

A smooth drive up into North Yorkshire was halted once we’d reached the Bolton Abbey estate, and the first of many hitches encountered on the day. The 10k race was due for an 11.00am start, but clearly, with a massive queue of cars from the roundabout, the subsequent set-off times were put back. With our race numbers still to be collected, we didn’t need anything else to hamper us pre-race. And then the bus got stuck in the mud.

We were told beforehand that we would experience a mixture of paths, tracks, woodland trails and open land, taking in a run through Strid Wood, over Dicken Dike, a climb of the Valley of Desolation and the Launde Plantation and a stretch of Barden Fell. This was, to all intents and purposes, a “diverse range of surfaces and stunning landscapes all crammed into one challenging run.”


All races were preceded by the bugle-sounding of ‘The Last Post’, and a two minutes’ silence impeccably observed for Remembrance Sunday. Then the 10k runners were called to order, and packed in tightly on the tarmac in front of the Pavilion Café – where each race would eventually finish – we were sent on our way, ever slowly, negotiating the bridge over the River Wharfe, then winding our way single file up through the woods like school children on a nature trail. Yes, it was slow going, though hardly what you would call easy, as it was something of a climb. After a mile, one female runner was in trouble; struggling to breath, she was pulled out of the race by a marshal as we turned left onto a flat section of the course.

The 10k runners cross the bridge just after the start and begin the ascent up through the woods.

One female Puma showing no signs of trouble was Diane Cooper, who got away from the main pack of runners almost immediately, and benefitted from not having to queue for any length of time. I followed her for a while up through the first set of woods, and Neil Coupe was soon up alongside me. The course had punishing sections; while much of the 856-feet rise was a gentle incline, there were steep sections which tested the runners to the limits. We also had to negotiate a bridge, several stiles that, like the bridge, had runners queueing for ages and ages (twenty minutes in some cases), and a gate that one farmer, who, it would imagine, had agreed with the organisers beforehand to keep open, decided at the last minute to keep shut, necessitating a scramble. Just after this, the runners around me were taken on a sojourn we needn’t have taken, a loop around the moors amounting to an extra 1k. Just who was at fault, no one was sure, but speaking with runners later on, not everyone took this unnecessary route.

Shana Emmerson isn’t on this photo – because she took it, waiting patiently in turn to cross this stile.

One person who clearly hadn’t was Gina Farley, for as we started the long descent to civilisation, she was there in front of me. I’d passed her at the start so I couldn’t work out at the time just how she’d managed to be in front of not only myself but Neil as well. Not that I cared too much; by this time, my race was over. Careering down from the top of the hillside, something ‘gave’ in my left knee, a sharp pain which caused me to stop immediately as I realised something was seriously wrong. I attempted to carry on, and even scaled the five-feet high wall at which I’d seen Gina climb over ahead of me. Neil waited his turn to use the part of the wall with foot rests, whereas I, in my haste, climbed it too, only to find myself plonked on top of barbed wire before levering myself down. I soldiered on, but the pain in my knee told me it was pointless exercise, and I ended up walking much of the remaining three miles back.

My knee had ceased up at this point. The last thing I wanted was to find myself perched on barbed wire on the top of a five-feet high wall.

Which was a pity, for that section was the most enjoyable, not least because it was, in the main, flat. Having reached the bottom of the hill, the runners took a gravel path then over a field before taking the bridge into the woods and making the run for home along the trail that ran parallel to the river. Neil, who had passed me twice already in the race, overtook me a third time on the field and would be second Puma home, Diane by this time well ahead of him. For Diane, someone who’s been out of action for quite some time, the race was a triumph of sorts, not only #FPH by finishing 85th in 1:03:29, but also first home in her category Female 45, which comprised 62 runners. That seems quite impressive.

All smiles, Diane Cooper approaches the finish line, #FPH and first female home in her category.

Neil Coupe was next home, his frustrations at this self-christened ‘caveman running’ extending beyond the finish line. The published results not only had him down as representing Marsh Harriers, his time was recorded at 1:09:11, nearly six minutes after Diane, even though he saw her finishing in the distance. Neil’s Strava time was deemed a truer reflection, but subsequent correspondence with the race organisers have yet to iron out this discrepancy.

Katrina Wood missed the pre-race photo-shoot, but could still manage a smile after six gruelling miles.

Katrina Wood ran well to finish third Puma home, whilst Gina Farley, who ran in the colours of her first claim club Bradford & Airedale, finished in 1:11:10. Further down the list, I walked over the line having being passed by five other Pumas in the woods, obviously disappointed in the way things had panned out, but heartened by the concern I’d been shown by not only my fellow Pumas, but also runners I’m never likely to recognise ever again. I must have sounded like a well-worn record, though, trying to explain that my knee had gone rather than just being tired, although the young lady, with the right intentions, didn’t quite believe me when she grabbed hold of my hand whilst inviting me to run over the line with her.

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

85 Diane Cooper 1:03:29

175 Neil Coupe 1:09:11 (Strava 1:04:21)

200 Katrina Wood 1:09:39

201 Gina Farley 1:11:10

287 Shana Emmerson 1:17:41

381 Jo Coupe 1:25:03

463 Carolyn Brearley 1:32:02

484 Sara Britton 1:33:50

502 Johnny Meynell 1:36:36

551 Carla Sharp 1:42:54

577 Eileen O’Brien 1:46:18

659 runners.

It had been a testing run, the lengthy and frustrating hold-ups at the stiles not helped by the bitterness of the cold. No, it wasn’t a warm morning by any stretch of the imagination. So, to that end, each Puma was no doubt delighted to have reached the finish line and happy that they didn’t have to go any further. I mean, who would? Oh wait…


The field of 307 runners who lined up for the start of the ten-mile event included two Pumas, Jane Cole and Matt Newton, although, if the stories are to be believed, both not too sure as to how they ended up being there. Jane had contemplated running this event but not entered, only to take the place of the unfortunate Helen Jackson, who’d had to withdraw through injury. Jane thought Helen had put her name down for the 10k race, so must have been delighted in the end to find out that she was now running the race of her choice. As for Matt, nobody’s certain, but his tale of pressing the wrong event button when applying online is quite believable. Only him…

Start of the Ten Mile Race, Jane Cole deep in concentration with Matt Newton not far behind.

Their race started after the 10k runners were on their merry way, and once they’d set off, they did at least manage to get a decent view of the Abbey in all its splendour, as their route headed out in that direction – a nice flat section, too – before crossing the river and making the arduous ascent of the fields in the direction of Stead Dike. These runners, too, had their ‘stile breaks’, Jane claiming she had to wait “half an hour” at 7.3 miles. Still, as they climbed higher – the summit was reached at 1,034 feet – they got a better view, and, having started the decent, and at around half way, they picked up the route of the 10k race, so they still had the pleasure of the shut gate and the five-feet high wall and queues.

“There were incredible scenes today as three-hundred runners arrived en mass to cross a bridge.” Matt Newton’s turn will come, he’s only waited fifteen minutes.

Matt Newton was the first of the pair home, finishing 33rd, whilst Jane was some fourteen minutes behind.

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

33 Matt Newton 1:40:38

72 Jane Cole 1:54:21

307 runners.

After everyone had picked up their goody bag and novelty medal (one that Mark Brook could only look at in envy), we all reconvened in the Pavilion Café to warm ourselves through. Later, the organisers, while pleased with the fact that they managed to set off a total of 1,370 runners in four different events within eight minutes, later admitted there were faults, particularly with the 10k race. They also gave credit to all the marshals, some of whom had found themselves shivering in the cold for up to five hours. This, however, cut no ice with one or two of our runners. Neil Coupe, having been given a finishing time some five minutes slower than he’d run, demands a refund, whilst Sara Britton claims she’d gladly go back – but only to walk the dogs.

Who’d be a race organiser, eh? (The Coley Canter is on Saturday, 30 December, btw).

Leeds Abbey Dash 2017

Leeds Abbey Dash,

Sunday, 5 November, 2017.

