The Bingley Show Trail Race isn’t for the faint-hearted. Predominately off-road, as the name suggests, it also takes in several steep climbs which ask much of the nimblest of runners. Northowram Pumas were represented by just two competitors; Tiffany Lewis and Karen Matos, and all credit must go to them for daring to give the 10k course a go. Not only was the route treacherous in places, the event got under way in torrential rain which made the going all the more heavier.
There were 132 runners who braved the elements and the event was won by Michael Malyon of Baildon Runners in 42:33. Tiffany was #FPH in 123rd position in a time of 1hr 19:06, whilst Karen was just one place behind in a time of 1hr 21:26. Upon completion of the race both bemoaned the conditions, the course, their positions and their times, but when asked by an official later if they’d enjoyed themselves, both were heard to reply, “We loved it!”
The month of May can only mean one thing in every runners race calendar, The Calderdale Way Relay.
Last year, we managed to enter two teams (a male and a female team) and we did well, considering it was the first time we’d entered it.
But in 2017, we went bigger and better, entering 3 teams and totally smashing last years positions out of the park!
Massive thanks go out to Andrew ‘Sarge’ Tudor for organising three teams of injury prone, map-phobic runners!
Find out more about the day, from runners of each leg below!
We’re still waiting to hear from our leg one runners….they enjoyed it that much, they obviously can’t put it into words! Either that or they still haven’t managed to navigate their way to a computer!
Leg two – Johnny Vs Stoodley Pike, round 2
The only saving grace about running Leg 2 was that the six ‘designated’ runners didn’t have to rise from our beds before the dawn chorus. Yet, in the back of our minds was the nagging thought of having to scale 1,300 feet and run a course of 8.4 miles. They say runners must be mad, and as singer/songwriter Joe Jackson might have said, there goes your proof!
My own personal journey began when I left home at 7.05 to drive to Todmorden, arriving in good time, well before, it would appear, other club runners. I ran this leg last year – further evidence perhaps that I truly do need certifying – but unlike twelve months previously, there was no parking at Todmorden High School (nor, as it transpired, was there where the finish line was). I managed to park up on Ewood Lane, then watched as cars drove up and around the corner to use the Leisure Centre car park, only then to see the same said cars making a hasty retreat. Apparently, there was a notice at the car park entrance that read something to the effect of ‘Runners not welcome’.
At 7.56, Neil Coupe turned up in his passenger transporter carrying Andy Haslam and Deke Banks, who were running in the Pumas Men’s team (as opposed to me and Neil who were representing the Mixed Team, though with pride, I hasten to add). I duly jumped in and we made our way back to Cragg Vale where registration and kit checks were being made. Last year, we had use of the Hinchliffe Arms, where pre-race coffee was served. A change of hands and it appears a change of attitude, though the new owners were obliging enough to let hosts Halifax Harriers the use of the car park. There, we met Kirsty Edwards and Lucy Oxley, who were running in the Ladies team.
Kit check and registration duly complete, we were then left with the long wait until the first runners came in. We were joined by Jo Allen, Tiffany Lewis and Carolyn Brearley, and they kept us company whilst taking the obligatory team photos. Our mass start was scheduled for 9.45, and there was the hope that the first leg Men and Ladies teams would be in by then. The first arrivals were Ben Mounsey and Andy Swift, running for the Calder Valley Fell Runners, though Ben didn’t hang around; no sooner had he finished then he was making his way back up the road heading for Blackshaw Head in order to run his team’s third leg (though there’s no suggestion he ran there – he probably took the car).
Luke Cranfield and Tim Brook easily made the cut, finishing their leg in 1hr 25.52 and handing over the baton to Andy and Deke. Of course, we knew we wouldn’t see them again until we’d finished. As other teams arrived, Kirsty and Lucy waited anxiously in the hope that Liz McDonnell and Diane Cooper would appear; alas, it wasn’t to be. Like myself and Neil, they were pulled in for the mass start and without any hesitation, we were off. Liz and Diane may have just arrived to see the dust settle; they missed the cut-off point by an agonising forty seconds. Matt Newton and Alan Sykes of the Mixed Team, were, of course, still out there, and wouldn’t finish their leg until 23 minutes after the mass start.
