Category Archives: Competitive Running

Sowerby Bridge Flat Caps 10K

By Dawn Higgins

On a weekend where the Northowram Pumas were represented at many events throughout the North, this Puma chose to stay close to home and run the Sowerby Bridge Flat Caps 10k Race. Now in its second year, this race was described as ‘a charity 10k for any ability’, an ‘undulating 10k road race, chip timed, measured and fully marshalled course’ with all participants receiving a bespoke medal. With a 10.30start, the promise of a medal and some stunning views, I was in!

With hindsight, I don’t really think that this was as full and frank description of the route as I (and many fellow runners) would have liked. I’d driven a recce of the route and let’s just say that ‘undulating’ really doesn’t give this race justice. With over 1000 feet of climbing, all in the first half, it’s a bit like the Overgate route, but even more harsh!

Starting off from Snails HQ (Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club on Walton Street), it was a well organised and civilised start to proceedings. A quick lap around the field before we ascended up the paths through Dixie Woods, a right turn at the top started the further ascent up Sowerby New Road. After a mile of solid climbing, at the Church Stile Inn we turned right down Pinfold Lane to  enjoy some spectacular scenery, looking out towards Hebden and beyond. Heading out to Boulderclough, we turned up Shield Hall Lane, for an absolute ‘pig’ (insert swear word as you see fit) of a climb. You’d think that was it….but no. More climbing up Steep Lane, which, as names go is a fairly accurate description! To say it was hideous is an understatement; Think Howes Lane, but steeper. And longer. Ooh, throw in a head wind and you’re somewhere near!

Anyway…low point/high point? Who cares at this stage? Left onto Mirey Lane (more superb views), through Hubberton Green, right up Red Brink Lane and once at the top…’s all downhill! Views across to Norland, Huddersfield beyond and even Saddleworth! Down Toothill Lane,Thunderton Lane, left onto Plain Lane, down Upper Field House Lane, and back into Sowerby. Sometimes it has a bit ‘too’ downhill for us potential Fallers, but that just allows for Phoebe running. Past the school, round the corner and a sneaky last uphill section before crossing back over Sowerby New Road and back down through Dixie woods to where we started and the finish line! Phew!

My evaluation? This is not a 10k PB course. This is a harsh slog of steep, unrelenting uphill, with beautiful and stunning views to (hopefully) distract from what you’re doing! It was a well organised, well marshalled race with lots of support throughout and a lovely medal. All proceeds went to the Christie in Manchester. For many reasons, and not just because this year I was only there for the views, I will be back.

#FPH Dawn Higgins 58.19 (also #LPH and #OPH so there you go!)

Photo credits Jonathan Moon, Yorkshire Runner Photos and Sowerby Bridge Snails Flat Caps
Facebook event page.

Northowrun5 2022: Enter Now!

NorthowRun 5-Mile Road Race!

3rd June 2022

Our yearly road race will return once again this year & takes in the very best areas of the village and the surrounding areas.

Entry website: Enter Here

£11 (UKA affiliated runners)/ £13 (UKA non-affiliated runners)

On the day prices – £13 (UKA affiliated runners)/ £15 (UKA non-affiliated runners) ONLY IF PLACES ARE REMAINING

Price includes chip timing and a medal

We’ll be making a donation from the profits to our chosen charity The Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.

Registration: Opens 9:00am, Northowram Sports Club, Westercroft Lane, Northowram, Halifax, HX3 7EN

The Race starts from the Northowram Pumas Running Club

Race numbers are to be collected on the day from the race HQ/sports club!

Start times: 10:30

Great North Run 2018

The Great North Run is one of the few iconic yearly running events that brings together 1000’s (about 43,000 actually) of runners from the length and breadth of the country. After the London marathon it is the most publicised and popular run in the country, indeed as of this time it is the largest Half Marathon in the world. Even the BBC with Steve Cram & Paula Radcliffe dedicate an entire morning of live broadcasting to it one Sunday every September, relegating Match of the Day and Andrew Marr to BBC2 so it must be something special.

They even manage to get some blokes called the Red Arrows to fly around until they get dizzy. In short, The Great North Run is big; very big. If the biggest race you’ve done is a Parkrun in Shroggs Park on a cold Saturday morning in the middle of winter, nothing is going to prepare you for this.

With such a large family of Pumas, it’s odds on that there’s going to be a few doing it every year and this year was no exception. In order to get a place in the run, each hopeful must either enter a ballot or try to get one of the many charity places available. There are over 40 charities to run for and each one is allocated a set number of spaces so if the initial ballot is unsuccessful, the lucky few might just be able to get a place supporting their favourite.

This year 28 lucky Pumas managed to blag a place, some just running for themselves but a lot for running for dedicated charities that were dear to their hearts. With everyone running for different reasons, there were numerous groups travelling up at different times. Some had booked rooms for the night before and the night after the race to enjoy the delights of Newcastle’s excellent drinking holes (guess who.!) whilst others had decided to get up before the crack of dawn and travel up on the day. Regardless, as the start of the race grew ever closer, the various little groups migrated to a single point and a mass gaggle of Pumapeople were ready for the photo opportunities and a spot of celebrity spotting.