There was something rather eye-catching among the several thousand runners meandering up and down Kirkstall Road for this year’s Abbey Dash; the throng was awash with yellow, red and black, the colours of the Northowram Pumas who had turned out in force for this event. You’d think they were taking over. But don’t think this was any accident. Au contraire; the planning had actually been meticulous in the extreme and, in fact, had taken several months.

Pumas on the bus ready for the off. This scene drew comparisons with a similar image taken from the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie. Well, for some of these Pumas, it was a mystery tour of sorts.

Strategist Ian Marshall had whipped up his troops into shape. Regular attendees at Monday and Wednesday training nights would see how these ‘Abbey Dashers’ (as they became affectionately known) had grown in number and had risen to the challenge that would ultimately see them complete an organised 10k race, many for the first time. Training runs had lengthened over the weeks, and as the day drew nearer, Ian had managed to authenticate the conditions by throwing in a water station at Wibsey halfway around a six-mile route he’d drawn up. Of course, with the group being as large as it was – sometimes there were more than forty pounding the streets of Northowram and beyond – Ian had to call upon a willing body of helpers to assist, and to that end, Alison Shooter, Paul Hopkinson, Laura Fairbank, Laura Hattersley, Peter Reason and Simon Wilkinson deserve a mention.

Ready to nail the Abbey Dash is Emma James.

On the eve of the run, Ian drafted up a check-list for each and every runner, then ended with the cautionary advice that all runners should prepare for the race itself by keeping away from nightclubs. And to ensure they observed this, Ian thus found himself having to trawl places such as Yates’, the Roxy and the Smokehouse (not necessarily in that order) on Saturday night. Just to be sure.

To transport the runners to Leeds, the club hired a coach and having met up at the club, by 7.45 most of the runners had jumped on board like eager children on a school outing. Pleasantly, the Pumas lot were better behaved. The radio wasn’t working, so there was no pre-race motivational music, and the only song to be heard was the chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ which everyone sang to Sharon Reason. She wasn’t divulging her age, and the six candles on the cake she was later presented with didn’t offer any clues (although Neil Coupe did suggest each candle represented ten years). Of the runners on the bus, a show of hands revealed nineteen were running their first 10k.

In Leeds, the coach party met up with other Pumas who’d gleefully made their own way there, and at the last count, there was a staggering total of sixty-five Pumas shuffling into the respective starting pens, each one buzzing like bees around the honey pot, and looking much the same. It’s a testimony to how far this club has grown, and how everyone just seems to really enjoy it.

The photographer didn’t have a wide-angled lens to get everyone in, so he had to back out into the road to get everybody on, almost getting run over. But the trouble was worth it for this shot of all the Pumas who’d disembarked the bus.

Of course, there were seasoned Puma runners taking part in the race, some willing to lend a hand (or legs) by acting as pacers to help some of the Abbey Dashers achieve their personal goals. Here, we had Matt Newton (fifty minutes), Peter Reason (55), Neil Coupe (60), Alison Shooter (65), Laura Fairbank (75), Laura Hattersley (85), and, of course, floater Ian Marshall himself, each pacer hoping to adhere to the rule of the old Trumpton clock; steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly. Except Matt Newton.

There was a great deal of hanging around before the runners were unleashed, and it wasn’t as if it was a particularly warm morning, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Still, unlike the boys from the press, at least the runners would get to warm up once they were on their way. The sun did put in an appearance but it was only half-hearted, though that’s something that can’t be labelled at our runners, many of whom, if not running 10k for the first time, managed to slash seconds and minutes off their previous best times.

So many pre-race selfies. Who’s on this one? Why, if it isn’t Mr Motivator Ian Marshall with (from left) Carolyn Brearley, Louise Heath, Simone Brook, Nichola Mathieson and Kelly Smith.

The Abbey Dash is what’s considered a fast route. Starting from Wellington Street, the runners headed straight up the A65, turning around at the 5k point at the entrance to the Abbey House Museum and in the shadows of the ruined Kirkstall Abbey itself. The route then headed back down the A65, veering off left to take up the A58 for the last half mile, and finishing on the Headrow in front of City Hall.

Capturing the atmosphere inside the race pens, this selfie features Louise Smith, Alison Shooter, Helen Doyle, Tamara Gibson and Melanie Meleschko.

The elite and sub-fifty runners were off on time at 9.30am, and when they’d all past through the starting gates, the rest of the field, which had sifted down, were released and in time everyone was on their way. By the time the Abbey Dash was over, 8,890 runners had passed over the finish line.

Many of those at the back of the pack had only just reached the 1k mark, close to fire station, when the leading runners appeared down the other side of the A65 on their final stretch. They were led home by Sam Stabley of Wreake and Soar Valley, and he finished in 29 minutes thirteen seconds. First female home was Eilisha McColgan (daughter of former 10,000m World Champion and Olympic medallist Liz McColgan) who finished in 32:05, a course record for a woman.

This 50-minute pacer is Matt Newton. But he has a secret – he’s going to go much faster. At the moment, only Jane Cole can keep up.

For any race, there was to be #FPH, and here – as if anyone was surprised – it was Tim Brook. He’d gone sub-forty minutes at the Kirkwood Hospice two months earlier and was heard to say before the race that he was hoping to go below thirty-nine minutes. He not only managed this with consummate ease, but literally smashed this target by finishing in under 38 minutes – just for good measure. And so a trend was set as personal bests literally tumbled.

Laura Fairbank happily chats away to Lisa Harrison as they make their way up Kirkstall Road. Well, it takes her mind off the race.

Paul and Jenny Hopkinson – in that order – were running under the Halifax Harriers banner once more, but Paul has given much to the Abbey Dashers over the past few months he could easily qualify as a Puma. They were next past the post – six seconds apart if the chip times are to be believed. Then came Kirsty Edwards, first female Puma, in a ground-breaking time of 47:18. Tom O’Reilly managed to beat the 48-minute barrier, then came Matt Newton with his charges. Matt was meant to be pacing at fifty minutes, but swayed along by the runners around him and the support from the side-lines, he not only went around in 47:44, he also managed to help Jane Cole and Paul Bottomley to times they could hitherto only have dreamed of. Jane crossed the line with Matt, whilst Paul, on the brink of exhaustion, was just seven seconds behind. They both paid tribute to Matt and his pacing, with Jane saying, “It was absolutely fantastic! A massive thank you to all the pacers who forfeited their own time to help the rest of us out! You all rock!” Glenn Ackroyd had much to owe Matt as well. He’d kept him in sight for much of the time on the way to PB of 49:45. He was cock-a-hoop, and had he been allowed to shout it from the City Hall rooftop, he doubtless would have done. His reaction was to rant in the manner of Norwegian commentator Bjørge Lillelien following his side’s World Cup qualifier victory over England in 1981: “Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher…are you watching?!” Glenn stopped short of saying, “Your boys took a hell of a beating” but his previous time over 10k of 53:05 certainly did.

Happy to be back. Jo Clay’s smile says it all.

Finishing over four hundred places behind Glenn was Jon Ding. But don’t be fooled by this; evidently, Jon had started much further back in the pens and had therefore taken some time to cross the start line which activated his chip. Once he’d got going, he waltzed around the course and was fourth fastest Puma in a time of 46:29, easily his best-ever. Similarly, Andrew Mellor finished in 51:14, a whole five minutes faster than last year’s effort. Andrew has been continually chipping seconds off his 10k times, but his time here was clearly a personal best for him. Pity that his lengthy grey socks that almost reached his knees became such a talking point; one wonders if he’d got them for another occasion, but then again Andrew is doing the Amsterdam trip next February.

Laura Hattersley keeps an eye on the Pumas in front of her.

Jo Clay and Dawn Higgins were both very satisfied with their runs. Jo’s been out of action for quite some time and had done so very little training of late, so she was more than happy with her time of 52:10. And Dawn, running in her first-ever race at this distance, was delighted to have run 52:36 and put it down to the training she’s been doing with the Pumas. “I’m so glad I joined,” she smiled, and praised everyone for all their help and encouragement.

Peter Reason leads Jodie Knowles and Claire Ramsbottom into the unknown – two personal bests.