Meantime, myself, Neil, Kirsty and Lucy had begun the arduous gradual ascent up Rudd Lane heading towards Withens Clough Reservoir, and way beyond that, Stoodley Pike. It might be an age thing, but having run the course twice last year (including the recce) I’d somehow forgotten just how tough the route was. The climb, though not steep, seemed to take an age, and I was soon feeling it in the back of my legs. Having overtaken Kirsty and Lucy early on (although I didn’t think we were particularly racing) they swapped places with us just before the reservoir, and whilst for long enough they remained in our sights, soon enough the gap between us became insurmountable. At some point above the reservoir, a group of us seemingly missed a stile through which we would have picked up a track; instead we ended up ploughing across the adjacent field, not a problem in itself, but the stile further along proved a handicap. Whilst I could easily slip through it, not so my bum-bag. I became wedged in, and it wasn’t until I applied excessive force to free myself that I managed to pass through. But one of the safety pins holding my race number in place had come undone, and Neil had to fasten it for me, and valuable seconds were lost.
We turned right, picking up the Pennine Way track, and headed across the moors towards Stoodley Pike. Again, not steep, but treacherous in places and with the odd bog thrown in for good measure, this was no idea of fun. Stoodley Pike, a monument built to commemorate victory in the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, rebuilt in 1856, appeared in view. We reached it but had no time to survey it; on the other side was the steep drop towards Mankinholes, a descent certainly not for the faint-hearted. Throwing caution to the wind, I flew down the precipice in the manner of a Marvel superhero; Neil stepped more gingerly, not so much Superman as Couperman (he hates this kind of thing anyway, don’t you know?), and at the bottom, for the only time, did I find myself having to wait for him to catch me up. We then had the long but gentle run along the bridle path towards Mankinholes, bearing right on the tarmacked road, then taking a left down a track which took us in front of the Top Brink pub.
Ahead of us lay the energy-sapping climb towards another local hostelry, the Shepherd’s Rest. Long and undulating, I recall last year running all of this stretch; this time, my legs must have been feeling heavier as I found myself having to walk. Still, we were spurred on by Kirsty’s husband Mark and daughter Jessica, and further along, Tracey Ann en famile, somehow, just by chance, happening to be out for a stroll.
There’s been many a sporting mishap over the years that have long had folk chewing the cud; Devon Loch’s legs giving way as the horse was about to win the 1956 Grand National, Cambridge sinking in the Boat Race in 1978, and Michael Schumacher taking out Damon Hill in 1994 to prevent him taking the Formula One world championship, to name but just three. I’m not sure where myself and Neil would fit into all this, but getting lost on Long Hey Road, at the beginning of the drop into Todmorden, was as bad as it would get for us. Long Hey Road actually sweeps around to the left; we carried straight forward towards Longfield Equestrian Centre and then bore left. We were joined by Hazel Ives and Angela Donaggin of Skipton B, who tried to put us right by taking the entrance into the equestrian centre itself (strange, as they’d reccied the course recently). Realising we were all wrong, we returned up Long Hey Road and picked up the correct route. In the distance behind us, Paul Corns and Steve Hallam of Stainland Lions F must have breathed a collective sigh of relief as they watched the drama; they now couldn’t make the same mistake. Not only that, they’d made up much ground. I despaired; any hope of making up time on Kirsty and Lucy all now vanished.
The drop into Todmorden, via Honey Hole Road, was a sharp as it could get, asking further questions of the legs. Eventually we hit Rochdale Road, turned left and headed for Dobroyd Road which crosses the railway line. We were then faced with the toughest part of the course; the hellish climb up and beyond Dobroyd Castle. Even the elitist of runners would find this tough, especially after six miles. Speaking to Andy Haslam afterwards, he admitted to having to power-walk much of it. I did what I could, but it was while negotiating this section that Messrs Corns and Hallam passed us, although we stuck close to them for much of the rest of the course. In time (and that depends how fast you were going) we took a farm track, then climbed into a field (still rising), crossing diagonally and over the tops before picking up the tarmacked Parkin Lane. Thankfully, after bearing left, this was the last of the climbing – and not much of it – as we then dropped down towards a farm house, picking up the bridle way, crossing fields and then carefully winding our way through the steep path through the woods towards Ewood Lane. The end was in sight.
