Records were tumbling left, right and centre amongst the Northowram Pumas when they took on the Dewsbury 10k on Sunday. This flat out-and-back course is recommended for those looking for a personal best, but by the look of some of the times here, they actually took the term ‘smashed it’ to another level.
The Pumas’ On Tour Express was called upon once more, with resident mad-cap driver Neil Coupe making sure the entourage arrived safely. All-told, there were eighteen Pumas taking part; the unfortunate Debbie Fox, who ran this event last year and subsequently introduced us to the charms of Big T’s Enchanted Café for breakfast, was a last minute withdrawal, whilst others who pulled out earlier included Glenn Ackroyd, Gill Holmes and cruel flu-victim Shana Emmerson, but their places were filled by others. Claire Ramsbottom hadn’t intended running but when her friend Sonia Hobman found herself unable to make it, our Claire happily stepped in.
There were over one thousand two hundred runners who lined up for the 9.00am start, but they set off on time in near perfect running conditions, heading out on the A652 Bradford Road for three miles, before turning around and heading back to the Dewsbury town centre and the finish line. Almost exactly the same as in previous years, if we overlook the over-zealous officials who had us run an extra two hundred metres last year.
As with the Abbey Dash, this was all about the time, and the Pumas truly excelled themselves. Taking the honours of #FPH was Luke Cranfield, finishing 76th in an incredible time of 36:24, a performance made all the more remarkable given that up until zero hour he was undecided whether or not to bother running, not to mention that fact that he’d never run below forty minutes before either! Tim Brook may have been disappointed to have followed him home, some twelve places behind, but his time of 36:43 was a personal best for him, too, and by some way. Back in November he ran the Abbey Dash in what was then his fastest time of 37:57. So he could be satisfied, himself, really.
Rick Ralph was third Puma home, knocking a sizeable chunk off his previous best, whilst behind him was Jude Roberts, feeling totally giddy after going sub-forty minutes for the first time. Also raising – or lowering – his own bar was Matt Newton, coming home in 41:27, while Kirsty Edwards was the first female Puma home, clocking 44:42, an astonishing time, over 2 ½ minutes faster than she ran at the Abbey Dash. Peter Reason was happy with his time of 46:26, whilst Simon Wilkinson used up every last fibre of energy to pip Neil Coupe on the line, although he may not have done had Neil not been running on a self-diagnosed ‘half-a-lung’, nor had an earlier shoe lace malfunction.
Ian Evans continued his rapidly improving form. At the Abbey Dash he completed the 10k course in just over an hour; at Dewsbury he showed just what can be done with sheer hard work and dedication by finishing in 47:21, some thirteen minutes faster. There was also a personal best for Sarah Haigh, whilst Claire Ramsbottom was beside herself after running her first-ever sub fifty. As, too, was Jodie Knowles, who knocked over three minutes off her previous best, whilst young Charlotte Reason was also delighted with her fastest-ever time. And a special word must be reserved for Dawn Higgins, who took part despite a niggling knee injury. She still managed to set her fastest time over 10k despite running on one leg. I must try it myself sometime.
Completing Pumas’ set were Helen Jackson, happily getting back into the swing of things after her own injury problems and satisfied with a time of 54:49, and Anna Ralph, for though she may have been the last team member home, her time of 55:15 represented her own personal best, being a minute and half faster than at the Jane Tomlinson Run For All event last July.
When all had been safely gathered in, and times had been digested, scrutinised and then compared like-for-like, almost in the manner of children with their school reports, attention was then diverted to the race’s biggest talking point. The finishers’ T-shirt. I know much hard work goes into all the planning of these events, and it wouldn’t be right for me to belittle the organisers, but it does seem that whoever designed the logo that emblazoned the front of the shirts was either in a very churlish mood, or was just plain naive. Either way, it grabbed all the headlines for the wrong reasons, but who knows, maybe record entries next year?
Over the course of the weekend, the group which is affectionately known as It’s Grim Up North, staged their latest extravaganza. Termed ‘The Bolton Abbey Trail Running Festival’ it was held over two days, with the shorter distances reserved for the Saturday, and the longer events – half-marathon, marathon and Ultra (32 miles) races – set for Sunday.