Pacer Peter Reason helped guide Claire Ramsbottom and Jodie Knowles to sub 53-minute times. Claire was “over the moon” with her time, and Jodie claimed she would never have kept that sort of pace running on her own. Peter helped both Claire and Jodie to personal bests – of course. Afterwards, Jodie said, “Brilliant outing today, thank you to everyone who made it happen. This is what being part of Pumas is all about.” Also dipping below 53 minutes was Gina Farley, running this distance for only the second time. She ran a superb race and was “well happy” with her time which was a new record for her.

And what of Mark Brook? He’s setting new records every time he goes out, which at the moment appears to be every week. Having set a PB at the Bradford City Runs just seven days earlier, who’d have thought he would have gone even faster so soon? Don’t underestimate this kid; anyone who saw him charging past other runners in the dash for the line would think he does this for a living (actually, he almost does). His image was but a blur on film, and he knocked nearly half a minute off his Bradford time.

Young Charlotte Reason has obviously warmed up and feels the need to take off her gloves.

And like Mark, Tiffany Lewis also ran at Bradford, albeit in the half marathon. No doubt she found the Abbey Dash a tad easier, and her ever-improving standards saw her clock 57:14, her fastest over this distance. Also cracking the 58-minute barrier was Bryonie King. She’d taken part in her first-ever race at Bradford the previous week, so this was her second. When asked how she felt upon completing the Dash, she replied, “Exhausted,” but was still all smiles. Not too far behind her was Sarah Firth, who had started the race with her friends Sunny Kanda and Mel Rainford. They both beat her to the finish line, but Sarah claims they’ll never beat her to the bar. Charlotte Reason was the youngest Puma in the race and she ran her fastest time over this distance to finish in 57:50. Also just managing to finish under 58 minutes was Nichola Mathieson, helped in no small way by Neil Coupe, who paced her round. She was quick to praise him, and added, “An amazing day with a fantastic club who all support each other. Well done everyone.” Carolyn Brearley, too, also set a PB over 10k, clocking 57:31, a time that she was clearly pleased with.

For those runners whose goal was to beat the one-hour mark, nine must have been particularly pleased. Emma James is beginning to look the part; why, she even painted her nails in the colours of the Pumas (but not the yellow!) especially for the occasion. She’s been adding Friday night runs to the Monday sessions and this paid off with a satisfying time of 58:05. Lisa Bennett completed her first ever 10k, and thanked partner Ian Evans for encouraging her and Ian Marshall for persevering with her. “I did what I set out to do – finish in under an hour,” she said afterwards. She came close to 58 minutes, actually, whilst also beating the hour mark with time to spare were other debutants Louise Smith and Katherine Scargill.  Katherine felt “chuffed” with her time and gave credit once more to the Pumas for getting her back into running. “It has done me the world of good both mentally and physically,” she said.

Skip to it. #FPH Tim Brook is all smiles as he starts the last half mile towards the finish line.

Alison Wilkinson ran the Abbey Dash last year, but despite not being as fast this time around was still pleased to maintain the form that kept her under sixty minutes. And Jo Coupe was running a landmark event; her first under her newly married name! She ran faster last year, but still managed a sub-sixty minute this time. As did Shana Emmerson; she went under 54 minutes a year ago and went around here in 58:46. However, she was still upbeat: “Not my best time, but happy to finish in under an hour,” she admitted, before adding “It’s the furthest I’ve run in a while!” She’s also recently been holidaying in Portugal, so perhaps hadn’t re-acclimatised! Adele Speight was the last of the Pumas to dip under the hour-mark, and she had a word or two for her running colleagues, saying “Thanks again Ian for your support and to everybody for making me feel welcome. I love running with the Pumas!” But spare a thought for Christine Baines and what might have been; just another foot quicker and she too would have just gone under that magic hour. Instead, she finished dead on sixty minutes. It’s still a great time, though, and if she’d been looking to get close to the hour, it could at least be said that she timed it to perfection!

There were several Pumas whose next aim is surely to run under that mark, for they came pretty close here. Once his partner Lisa Bennett had left him en route, Ian Evans encouraged Cathy Heptinstall, and she finished just eight seconds over the hour. She was full of praise, though, for all the help she’s had since joining the Pumas, saying, “Thank you Pumas, had a great day, couldn’t have done it without all the training and commitment from all the leaders.” Kelly Smith, who’s been coming on steadily, helped herself to a personal best over this distance and was quick to praise everyone for the whole day, saying, “The day was super organised, thank you to all the run leaders as they all provide encouragement and support. I’m proud to be a Puma.” Meanwhile, Simone Brook and Louise Heath kept each other company throughout as they both completed their first-ever 10k races. Both were delighted with their times, and had no ill-effects. Said Louise, “Well, I’ve done my first 10k and surprisingly I feel ok!”

Coming through. That’s Tiffany Lewis as she approaches the finish line.

Injury had prevented Helen Doyle from taking part in last year’s Abbey Dash, but back fighting fit, she completed it in 1:01:16 whilst raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. “Better late than never!” she quipped before adding, “I absolutely loved it.” Joanne Shaw wasn’t too far behind. When she first joined the Pumas, she wasn’t convinced she could run even half this distance, so to knock off a time of 1:01:30 was quite a performance, even if she did describe the experience as “painful”! And let’s not forget Stuart Thornton, who was running with the Pumas for the first time. He looked a figure totally focussed on the way out; and just as determined on the run for home.

The rose between two thorns fast approaching the finishing line is Sara Britton.

Three Pumas finished exactly on or came close to one hour three minutes. Sara Britton, Carly Dunnachie and Jess Wilson were separated by ninety-one places – but only three seconds apart! Whilst Richard Kennedy, a Puma for only a couple of months, completed the course in 1:03:55. “Thanks Ian et al. As a relative newbie it’s been great to progress from 5k Parkruns to 10k in a relatively short space of time. Definitely inspired to go for the next challenge,” said Richard after he finished.

Then there was the small gang that Alison Shooter paced around. Alison’s last outing was the Worksop Half Marathon two weeks earlier, so a distance such as this would pose no problem for her. I’m not sure if Tamara Gibson and Melanie Meleschko felt the same, but they were, nevertheless, grateful to Alison. Actually, Melanie’s major concerns about the Abbey Dash weren’t so much whether she’d manage to complete it or not, more the practical arrangements, such as the availability of toilets, losing everyone, forgetting where the bus was, missing the bus or even being sick on it on the way back! She was even concerned about smelling all sweaty and that. Well, Melanie, nobody noticed – or said anything, at least! – and just to make sure she didn’t get lost, Alison and Tamara got hold of her and they all crossed the line hand-in-hand.

We all stand together. Making sure Melanie doesn’t get left behind, Tamara and Alison keep hold of her.

It was nice to see Gill Holmes up and about ready to represent the Pumas once more; she has one Winter League race to her name. She finished in 1:04:44, exactly the same time that Lorna Ludlum recorded.  And it was a bit of a turn up for the books for Claire Crossley, who had been adamant that despite training with the Pumas, she wasn’t going to participate in any races. That is, until Caroline Malone realised that her holiday in New York clashed. What to do, eh? Get someone else to do it for you, which is how Claire found herself in the starting pens, and, to her credit, she completed the Dash in just over one hour and five minutes.


Rebecca Stanley and Philippa Denham ran round together, Rebecca knocking two minutes off the time she ran at Sheffield in September, whilst Philippa went slightly betterm, beating her own previous best by almost three minutes. She clearly enjoyed it all. “What a great day. I love being a Puma and all you run leaders are the best,” she exclaimed. Lisa Harrison admitted to feeling “nervous” pre-race, but cast any doubts aside to finish in 1 hour and six minutes, whilst for Sharon Reason, she was given a real birthday treat, being guided home by none other than Ian Marshall himself. It was indeed an honour for Sharon, as Ian’s blue shorts are rarely seen this side of Westercroft. And another of our run leaders, Laura Fairbank, acted as chaperone to young Katie Healey, who excelled herself to finish in 1:13:03. Katharine Barnett has completed the Great North Run dressed as a unicorn, so without drawing the attention to herself and being dragged over for a live BBC interview, she ran the full course without stopping, something of which impressed herself. She was another to praise those run leaders at the club, saying, “All credit to you and your amazing team. It’s you guys who draw us in, keep us motivated and make it worthwhile. You’re all fantastic.”

