West Yorkshire Winter League 2017-18,

Foster Park, Queensbury, Sunday, 4 March, 2018.

The Pumas all in a huddle – well, it helps you to keep warm

It could hardly be said that all roads led to Queensbury for the final Winter League race of the season; half of them were deemed impassable due to the remnants of the Beast from the East, which had left the outlying roads and pathways hampered by drifting snow. Where everyone parked their cars is anyone’s guess. The race officials had been out in the early light to check the course was safe, and though it looked, on the face of it, worse than when the event was cancelled last December, here there may have been more snow, but less ice. The race got the green light.

And they’re off. Tim Brook (left) staking an early claim.

Nothing much deters the Northowram Pumas, and the thrill of running in ankle deep snow as opposed to mud enticed thirty-nine runners from the comfort of their beds. Foster Park, where the race started, cut a picturesque sight, a blanket of virginal snow lying peacefully over the lush green grass underneath. Oh that it would remain so. But the moment starter Dave Hepworth had counted down the seconds, the park would never look the same again.

Luke Cranfield closely followed by Jude Roberts.

A mass stampede followed, a total of 309 runners charging down to the far right hand corner of the park for what was just the beginning of a gruelling 4.2 mile course. And just to make them feel at home – this is the Winter League, after all – almost right on cue, it started snowing. Yeh!

Andy Haslam, either dressed for the occasion, or auditioning for the role of Mole in the next ‘Wind in the Willows’ panto. You decide.

The route hadn’t changed much from the previous year, so there was the accustomed anti-clockwise circuit of the perimeter of the park, which involved a hefty climb from the bottom, and another climb up through the woods before descending back to the start line and heading for the bottom corner once more. Here, the course doubled back on itself as it swung up through the line of trees which run adjacent to the park, before it crossed the top of the park and into the section of woodland on the opposite side. It then picked up the reverse of the perimeter of the fence, once again landing at the bottom section of the park, crossing into fields and a run out into the countryside, eventually coming out on Stocks Lane. All in snow, don’t forget. The route then carried down this track before veering right into more fields, climbing at certain points before reaching a farm track which, assuming one followed the right direction, brought the runners out at the junction of Stanage Lane, a familiar section of the route to most Pumas. It was but short, however, as the runners were then directed through a stile and down the fields, heading back towards Foster Park. Hitting the bottom section of the park once more, the competitors ran adjacent to the park itself, a tiresome section, so close, yet so far away from the finish line, and on an incline. They then entered the woods and made their way back to the bottom of the park for one last time through the trees, before following the perimeter as they’d done at the start, although this time, as opposed to last, the course omitted the final wood section that came out by the finish line; before reaching it, the runners were directed towards the mound down the field, rounded it, then headed for the finish line, just beyond the first set of goalposts.

Tracey March adopting the stance that if you can’t see where you’re going, things don’t look as bad.

The mist had descended by the time the first of the runners came home, Queensbury’s Tom Collinge crossing the line first, some way ahead of Stainland’s Gavin Mulholland. There was a trickle of runners passing through after that, and the atmosphere was all rather tranquil. Then, suddenly, there was a commotion, as, through the gloom, there was hurried activity. It was like the Batman and Robin scene in ‘Only Fools And Horses’ (1996), but here, three runners were making a mad-dash for the line, among them our own Tim Brook. He was edged out of that mini-battle by Dan Naylor of Baildon, but, by sneaking in front of his club mate Jeff Singleton, Tim secured a fourteenth place finish.

Matt Newton negotiates this stile, although word has it that he’d spied a coin of minimal value. “Every little helps,” he would claim.

As far as the Pumas were concerned, only one other finisher came close to crossing the line in similar fashion as Tim, that being Andrew Tudor. He suddenly found that extra bit of energy to beat the pack around him, which included team mate Chris Ellis, to claim the coveted 130th position. Sadly, Andrew’s efforts didn’t get him onto the scoring sheet, as there were several other Pumas in front of him, with Luke Cranfield the second home, finishing seventeenth. Also scoring for the male team alongside Veteran Tim were Rick Ralph and Jude Roberts, complimented by Deke Banks, Robert Shirlaw and Jon Ding to total 1,819 points and give them an amazing fourth position on the day. The Ladies team went one better, finishing third, helped in no small way by Diane Cooper, the first female Puma home, crossing the line in 109th. She was backed up by Jane Cole, Kirsty Edwards and Ally Canning to give the Ladies’ team 1,133 points.

Diane Cooper hits Stanage Lane running, slipping and sliding.

With Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Diane making up the Veterans’ scoring, they totalled 849 points, to finish on the day in an incredible third place, with only Stainland and Baildon above them. The SuperVets also had a field day, with Robert Shirlaw and Jon Ding backed up by Katrina Wood, who had one of her best runs, to give the team 646 points and sixth place on the day. Overall, Northowram Pumas finished in fourth place of the fourteen competing clubs. Words such as ‘sensational’, ‘brilliant’, ‘awesome’ and ‘flipping amazing’ were used by some to describe the achievements of the team, and I’ll add to that by saying it was simply an astonishing feat.

The smiles and the waves disguise the fact that Charlotte Reason, Shana Emmerson and Gabby Kenny had moments earlier been discussing the merits of the men in the previous evening’s ‘Take Me Out’.

Elsewhere, Paul Hopkinson ran home in 198th, wondering how he’d gone from the buzz and excitement of Tokyo just seven days earlier to this, but the word ’jetlagged’ was never mentioned. Lindsay Grix made drastic child care arrangements and set off in good time to make sure she made the start, so due respect to her.