I’d hoped we could make a race of it with the Stainland Lions pair, but they hit Ewood Lane first and made a dash for the finish. I’d wondered what had happened to Hazel and Angela, never too far behind us following the Long Hey incident. Actually, they’d long since given up the ghost on myself and Neil. We reached the road, turned left and headed for the finishing line which, as opposed to the previous year when we finished at Tod High School itself, was just around the bend above the Leisure Centre. It was perhaps too little too late, but the nearer the finishing line the better, at least for this runner. Greeting us in were Andy and Deke, who’d finished an age before us, having completed the course in 1:11.53 and managing to hand over the baton to Tom O’Reilly and Peter Reason.
Kirsty and Lucy, who’d finished in 1:22.58, along with Jo, Tiffany and Carolyn, were also there. Our time of 1:31.13 was disappointing (and slower than the time I clocked with Robert Shirlaw last year), but there were, as you’ve seen above, mitigating circumstances.
As my old Geography teacher might have screamed: “Read your damn map!”
Leg three, Peter Von Reason gives us the low down
Open – Peter Reason & Thomas O’Reilly
Ladies – Victoria Owen & Alison Pearce
Mixed – Nicola Pennington & Melissa Hall
On an overcast morning our 6 Pumas congregated in Todmorden for the start of leg 3. With all kit checked, numbers collected and team photos taken, we were all set for a mid morning run up to Blackshaw Head.
As the first runners came down the hill with their batons we moved in to position. By 10:30 all 3 Puma teams were on the road ready for the off. I was now clock watching and at 10:36 leg 2 team (Andy H & Deke) came down the hill with baton in hand. By 10:38 the baton was firmly in Tom’s hand and we were off on our leg leaving our fellow Pumas to a mass start at 11am.
At a steady pace we made our way past the Hare & Hounds, with the sun now shining a pint would be very tempting, but a 1,111 ft climb was to be tackled.
With the temperature rising as we progressed up the hill we were getting hotter and we tried to keep to Sgt. Tudors 8 minute pace (unsuccessfully). Tom took pace up the big hill with me following, as that incline became steeper our pace slowed right down to a quick walk. Now at the half way point on the hill, Tom and I started jogging up to the top when we were passed by the team behind us.
Once up top we increased our pace to give Shaun and Adam some extra time for leg 4. As Tom increased his pace, I decided to take a dive just to slow Tom down. Tom’s attempts to alert mountain rescue by blowing his whistle proved futile, I did suggest firing a flare gun might be a better idea, but alas that was missing from the kit list and Tom’s impressive £36 tech back pack. With blood pouring from my knee’s Tom applied what he considered to be excellent first aid a squirt of water and words of comfort. Once back on my feet we set off at Bolt pace, but with those magnificent views across the valley to Stoodley pike we had to slow down and Tom asking me for directions slowed us down further. The run now turned into a nice undulating jaunt across the moors, before we dropped down a Tarmac road and then taking left up towards Todmorden golf course with thoughts of stopping for a round of golf as we were now ahead of schedule.
Over 3/4 of the way round taking a left running past the squealing pigs and the farmer directing the ramblers back on to the Calderdale way, we continued at pace. Through forest, marshy fields and walled paths we made our way back to the road. Taking a slight up hill then down to what Tom called Brimham rocks we ran. At the rocks we took a left past the goats and fellow leg 3 runners running back to Tod. Finally we hit a technical decent down to Hippins bridge, being very careful not to go too fast and end up hanging on the barbed wire. Over the bridge and up the final climb with my kit bag slipping, Tom started to slow so I tightened my belt and took the opportunity to pass Tom and lead him onto the final straight. As we turned the corner with a shout for the Pumas from Paul H we sprinted towards the end of our leg, and just to slow Tom further I threw another water bottle. As Tom picked up the water bottle & I slowed to make sure we handed the baton over at 11:30am together.