Andrew Mellor proudly wears his new T-shirt, and hopes it deflects from talking about his socks. “Mistakes were made,” he admitted.

Bringing the Pumas’ team home were those from the Beginners/Walking group, often led on a Monday evening by Laura Hattersley. Becky Jackson finished 1:10:36, whilst some ten minutes further back was the distinctive sight of Kathy Towers. Brett Swiffen and partner Rachel Calvert, with one eye on next year’s London Marathon, used the Abbey Dash to help get some mileage in, whilst Laura, herself, perhaps felt obliged to make sure all of her charges arrived back safely, and brought up the rear.

It really was an exceptional effort by everyone, and along those lines, a clearly proud Ian Marshall said, “Today has been a momentous day in the club’s history. When we set up the club [three years ago] never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be represented by approximately eighty runners across the junior and adult races. I am confident that this is the Pumas’ biggest turnout.” Ian went on to give thanks to several people who had helped out, including those race leaders who had perhaps sacrificed their own personal bests to help others achieve theirs. One of whom was Peter Reason, who spoke volumes, “Amazing day, amazing club. If anybody would have said what this year would bring, I wouldn’t have believed it. Had so much fun and met so many new friends at the club. Seeing you all finishing and getting PBs today was better than myself getting a PB. Here’s to the next achievement.” Hear, hear!

The morning didn’t end there, either. For those that were inclined, there was the retreat back to the club where butties were served up – huggins of them – by Jacky Midgley, Simon Wilkinson and their team – bacon, sausage, fried egg butties. Laura Fairbank considered it a result when she held out for one of everything. Tea and coffee went down well, as did the post-race banter. What other club looks after its runners like this?

Back at base, this motley crew happily pose despite being eager for breakfast.

And to those Pumas who ‘accidentally’ found themselves in more exotic or exciting climes such as New York and Milan, you don’t know what you were missing. Still, there’s always next year….

In most cases, the finishing positions of each Puma didn’t correspond with the times recorded; it all depended on where each runner started from and when each crossed the start line to activate their chip. But for the record, in order of how each crossed the finishing line, this is the complete list of Pumas’ positions and times;


520 Tim Brook 37:57

1465 Paul Hopkinson 44:21

1472 Jenny Hopkinson 44:26

1905 Kirsty Edwards 47:18

2022 Tom O’Reilly 47:54

2076 Matt Newton 47:44

2078 Jane Cole 47:44

2089 Paul Bottomley 47:51

2381 Glenn Ackroyd 49:45

2675 Johanne Clay 52:10

2708 Dawn Higgins 52:36

2815 Jon Ding 46:29

3280 Tiffany Lewis 57:14

3440 Andrew Mellor 51:14

3571 Gina Farley 52:54

4092 Peter Reason 52:20

4128 Claire Ramsbottom 52:29

4159 Jodie Knowles 52:38

4889 Joanne Coupe 59:06

4899 Bryonie King 57:25

5223 Sarah Firth 57:44

5290 Charlotte Reason 57:50

5541 Louise Smith 58:28

5625 Katherine Scargill 58:26

5651 Mark Brook 53:47

5770 Adele Speight 59:24

5897 Emma John-Baptiste 58:05

5976 Alison Wilkinson 58:48

6023 Helen Doyle 1:01:16

6103 Joanne Shaw 1:01:30

6249 Christine Baines 1:00:00

6294 Carolyn Brearley 57:31

6312 Sara Britton 1:03:01

6317 Neil Coupe 57:47

6328 Nichola Mathieson 57:49

6351 Carly Dunnachie 1:03:02

6390 Lisa Bennett 58:23

6403 Jess Wilson 1:03:00

6438 Shana Emmerson 58:46

6054 Stuart Thornton 1:01:11

6510 Tamara Gibson 1:04:19

6511 Alison Shooter 1:04:19

6512 Melanie Meleschko 1:04:19

6582 Gill Holmes 1:04:44

6674 Claire Crossley 1:05:05

6675 Ian Evans 1:00:12

6700 Cathy Heptinstall 1:00:08

6836 Louise Heath 1:00:49

6837 Simone Brook 1:00:48

6868 Richard Kennedy 1:03:55

6775 Kelly Smith 1:00:35

6981 Lorna Ludlam 1:04:44

7068 Rebecca Stanley 1:05:24

7072 Philippa Denham 1:05:26

7313 Sharon Reason 1:09:29

7316 Ian Marshall 1:09:30

7551 Lisa Harrison 1:06:01

7590 Katherine Barnett 1:09:13

7961 Laura Fairbank 1:10:25

7962 Katie Healey 1:13:03

8106 Rebecca Jackson 1:10:36

8653 Kathy Towers 1:20:46

8709 Rachel Calvert 1:23:31

8711 Brett Swiffen 1:23:32

8864 Laura Hattersley 1:36:05


Junior Abbey Dash

The 10k Abbey Dash was preceded by the Juniors’ 2k race, which took the runners up the A65 as far as the fire station, then back up to the finish on the Headrow. Northowram Pumas were represented by fifteen runners, one of whom, eight-year-old Elizabeth Lyons, was willing to give us her take on the experience:

“On a cold November morning, fifteen Pumas set off to do the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash.  We did the warm-up and then all of us set off.  It was great fun racing against all of my friends and seeing if I could beat my time. We did a lap and then everyone finished at the Town Hall, collected their chocolate bar, medal, Abbey Dash T-shirt and then lined up to go home.  I beat my target and did the Dash in 10 minutes. I was very happy. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

Tim Brook and partner Lisa Aspinall kept Mei-Lyn’s entry to the race a secret until the night before, so how thrilled she must have felt! It must have felt almost like Christmas, and I bet she hardly slept with the excitement of it all. Jude Kenny and Reuben Bartkiw, though finishing separately, recorded identical times and were the first two Pumas home.

Mei-Lyn Brook proudly shows off her medal after completing the Junior Abbey Dash.

Finishing positions and times;

40 Jude Kenny 7:32

49 Reuben Bartkiw 7:32

81 Freddie Baker 8:07

104 Olivia Bolton 8:39

106 Jessica Hughes 8:32

108 Amelie Baker 8:33

109 Thomas Horn 8:43

138 Amelia Jackson 9:06

147 Mei-Lyn Brook 9:15

150 Jeremy Bartkiw 9:17

151 Orlagh Kenny 9:25

175 Lana Brook 9:52

190 Elizabeth Lyons 10:04

200 Stanley Zlotowski 10:22

257 Sophie Hughes 13:09


Bradford City Runs 2017

Bradford City Runs,

Sunday, 29 October, 2017.

On Sunday, Bradford MDC hosted the sixth Bradford City Runs, a unique event which includes three races on one course. Here, one loop of 5k gives the runners the chance to view the city in all its glory as the course skirts the centre. But for those who couldn’t take it in first time around, then two laps, therefore 10k, might do for you. Here, Pumas’ very own Simon Wilkinson, Mark Brook and Bryonie King decided that this was the option that suited them. Tiffany Lewis, on the other hand, is someone who works in Bradford and therefore perhaps felt duty-bound to pay the city of her workplace full homage. She elected to run four laps (and a little bit more) to thus complete the half marathon event. Watching frustratingly from the side-lines was Wendy Hewitt. She’d registered to run the 10k but had to pull out due to illness.

Mark Brook, Tiffany Lewis and Simon Wilkinson pose pre-race. One of these runners will run more than twice as far as each of the other two. Can you work out who?