A race within a race. Tim Brook makes a bolt for it, but whilst he will see off Chris Burke (center) he will be pipped to the line by Jeff Singleton.
And in today’s other mad-cap finish, Andrew Tudor comes up on the outside to sneak past Stainland’s John Bassinder (64, his age, not race number).

As suggested above, snow had begun to fall just as the race started. It’s fair to say that the later the runners finished, the worse the conditions were. And whilst most people gave the impression that they’d been ‘done in’ by the time they finished, Helen Jackson’s actions outwardly demonstrated how others probably felt, as she flung herself to the ground and lay prone on her back for what seemed an age. There were fears, naturally, until one marshal allayed these when he caught her just about breathing. Further down the line, Gabby Kenny made a strange admission: “You won’t hear me say this often, but I enjoyed the run,” then gave much credit to Shana Emmerson, whose girl talk along the way helped take their minds off the job in hand.

A picture can say more than a thousand words, so I won’t say much more. This is Helen Jackson flat on her back having crossed the line.

Northowram Pumas’ finishing positions;

14 Tim Brook (MV)

17 Luke Cranfield (M)

27 Deke Banks (M)

31 Rick Ralph (MV)

47 Jude Roberts (MV)

80 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)

84 Andy Barnes (MV)

97 Chris Crabtree (MV)

99 Andy Haslam (MV)

109 Diane Cooper (FV)

125 Jane Cole (FV)

130 Andrew Tudor (MV)

133 Chris Ellis (MV)

144 Jon Ding (MSV)

160 Kirsty Edwards (FV)

177 Ally Canning (F)

186 Peter Reason (MV)

188 Julie Bowman (FV)

198 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)

201 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

202 Neil Coupe (MV)

203 Simon Wilkinson (M)

208 Sarah Haigh (FV)

211 Paul Bottomley (MV)

218 Matt Newton (M)

240 Katrina Wood (FSV)

246 Paula Snee (FV)

248 Mark Kirkby (MSV)

249 Claire Ramsbottom (F)

259 Lindsay Grix (F)

263 Jo Coupe (FV)

268 Tiffany Lewis (FV)

272 Anna Ralph (FV)

288 Helen Jackson (FV)

289 Tracey March (FV)

290 Carolyn Brearley (FV)

296 Gabriella Kenny (FV)

297 Charlotte Reason (F)

298 Shana Emmerson (FV)

309 runners.

Photos courtesy of Joanne Punt, Carolyn Collinge, John Loughran and Steve Smith (Smith Photography).

West Yorkshire Winter League 2017-18,

Clay House Park, West Vale, Sunday, 25 February, 2018.

The Pumas all ready for action.

Sunday saw what was the penultimate fixture in this season’s West Yorkshire Winter League. As last year, it was intended that the event that took a tour of Clay Park Woods in West Vale and hosted by our good friends the Stainland Lions, would have concluded the race calendar, but with the Queensbury race having been postponed back in December, it means there’s another round of fun and hilarity still to go.

After negotiating the first steep climb up North Dean Road, the runners get some respite as they are directed through a stile and down the fields. For once, Ally Canning wishes the queue was bigger (therefore more time to recover).
Caught in the act. Jo Coupe is spied running up North Dean Road. Guilty as charged.

As in the last race, the Pumas were missing a few runners, notably Tim Brook, but the team was still strong and comprised thirty runners. They made up a field of 305 competitors, all of whom squeezed onto the cobbled path behind Clay House for the 10.00am start. The sight looked surreal last year and was no different this.

Luke Cranfield leading the Pumas’ charge. He’s making it look so easy, he can do it with his eyes shut. BUT WATCH OUT FOR THAT WALL, LUKE.

They began with the familiar loop of the woods, coming back along Dean End, down Lindley Road, then approaching the start line once more before they journeyed out into the sticks. There were several changes from the course of last year, helped in many ways by the reopening of Copley Bridge, therefore making the run for home slightly easier. But there were still challenges to face, not least the climb up North Dean Road at Copley, which thankfully was shorter than last year as the marshals sent the runners through a stile and down the fields.

Gina Farley, teetering on the brink.

At the bottom of here, however, the runners had to negotiate the stream before following pleasant treks along man-made paths and farmhouse tracks towards and beyond Binn Royd Cottage Farm before entering a section of woodland and the part of the course which has been labelled ‘Log Flume’, which involved a steep climb. The route then descended across fields before picking up Hollas Lane at the far end of the Copley village and there was a routine run through the woods, with the River Calder on the runners’ right hand side for company. Eventually, they reached Copley Bridge, crossed it, then re-entered Clay Woods for the retreat of less than two miles. But there was still some climbing to do. The route took the path which made its way to the top of Clay Woods, and the affectionately-named section Muddy Bank (can’t think why). This was a test of character and, judging by the accompanying video, reduced many of the runners to walking as they reached the top. There was one more climb then the stretch towards the finish line, the runners emerging into sunlight at the back of Clay House. Roughly 5.6 miles.

Birthday girl Julie Bowman. There may have been worse ways of celebrating your birthday, but only if it had have been raining.

There were no surprises when Luke Canfield crossed the line as #FPH, finishing twelfth, and in the Men’s team, he was backed up by 31st placed Deke Banks, Robert Shirlaw (99th) and Jon Ding (147th), with the quota of Veterans scoring made up by Jude Roberts, Rick Ralph and Andy Barnes. They finished with a total of 1,694 points and finished on the day in eighth position.

Showing a steely resolve, that’s Robert Shirlaw as he negotiates this tricky bend.

Leading in the Pumas Ladies was (Veteran) Diane Cooper, an impressive 108th, and she was supported by the ever-improving Jane Cole, Ally Canning and Kirsty Edwards. They totalled 1,146 points to finish third, the team proving to be a consistent threat.