You bump into the weirdest people

Whilst Lara Croft (or some woman called Nell McAndrew) was more than happy to be mugged by a group of our intrepid runners, unfortunately Mo Farah had photo-fatigue by that point. As Britain’s most highly decorated & most famous long-distance runner it seems that everyone wants a selfie so I don’t think anyone could blame him for finally decided enough was enough on the morning (albeit with a smile)


Celebrity Spotting with Nell McAndrew

Just getting to the start point at the Great North Run is a feat in itself. Despite the Newcastle Metro running at full load and sending trains every 5 mins, each one is packed with runners and spectators from at least 7:30 in the morning and once at the final station, there is still at least a 30 minute walk through a vast sea of bodies to reach even the closest starting pens. This walk will inevitably lead past one of the traditions of the Great North Run, the casting off of jumpers which are then rounded up and distributed to local charities.

Old Jumpers, a GNR tradition continues

The pens are laid out in traditional style with the fastest runners at the front and the slowest at the back although I suspect the guy dressed as a fridge who was near the front might have been pushing it a bit.

But the scene was now set and thankfully the sun was shining and as the start got ever closer, the irritatingly jolly compere introduces an even more irritatingly jolly fitness guru to lead the 43000 sea of competitors through a series of warm up exercises.

Wave your arms in the air

As with the London Marathon, the starting times for each pen is staggered so that the 1000s don’t all fall over themselves at the same time. First off are the Elite Wheelchair racers then each zone behind at set intervals until the very final zone gets underway. Such are the numbers that the last runners start nearly an hour after the Elite guys leave the start line so by that time, just about the entire 13.1 mile route is nothing but a sea of runners and wheelchair athletes.

I wasn’t running this year so joined the equally vast crowds who decided to cheat and take the Metro from the starting point in Newcastle to the finishing point in South Shields. I did think that there would be lot more wriggle room on those trains than there had been in the efforts to get to the starting point; how wrong I was. By the end of the line we were hot and highly intimate but the thought that our lot was so much easier than it was for the competitors kept us going through the hardship. Leaving the train was another long walk to the finishing line with thousands of people looking remarkably like a North-Eastern zombie apocalypse.

But anyway, enough of my whinging and back the really important people who were doing the trip the hard way. Starting from the central motorway in Newcastle city-centre the race runs slightly downhill for the first mile before reaching one of the most famous view of the race, the Tyne Bridge. If you’re lucky you might just get there in time for the Red Arrows first appearance of the day. If you’re even more lucky, you might even get you picture taken.

Where’s Wally (Simon – he’s there, honestly)

By this time the runners around you should have spaced out a little bit and you should no longer be blocked by people who are walking, having optimistically suggested to the organisers that they could do the course in 1:30 and started in a zone way ahead of you.

Slight uphill into Gateshead on the other side of the Tyne the route turns right to follow the river down to the coast. En-route and towards the quarter point of the race, the Gateshead stadium with music stands lining the route and joining the crowds in urging the runners on. No doubt along the way you’ll be shocked that some random stranger knows you before realising your name is written on your bib.

Mile 4 heads upwards on a gentle drag to the highest point of the race at Black Bull. The next 3 miles head relatively downhill till eventually the large crowds on the Tyne Tunnel come into view.

Heading through miles nine to eleven, along the John Reid road are usually described as the hardest of the race and a chance to take one of the many cold shower stations to cool down (that’s apart from the hundreds of kids squirting water from the crowds).

Past the Nook shopping complex and getting close to the Coast with a stand on the side of the road offering free pints of beer run by the local Hash House Harriers. If you’re planning a run/walk, that’s the time to walk..

By the end of mile 11 the course is right by the coast with the fresh sea breeze in the air and one final climb up to Marsden Inn before a sharp drop down to Coastal Road Bank.

By the last 2 miles the crowds at the huge cheering points are three or four deep right to the finish line the end of the world’s biggest half-marathon. This is the time to feel a huge sense of pride, not just at finishing but also at managing to catch and overtake someone dressed as a banana (even though you did get overtaken by at least three Pandas and a Honey Monster along the way). Once again if you’re lucky, the Red Arrows will be doing their thing just for you as you cross the finishing line.

Pete manages the best selfie of the day

Such is the size of the race, trying to find everyone at the end of the race really was almost impossible, even with well-made plans. As already suggested though, each little group of Pumas had their own plans for the rest of the day and the evening so it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that once again, people had come together to represent themselves and the club and the Facebook feed for the Pumas group was full of pride & congratulations. Fast, slow or in-between doesn’t matter in this group, none of that ‘we only want to be represented by our elite runners’ rubbish here, which is just as it should be.

Mo Farah warms up before a 00:59:27 finish


Pumas Great North Run Times 2018

Deke Banks                          01:36:13

Kirsty Edwards                     01:46:45

Andy Haslam                        01:47:38

Julie Bowman                       01:49:05

Simon Wilkinson                  01:53:03

Andrew Tudor                       01:53:06

Sarah Haigh                         01:59:02

Christopher Ellis                  02:00:29

Victoria Owen                       02:00:29

Dawn Higgins                       02:11:17

Paul Bottomley                     02:11:37

Jodie Knowles                      02:11:55

Andrew Barnes                    02:14:25

Peter Reason                       02:16:25

Tiffany Lewis                        02:17:56

Sarah Firth                            02:20:48

Melissa Hall                          02:22:32

Alison Shooter                      02:28:44

Brett Swiffen                         02:41:33

Gillian Holmes                      02:49:59

Emma John-Baptiste          03:04:58

Dean James                          03:07:47

Rachel Calvert                      03:16:42

Fiona Averill                          03:21:54

Katharine Barnett                 03:56:05

Cathy Farley                         03:56:06

Leeds Endure 24 2018

Ok, ask yourself a question, what’s worse:-

  1. Running relay race for 24 hours or,
  2. The thought of running a relay race for 24 hours.

If you feel the answer is ‘1’, then perhaps you need to take the plunge and give it a go, just like a group of suckers for punishment did at the height of this summer in the picturesque landscape of Bramham Park just outside Leeds