After mopping up the blood from my knees, we enjoyed a tea and cake, but how we’d have preferred a pint and bag of pork scratchings. I’m sure Tom only volunteered for the run to get out of wedding arrangements.
The morning was completed by watching Alison and Vicky complete a fantastic leg to get Ally and Jane off just before the mass start, only for Jane to go sprinting beyond their first stile crossing to screams of stop you missed the gate. After seeing Ally and Jane off Richard and Conor departed on the mass start and minutes later we cheered Nicola and Melissa into the finish.
Leg 3 completed by all 3 Puma teams successfully, happy in the knowledge we’d achieved something big.
As for Tom’s technical back pack, it can now be borrowed for the odd trip to collect alcohol from the Off Licence….
Thanks to everyone who supported us on the day. A real team effort, as always from the Pumas.
Leg four – Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls, Adam gives us the lowdown
Herbie Rides Again… thoughts of this movie came in to my head as I pinned our team number 53 to the front of my Pumas top at the start of leg 4.
This movie sequel featuring the Beetle with racing number 53 was out the year I was born. Now sequels are rarely as good as the original film, with the exception of The Godfather Part 2 and The Bourne Supremacy… oh and of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel!
In my nervous (‘squeakquel’ pants time) pre-race thoughts I pondered this film-based analogy…
Shaun and I were about to do our very own follow-up to this leg of the Calderdale Way Relay – our sequel would be more of a remake of the original episode we made in 2016. This time with a bigger budget (this year we forked out on a taxi to travel to the event and get back) and a bigger cast (three pairs of leading stars instead of two in 2016).
We had to put in a much better performance this time round to keep director Andrew Tarantino-Tudor happy with the final cut!
According to our script, the basic plot was to pass the baton on to our fellow Pumas Men’s team waiting at the start of leg 5. Shaun and I worked out that the running time – in movie speak and literally our time running – would have to be edited down to 1 hour 30 mins from the overlong performance we produced last year.
Enough with the movie metaphors though… this meant we had to be 8 minutes quicker than last year.
We had calculated this was the absolute best time we could feasibly achieve – if the wind was blowing the right way, we didn’t talk to each other so as to reserve all our strength, and under no circumstances attempted to waste any energy using facial muscles to smile for any photographers on route!
It meant we needed our team 53 leg 3 Puma pals to hand the baton to us no later than half past 11, to give us any chance at all to reach the start of leg 5 before the cut-off time of 1pm.
The six of us leg 4 Pumas – Ally, Jane, Richard, Conor, Shaun and me – rapturously kept track of how the rest of the Pumas were performing using the messenger update service Andrew had set up. Seeing the baton being handed over at the earlier legs certainly built up the excitement.
We were gutted for Liz and Diane when they reported they’d missed out by mere seconds in passing on their Women’s team baton. We knew how agonising this must have felt and this spurred us on to pull everything out of the bag. And what a meticulously packed bag it was I must say – containing all the obligatory items from the kit list, from whistle to kitchen sink!
To be on the safe side, Conor has brought along a World Atlas rather than the stipulated OS map of our specific leg!
Peter and Tom managed to make it to us more or less bang on 11:30am with a fantastic performance from them and the two earlier legs gaining valuable minutes. So it was now feasible, but we set off with trepidation knowing it was going to be down to the wire (Mission Impossible comes to mind… sorry I said no more cinematic references!).
This would be less a blockbuster, but more a bonebuster as we stuck to Shaun’s strategy of tearing down the steep slippery slopes where we knew we had a chance to save vital seconds, risking falling head over heels, while making sure we didn’t burn out on those arduous uphill sections.