All three races started off simultaneously at 9.30am from Centenary Square, the route taking the runners up Thornton Road, left down Longside Lane, left into Shearbridge Road before picking up Great Horton Road and heading back towards the city centre, having circumnavigated the University of Bradford. Dropping down Morley Street, the route passes the Alhambra Theatre on the left and continues around the Magistrates Court along Princes Way, along Norfolk Gardens with City Hall on the left, then picking up Broadway, looping around the shopping centre and heading towards Little Germany and a slight climb via Well Street, Vicar Lane and Peckover Street. The route then heads back down towards the city centre, passing Bradford Cathedral on Church Bank, then continuing down Lower Kirkgate, into Hustlergate and Market Street and into Centenary Square to complete one circuit. Each route finishes with a three-quarter loop of City Park Mirror Pool and Fountain to finish beneath the Magistrates Court.

Mark and Simon capture the atmosphere on the start line with this all-important selfie.

The 10k event attracted the most interest – 416 runners as opposed to 287 running the 5k race – with Simon Wilkinson determined to achieve one of his targets for the year, that of completing this distance in under fifty minutes. Incredibly, he ran the first half of the race in 23:56 to give him a great chance, and though he slowed somewhat over the second circuit, he managed to finish in a personal best of 49 minutes 13. He was, of course, #FPH. A fantastic achievement, and clearly the sky’s the limit for this Puma. If he carries on like this, he’ll probably go beyond that, too!

Tiffany Lewis wades through the hoards of runners shortly into her race. At this point, there’s just about another thirteen miles to go.

Several weeks ago, Mark Brook completed the Cannonball Brighouse 10k in 54:52 on a course that was as flat as anyone could have expected. So it was always interesting to see how he’d fare on this Bradford circuit where there were slight climbs, a pull up to Little Germany but nifty downhill sections. Mark’s been coming on leaps and bounds, so it surprised no one who’s been following his progress to see him complete this course in an even quicker time of 54:15. Obviously he’s getting fitter and faster, though just what was behind this time we’re not quite sure. It could be that he was still on a high after attending a Little Mix concert two nights earlier – or perhaps it’s the benefit of all that looping paying off. Asked how he felt after completing the two laps, Mark, a man of few words, replied, “Great.” He said the same when describing the Little Mix concert.

Simon passes the watering station and is ready to start his second circuit. He’s just run an impressive sub 24-minute first lap and will smash that fifty-minute barrier.

Bryonie King was not only representing the Pumas for the first time, or running her first 10k race. She was, so she tells me, running her first race EVER! Her time, therefore, of 1:01:59 is encouraging. Bryonie will have a good crack at lowering this next time out – which is this weekend when she, like scores of other Pumas, tackle the Abbey Dash.

Bryonie King returns to the finish line to proudly show off her medal having completed her first ever race.

There were 195 runners taking part in the Half Marathon, among them Tiffany Lewis, who’s willing to try any event over any type of terrain. Field and fountain, moor and mountain, she doesn’t care. Always with a smile, she was well acquainted with the sights and sounds of Bradford as she trooped around, coming home in what was, for her, a personal best of 2:09:36. She finished 151st and was also seventh in her age category. She felt the course was “hillier than expected” but at least her Strava showed an impressive increase in her elevation gain (996 feet!) – because she had to do the same circuit four times!

Tiffany heads towards the finish line, her smile telling you all you need to know; a half marathon personal best.

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

10k race –

80 Simon Wilkinson 49:13

169 Mark Brook 54:15

283 Bryonie King 1:01:59

Half Marathon –

151 Tiffany Lewis 2:09:36

Brighouse Running Festival 2017.

Brighouse Running Festival,

Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

Slipping out of his house at dusk was Northowram Puma Mark Brook to chance his luck at the inaugural Cannonball-organised Brighouse Running Festival. Many of us knew about this event, but with several runners away on duty in York and elsewhere, others not inspired by the route, or some feeling it was just too late in the day, Mark was the club’s sole representative at the event. Mind, he didn’t go alone. His pal Simon Hardaker may have been planning a relaxing Sunday evening watching ‘X-Factor’ until Mark knocked on his door, but Mark is, if nothing else, quite persuasive.

Good job there was street lighting, otherwise Mark and Simon Hardaker might never have found their way. Here they are posing before the race.

There were races held over 1k, 2k and 4k, but Mark proved he was no shirker by pitching himself into the 10k race which set off at 7.15pm, surely the latest start time of an organised run any Puma has taken part in. Setting off at the Calder Pub opposite Sainsbury’s in Brighouse, the route was a straightforward three sets of Wakefield Road to the motorway and back. The event boasted a course that was “fast, straight and very few turns,” with the “opportunity to race on a weekend evening on fully closed, well-lit roads.” So this was a new experience. But as someone pointed out, it looked like the middle of the night when he finished. Mark retorted: “It felt like the middle of the night when we set off!”

Mark’s been putting in the time in training and has come on leaps and bounds. He’s been running in groups and often found himself at the front, but he hasn’t left it there. Pleasing Ian Marshall no end, Mark’s become honed in the art of looping, something that is not only encouraging for the slightly slower runners, but also gets him to up his own mileage. And this is paying dividends.

It was in March that Mark competed in his last race at this distance, the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10k, when he finished in 1 hour 2:32. At Brighouse, he knocked over a whopping seven-a-half minutes off this time to finish in 54:52, coming home 112th out of 184 runners.

Mark proudly shows off his commemorative medal. This doesn’t reveal that he was #FPH but he’ll gladly tell you himself that he was.

And here’s a man whose glass is clearly half-full. Feeling proud as punch with his performance, and as the Pumas’ sole runner, Mark was quick to point out that this, in fact, made him #FPH. Who would beg to differ? After all, there was no other Puma there to offer another viewpoint.

Bramley 10k 2017

Bramley 10k,

Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

Competing in what was only her second 10k race on Sunday was Eileen O’Brien, who teamed up with her friend Anne Molloy of Sowerby Bridge Snails at Bramley, the race organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. Myself and Eileen – together with Gill Holmes – have something in common; we joined Northowram Pumas on the same evening, just over two years ago. Several years earlier Eileen had been a member of Stainland Harriers, but since retiring from work, had lapsed somewhat. In fact, it might be fair to say she’d given up. Her only (loose) association with any sort of sporting activity was lying on the settee reading ‘Runner’s World’. Eventually, Eileen decided to get involved once more and pitched up at Northowram Pumas where we bumped into each other. I remember the occasion well, as we were the first people to show up, and we wondered whether we’d got the right night or, indeed, the right venue.

Putting themselves in the frame are Eileen and her friend Anne Molly.

Eileen has been regularly taking part in our local parkruns, either as a runner or as a volunteer. She joined the Pumas as an improving athlete; at the time she was in the middle of achieving a total of TEN consecutive personal bests at Halifax parkrun, setting her fastest time there at 34:01 on 14 November 2015. But she went into this Bramley 10k having run even faster a week last Saturday when the Pumas made an excursion to Pontefract parkrun, where Eileen clocked 33:42.

The course at Bramley was two laps of 5k, therefore 10k in total, taking the runners around the historic town first mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It begins and finishes in Bramley Park, starting by running clockwise around one of the inside paths, then takes the runners out through the main gates and left onto the A657 Upper Town Street. At the junction with Broad Lane, the runners turn left and follow it for some distance before the road eventually meets Swinnow Lane. Swinging left, the route then runs into Stanningley Road and takes the runners back up to rejoin the A657 Upper Town Street and the long drive towards Bramley Park. The runners re-enter the park to continue their second lap. Having completed the circuit once more, the runners then enter Bramley Park for the finish.

Having set a parkrun personal best only eight days earlier, you could say Eileen went into this Bramley 10k on a bit of a high. So there was every chance that she might improve on her time of 1hr 14:24 set at the Kirklees 10k Challenge back in May. Eileen duly did, despite admitting that she felt ‘scared’ beforehand. There was no need to be; in conditions suited to this sort of distance, she smashed the Bramley course in 1hr 11:31, finishing 133rd out of 140 runners. For her part, Anne Molloy finished 115th in 1hr 02:11. The winner was Tim Davies of Leeds City in 34:44.

Having completed the race in a new PB, Eileen proudly shows off the fruits of her labour. Oh, and she also got a medal, see.