Endure24 is advertised as ‘Glastonbury for Runners’. Now I’ve never been to Glastonbury but I’m sure they’re not exaggerating that up at all, I’m sure it’s *exactly* like Glastonbury. Except for the running & the drugs & the bands. What it most certainly does have in common is the sleep (or lack thereof) and the fact that you’ve got the kind of camaraderie that can only be replicated when you get 1000’s of people all in one place with a common interest and a common goal.

The rules are quite simple. Get yourself or a bunch of yourselves into groups of between 1 & 8 people then attempt to get a wristband around an 5 mile semi-trail course as many times as you can in 24 hours.

A lot of the Pumas had already done the event in 2017 so knew what to expect and this year there was a concerted effort get as many members as possible to participate, ensuring the club was represented en-masse and to try to make our own little area of the campsite a true home from home; or as much of a home as a campsite with no electric, crap showers and portaloos could possibly be.

To this end Peter Reason took over the mantle of team organiser and promptly wished he hadn’t; without going into too much detail at times it looked like the task of organising 29 Pumas (& honorary Pumas) into teams proved more difficult than the Brexit negations. All credit to Pete though, it all worked out in the end and everyone managed to do the laps they wanted on the day and everyone came out of the weekend with a massive buzz; but more of that later.

Home from home

The first Pumas started to arrive fairly early on the Friday to help set up camp. Gazebos were erected, cooking areas designated and an area marked out with tape to accommodate the later arrivals. Unfortunately Chris wasn’t at work so the crime scene tape couldn’t be utilised but after a period of erecting tents for some of the Pumas arriving later, the motley crew of early arrivals gave up the will to live and in traditional Pumas fashion, broke out the alcohol.

This theme continued through into the evening with more people arriving to take in the glorious evening sun. A few hardy individuals decided to walk the course to see what they would be up against the next day; the rest decided to keep getting drunk. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine who did what and when.

Stargazing became quite popular

As morning broke the camp became a real hive of activity with the Pumas designated foster parents for the weekend (Sharon Reason and Rob Bowman) cooking up a real feast of a breakfast to fuel the intrepid group for the next 8 hours until tea time.

Rob’s famous bangers

There were a few more stragglers turning up ready to run till about 11am but come the 12 o’clock start, all teams were as organised as they were ever going to be and the first runners ready for the countdown. Some decided to wear their Puma tops but then promptly regretted it as the swarms of insects rushed to them faster than flies round a freshly dumped cowpat.

The Final Countdown

The 8k or 5 mile loop started with largely downhill 1K through woods followed by a drag uphill before flattening out past the Temple of the Lead Lads. Then an open section leading downhill to Temptation Corner, where the SKAbus was parked with a couple of the Reading Roadrunners dancing around to Madness for the whole event while handing out shots of energy drink.

The Ska Bus

Up a rise to the first gazebo where marshals in hula skirts danced urging runners on towards The Deep, Dark Wood – the only really cool area and welcome break from the dusty gravel that most of the route followed. Slight downhill to Shambles Café & a water station offering Shot Blocks just over half way. The fastest descent followed before a sharp little incline to a copse then out onto a long stretch across the Festival Field. One more descent and incline into a tree lined path and the finish was in sight with a dip and cheeky, highly annoying little rise to the end of the lap.

As the race started, we all knew it was going to be a hot one, but I don’t think anyone realised quite how bad it was going to be. As each person took over the baton (wristband) from their previous teammate, all began to be clear. Whilst a lot of the course was run through woodland, just as much was exposed and with temperatures on the day hitting 26 degrees in the shade, the area over the Festival Field was akin to a fire walk in a sauna on the 9th level of hell.

But whatever the conditions, everyone just kept on going. Some walking, some defying the odds and running the whole lot. Solo runners were particularly obvious to spot thanks to a big “Solo Runner” sign on their backs, but that just encouraged the rest of us to support them as we inevitably went past (some faster than others).

As evening set in our Sharon & Rob provided us with a hearty meal of pasta to try to build up some of the carbs lost during the day ready for the push through the night. Although the night stints were initially looked at with dread they actually produced some of the best times as temperatures tumbled and breathing became easier. With it being mid-summer the sun was only down for a few hours and some even had time to stop and enjoy the beauty of the pre-dawn as the sun began to light up the morning mist.


Andrew Mellor pauses for what is probably the best photo of the weekend

Once the morning broke the atmosphere was a sharp contrast to the previous evening. The excitement and upbeat attitudes had given way to a mass of tired and aching bodies who were just happy that the end was now in sight.

Trying not to set light to the field

 It wasn’t long before temperatures started to rise again but at least it brought another slap up cooked breakfast from Rob & Sharon to try to replenish the tired calorie drained muscles.