Ally discovered just how hazardous those rough paths can be, taking a tumble – in her own words ‘a face plant’ – during her race with partner Jane. In summer Blockbuster movie speak perhaps this moment was more Blackshaw Head Down, than Black Hawk Down… Thankfully she was able to get back to her feet and crack on. It’s amazing our inspirational run leader was able to complete the leg at all starting with a pre-race foot injury – never mind in the super time this pair achieved, smashing our club Women’s record to bits.
Ally recalls: “My highlight for the day was thinking that me and Jane would be in the mass start and then hearing our number being called because Alison and Vix were coming in before the cut off time… that and Jane missing the gate and going in the wrong direction within the first 10 seconds!”.
Getting lost was a constant fear for all of us (except Conor of course with his on-board luggage weighted down with the maps of Great Britain and beyond). Even me and Shaun were not averse to almost taking wrong turns on our 4th bid at this leg!
Our audacious, if may be overly ambitious plan, was to sprint across the couple of miles of level moorland across to Hebden Bridge Golf Course. This is where the previous week on our recce, we had sighted a Fokker in the valley below us on our recce. No I’m not talking disparagingly about a rival team’s runner – there was a huge, low flying military aircraft passing by when we had checked out the route the previous week.
No time for any such distractions today though as we ploughed along, remaining focused on our gargantuan task of maintaining the necessary average pace of 9:34 minute miles. Before the race, my online pace calculator had confirmed this was the required target we must hit.
So my job was to monitor this while Shaun would keep his eye on counting down the time to 1pm. Unfortunately in the nervous excitement to set off when we were handed the baton, I’d neglected to start my Garmin timer, so missed the first third of a mile. I therefore had to do some strategic mental calculations (words ‘finger’ and ‘air’ come to mind) to keep us on track, which basically amounted to our hastily revised strategy – just chuffin’ run as fast as we can without collapsing in a heap!
With the last couple of miles to go as we descended to Jerusalem farm, I could see our overall average pace was 9:14 which seemed ‘pretty, pretty good’ as Larry David would say – but like his TV show, we needed to curb our enthusiasm as we still had to factor in the rather repugnant ramp up to Wainstalls.
As we hobbled up that last incline – that seemed to go on forever – I managed to find enough breath to ask Shaun the time. And the response was like a cross between the speaking clock from the Eighties and a heavy breathing nuisance call as my running buddy panted his response, confirming we had just minutes until our 1pm deadline. We still had about half a mile to run/crawl to where we could see the crowd of runners gathered for the mass start.
Spotting the friendly faces of our Puma pals Luke, Tim and Lisa gave us the boost we needed to keep going, and there was a huge, uplifting cheer as we ran through the pack of runners.
It was now like a slow motion replay in my head as Shaun handed over the baton to Andrew and Richard (watch that momentous highlight here). We watched as they set off across the field – just 10 seconds later the mass start was called and the field was filled with swarming runners chasing down the Pumas pair.
Tim summed up the moment best in his update to the messenger group:
We barely had time to get our breaths back before we spotted Richard and Conor heading up the valley, with Jane and Ally not far behind.
Richard has fond memories of plenty of overtaking fellow runners, once the pair had navigated through the bottlenecks at the early stiles and managed to pull away from the mass start. He does say their egos took a serious battering on the last mile climb to the finish “where several greying pensioner-aged women were getting the better of us hardly out of breath” – and these senior citizens weren’t even runners Richard, they were just out for a Sunday stroll (haha only kidding).
They needn’t feel any disappointment though as they recorded an incredible performance to be proud of, as did each and every Puma this day – so many individual achievements contributing to our overall team success.
It was fantastic to cheer them on and head to the pub to catch up on how our fellow team members were doing and – to quote one final film reference – like Herbie, go bananas about the overall phenomenal Pumas performance that was unveiling as we supped our pints in the sunny beer garden at Wainstalls.
Upon checking our pace after uploading the leg to Strava, we were amazed to find it recorded the exact pace the calculator has forecast we needed – 9:34 minute/miles!