So Eileen knocks off over three minutes off her previous best 10k race. You can run a long way in three minutes, so her performance should not be understated. Well done!

Littleborough 10K 2017

Littleborough 10K,

Sunday, 1 October, 2017.

Hollingworth Lake is a popular tourist resort for locals and incumbents alike. It’s an ideal spot for picnics in summer, and with several hostelries dotted around the lake’s edge, what’s not to like? The sight of sailing boats drifting slowly by emanates an air of tranquillity. Asked to run around it twice at moderate pace, and suddenly the place doesn’t seem so appealing.

But that was the size of the task facing me when I signed up for this 10K race several weeks ago. Happily, I didn’t make the journey over the Pennines on my own. Matt Newton, with or without ankles, claimed he would always be ok to run it, and Tracey Ann was an eleventh hour addition to the entourage. If she was eleventh hour, then her significant other Jason Boults must have been close to throwing out time when he was coaxed into taking part.

The runners are gathering in the distance for the start of the race but they won’t go without us; Matt Newton, Tracey March and Johnny Meynell.

We were joined at race HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, by many familiar faces, as the Sowerby Bridge Snails were using this event as one of their club championship races. There were also a good few Halifax Harriers in attendance as well as a sprinkling of Stainland Harriers and Queensbury Running Club runners, so we weren’t completely overshadowed by our Lancastrian neighbours.

I’d run a couple of 5K races around here earlier this year but never over 10K, and the course, apparently, was much changed from last year. Starting opposite the train station at the bottom of Hollingworth Road, the route rose ever so gently – but for quite some way, I might add – before joining Lake Bank with Hollingworth Lake on our left. Keeping to the road, we ran parallel to the lake before making a swift left-hand turn immediately after The Beach public house to follow the path which circumnavigates the lake, following it anti-clockwise. All fairly flat and scenic, but perpetuated with puddles, dog walkers and horse riders. Eventually the path joins Rakewood Road, but before continuing along the lake side, the route diverted sharply to the right along Syke Road to do an out-and-back (swinging around a marshal, if you get my gist) before rejoining Rakewood Road. The route rejoins Lake Bank before beginning the second full circuit. Upon completion, and having made the swift detour up Syke Road and back, the route swings right to take the return journey along Hollingworth Road, and the welcome downhill stretch to the finish.

Myself, Matt, Tracey and Jason joined the runners at the start, although there was a sense that none of us should really have been there at all. I was suffering with stiff thighs after yesterday’s efforts at Pontefract parkrun, Matt was troubled with his dodgy ankles, Tracey has succumbed to, among other things, glutes (now recognised in these parts as the top sports injury, having overtaken the metatarsal that no one had ever heard of until David Beckham suffered broken one), whilst Jason had never attempted to run this sort of distance before, and but for Tracey’s insistence, would otherwise never have dreamt of it.

Pumas on tour, Hollingworth Lake and surrounding fields providing a scenic backdrop.

But there we were, making up a field of 249 runners, and at 10.00am, we were off. We swung immediately into Hollingworth Road and began the gentle ascent. There was never a question of me bombing off – I’m too long in the game for that lark – and soon, up alongside me, was Matt Newton, and I’d share more than half the race in his company. Matt had joked he’d be more likely be bringing up the rear, clearly this wasn’t going to happen. I did half expect him to kick on as normal, but perhaps his ankle really was hampering him.

We ran around Hollingworth Lake in each other’s company, though I’m pretty sure I had to put in the most effort. So much concentration did I put into my running that I hardly noticed Matt exchanging pleasantries with a marshal at the Pavilion Café where we veered a sharp right turn. Had I been more attentive I would have noticed the marshal was our friend Paul Hopkinson. I hope he didn’t think I was being rude! We meandered along the path before hitting Rakewood Road and shooting up Syke Road. We did a quick shifty around the marshal (presumably they’d run of cones) then rejoined Rakewood Road, just as Tracey appeared to start her out-and-back.

Tracey about to show a clean pair of heels.

As we continued along Lake Bank and turned onto the path around the lake for the second time we were joined – and overtaken – by a woman I recognised as one we’d spoken to at the Conservative Club when we collected our race numbers. She turned out to be Lisa Kempster, and she certainly upped the pace. Before I knew it, her and Matt were pulling away from me, though never too far away. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I kept them within my sights as we toured the lake on this second lap, once again omitting to acknowledge our friendly and supportive marshal at the café. We continued along Rakewood Road, took the down-and-back on Syke Lane, then shortly after passing the watering station (where, incidentally, Jenny Hopkinson was handing out refreshments) we were ushered right to take up Hollingworth Road on the return home. Familiar with this section, I had prepared myself for a grand downhill finish, and this is what I gave myself!

I got into my stride and before I knew it I was making up good ground on Matt and his companion Lisa, soon on their heels and then passing them as I sped up. Matt offered encouraging words, as did the runner I passed further along. “Go on lad,” he said, typifying the kind of spirit which regularly shows itself among athletes. I burst passed him, then had this horrible feeling that I’d gone too early; there was at least another quarter of a mile to go. This runner, who I later learned went by the name of Paul Gandy, a Meltham runner, was soon on my shoulders, but instead of racing me, was offering more encouraging words which I’ll never forget. “Go get that train, go get that train, don’t miss that train,” he urged me, and once again I lengthened my stride to pull away. “Good response,” I heard him say, but I still had some way to go. I kept it up for as long as I could but felt I couldn’t sustain it. Paul closed in on me again just as the finish line came into view. “Go on,” he shouted, and with that I gave one last kick for home. I finished exhausted and carried on walking to regain my breath, thus not having the chance to thank Paul for his encouragement.

The sprint for home. Not only was I not going to miss my train, at the rate I was going by then, I had a good chance of catching the previous one.

Behind me, Lisa Kempster must have shrugged off Matt in the sprint for the line, for she finished three seconds in front of him. But she was grateful to Matt because, not for the first time (I didn’t realise they’d encountered each other before) he’d helped her to a personal best at this distance (as he’d helped her to a PB several weeks ago at Halifax parkrun). Having regained my composure, I joined Matt then we walked back up the road to await Tracey coming in.

The finishing line’s in sight and Matt Newton is helping Lisa Kempster to a 10k personal best. She repays him by kicking away and beating him by three seconds!

Now from what I can gather, Jason had been quite some way in front of Tracey for much of the race; as they both appeared, she had now stolen a march (no pun intended) to lead him in. She finished in 55:10, a time which pleased her no end; at the beginning of the month Tracey had run the Kirkwood Hospice 10K (a slightly easier course, I’d say) in 56:41. One might say she’s putting herself back in the game.

Tracey gains the upper hand, overtaking Jason and winning their own personal dual. She doesn’t care, and not only that, Jason can pay for dinner.

The winner of the race was Ian Livesy of Barlick Fell Runners in 33:52.

Pumas’ (and Jason’s) finishing positions and times were;

136 Johnny Meynell 51:28

139 Matt Newton 51:36

165 Tracey March 55:10

168 Jason Boults 55:15


Action photos supplied by Jonathan Moon (Sowerby Bridge Snails).

Stainland Trail 10K 2017

Stainland Trail 10K,

Sunday, 24 September, 2017.

Sunday saw the staging of one of the toughest runs on the local circuit, the Stainland Trail 10k. Having taken part in this event last year, I can certainly vouch for that; the climbs, the mud, the slippery paths. Anybody who wants to do themselves justice would need to be on top of their game. Advice which needs to be well heeded.

This event was also happened to be the next round of the Northowram Pumas’ club championship, and as such, you’d expect anyone who’s anyone to have shown up to challenge for the points on offer. There was, however, over that weekend, a conflict of interests, with many Pumas attending the high society wedding of the year – that of Neil Coupe and Jo Allen the day before. The afternoon stretched into the evening, and the evening long into the night. If, by the end of it, many of our would-be runners weren’t in a comatose state, they were certainly rendered incapable.