Just 3 hours to go now and the leading Men’s and Women’s teams both had prestige targets in their sites. The lead men ‘We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village’ were in 2nd place and whilst beating the leading team might have seemed like a massive effort, they were defiantly determined not to let the Mo Farriers in 3rd place catch them. Likewise ‘Not fast Just Furious’, the lead female Pumas team were flying high in 3rd place with the ‘Sole Mates’ snapping at their heels, this despite losing a key team member in Elizabeth McDonnell who could only commit to 2 laps before leaving the site. This left just 4 Pumas ladies hammering round and trying to stay ahead.

As the last laps came around the organisers encouraged all the members of each team to cross the line together. Tiff was the first Puma to cross the line for ‘Ha Puma Matata’ after the 24 hour cut-off at 7 minutes past 12. Despite her best efforts she didn’t manage to beat that 12 noon target which meant I couldn’t do another lap (shame..!). Next were the lead guys who had decided to let Tim do their last lap as he was the best chance they had at keeping hold of that second place although we were denied the classic Tim Brook sprint finish as he stopped to let the rest of the team catch up and cross the line together.


C’mon Lads

One by one, all the teams came in until the very final Puma, Lisa crossed the line accompanied by the entire Puma family (and supporters) at 12:53.

The last few yards

At the prize giving it was confirmed that our lead Male and Female teams had managed to hold onto 2nd and 3rd in their respective categories but each member of all the teams felt a huge sense of pride and achievement at having completed the 24 hours. All this despite the furnace of the day, the cold in the dead of night, the drained bodies and the lack of sleep.

Selfie Pride

Whilst endure 24 does fill a lot of people with dread, what it certainly does create is an undying sense of camaraderie not just within teams but across teams as well. Whilst running round the course, the amount of encouragement to and from fellow runners was very uplifting and as I’ve already mentioned on Facebook, where else could some random bloke I’ve never seen before, in the middle of a wood in the dead of night ask me if the Pumas might be putting on the Coley Canter this year? Best not answer that but at least at Endure 24, it was all above board.




Massive thanks go to all the supporters and helpers who turned up and camped with the runners:-

Sharon Reason, Charlotte Reason, Rob Bowman,Hollie Bowman, Paul Trudgill.


Your intrepid teams

We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village – 2nd place Male 3-5 members

40 Laps, 200 miles , 00:36:27 Average Lap, 00:32:34 Best Lap

Tim Brook

Luke Cranfield

Rick Ralph

Jude Roberts

Andy Barnes

Not Fast Just Furious – 3rd place Female 3-5 members

32 Laps, 160 miles, 00:46:07 Average Lap, 00:40:36 Best Lap

Elizabeth McDonnell

Julie Bowman

Jane Cole

Vicky Owen

Ally Canning

Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies – 6th place Male 6-8 members

32 Laps, 160 miles,  00:46:00 Average Lap, 00:37:02 Best Lap

Chris Ellis

Matt Newton

Tom Moran

Peter Reason

Simon Wilkinson

Andrew Mellor

Scrambled Legs – 6th place Female 6-8 members

27 Laps, 135 miles, 00:55:18 Average Lap, 00:44:33 Best Lap

Carine Baker

Lisa Aspinall

Anna Ralph

Carla Sharp

Claire Ramsbottom

Rachael Hawkins

Ha Puma Matata – 70th place Mixed 6-8 members

25 Laps, 125 miles, 00:57:55 Average Lap, 00:46:02 Best Lap

Victoria Trudgill

Catherine Farley

Tiffany Lewis

Mark Kirby

Paul Pickering

Katherine Barnett

Kate Sheard

March round-up

On Sunday, 25 March, mother and daughter Gill and Zoe Holmes travelled to Liverpool to take part in different events. Zoe took part in the Half Marathon, completing the 13.1-mile course in 2hr 17:23 to finish 1035th out of 2,563 runners. Gill completed her first-ever Ten Mile event, finishing 305th out of 358 runners in 1hr 53:06.

Gill and Zoe proudly show off their medals after completing their respective events.

On the same day, Alison Shooter took on the beastly Canalathon Ultra 50k race, a run along the Rochdale Canal stretching from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. By her own admission, she hadn’t prepared as thoroughly as she might have done, so was mightily pleased to have the company over the last stages of Simon Wilkinson, Peter Reason and Tamara Gibson (on her bike) whilst greeting them all in was Laura Fairbank, who plied them with beer and cake. Alison completed the 31 mile route in 7hr 53:32, and finished 128th out of a field of 141 runners.

Trimpell 20, 2018

Trimpell 20,

Lancaster, Sunday, 18 March, 2018.

It was a monumental task, and the effort required pushed them to the limit. There must have been times when they never thought they’d make it. But with sheer grit, determination, patience, and plenty of will-power, they persevered. It took an age, of course, but finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Amid huge sighs of relief, they’d done it.

There was much to do in preparation for the race. Here, Laura captures friend Becky Allatt clearing the car of snow so that they could get going. Of course, with it being Spring, there was no need to wrap up.

And then, having cleared away all the snow, they got in the cars and set off to Lancaster.

Meanwhile, up at Lancaster, Brett and Rachel find there’s no snow and wonder if they’ve come to the right place. Behind them, Lancaster Castle was, up until quite recently, one of HMS’ Establishments (prison). Brett and Rachel won’t be hanging around though.