“Whatever we do, wherever we go…” Try as they might, each photographer failed to capture one without the other. Claire Ramsbottom and Jodie Knowles ran the course in tandem, for like the song says, “…we’re gonna get through this together.”

The Veterans’ scorers were thus Diane Cooper, Jude Roberts and Rick Ralph; their combined points total was 812 to place them sixth. The Supervets’ scorers were Robert Shirlaw, Jon Ding, and, without Jenny Hopkinson, who with husband Paul, had flown out to the Far East for a local marathon, Katrina Wood, the female scorer. The team totalled 2,839 points and finished eighth.

Tom O’Reilly, showing that when it mattered, he could put in the effort.

There were, as always, stories to tell. The finish-line videos made for some gripping viewing, if we except Tom O’Neill, who casually walked over the line as if it was just another day at the office. Deke Banks proved to be the filling in a Queensbury sandwich, Jane Cole held off the challenge of Pudsey Pacers’ Tracey Wilman, whilst Kirsty Edwards’ last-gasp dart to the line had the officials retiring to a consultation room to decide whether or not she did in fact pip Dewsbury’s Flo Skidmore on the line. After much discussion, they requested a final opinion, and in the end the man from Del Monte said Yes. Ally Canning dipped early to ensure she beat a posse of runners, among which was Supervet Jon Ding, and further back there was a quick-fire Pumas’ 1-2-3 when sixteen seconds separated Sarah Haigh, Julie Bowman and Andrew Mellor. In years to come, Julie will recall how she spent her nth birthday trailing woods whilst negotiating tree roots, thick mud and severe hills, all the while having a whale of a time. Peter Reason already has a reputation for falling when least expected, and he didn’t disappoint here, although he left it late (just before the last climb). He did at least get up and finish the race, which is more than can be said for one unfortunate Puma, who took a nasty tumble and was forced to retire early on (said runner did manage to complete the initial loop, though) with injuries that later required medical attention. But what goes on in the woods, stays in the woods. You know who you are.

Starting the run for home, Deke Banks checks that North Dean Woods are still as he left them earlier.
First female Puma was Diane Cooper. Here, she’s just crossed Copley Bridge, looking as if she’s all the time in the world.

 

All-in-all, another splendid effort by the Pumas, and they can now go into the last race at Queensbury this Sunday full of confidence. More confident, perhaps, than the weather forecasters who will have their doubts about the race going ahead as the Beast from the East is set to take a firm ice grip. This race has already been cancelled once, what chance another? Check local press for details.

We would like to set the record straight and refute suggestions that Sarah Haigh ran the full length of the riverbank posing like this, thus scaring off the kids. She was, in fact, just waving at the camera here.
Kirsty Edwards gives it one last push with this dart for the line…then sends the IT equipment into meltdown.

Pumas’ finishing positions;

12 Luke Cranfield (M)

31 Deke Banks (M)

39 Jude Roberts (MV)

45 Rick Ralph (MV)

80 Andy Barnes (MV)

99 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)

108 Diane Cooper (FV)

122 Jane Cole (FV)

131 Kirsty Edwards (FV)

141 Ally Canning (F)

147 Jon Ding (MSV)

156 Andrew Tudor (MV)

163 Peter Reason (MV)

173 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

175 Matt Newton (M)

193 Simon Wilkinson (M)

195 Sarah Haigh (FV)

196 Julie Bowman (FV)

197 Andrew Mellor (MV)

233 Katrina Wood (FSV)

235 Claire Ramsbottom (F)

236 Jodie Knowles (F)

243 Mark Kirkby (MSV)

270 Helen Jackson (FV)

277 Jo Coupe (FV)

279 Tiffany Lewis (FV)

288 Charlotte Reason (F)

290 Carolyn Brearley (FV)

293 Gina Farley (FSV)

304 finishers.

Thanks to Steve Boyer, Wendy Paulson and Andrew Falkingbridge for the use of photos. But not for the one above.

The Pumas pose for the camera before the race. Many shots like this were taken, just in case anyone slipped and fell in the process.

The fourth race in the Winter League was hosted by Skipton Harriers on Sunday, and, as last year, they’d set out a simple three-lapped course around Aireville Park and adjacent golf course. I use the word ‘simple’ loosely. I can testify that when the Pumas sampled the delights just over a year ago, it was challenging enough. It seems this time around, conditions were worse. Those runners living on high ground had woken up to a covering of snow and there was the ever-so-slight possibility that this race may have had to be put on the back-burner on Health & Safety grounds. Sadly – if that’s the right word – there was no such luck.

They’re off, and for a brief moment, Andy Barnes (extreme right) threatens the leaders.

The Pumas were represented by 27 runners, a number that could possibly have been doubled had Neil Coupe not enticed a ferry load to what he termed a ‘sight-seeing weekend’ of Amsterdam to help celebrate his birthday (by all accounts, he didn’t have to try too hard to get his numbers up). Among his party were several runners who more than likely would have scored points at Skipton, so it could be argued that, despite managing a great set of results regardless, the team could have done even better. This augurs well.

It’s all serious stuff as Jane Cole and Jon Ding tackle the perimeter of the golf course.

Aireville Park is probably picturesque in summer; perhaps not so much at the beginning of February, and the course, around 4½ miles long, was always going to be prove a stern test even before one considered the elements. The main obstacle, indeed, a recurring theme, seems to have been the mud of the thick variety type. The course was changed slightly from the previous year, with the mud section at the entrance to the golf course encountered only on the way in, therefore the runners waded through it just the three rimes as opposed to the six the year before. Having run the perimeter of the golf course and climbed up through the woods, the runners re-entered the park higher up. This meant the route was slightly shorter but it was no less easy because of it. In fact, the general consensus was that the course was harder than last year because of the sapping mud, which was just about everywhere, and worsened with each lap as over 270 runners pounded, slipped and slid their way around.