During the course of the celebrations, some of those who otherwise would have gladly taken part in the Stainland Trail were already pulling out, but no one could really tell if that was just the drink talking. On the other hand, there were those who had paid to take part but had resigned themselves to missing out due to injury, and in this case Peter Reason (weak core and glutes) and Matt Newton (Tan House ankle) were particularly unfortunate. As, too, was Liz McDonnell, who, but for a domestic mishap, would gladly have been there.

So which of the Pumas did actually manage to make it? Well, giving an 8.00am social media rallying call was the tee-total Jane Cole, who appeared to be chomping at the bit. Why, you could almost imagine her jumping up and down on her bed with excitement, like a young child on Christmas morning. She was informed by Lisa Aspinall that Tim Brook was still snoring in his bed, though to be fair, he had only just got in. Incredibly, though, Tim dragged himself up, bemoaning the fact that the barmaids never know when to stop filling up his glass (because of the copious amounts he’d downed he was wisely advised not to breath out near anyone having a cigarette). Similarly, Luke Cranfield confounded the doubters, of which they were many, myself included. Around 8pm the previous evening, I’d had a brief conversation with him, and come to the conclusion that if Luke wasn’t ‘already gone’ by then, he was certainly ‘on his way’. He left his house in the morning without Ally Canning, who, having arrived home from the wedding party the same time as Luke, was only missing the Stainland race due to a convenient dodgy ankle.

Andrew Tudor, having missed out on all the celebrations, was a cert for the race; never fully fit these days, he shows real dedication to get up and drag himself around any course put in front of him – when there’s points up for grabs. Indeed, Andrew has taken part in all but two of the eleven club championship races, though never with the same set of body pieces.

And there was a fifth Puma on show. Here, making a special guest appearance, was Richard Ogden. Injured running in the Calderdale Way Relay last May, Richard married Jennifer in July and was last heard of living it up on his honeymoon in Mallorca. But he’d paid for the Stainland Trail months ago and not being able to get to the Pumas’ sessions, has been, word has it, pounding the streets solo, often undercover, to get himself in shape. Here’s a man who would willingly pay twenty quid in taxi fares so that he didn’t waste his £10 race entry fee.

So that’s the Pumas’ cast, what of the race itself? Well, this is one that starts and finishes at Stainland Recreation Ground, though what goes on in between I’ll perhaps leave to your imagination. The drop down towards Fall Spring Wood is fair enough, though treacherous near the bottom. The route then climbs west through the woods before coming out into fields. Next up is Milner Wood, where a tough climb awaits the runners. Then there’s Beestones Wood, which eventually brings the runners down to dry land at the Sonoco Recycling Plant and the welcome watering station. Veering right, the runners next take a trail path called Cray Lane and follow it around until it joins the tarmacked Stainland Dean, which rises steadily. The runners then turn a swift left to take up Berry Mill Lane, initially steep, following it around until entering Firth House Wood and continuing for some way along Crow Wood Lane and Dog Lane before circumnavigating Sonoco (where the watering station is there for anyone wanting a top-up) and starting the ascent homeward. Up through the fields, the route eventually picks up Beestonley Lane, and the runners climb back up the fields they’d come down earlier. By now, legs would be aching, and even though the finish line isn’t too far way, there is still much work to be done in order to get there. The route veers right, taking the perimeter of the fields, and then there is one last climb alongside Stainland Recreation Park before it enters the park at the top right hand corner. The runners then run three-quarters of the field clockwise before reaching the finishing line.

What a lovely view. This photo also includes Tim Brook on his way to being #FPH. He says that running on ten pints is tolerable, but eleven is just plain ridiculous.

The race was due to start at 10.00am, just enough time for one Puma to make one last desperate run for the gents. “You could hear him throwing up in the corner,” said one key eyewitness of Tim Brook, who, nevertheless, dusted himself down to help make up the field of 144 runners on the start line. And then they were off.

There’s no suggestion that this cow gave Luke Cranfield a helping nudge, although he probably needed one. Running 5K in a dress against running ten with a hangover is doubtless the better of the two evils.

According to Luke, both he and Tim “took it steady”, though Tim would probably have had to take his word for it because, according to him, the whole six-mile course was “a blur”. They still managed to keep among the leaders, with Tim just summoning up enough energy to pull away from Luke in the final stages to take the honour of #FPH and a credible seventh place. Luke was but one place behind him, just six seconds slower than his time of last year.

Richard Ogden on his way. Not seen in a Pumas vest since May, he was clearly glad to get his money’s worth.

Richard Ogden finished an uncomplicated 32nd, comfortably inside the hour mark, whilst some way behind him there was drama of sorts. Andrew Tudor was suffering badly with injury over the last half of the course, and in time was caught by a rapidly improving Jane Cole. Maybe they helped each other, but upon finishing, Andrew gave Jane credit for pushing him on when he was clearly struggling. Jane, modestly, returned the compliment, but had she had any more conviction about her she may just have caught the runner just one place ahead of her. Using some skulduggery, he pipped her by two seconds; had she beaten him she most definitely would have been shouting about it, for this was her very own marito, Piero Tozzi, a Baildon runner. Jane, in fact, despite being Pumas’ sole lady, was the ninth female home. Yep, she’s brutal alright.

Jane Cole has caught up Andrew Tudor (just behind) and will push him on to the finish line. But clearly here she has Piero in her sights and will get Andrew to help her chase him. She’s so brutal.
Andrew Tudor staggers through the stile obviously in great pain but showing that bulldog spirit which got our country through tough times; carry on regardless.

The race was won by Stainland Lions’ very own Gavin Mulholland in 41:18, over two minutes ahead of second placed Joe Crossfield of Halifax Harriers.

Injuries, illness and assorted mishaps apart, next year we could perhaps see a greater turnout, though the purists would say that this year Pumas more than doubled in appearance – yes, last year, only myself and Luke took part. But unless Mr and Mrs Coupe decide to renew their wedding vows twelve months hence, I would expect the numbers to at least reach double figures. All sober, too.

Pumas’ positions and finishing times;

7 Tim Brook 48:36

8 Luke Cranfield 48:58

32 Richard Ogden 57:05

70 Jane Cole 1hr 04:47

71 Andrew Tudor 1hr 04:49

144 runners.


Photos courtesy of Graham Teal.


Sheffield 10K Run For All 2017


Sunday, 23 September 2017.

Running somewhat under the radar was recent Pumas’ recruit Rebecca Stanley throwing herself headlong into the challenge of the Sheffield 10k, part of the Jane Tomlinson Run For All Series. This was her first run at this distance, though, I hasten to add, not necessarily one of her own making; she’d been entered into it by her friend’s husband as far back as last January. By April, Rebecca thought she’d better do something about it and so turned to the Pumas to get her moving. She started out with the Beginners’ run/walking group and put in as many shifts as she could, helped along by Ian Marshall, who’s encouraged her no end.

It wasn’t until as recently as 2 September that Rebecca ran her first parkrun at Brighouse, clocking 34:10. Two weeks later she returned, and showing obvious signs of improvement, knocked two minutes 44 seconds off her previous time to record a PB of 31:26. By then, she was working as hard as she could to give herself the best chance she could at today’s Sheffield 10k.

Rebecca feeling proud, ready to run her first race in Pumas’ colours.

This event was staged for the first time in October last year, attracting a field of over 3,200, with the route taking in the roads around Sheffield city centre. Starting and finishing at Arundel Gate, the runners follow the route along Charter Row and into Ecclesall Road, before skirting the edges of pretty Endcliffe Park as they make their way along Rustlings Road. At the end of this road, the runners almost double back on themselves to follow the route along Graham Road, reaching the halfway point just as they approach Riverdale Road. They then follow the route along Endcliffe Vale Road, close to the Botanical Gardens, then swing right down Brocco Bank before picking up Ecclesall Road once more and making the return journey for the last 3k and what the race organisers term “an exhilarating city centre finish”.

Come the day of the event, perhaps the timing of it could have been better. What I mean to say is, Rebecca might have been crying out for another week. Because…she went into it with that dreaded syndrome. An injury, no less. That’s right, she was suffering with a bad back, something sustained, Ian Marshall assures me, through work with her personal trainer, and not anything to do with Northowram Pumas. But, it was either give the Sheffield 10k a miss, or give it a go. Fortunately, she chose the latter option, and felt overjoyed when she completed it. So much so, that she rang our Ian to tell!