Yes, the Trimpell Twenty asked much of three intrepid Pumas, not solely of the course itself, for with snow lying several inches deep in and around Halifax, there were serious questions as to whether they’d manage to get up to Lancaster at all, such were the conditions. But yes, they got there safely, only then to deal with the next obstacle, that of sauntering (in freezing conditions) around the city of Lancaster.

Laura finds her ‘Miss Motivator’ Gayle Forster and doesn’t want to let her go.

I have it on good authority that Lancaster and the west coast of Lancashire in general was bereft of white fluffy stuff, and the locals may have thought that Brett Swiffen and Rachel Calvert, and Laura Fairbank who, with her good friends Becky Allatt and Karen Hood, made up Team RLF, were making things up when they regaled the them with tales of drifting snow that had left many roads impassable. The aforementioned were all using the race as training for their London Marathon, which, as if they need reminding, is but five weeks away. It was cold, granted, but all-in-all, it was like a different world.

The runners gathered in front of the entrance to Lancaster Castle, a tourist attraction on a good day and perhaps a better option than having to run twenty miles on this, and at 11.00am they were heading off on their way, travelling along Castle Park, picking up Long Marsh Lane and meandering along the tracks through the trees before crossing the River Lune and following the path that initially runs parallel to Morecambe Road for a good two miles. The route, through a line of trees, then veered off left for a triangular clockwise circuit around Trimpell Sports and Social Club via Out Moss Lane then heading back towards the city centre, having accomplished five miles before they crossed the River Lune on the return. The runners then headed out north, across parks and woodland with the Lune on their left, then crossed the river on the A863, a dual carriageway that headed out for what seemed an eternity. The general consensus hinted that this was the hardest part of the course, the Bay Gateway, but they had to tackle it, almost two miles out before doubling back and making the return trip, passing the sixteen-mile mark along the way. The route crossed the river once more, then took the runners on a loop section before picking up the track that took them back to the centre, the Lune now on their right hand side. Everything by now was in reverse (possibly even the legs) and in time, having run through the familiar woodland and tracks, they re-entered Long Marsh Lane and headed for the finish back at Castle Park.

The pained look on Laura’s face was definitely not for effect. She climbs the last hill and the finish is just almost there.

Facing at times a gale force wind, and having to tackle a hideous hill just before the finish, you could say that the race was far from easy, and it was won by Martin Green of North Wales Road Runners in a time of 1:55:47. For Laura, the twenty-mile course was torture, particularly as, only two miles in, she was struggling with her knee. Fortunately, she had, in the form of Gayle Forster, a nifty runner by all accounts, but one that has been encouraging Laura via social media and a saviour on the day, running with her for the most part to help her through the ordeal. They met for the first time at Lancaster but her support for Laura was unequivocal. “Gayle has been so supportive to me and my running. She came to run at my pace in the freezing cold and she was absolutely amazing,” said Laura, who felt sure that she would have given up the ghost without Gayle being there. Laura dug in deep and finished the course in 4:26:50.

The relief is clear to see as Rachel and Brett surmount the final hill and now have the finish line in sight.

As for Brett and Rachel. They’d had two sessions of hypnotherapy in the build up to the Trimpell 20, and the sessions clearly paid off. Said Rachel, “I can’t tell you how amazing today felt! It was easier than the three half marathons I’ve run even though my body was battered and crying out in pain. My mind won over!” Brett’s had his own battles over the years, but as Rachel added, “He is my inspiration! We’ve had the toughest nine months and faced challenges no one knows about, but we are so strong together, there is nothing we can’t face now!” What did it matter that the pair brought up the rear of the 516-strong field? Their aim was to get around, and though it took them nearly five hours, they did it! And anyway, sometimes it pays. By the time they returned to Blighty late Sunday afternoon, the worst of the snow had gone!

All done and dusted. Brett and Rachel can’t wait to tuck into a hearty breakfast. In the meantime, their reward of pie and Wagon Wheel will have to do.

Pumas’ positions and times;

506 Laura Fairbank 4:26:50

515 Rachel Calvert 4:57:55

516 Brett Swiffen 4:57:55

Photos supplied by Sprint Finish Photography and Andy Forrest.



West Yorkshire Winter League 2017-18; Dewsbury.

West Yorkshire Winter League, Race One.

Hopton Mills, Mirfield, 26 November 2017.

The Pumas line up before the race. Most have had their faces painted in the club’s colours and look the bee’s knees. The hooded Tom O’Reilly, however, cuts a mean figure and could almost pass for the Grim Reaper.

Sunday heralded the start of the West Yorkshire Winter League, with Dewsbury Road Runners, as they did last year, hosting the first race. But while generally there is usually an air of excitement for the start of any new season, I’m not sure that this applies here, if the comments of some of our Pumas are anything to go by. Having staggered round, the terms ‘brutal’ and ‘beast’ were used in certain quarters to describe the Mirfield-based course; Matt Newton also used a word beginning with ‘B’ but as this is a family-site, we won’t repeat it here, though he really should have known better, anyway. After all, he ran it last year so knew what to expect! In total, thirty-one Pumas – many with faces painted in the colours of the team to show they meant business – turned out on a chilly morning; doubtless the number would have been even greater but for those who were either injured, having a weekend away (no names mentioned, although this in turn meant that the tour bus was rendered inactive), or just not fancying it! The race was set for a 10.00am start, so there wasn’t too much hanging about trying to look over-excited.