With his left leg heavily strapped, Pumas’ team organiser Andrew Tudor is already showing signs of discomfort. It’d be a miracle if he saw this one out.

The race was won by Adrian Holliday of Crossgate Harriers, who crossed the line just before Jon Ding was about to start his last lap. But Jon, who finished 133rd, had a great run himself and scored yet again to help the Pumas’ Supervets team attain their highest ever points tally. First home for the team in this category was Robert Shirlaw, who was 86th, and the Supervets, bolstered by the first appearance this season of Jenny Hopkinson (spurred along the way by husband Paul), scored 676 points to finish seventh on the day, their highest placing of the season.

The hunter hunted. A rare event indeed, as Lisa Aspinall finds herself being captured by the camera – before she was forced to retire, obviously.

First Puma home was Veteran Tim Brook, going one better than in his last two outings by finishing tenth. He was followed home by Luke Cranfield (18th), and the Pumas’ Male team scoring was completed by Deke Banks, Andy Haslam, Robert Shirlaw and Vets Rick Ralph and Andy Barnes. They totalled 1,800 points and finished sixth, equalling their position on home soil two weeks earlier.

Eyeing-up his first top ten finish, that’s Tim Brook.

Taking the honour for the first time as first female Puma home was Jane Cole, who ran a superb race to finish 123rd. Classed as the Veteran scorer, Jane was backed up by Ally Canning, Jenny Hopkinson and, scoring for the first time, Sarah Haigh. They totalled 1,103 points and finished fifth.

Sarah Haigh – you can run but you cannot hide.

The Veterans’ scorers were thus Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Jane Cole; they totalled 856 points, a score which gave them a sensational second position on the day. They were, in fact, just twenty points behind leaders Baildon.  Not only was this the highest position the Vets had achieved – and don’t forget, they were placed only seventh after the first race at Dewsbury – it was also the highest place any of the Pumas’ teams had attained throughout the season (and last season, for that matter).

All hands to the deck…Andy Haslam using a special technique as he tackles this mud heap…
…whilst Paula Snee finds herself on the ropes.

All-in-all, it had been quite a day and once everyone had recovered, experiences were shared, with the main topic of conversation being, of course, the conditions, and in particular, the mud. When Andy Haslam takes to social media to give his account, you know it’s serious stuff. “The course was much more difficult today when compared to last year, purely due to the mud,” The said. “The hill out of the woods, especially on lap three, was horrendous.” Andrew Tudor concurred: “There was mud everywhere,” he said, “The hill up to the top of the golf course was worse [than last year] and even the faster runners were struggling to run up it, and when you fell it was very difficult to get back up and get going.” When asked for his initial reaction, Paul Hopkinson said the course had been “very, very, very muddy”, whilst Dawn Higgins admitted, “It was like having lead boots on,” and when pressed further, had this to say: “Mud? From the initial ascent, then down to the gate, it soon became ankle deep, which was nice; wet feet to start with! The uphill beyond that was muddy, downhill was treacherous due to the mud. The sections through the trees were muddy. Uphill was ridiculously difficult due to the mud (have I mentioned that yet?) but on the plus side, coming down through the trees was so muddy no one was overtaking anyone as it was, you guessed it, muddy!” I think we get her drift. And debutant Lynsay Riding had this to say of her first experience of the Winter League: “I’m glad I did it but I don’t think it’s really for me! I’m not sure whether it was just a bad course because of the muddy conditions but it was really hard to get a proper momentum and pace because of slipping everywhere and it felt a lot more than four miles. It was really tiring and hard work.”

Dawn Higgins had much to say about the conditions when in reflective mood. Just what she was saying at this point wasn’t suitable for family viewing. Debutant Lynsay Riding (left) would help out but has problems of her own,  whilst Jodie Knowles, with a degree of foreboding, awaits her turn.

Everyone had something to say, and it seems they were all glad when it was over. But the final word must be reserved for the aforementioned Andrew Tudor, Ian Evans and Lisa Aspinall. All suffered injuries and, using horse-racing parlance, were pulled up. Andrew retired at the end of the second lap having struggled around on his one good leg, whilst Ian felt his knees giving way on the hills, something that was particularly galling for him as he’d travelled all the way from Manchester especially for the event. Lisa, making her long awaited Winter League debut after capturing so much of it on film, jarred her knee coming down a slope on the second lap and on partner Tim Brook’s medical advice, decided it best not to carry on. Thankfully, upon inspection, none were deemed ready for the knacker’s yard and will hopefully be fit for the next Winter League race hosted by Stainland Lions on 25 February, although Lisa’s involvement is more likely of capturing the action rather than being part of it.

Rick Ralph wades through the mud in the woods on the way to a being third Puma home.

Pumas’ finishing positions;

10 Tim Brook (MV)

18 Luke Cranfield (M)

24 Rick Ralph (MV)

46 Deke Banks (M)

65 Andy Barnes (MV)

77 Andy Haslam (MV)

86 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)

120 Shaun Casey (MV)

123 Jane Cole (FV)

133 Jon Ding (MSV)

141 Ally Canning (F)

174 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)

175 Jenny Hopkinson (FSV)

177 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

203 Sarah Haigh (FV)

212 Lynsay Riding (FV)*

215 Dawn Higgins (FV)

219 Helen Jackson (FV)

220 Jodie Knowles (F)

224 Anna Ralph (FV)

227 Katrina Wood (FSV)

231 Paula Snee (FV)

236 Kathryn Cleaver (FV)

250 Gabriella Kenny (FV)

Lisa Aspinall, Andrew Tudor and Ian Evans all retired.