Tudor takes on leg five
When I was asked to organise the Northowram Pumas 2017 Calderdale Way Relay team I had a few mixed feelings but once I got the go ahead to make it public the overwhelming response from the brilliant members set me at ease. We had more than enough volunteers for 4 teams but we felt that entering 3 was the best option following the amount of withdrawals we had in 2016, this proved to be a wise choice. This did however make picking the teams extremely difficult, I tried to apply some logic to the situation, take peoples requests into account and get the pairs matched equally using West Yorkshire Winter League performance where possible. After the initial pass, I leant on Andy Haslam and Ally Canning to bounce some ideas about and discuss which mix of teams would give us the best opportunity of a strong performance. It was a close call between 3 Strong Mixed Teams or Men’s, Women’s and a Mixed Team. When I put the possible teams on paper we decided on the latter so we could also compare to the 2016 performance. The teams were picked everyone was happy with their partners and choice of legs and despite a few injury worries we only had to bring in one replacement (who would have probably have made the team if she wasn’t injured to start with).
On Race day, I was still up early despite not leaving for the start until 11:00, I was straight onto Facebook to track the early runners and see the pictures being posted by our wonderful Puma spectators. This was clearly helping all the other runners build up to their Legs and one by one each Leg were adding pictures of the 3 pairs waiting at the start of each race. After taking my car to the finish and having a quick run back to test my own injury it was time to start getting ready for the taxi picking Gabby Kenny, Paula Snee and I up at 11:00, then on to pick Richard Ogden, Helen Jackson and Carine Baker up and onto the Delvers Pub at Wainstalls. A steady walk to the registration point and a quick catch up on the other runners we realised the ladies team had got into the end of Leg 2 at 11:08 only 8 minutes after the cut off and we knew the Men were already on their way setting off around 10:45. Once registered and following the very informal kit inspection we posed for the Leg 5 Team photo and heard that Leg 4 Men’s team were off at around 11:30, this give them the 1:30 minutes they were aiming for to try and get the baton to the start of Leg 5, we were a bit behind where we had hoped but it was still a brilliant effort seeing as though we didn’t get it past Leg 1 in 2016. Richard and I decided to have a bit of a warm up and set off on the reverse of Leg 4, we didn’t do much warming up as we started seeing the 1st of the Leg 4 finishers. We were joined at the start by Luke, Tim, and Lisa to cheer us off and welcome the Leg 4 finishers. We were all watching the runners in the distance and every top looked yellow and we were hopeful one of the pairs would be the men.
The whistle sounded for the Mass start so we all made our way over the stile onto the moor, I was edging to the front of the pack while keeping an eye out and keeping hopeful that we would still see Adam and Shaun appearing over the horizon. Then the unbelievable happened 2 yellow shirts appeared, I shouted it was them and to our delight the marshals shouted out number 53 and told us to go but we wanted that Baton and we shouted them onto the fence (sorry you had to do an extra few yards) and took the baton. The excitement of that moment and everyone cheering us, spurred us on and we set off too quick, we passed a couple of spectators who were heading onto the moor shouted you’re at the front but they’re after you, how long can you stay there? This was also a question we were asking ourselves, I could hear Richard breathing heavily behind me and he was saying he needed to slow down. I was still running on adrenalin at that point from the high of the baton and couldn’t slow down. We went across the moor over a few bridges, over a wall and then turned through a farm and some more muddy areas with narrow passages and gates, this made it difficult for the chasing pack to overtake us. We managed to hold all the other teams off until we entered the field below the climb to Withens Road, this is where Richard overtook me for the 1st time having gained his breath back and my eager start catching up on me. Somehow, I managed to go past Richard again on the 1st of the tough climbs but not for long he went passed me again as we crossed Withens Road and into the best descent of the leg, the final bit of which finishes with Hunter Hill descent, I passed Richard again at this point but once again exhausted myself with the fast pace. Richard passed me again in the next field crossing over towards Lane Head Lane along with a few of the other teams, I could still see Richard and was waving him to push on. Richard was flying up Lane Head Lane climb and I was passed by a couple more teams. Richard stopped a couple of times and I kept telling him to push on as it was keeping me going and I didn’t want to slow down and there were no other teams passing me.