Jude Roberts helps form an orderly queue for the trail through the woods.
Andrew Mellor – looking for a way out?

The 5.7-mile course had been slightly tweaked from the previous year but it was no less challenging, containing as it did all the usual elements we all love so much; steep hills, troublesome woods, fields and thick mud in abundance. The race started with a loop of adjacent fields behind Hopton Mills, Hagg Lane, to help thin out the pack and thus avoiding much congestion further down the line, and then it was straight into the first major climb up into Hagg Wood, taking in what is affectionately known as the ‘Golf Course Climb’, closely followed by Scopsley Lane Climb, with Dewsbury Golf Course off to the runners’ left. Fixy Lane Dash Down offered some relief, but only in readiness for the toughest of the three climbs, that of Back Lane Climb, along the edge of Liley Clough, reaching the summit at 182 metres as they crossed the fields around halfway.

Galloping through the leaves are Matt Newton and Richard Ogden. Photo courtesy of Smith Photography.

The downhill section of over 1k which followed was most welcome but legs would be getting weary as they crossed the fields and headed back towards Lily Clough Woods. Coming out of the north side, the course then ran along the edge of some fields before entering Whitley Wood and the arduous climb of 160 meters before picking up Back Lane and the return journey, giving the runners a nice downhill, if not tricky, stretch before finishing in the fields off Hagg Lane where they’d begun their assault.

Katrina Wood showing grace and poise as she negotiates this tricky section, proving that this trip down into the woods was anything but a teddybears’ picnic. Photo courtesy of Smith Photography.

So how did the Pumas fare? Well, given that several key runners were missing, they had a pretty productive day, and things certainly auger well for future races, particularly in the Ladies’ field. As expected, it was Tim Brook and Luke Cranfield who led the Pumas’ charge, Tim finishing fifteenth, just two places and, by my reckoning, nine seconds in front of Luke. These two were our first scorers, and they were ably backed up by Rick Ralph, Jude Roberts, Andy Barnes, Adam Standeven and Shaun Casey, with Tim, Rick and Jude picking up the points in the Veterans’ category.

#FPH Tim Brook breezes to the finish line.

Matt Newton (140th) followed Richard Ogden home, but only six places further back, and having the run the race of her life, was Ally Canning, who was the first female Puma home. Diane Cooper (a veteran, but not in the strictest sense), Jane Cole and Kirsty Edwards also scored points and by the end of the day’s play the Ladies team were sitting proudly in third place.

In the Supervets category, Jon Ding was the first to bring home the points, finishing 162nd, whilst the unsuspecting Mark Kirkby also managed to score. Needing a female to complete the set, this honour fell to Katrina Wood, who was first over-50 female Puma.

Proving that there really are some benefits to hill training, Ally Canning is the first female Puma home.

Elsewhere, there was a personal battle going on between Sarah Haigh, Dawn Higgins and Jo Clay, all three appearing in the finishing straight together, but Sarah winning the sprint for the line. One place behind, but oblivious to the mad-dash which had just preceded her, was Rachael Hawkins, whose run to the line was slightly more refined. But she must have had some concern for her new best friend, Andrew Mellor, who marked his Winter League debut by suffering a nasty gash to the knee following a fall (graphic photos of which later appeared on social media and are definitely not for the squeamish).

They’re all good friends, really, but nevertheless, Sarah Haigh continues to watch her back as she outsprints Dawn Higgins and Jo Clay.

All-in-all, a pretty successful morning, and one that augers well for future races. Commander-in-chief Andrew Tudor described it as “a great team effort,” whilst Shaun Casey was heard to say that the Pumas roared loudest. To which we all concur.

Pumas’ finishing positions;

15 Tim Brook (MV)

17 Luke Cranfield (M)

61 Rick Ralph (MV)*

78 Jude Roberts (MV)*

100 Andy Barnes (MV)*

108 Adam Standeven (MV)

112 Shaun Casey (MV)

139 Richard Ogden (MV)

140 Matt Newton (M)

146 Ally Canning (F)

153 Chris Ellis (MV)

162 Jon Ding (MSV)*

163 Andrew Tudor (MV)

185 Diane Cooper (FV)

192 Jane Cole (FV)

211 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

213 Kirsty Edwards (FV)

218 Peter Reason (MV)*

250 Vicky Owen (F)

253 Julie Bowman (FV)

270 Katrina Wood (FSV)*

273 Sarah Haigh (FV)

274 Dawn Higgins (FV)*

275 Johanne Clay (FSV)

276 Rachael Hawkins (F)

303 Mark Kirkby (MSV)*

308 Ian Evans (M)*

328 Andrew Mellor (MV)*

331 Tiffany Lewis (FV)

332 Sharon Wilson (F)

359 Charlotte Reason (F)*

371 runners.

* Denotes first Winter League race.

How we stand (14 teams);

Male – 8th

Female – 3rd

Veterans – 7th

Supervets – 12th

Overall – 9th



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.

Littleborough 5k Road Race


Tuesday, 29 August 2017.