274 finishers.

Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, birthday boy Neil Coupe contemplates what might have been. “There was a conflict of interests.”

 

Photos courtesy of Dave Butler and Robert Samuels.

West Yorkshire Winter League, Race Three,

Shelf Park, Sunday, 21 January 2018.

The ‘lucky’ Pumas who were taking part in the race. At least they could keep moving, unlike the marshals.

It’s fair to say that Northowram Pumas delivered what it said on the tin; a league race set in winter. What would you expect? Hosting one of these unique events for the first time, if the feedback is anything to go by, they pulled it off in style. One visiting runner remarked, “Absolutely a credit to you guys for putting on the show. Doesn’t get any more XC than that!” But that wouldn’t even be telling half the tale!

Tim Brook checks his watch, the starter confirms it, and they’re off!

The planning into what was the third race in the Winter League schedule, the course, the marshals, car-parking, you name it, was meticulous, and the visiting clubs were full of praise for everyone who worked behind the scenes. But as at South Leeds in the preceding race, the overnight frost caused some problems and necessitated a slight re-route, although the course itself was no less challenging for it.

A whole host of Pumas are among those forming an orderly queue on the steps you could call the stairway to heaven…but only because they’re going downhill.
Julie Bowman enters Judy Woods and is greeted by an appropriate polar-dog.

To say the weather was cold would be – pardon the ironic pun – putting it mildly. It could have been described in one or two words, but let’s just say it was fit for brass monkeys. And that was just for the runners. The marshals, too, had to brave the elements, some for almost two hours, and the thought must have crossed their minds that there could have been better ways to spend a Sunday morning. So hats off to all of them.

Sticking to the task in hand…that’s our Luke.
There’s never a bad time to pose for a happy shot, as proved by Charlotte Reason, Gabby Kenny and Jo Coupe, who are, nevertheless, photobombed.

The mass of runners gathered at Shelf Park, a venue that probably hasn’t had as many visitors at this time of year since – ever. Set for a 10.00am start, the race got under way just as the first flurry of snow landed on the heads. The course took the runners around the football pitch then had them descend into the woods, many treading gingerly in the manner of the secret lemonade drinker. Those at the front had a clear run, the main body of runners forced to form an orderly queue as they negotiated the steps. Once they’d hit the bottom there was the arduous climb up the other side before they entered the tarmacked Green Lane and heading right to the top corner. The long stretch down the track which was a continuation of Green Lane was welcome enough as it headed down towards Norwood Green, and once Village Street had been reached the runners followed the track that took them to the fun that is known as Judy Woods. Climbing up the infamous steps, the runners followed the path, emerging at a farm track, swinging around to the right, crossing fields and tracks before re-entering the woods and heading back up towards the top of Green Lane. By the time the runners reached this point, they were contending with a mini-blizzard, but at least they had a downhill canter towards Brow Lane before they entered the woods at the kissing gate. They were now on the homeward stretch, but Shelf Woods still has the knack of asking questions of each and every competitor. Slushy mud, steps, water, a brook, and if the sharp descent wasn’t hazardous enough, the climb up the other side and back into Shelf Park pushed the runners to almost breaking point. Many had already had the energy sapped out of their legs, but once they’d climbed out of the trees the finishing line was in sight, with many, if not most, reaching it in the manner of someone who had found the crock of gold at the foot of the rainbow.

It’s snow joke, but Andy Barnes can afford a smile as he drags himself up the Judy Woods steps.
Tim Brook glides through the field and the blizzard on the way to an eleventh place finish.

The race was won by Crossgate Harriers’ Adrian Holliday – his wife Lindsay was second female home in 38th – whilst for the Pumas, Tim Brook was not only first home, but as at South Leeds two weeks earlier, he finished eleventh overall. Luke Cranfield was next, finishing eight places behind, though it must be added here that he and Tim between them had clocked up more than twenty miles, having checked the course early in the morning to make sure it hadn’t fallen foul of would-be saboteurs.  The Pumas’ male team’s scoring was completed by Rick Ralph (34th), Jude Roberts (37th), Deke Banks (64th|), Andy Barnes (74th) and Shaun Casey (95th.  They finished the day in sixth place of the fourteen competing clubs.

There’s nobody else in sight as Diane Cooper charges through the woods on the way to being first female Puma home.

Tim Brook and Rick Ralph also scored for the Veterans’ team, and they were joined by Diane Cooper, now running back to her best, who was first female Puma home in 121st. They amassed 844 points. And the Super Vets, once again, managed a full quota of finishers, with Jon Ding (179th), Mark Kirkby (265th) and Katrina Wood (282nd) all scoring. But the real talking point, especially among the girls, was of the girls, who exceeded all expectations – or perhaps that’s doing them a disservice – by finishing an amazing third, as Diane was followed home by Ally Canning (135th), Kirsty Edwards (143rd) and Jane Cole, who came home in 173rd to give the team 1,127 points.

Super Vet Mark Kirkby enjoying the respite the downhill stretch of Green Lane can offer. But who ordered all this white stuff, he wonders. It plays havoc with his traction.