The event caught the eye of two of our Pumas, Andrew Mellor and his good friend Rachael Hawkins, the pair perhaps being drawn to the phrase ‘festival’. This normally lends itself to the thought of lights, singing and dancing, and while Rachael has been known to skip a light fandango and Andrew has recently been seen doing cartwheels across the floor, I’m not sure this is the sort of thing the organisers were looking for.
Nevertheless, Andrew and Rachael were so mad keen for this that they set off on Saturday at the crack of dawn, either to make a full day of it, or perhaps just to make sure they got a car parking spot. Either way, they arrived at Bolton Abbey before the bread man and duly soaked up everything while the atmosphere gradually built to a crescendo as they were called to order.
There were two main events on the Saturday, the 5k and the obviously longer 10k, which is what Andrew and Rachael had put themselves down for. As the organisers had pre-warned, it wasn’t one for the faint-hearted (which trail races are these days?), offering, among other delights, tough hills, mud, steep descents, and if that wasn’t enough, then there were always the freakish fiends lurking in the woods, if folklore is to be believed that is. Apparently, an apparition of an Augustan monk in a brown robe has been witnessed on many occasions walking through the rectory towards the ruined abbey, whilst along the Bolton Strid, one of the most fearsome stretches of water in the British Isles, there’s the legendary tale of the lovers who tried to leap across the waters, only to be drowned. Passers-by – and Festival runners, perhaps – may hear to this day the girl’s desperate cries as she went under. And finally, there’s the Barguest of Troller’s Gill, a gigantic long haired hound from hell, whose eyes are like red saucers and razor sharp teeth which drip with blood.
None of the 128 runners seemed put off at all by any or all of the above, and despite the nasty cold weather which saw rain turn to sleet, they set off on their merry way. It was a two-lapped course beginning on the other side of the bridge from the café and, unsurprisingly, Andrew and Rachael were never too far from each other. The trail took them up through the woods following the path, down the steps across the river bridge, out into muddy fields towards Bolton Abbey itself, around the abbey, following the road round before descending steps into more mud, through the car park and back to the café, to start the second lap.
Andrew was destined to finish some twenty-six seconds ahead of Rachael, coming home 53rd in 1:01:32. Of the event, he said, “It was a nice change of scenery, very cold and wet, but I would do it again.” Meanwhile, Rachael, who finished two places behind him, had a dramatic tale to tell of her own from the closing stages of the race. Rachael, pray tell us what happened? “Ok, so today whilst wearing my Pumas vest, I was on the home stretch, running for my life, when I heard someone running behind me. I thought ‘Not a chance you’re beating me, mate!’ I shouted to some people watching, ‘Is he on my tail?’ to which they replied ‘Yes!’, so I upped my game and ran quicker, got to a gate and opened it, then shut it behind me really quickly so he had to stop and open it himself.” Skulduggery at its best. You could almost imagine Pumas’ chairman Andy Haslam looking out from his broadsheet and beaming, “That’s ma girl.” With adrenalin flowing, Rachael would not be caught and finished in 1:01:58.
Upon finishing, the runners received their goodie bag which included a bottle of King Goblin, a Mars Bar (which Rachael ever so kindly gave to a frozen crying little boy stood with his dad taking photos) and a bright orange T-shirt, though Andrew and Rachael left the Bolton Abbey estate medal-less, with the words from the organisers that “they’ll be in the post” ringing in their ears.
Meanwhile, no one’s really sure who Rachael’s would-be pursuer was – apparently he’s keen to join the Pumas – though word has it (and whisper this quietly to Rachael) that it may just have been the Barguest of Troller’s Gill.
Ploughing a lone furrow at the Meltham Tough 10k on Sunday was Pumas’ very own Jude Roberts. He was a brave man, indeed, for Meltham Harriers, who stage the race, pride themselves in calling it “the toughest 10k in town”. It’s one not for the faint-hearted, as it incorporates quite a few challenging hills, and situated out in the sticks, is susceptible to the elements. In 2014 they had two cases of hypothermia!