As a promise to myself to cover any event that a Northowram Puma may take part in, and for consistency purposes, you understand, do I run the risk of appearing self-indulgent. Not that I’ve much to be self-indulgent about, although I did happen to be the only Puma who took part in Tuesday evening’s Littleborough 5k Road Race, organised by the Littleborough Lions.

Back in June, I ran a similar course over the same distance with Alan Sykes, finishing in 24:14 in what was the last of the Littleborough 5k Road Race Series. This time the route differed somewhat as we headed down Peel Street (instead of up it), turned right at the bottom into Winton Street, then picked up the main road A58 Church Street up to the junction with Smithy Bridge Road. There was then the arduous climb up through Smithy Bridge itself, crossing the railway line and pulling ourselves up to Hollingworth Lake. We then had something of decent flattish – even downhill – run over the last mile or so, finishing by passing under the subway near the railway station.

The starter set us all off at 7pm prompt, a relatively small number of 66 runners which included a couple of Sowerby Bridge Snails in Jonathan Moon and Kieran Heaton. The field had thinned out by the time we reached Church Street, but this busy main road proved deceptive, a gentle climb of nearly a mile up to the traffic lights. By the time we’d reached this point we’d covered about a third of the race, but my legs were already feeling tired. We got brief respite on a nice downhill stretch towards the railway line, only to find the level crossing gates closed and a marshal directing us down the steps under the subway, and therefore the climb of the steps up the other side. This was a first, and though it was the same for everyone, for me it did break my stride somewhat. Then there was the climb up Smithy Bridge Road, never too steep but enough to sap even more energy from your legs. With the junction reached and the left turn along Lake Bank, there was just a mile to go. Hollingworth Lake cut a scenic picture on my right but I had too many other things on my mind to enjoy it.

I drove myself along Lake Bank with the sound of footsteps behind me; someone was closing me down. We veered off left down Hollingworth Road, a pleasant descent, the footsteps behind me still a bit too close for comfort. I pushed on, got into my stride and soon enough I could see the entrance to the subway by the station ahead. A quick glance over my shoulder reassured me that I’d pulled away from the runner chasing me, and having turned under the subway, the finish line was but yards ahead, but only reached after we’d had to negotiate a cycle barrier. A quick body swerve and I was through, and in the blinking of an eye, I was careering across the finish line, almost in a state of near exhaustion, but home all the same.

The only pictorial evidence showing that I competed in the race.

My finishing time was 24:22, eight seconds slower than my previous outing to Littleborough, but as I said, on a slightly harder course. The next runner home (Andy O’Sullivan of Rochdale Harriers) was eleven seconds behind and I finished 24th, no great achievement there, but happy to have taken part. The Snails’ Jonathan Moon came an impressive fourth, but later, over a drink back at HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, he was rewarded with a bottle of lambrini for his efforts! The race winner was Darren Shackleton of Todmorden Harriers and he received a cup on which the European Champions’ League Trophy looks to have been modelled.

All the runners were presented with participation certificates (another first) and I clutched mine with pride. Something to show the grandchildren in future years, eh? “Have I told you about the time I ran in the Littleborough 5k Road Race….?”

Tour of Norland Trail, 2017


Copley, Sunday, 27 August 2017.

The club championship races come thick and fast. Only seven days on from the Fleetwood Half Marathon, the next event was the Tour of Norland Trail Race, hosted by Halifax Harriers, an event in stark contrast to the flat roads that were pounded on the Lancashire coast. However, despite the talk of panoramic views over Sowerby Bridge, many Pumas were doubtless put off by the thought of raking it over the 7.4-mile route, though as at Fleetwood, a handful showed up to claim their appearance points, although here it was a different cast. This time around, four were enticed by the mouth-watering thought of ascending the 800-feet climb up onto the Norland Moors; Kirsty Edwards, Matt Newton and myself had already verbally committed (to each other) to tackling it; Andrew Tudor arrived after an eleventh hour fitness test to which he gave himself a big thumbs up.

Underneath the arches…are the Pumas who took part. From the left; Johnny Meynell, Kirsty Edwards, Matt Newton and Andrew Tudor.

Part of the appeal of the race was that you could enrol on the day of the event, therefore no need to commit in advance. The £5 entry fee was also pleasing on the purse strings, and in total, there was a field of 140 runners taking advantage of this cut-price deal. Registration was at Copley Cricket Club, as was the finish to the race itself, on the far side of the cricket pitch. To get there, the runners had to negotiate whatever the Norland Moors threw at them, and the competitors gathered just below the canal at the entrance of Hollas Lane for the 10.30am start.

The route took the runners along Hollas Lane, under the railway arch and up the fields, familiar to those who ran the final West Yorkshire Winter League race, hosted by Stainland Lions, back in February. Once North Dean Road had been reached, the runners were directed up the hill (obviously), then they veered a sharp left to continue the climb up Pickwood Lane before taking a bridle path, a gentle incline which ran for about half a mile and eventually came out at Turbury Lane. The route turned right along here until a marshal directed the runners left to begin the 2.9-mile clockwise loop of Norland Moor. Having circumnavigated this section, the runners exited Norland Moor at the same point as they’d entered it, and after a short run back up Turbury Lane, entered the fields and the welcome descent back to base. The route continued through the woods, eventually picking up Pickwood Lane and North Dean Road and returning along the route we’d started out on, continuing past the start, along the path through the woods before entering the final straight which was Copley Cricket Club and the finish line ahead. It was never intended to be easy, and the Tour of Norland Trail didn’t disappoint.