There had been Winter League debuts for Lindsay Grix, Karen Matos, William Bonfield and Carla Sharp, who elected to act as a tail-runner with Shana Emmerson, just to make sure nobody got lost. And despite the elements, there’s no doubting that the Pumas had pulled off a great event, well organised, cheery marshals, and the snow was, when all’s said and done, a fantastic bonus! The plaudits were led by Dewsbury’s Laura Pearmain, who said, “Thanks for a great run today, especially the marshals for standing out in those conditions. Think Northowram gets the prize for muddiest course so far this season!” But she was more grateful than most, in fact – her car needed to be given a shove by several runners to get her out of the car park!

Paula Snee is suitably attired but relieved to be finishing.

Pumas finishing positions;

11 Tim Brook MV

19 Luke Cranfield M

34 Rick Ralph MV

37 Jude Roberts MV

64 Deke Banks M

74 Andy Barnes MV

95 Shaun Casey MV

115 Chris Crabtree M

121 Diane Cooper FV

128 Andrew Tudor MV

135 Ally Canning F

143 Kirsty Edwards FV

173 Jane Cole FV

179 Jon Ding MSV

185 Tom O’Reilly MV

188 Peter Reason MV

209 Victoria Owen F

210 Julie Bowman FV

218 Simon Wilkinson M

222 Ian Evans M

236 Paula Snee FV

237 Sarah Haigh FV

238 Matt Newton M

251 Andrew Mellor MV

253 Claire Ramsbottom F

255 Kathryn Cleaver FV

257 Dawn Higgins FV

265 Mark Kirkby MSV

268 William Bonfield M*

272 Lindsay Grix F*

282 Katrina Wood FSV

287 Anna Ralph FV

288 Jodie Knowles F

303 Tiffany Lewis FV

306 Neil Coupe MV

309 Gabriella Kenny FV

318 Charlotte Reason F

322 Jo Coupe FV

335 Karen Matos FV*

348 Carla Sharp F*

349 Shana Emmerson FV

349 runners.

The race may have been over, but for some there were still challenges ahead. Like getting this car out of the car park.

With thanks for the use of photographs to Lisa Aspinall, Smith Photography and Steve Boyer.

Temple Newsam Ten,

Sunday, 14 January, 2018.

They say there’s no rest for the wicked. Why else would Pumas Andrew Mellor and Peter Reason find themselves tackling this relatively new event, the Temple Newsam Ten? Hosted by St Theresa’s Athletic Club, this race, now in its third year, has already become an established part of the running calendar. Last year, all one thousand entries were snapped up; Andrew and Peter took no chances and booked well in advance.

Andrew Mellor and Peter Reason, Pumas’ only representatives at the Temple Newsam Ten, but sure to do us proud.

So what was on offer? Well, the official site describes the event; “Staged in the beautiful grounds of the Temple Newsam Estate, discover 500 years of history with the magnificent country mansion set within 1500 acres of beautiful parkland. The course is mainly bridle and country paths (it could be muddy) covering areas of the estate that you wouldn’t normally see. There are stunning views of the 17th Century House and gardens designed and re-landscaped by Capability Brown. The course also takes in the nearby nature reserve, lakes and canals that form part of the Woodlesford navigation.” Why, it almost makes you think you’d want to set off with a picnic hamper. But this is January, of course, so the runners may have been drawn to the bit that states (almost as if it was an afterthought) that the course could be “muddy”. The runners had been warned.

The runners at the start awaiting zero hour.

With the Tudor/Jacobean Temple Newsam Stately Home providing a scenic backdrop, the course, in a nutshell, took the runners out through fields, tracks, paths and trees, running anti-clockwise around the Temple Newsam golf course, under the M1, then again anti clockwise around the lake of Skelton Country Park, back under the M1, then following the route through trees, along Bullerthorpe Lane before heading back to the finish line in the field where they’d started some time earlier.

Whilst the clock ticked its way down to 9.30, the eight-hundred or so runners huddled behind the start line, and before you knew it, the race was under way. Andrew and Peter positioned themselves near the rear of the field and adopting the attitude of ‘someone’s got to do it’ they set off. Ahead of them lay ten miles – you sure get your money’s worth at events like this – of wet grass, puddles and mud, and whatever else the course threw at them.

And they’re off! Peter’s in there somewhere. Can you spot him?

Though they set off together, Peter soon pulled away from Andrew, but both loved it, of course. Negotiating the obstacles in their own manner, Peter, painting pictures with words, described his attempt at tiptoeing around the edge of the mud as being “like a hippo trying to walk a tightrope,” whilst Andrew used all his Winter League experience to take the quickest route – directly through each and every puddle. With two miles to go, Peter began to feel the pain of a blister on his small toe (left foot), but undeterred, he soldiered on, climbing the last hill through gritted teeth before entering the finishing field. “My hero,” wife Sharon would later call him when he arrived home for Sunday dinner, whilst Andrew was beaming with pride as he showed off his first bling of 2018, a runner’s finish medal (not the T-shirt). It’s what it’s all about.

Race all done, and Andrew caught up with a few work colleagues to exchange stories, or perhaps he was on a Pumas’ recruitment drive.
Having completed the ten mile course and waded through mud and puddles, as well as suffering a blistered toe, Peter is all smiles once home. The only thing he wants to tackle now is his Sunday roast. While Sharon prepares it, Peter takes time out to show off his latest medal.

Finishing positions and times (age category and position);

395 Peter Reason 1:34:02 (M45 63/91)

418 Andrew Mellor 1:35:23 (M35 50/63)

806 runners

West Yorkshire Winter League, Race Two,

Middleton Park, Leeds, Sunday, 7 January, 2018.

Judging by the reactions of almost every runner who crossed the finish line at the end of the second West Yorkshire Winter League race on Sunday, that was some tough run. But South Leeds Lakers, who staged the race for the first time – and pulled it off in style – clearly needed to put everyone to the test, and the course they eventually mapped out certainly did that.