Rebecca had no pre-conceived ideas of what sort of time she was hoping for. In the end, she finished in 2,860th position out of a field of 3,744 runners, crossing the line flanked by two Dewsbury Road Runners. Her time was 1 hour 10:26, but her chip time was an even more satisfying 1 hour 07:26 (thus giving her a chip position of 2994).

All done. Rebecca has completed her first 10K and shows off her medal to prove it. As the song goes, “You can’t take that away from me.”

Afterwards, Rebecca paid tribute to her Puma colleagues, saying how nervous she had been initially when she joined the club, but now admitting it was the best thing she ever did. She’s on the long list (now running into three pages and almost as many buses) of runners wanting to take part in the Abbey Dash in November, a race run over the same distance. At the rate she’s going, she’s sure to better her time from Sheffield. We shall watch with interest.

Kirkwood Hospice 10K 2017


Leeds Road Sports Complex, Sunday, 3 September, 2017.

The latest event in the Northowram Pumas’ club championship calendar was held at Leeds Road Sports Complex, Huddersfield, the annual Kirkwood Hospice 10k, now in its tenth year. Last year, only four Pumas took part; this year the number had increased to ten, with Matt Newton being the only survivor. The Pumas’ team was split fifty-fifty, though not by design, with Tim Brook, Peter Reason, Simon Wilkinson and Johnny Meynell joining Matt making up the men’s team, while the women were represented by Helen Jackson, Shana Emmerson, Jodie Knowles, Charlotte Reason and Tracey March.

They all gathered in the car park a good hour before set-off time; with race numbers being collected by those who had pre-booked their places on-line in the club HQ, the others registered themselves, whilst Shana Emmerson went to swap the name of the unfortunate Jane Cole (injured) to her own, and almost completely managed it (they spelt it wrong).

Smiling Pumas pre-race – before the realisation that they weren’t there for fun.

By 10.10am, all the runners were out on the field trying to look as if they were actually enjoying a mass-group warm-up routine. Then they were directed to the starting line, all 269 runners, and at half past ten they were on their merry way.

The course, as in previous years, began with two laps of the playing fields (taking in about half a mile) before venturing out onto the A62 Leeds Road and after several hundred yards being directed left onto the canal. Heading back down from the direction in which they’d just come, with the playing fields on the left, the route carried for around a quarter of a mile before turning right, crossing the canal bridge then heading under the railway and veering left to take up the tarmacked path, the only ‘serious’ bit of climbing the route asked of the runners. The path continued for half a mile or so before (sub)merging into Aquamarine Drive. A left turn onto the more earthily named Red Doles Road, back under the railway line, the runners then swung a left to take up the return journey back towards the playing fields along the canal.

With the industrial estate on the runners’ right, and just prior to reaching the fields, the runners took a ninety-degree turn onto a tarmacked road that brought them back onto Leeds Road – the first lap completed. Required to negotiate the course twice, upon reaching this point the second time around, the runners then headed back into the sports complex, finishing by running three-quarters of the adjacent athletics track. Simple.

The Pumas’ start-line selfies are proving so popular, everyone else seemingly wants to be on one.

Right from the off, Tim Brook made a bolt for it, and was among the leaders throughout the race. By the time he’d done the two laps of the field he was lying sixth; passed by two, he overtook one and eventually finished seventh, a position which, in anyone’s book, was brilliant. Not only that, he went sub forty minutes for the first time over this distance; make no wonder this Puma was grinning for the rest of the day.

Keeping her eye on her Strava, that’s Charlotte Reason.

The positions of the Puma men went, in fact, to form, with Matt Newton, fuelled by Kopparberg and Sambuca shots from Demelza Bottomley’s fortieth party the night before, clocked an incredible 42:43 to finish nineteenth. His reaction of “I don’t know where that came from,” wasn’t entirely original, as he was saying the exact same thing just over twenty-four hours earlier when he ran a personal best 20:59 at Brighouse parkrun. Peter Reason was third home with a time which showed steadying improvement, whilst Simon Wilkinson, who overtook Johnny Meynell just around halfway, ran a consistent race to grab his own personal best over 10k.

Tim Brook charges to the line, seventh, sub forty minutes, #FPH and all that.

The Puma ladies were led home by Tracey March, and how good it was to see her back on the circuit. Jodie Knowles showed how far she’s come; her time of 57:13 was a marked improvement on her last 10k at the Helen Windsor event in July. In fact, she was nearly a minute and a half faster. Helen Jackson was relieved to keep her glute in one piece whilst Shana Emmerson managed to keep smiling all the way around, as she always does. Last for the Pumas, but certainly not least, was Charlotte Reason, who ensured all ten runners managed to finish inside the hour. She reckoned to have set her own personal best by one second, then bemoaned that her Strava – a gadget that is considered by those who use it to be as reliable as night follows day – had clocked the course longer than it should have been! A shout out, too, for the Hopkinsons, once again wearing the colours of Halifax Harriers. Paul Hopkinson finished 33rd in 45:18, while wife Jenny was just one place behind in 45:42.

Don’t you just love these before and after shots?

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

7 Tim Brook 39:52
19 Matt Newton 42:43
42 Peter Reason 46:56
71 Simon Wilkinson 50:21
85 Johnny Meynell 51:36
132 Tracey March 56:41
139 Jodie Knowles 57:13
146 Helen Jackson 57:30
166 Shana Emmerson 58:49
172 Charlotte Reason 59:26

269 runners.

Farsley Flyer 2017


Wednesday 9 August, 2017.

It was only last April that relatively new Puma Cathy Heptinstall ran her first 10k race. To prove she’s making great strides, last Wednesday, she decided to do another, solo, in the Farsley Flyer Trail Race. And all hats off to her for giving it a go. But for those of you who know her well, they weren’t seriously worried whether Cathy would manage the multi-terrain six-and-a-half mile route, but more concerned as to whether she’d actually manage to find the venue. She seriously was concerned about that.

The Farsley Flyer Trail Race is a little known event that’s worked its way onto the running circuit for the first time; the organisers are trying to seek more publicity so that it gains popularity. Most of this is being done by word of mouth but on the evidence of the number of local clubs who were represented, the word is certainly getting out there.

The Farsley Flyers who organise this race have introduced a concept previously unknown to this scribe; no mass start meaning those who may be ‘running late’ can turn up anytime between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. As everyone is ‘chipped’ times and positions will later be ironed out. A further incentive to enter this race are the cakes and biscuits awaiting the finishers, as well as £2 off a drink in the local hostelry The Fleece, on Town Street.

Some of the runners pre-race looking relaxed. What’s the rush, anyway?

The route consists of mainly country lanes, trails and fields. A few of the trail sections were slightly overgrown, and just for good measure, there was a section that was muddy due to the recent rain. Though on the evening, the weather was kind and the sun stayed out.

Having navigated her way to Farsley, Cathy found herself near the front at the start, crossing the start line at 18:30.15 once the runners had been given the green light to go. I hasten to add at this point that Cathy wasn’t being stalked; these ‘out’ and ‘in’ times are recorded on the results sheet.

Cathy in recent action at Brighouse.

The route, hitherto kept a secret from all competitors except those who had reccied the course during the week, had a climb of 200 metres, but Cathy negotiated it well and finished just after five past eight, 107th out of 153 runners in a time of 1hr 35:20. The winner of the event was Ben Coldwell in 53:36, whilst the honour of the first Farsley Flyer home fell to James Crabtree, who finished sixteenth.

Evidently, from the feedback from runners who took part, there is a good chance that we’ll see more competitors next year. “A great event – well organised, great route and delicious cakes. Would definitely run future races,” was one typical glowing review. Oliver Gregory of the Flyers responded by saying, “Farsley Flyers loved every minute of hosting their first race, hope you all enjoyed the challenging route.” Their first race, maybe, but I’d say definitely not their last. Next year, I expect Cathy to be accompanied by several of her Puma friends.