We were set on our merry way to the instruction of “On your marks,” and then there was no turning back. We followed Hollas Lane then began climbing the fields, the pack becoming bunched in the early stages as it negotiated the stiles. The last of these took us onto North Dean Road and there was the arduous pull up for what seemed an eternity. Needless to say, I soon found myself having to walk; it looked so disheartening, even at this early stage. Matt and Kirsty had started to pull away, and Andrew, taking his time, passed me shortly before we turned up the bridle path. He had once advised me to concentrate on my effort, and I chose to do this once I’d taken a quick glance up ahead as the track stretched way into the distance. It turned at right angles at one point; Matt, who had made an early bid to become #FPH had slowed down somewhat and Kirsty had soon caught him up; in turn, Andrew then took the pair of them and I wouldn’t see him again until I finished. The tour of the moor still maintained an incline for quite a way, and I found it really tough on my legs, particularly having sampled the Lancaster parkrun the day before (I dare you – have a go).

The starter’s counting down the seconds, but there’s still time for a quick selfie. It’s tradition, you know.

In time we descended towards Butterworth End Lane but just before reaching it, the trail took a swift right turn, and guess what? We were climbing once more. Though by this time I had the fillip of seeing Matt and Kirsty almost within reach, so clearly I had made up some ground. As the trail flattened out across the moor we were about to experience the domino effect, and I’m not talking about pizzas. I was perhaps fifteen yards adrift when I saw Matt suddenly take a tumble. Kirsty stopped to help him back on his feet, and suddenly the three of us were all together, and may I say, it was nice to be among friends! Less than two minutes later, Kirsty was the next casualty, missing her footing (it seemed) and like Matt, taking what seemed a nasty fall. But she saw the funny side, regained her composure, and we were on our way again. Until that is, I took my turn. My mother always went on about me dragging my feet, and I should have heeded her advice. Down I went, banging my left ankle in the process. Matt and Kirsty stopped while I recovered, got to my feet, then we carried along. But soon enough the pair of them were striding away, and I lost more ground whilst I had to retie one of my laces.

The tour of the moor seemed to take an age, but eventually we came out in the same place as we went in, joining Norland Road and turning immediately into Turbury Lane, then crossing the fields that took us into the woods. As we entered this part of the course, I was at the back of a four-man convoy, but feeling happier, safe in the knowledge that all the climbing had now been done. Of course, we ran down through the woods quicker than we’d come up them, and as we came out of the other side, there was a marshal directing us back down Pickwood Lane and North Dean Road. I made good my run for home, passing the other three runners, and as I entered the stile which took us into the fields we’d climbed at the start, I noticed Matt and Kirsty leaving it at the other end. I charged down the field with a Stainland Lion for company, and as we crossed the bottom veering left, we were closing with every step. Suddenly I had visions of the three of us – myself, Matt and Kirsty – finishing together, but there was a twist in the tale, or should I say, my ankle. The field took us down what we called as kids the ‘catsteps’, here muddied and uneven. Travelling at speed, tucked in behind the Stainland runner, my left foot hit the ditch and for a second time I was lying on my back. I suffered no life-threatening injuries, but the fall did knock the stuffing out of me, and any chance I had of catching up my fellow team mates all but disappeared. I rejoined the tarmacked road which led us back under the railway arch and the flat run over the last half mile or so. But by now I was gone; the runners who I’d overtaken coming out of the woods now passed me with ease, though as I reached the part where we started the race over an hour earlier, a quick glance over my shoulder told me there was no more imminent threat. Tired, battered and bruised, I pulled myself along through the woods with the River Calder to my right and the rugby pitches on my left and entered the cricket field with the fantastic sight that was the finish line. Andrew, Matt and Kirsty cheered me in, and the ordeal was over.

Andrew Tudor enters Copley Cricket Club on his way to being #FPH.

From being less than thirty seconds behind Matt and Kirsty with half a mile to go, they’d managed to put nearly two minutes between me; they ran in together and were given the same times. Andrew took the honour of being #FPH, though having managed to run unscathed for most of the race, suffered a calf strain after pushing himself too fast down the final fields and he saw out the final stages in a slow canter. The race itself had been won by Jonathan Melia of Rossendale Harriers in 51:11.

Kirsty and Matt cross the line together.
Giving it my all for the camera. I drag myself over the line.

The race recovery included free tea and biscuits, and Kirsty, Matt and myself sat and watched other runners finish across the field. I admired how the Halifax Harriers had organised the event, and from where I was, there hadn’t appeared to have been any glitches. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. Stories unfolded of one lady who’d taken exception to part of the course going over ‘her’ dog-walking patch; she’d taken it upon herself to remove or change the direction of some of the flags on the moor, with some of these later found in a bin. It seems it was the leading runners who suffered; quick thinking by some of the marshals up there soon put most of the runners on the right track, but it does make you wonder what goes through people’s minds at times. The experience at Oakwell Hall in the West Yorkshire Winter League was obviously not a one-off incident.

Every picture tells a story.

Northowram Pumas’ positions and times;

71 Andrew Tudor 69:36

85 Kirsty Edwards 72:44

86 Matt Newton 72:44

93 Johnny Meynell 74:39