The sunlight casts itself over Middleton Park on a glorious crisp winter’s morning, as Jude Roberts and Robert Shirlaw lead the charge.

The Northowram Pumas were out in force again, with Cpt Coupe de-icing the tour bus in time to take a contingent of the team to Middleton Park. It was another great turn-out; all told, there were thirty-one Pumas on show. The cold snap wasn’t going to deter this lot, although it did play havoc with the original route that had been designed by the hosts. The race organisers were out by first sunlight on the Sunday morning to check that the course passed health and safety legislation, and ever the careful planners, when a section of the course was deemed too hazardous due to ice, they reverted to their cunning Plan B, and arrangements to put this in place meant there was a twenty-minute hold up for the start of the race.

That’s Andy. Messrs Haslam and Barnes in deep thought.
Winter League debutant Chris Crabtree finds that this is a slightly more different proposition than running up Westercroft.

Put simply, what the competitors now faced was a two-lapped course around Middleton Park, the first loop slightly longer than the second. But that’s not saying much, when the challenge before the near four hundred runners asked much of limbs and lungs. The start was straightforward enough, a single anti-clockwise loop of the field the runners started in, before the route took them out into the sticks, dropping down a steep hill, left up a long incline of rubble and old tarmac, up a muddy hill then up into the park. Lined by leave-less trees, this track is obviously more picturesque in summer, but most of the runners wouldn’t have had time to admire the scenery anyway as the route winded around the perimeter of the park, climbing to its zenith at 474 feet around the halfway mark on the first loop. A long stretch of downhill on the tarmac was most welcome, then there was a climb of a mud hill, followed by a left turn onto a grass path which eventually led the runners back to the field where they’d started. Only to do it all again! When the runners had reached this point a second time, there was the flat run to the finish line ahead, a total of, depending on whose Strava app you want to believe, of around 5.5 miles.

Sarah Haigh, Paula Snee and Julie Bowman crowd out a Stainland Lion (Michelle Rogerson).
Captain Caveman himself. Neil Coupe clearly enjoying the experience.

Inevitably, some runners found the going easier than others, though that’s not to say that anyone found it easy. In fact, the finish line videos showed most, if not all, on the point of exhaustion. But however hard Tim Brook pushed himself, and he was among the front runners from the start, he still summoned up enough energy for one last surge to pip Tom Langdon (Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club) to finish eleventh, roaring like a real Puma as he crossed the line. Luke Cranfield was six places behind him, and making up the scoring in the Male team were Rick Ralph, Jude Roberts, Robert Shirlaw (the first Super Vet Puma home), Andy Barnes and Andy Haslam to give them a seventh place finish on the day from the thirteen competing clubs. The first female Puma home was Veteran Diane Cooper in 162nd pace, and she was backed up for the team points by Ally Canning, Kirsty Edwards and Paula Snee, and the Pumas’ Female team finished on the day in sixth place.

It’s often been said that dogs are a man’s best friend. But there’s a time and a place.
Claire Ramsbottom is followed by Katrina Wood as they attempt to nullify the threat of Queensbury’s Zoe Hipwell.
Making her Winter League bow was Kathryn Cleaver, seen here trying to negotiate unfamiliar terrain.

The Veterans’ scorers of Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Diane Cooper helped the team to an impressive fifth place finish, whilst the Supervets’ scorers Robert Shirlaw, Jon Ding and Katrina Wood saw them finish on the day in ninth position. With a combined Male and Female total of 2,801 points, Pumas finished overall in sixth position.

Let me hear you roar. Tim Brook duly obliges as he pips Tom Langdon on the line to finish eleventh.

Elsewhere down the line there were stories to be told. Chris Crabtree completed his first-ever Winter League race, finishing 115th, whilst Simon Wilkinson, 242nd, felt the course was a tough one, but anyone who’d filled up over the Yuletide period on cheese and chocolate was Bounty. The aforementioned Paula Snee, who was initially listed as a second Neil Coupe, excelled herself to finish just three places behind Simon. There’s no real reason why she should have been confused with Neil, other than the fact that she dislikes this sort of event as much as he does (but doesn’t tell us). Neil, on the other hand, likens all this Winter League stuff to caveman-running, and we’re still awaiting the day when he runs with a club in one hand whilst beating his bare chest with the other as he darts through the forest.

Diane Cooper was first female Puma home, but snaps of her in action proved quite elusive. She was going so fast, obviously. But she appears here about to leave Skipton’s Michael Fothergill in her wake.

Rachael Hawkins’ appearance as she crossed the finishing line also confused the organisers, probably because she didn’t have her friends with her. When she identified herself, she then asked if she’d won, almost as if she had been dreaming and suddenly awoken from her slumber by a South Leeds Laker. I wonder who had the heart to tell her she’d just missed out? Rachael was, in fact, 326th, one place ahead of Kathryn Cleaver, who was running her first Winter League race. Jo Coupe finished in time to cheer home Carolyn Brearley and deafen the video man in the process, whilst just beating Carolyn was Helen Jackson, now getting back into the swing of things after injury. Emma James, also making her Winter League debut, was the last – but certainly not the least – Puma home and by the look on her face, she clearly enjoyed the experience (not).

“So, did you enjoy your first experience of the West Yorkshire Winter League?” Emma James tries to find a suitable answer.