Indeed, high winds and pelting rain were a feature of this race and if that wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s always the odd injury that might get you. True; one female runner was reliant on the Colne Valley Mountain Rescue team to get her back to base after her calf muscle gave out shortly into the race.
Happily for Jude, he had no such problems and ran a strong race, no doubt spurred on by his two girls who’d made him feel extra special by making their own banner just for dad. How could he not run well when they’d gone to so much trouble?!
The rain and sleet arrived just in time for the 9.30am start, but Jude was soon amongst the front runners as the field left the Meltham Community Sports Centre for the initial downhill stretch which helped break the runners in. In essence, the route circumnavigates the Blackmoorfoot Reservoir, starting by heading up Broadlands Road to Helm Road, then taking up in Harrison Lane, Arborary Lane and Nopper Lane before taking a sharp left turn into Blackmoorfoot Road. This runs into Holt Head Road then the route swings around into Varley Road, then onto B6107 Slaithwaite Road for a long stretch that climbs to the highest point at 951 feet before the steep drop of about a mile towards the roundabout close to Morrisons supermarket. Here, you could see the runners – Jude amongst them – going hell for leather as they charged downhill, but then there’s one final climb to make, up the appropriately named Mean Lane which heads back towards the finish line at the Community Centre.
The race was won by Scott Hinchcliffe of the Penistone Footpath Runners in 35:16, although Jude wasn’t too far behind, coming home in 42:52 to finish 28th out of 327 finishers. “Got to be happy with that,” he beamed afterwards, and the general feeling amongst others was that so he should be!
Hats off to Jodie Knowles, who, having entered the Detroit Turkey Trot*, decided to make a holiday of it. Or was it the other way round? Either way, it does help if you’ve got family out there.
Jodie was one of 4,744 runners who lined up at 7.30am just a short hop from the Cobo Center [sic], in freezing conditions I might add, on Grisworld, 54ft 10in south of light pole on the South/East corner of Fort Street, for the start of the 10k race.
The event marking Thanksgiving Day is a family tradition that has been held in downtown Detroit for the past thirty-four years. There are a variety of races, with a 5k and a one-mile race to go alongside the 10k that Jodie’d put her name down for, but the occasion is much more than that. Here, thousands of participants dress in costumes for the event which is often declared “The Parade before The Parade”, where they “frolic by the largest spectator crowd in Michigan”.
I’ll understand many of you won’t be familiar with the route, or Detroit itself for that matter, but for the purists, the course runs northwards up Woodward Avenue, then swings back down at West Kirby, turning right into West Adams Street, then picking up Washington Boulevard, crossing Michigan Avenue, the turning right into West Fort Street. The route then continues for some way before looping back along 8th Street and Cabacier Street, picking up Jefferson Avenue, then veering off right onto Steve Yzerman Drive, running parallel with the Detroit River before finishing eight feet west of second light pole west of Cobo Center overhang. Got it?
The Detroit Turkey Trot has grown considerably over the years to the point where it’s almost impossible to run in the early stages, and this obviously impacted on runners’ finishing times. Jodie’s been lowering her 10k times over the past year, and at the Abbey Dash earlier this month she ran 52:38. Her time in Detroit of 55:01 was obviously slower (she’d have run faster had it not been for those pesky kids) but was still more favourable than her recorded times at the Helen Windsor in July and the Kirkwood Hospice in August. And what of her other stats? 425th female out of 2,297, and even more impressive, 65th in her age range Female 30-34 of 319 runners. Still something to shout about, I’d say.
Showered and changed, a slightly warmer Jodie then enjoyed the Thanksgiving Parade, and rounded off the day by attending the Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings at the Ford Field Stadium (for those with a passing interest by, Detroit lost their first game of the season under new head coach Jim Caldwell 30-23). As for the Turkey Trot, the race winner was Stephen Biebelhausen from Lake Orion in 32:12. Should he ever pop up at any of our local parkruns, remember the name.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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…
TEN MILE RACE
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…
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).