Northowram Pumas’ positions;

11 Tim Brook MV

17 Luke Cranfield M

46 Rick Ralph MV

63 Jude Roberts MV

92 Robert Shirlaw MSV

95 Andy Barnes MV

103 Andy Haslam MV

114 Shaun Casey MV

115 Chris Crabtree M*

121 Andrew Tudor MV

153 Richard Ogden MV

162 Diane Cooper FV

169 Matt Newton M

176 Ally Canning F

195 Kirsty Edwards FV

211 Jon Ding MSV

219 Tom O’Reilly MV

222 Neil Coupe MV

242 Simon Wilkinson M

245 Paula Snee FV

240 Julie Bowman FV

253 Sarah Haigh FV

261 Victoria Owen F

292 Ian Evans M

296 Andrew Mellor MV

304 Claire Ramsbottom F

308 Mark Kirkby MSV

326 Rachel Hawkins F

327 Kathryn Cleaver FV

328 Katrina Wood FSV

331 Jodie Knowles F

349 Gabriella Kenny FV

353 Tiffany Lewis FV

372 Jo Coupe FV

379 Helen Jackson FV

380 Carolyn Brearley FV

381 Emma John-Baptiste FV

397 runners.

 

With thanks to Smith Photography, Lisa Aspinall and Robert Samuels for use of photos.

Coley Canter.

Saturday 30 December, 2017.

Last Saturday saw the Northowram Pumas’ second hosting of the revived Coley Canter. After the success of the previous year, where the event attracted 72 willing participants, this year the number was greatly increased, to the extent that there were 129 lining up at the start.

The Pumas are all smiles here. Mind, this was before they’d seen the conditions. From left; Chris Ellis, Andrew Mellor, Richard Ogden, Andy Barnes, Tim Brook, Diane Cooper, Shana Emmerson, Rachael Hawkins and Claire Ramsbottom.

Of course, events such as these take some organising, and while Andy Haslam acted as Race Director, without the help of the many marshals it couldn’t have gone ahead. There were many Pumas who were happy to stand at the strategic points for a good hour or more in the freezing cold to help the race go smoothly. But while the race organisers were indebted to them, there were in the large field of runners, a small sprinkling of Pumas who perhaps thought that running the Coley Canter might just be the lesser of the two evils, although in the event, it was questionable as to who had the most fun.

And they’re off, these way-out wacky racers.

A decent downfall of overnight snow through Thursday and into Friday morning had given way to rain by the afternoon, which by Saturday morning had rendered the course in many places at best treacherous. But oh the joys, and how they loved it, although I’m not necessarily talking about the runners. Slippery downhill grassy pathways gave the runners a challenge barely half a mile in, and those that didn’t take a tumble were perhaps thankful for the boundary wall to which they clung on to for dear life.

Chris Ellis…on his way…just about keeping upright…
…unlike Queensbury’s Neil Windle, who went all the way.

There were many taking part in this race for the first time, so they weren’t perhaps so familiar with the route which crossed fields from Coley down to Syke Lane, followed tracks up into Norwood Green, headed out towards and into Judy Woods, up through the trees before it dropped down to negotiate the brook (with the advice being to tackle it whichever way suited you best), followed bridle paths then entered the woods and the inevitable steep climb up to Shelf Park, tracks and fields that headed back towards Coley, coming out on Coley Road itself and the run for home having crossed Denholmegate Road via farm and field to Westercroft Lane and the cricket field where it all started. Still got your breath?

The appropriately named Tim Brook at his gymnastic best, flies across the fast flowing stream-cum-river. Death-defying stunts like this helped Tim to a third place finish.
Diane Cooper wades through the water but still has time for a warmish smile.
…whilst Glenn Ackroyd surveys the situation before trying an unconventional method. When asked how he felt he’d managed the Coley Canter, he replied, “Nothing to shout about.”

There were laughs along the way, for sure, but for those with their eyes on the prizes, there was much work to be done. Making light of it was race winner Owen Beilby, who completed the course in 56:26, a time some five minutes slower than Gary Priestley, who won the event the previous year, albeit in better conditions. Beilby was followed home by the familiar Gavin Mulholland – third last year – but there was something even more recognisable about the runner next home; a Pumas vest. Yes, it was Tim Brook, and had Olympic medals been given out he would have taken bronze. As it was, he had to settle for age winner in the Male Over 35 section, beating Richard Harrison of St Theresa’s in the same category by half a minute, whilst Tim’s time of 1:00:28 was a Puma record, beating that set last year by #FPHs home Rick Heaton and Shaun Casey by well over twelve minutes.

Andy Barnes was second Puma home, finishing nineteenth, and Richard Ogden was third Puma in 24th, whilst first female Puma over the line was Diane Cooper. She finished 28th, not only second female home in the Ladies’ Over 45 section, but also the fourth Puma home. Further down the line, Rachael Hawkins and her two best friends Claire Ramsbottom and Andrew Mellor went through the mill together from start to finish, whilst just behind them, Glenn Ackroyd found the Coley Canter a whole different ball game to the Abbey Dash, and as such, didn’t have much to say!

Stuck on you. The gluepot conditions around the course were tackled in style by Rachael Hawkins, Claire Ramsbottom and Andrew Mellor, who pulls his friends towards the finishing line.

Pumas’ finishing positions and times;

3 Tim Brook 1:00:28

19 Andy Barnes 1:13:12

24 Richard Ogden 1:15:50

28 Diane Cooper 1:16:47

30 Chris Ellis 1:17:19

66 Tom O’Reilly 1:27:05

88 Claire Ramsbottom 1:39:48

89 Andrew Mellor 1:39:48

90 Rachael Hawkins 1:39:48

91 Glenn Ackroyd 1:40:35

129 Shana Emmerson tail runner

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

 

 

TOUR OF NORLAND TRAIL

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

FARSLEY FLYER

Wednesday 9 August, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cathy in recent action at Brighouse.

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

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