We continued through Bradshaw through fields, roads and even a rather large back garden with its own lake all the time Richard was in the distance just in sight. As I came through some snickets and houses Richard was out of sight but I knew he wouldn’t be far as we were turning left onto the Overgate course on Holdsworth Road just up from the school, as I turned the corner I saw Richard waiting, I once again waved him on and he set off running but I could tell something was wrong. I asked if he was OK but he had popped his calf and was unable to put any pressure on it. We stopped a minute and tried stretching but it wasn’t helping, I asked him if he wanted to stop but he was not going to be beat and we carried on. The climb up Brow Lane to Crooked Lane was difficult for both of us and we had to walk in parts as the pain was too much, we were beating ourselves up at this point as we had blown the chance of getting the baton before the mass start which was still possible up until the injury struck. We were passed again by some people who were still able to run but we carried pushing on running for a bit walking a bit and managed to take over a few of the teams that had passed us.
At the top, we crossed over into home territory and a couple of spectators who had been driving to different parts of the course gave us some words of encouragement as they realised we were both not at our best. We dropped down from Swales Moor Road down towards Simm Carr Lane, this is one of Richard’s favourite segments and he commented he had never ran it as slow, we were passed here for the final time by a couple of vets from Stainland who congratulated us on having the baton and commented it was the 1st one they had seen. Heading down towards Simm Carr Lane and we were telling the gentlemen to be careful on the slippery stones and then, crash! Both feet from under me straight onto my backside.
Once up onto Simm Carr Lane we overtook the pair from Stainland and were cheered on by a group of walkers coming the opposite way, we passed another pair and turned left up a field towards Fall Lane and overtook another couple of pairs including an all-female pair who had were the penultimate baton carriers on Leg 5 around 10-15 minutes before us. We passed up Fall Lane and onto Addersgate Lane and onto Paddock Road, about half way down here I noticed it is 13:00 and the Mass start would be under way and we still had over a mile to go. I realised that we could still beat 2016 Leg 5 time if we could run around 9 minute miles. We climbed up the field at the bottom of Cowling Lane and up onto Teal Lane and out onto Tan House Lane where we crossed the Farmers Fields towards Score Hill. At the end of Score Hill was Jude, Orlagh and Mr Kenny cheering us on with some other spectators. We crossed down Hud Hill and onto the A644, there was a car coming towards me but I waved it to stop and to my surprise it did along with cars coming the other direction. Richard had fallen behind me again at this stage having led from Simm Carr to Tan House and the last push up Shelf Hall Lane I told him we had 2 minutes to beat 2016 time, we pushed on once more and saw Amelie, Freddie and Mr Baker cheering us on, we turned the corner down the footpath and shouted our number as we reached the end, I handed the baton over and stopped at my watch at somewhere around 1:14:30 (actual time 1:14:08) so we had beaten the previous club record. We were welcomed by Jenny Hopkinson, Kelly Smith, Chris Crabtree and Simon Wilkinson along with many other spectators.
I updated the chat to let people know we had finished and to my surprise Carine commented they were at Robinsons Farm Shop (talk about multi-tasking). We didn’t have that long to wait to cheer on Gabby Kenny and Paula Snee in 1:26:00 again breaking the previous year’s record (which was their own) again we didn’t have to wait long for Carine Baker and Helen Jackson (who didn’t know the route) to finish in 1:32:00. We all posed together again for a finishing photo before heading home to soak our aching bodies.
Bring on 2018 and more record breaking performances from all our teams….
Sunday 7 May 2017 saw 7 Pumas take on the Lions Bluebell course…Peter gives us the lowdown on what was actually just an uphill race. for 10 miles. up hills.
Ally Canning, Luke Cranfield, Helen Jackson, Tiffany Lewis, Liz McDonnell, Richard Ogden and Peter Reason (AKA The Magnificent 7).
Sunday 7th May saw 7 of the Pumas take on the Stainland Lions organised Bluebell 10, incorporating the infamous climb up Trooper lane and River Crossing.
With registration out of the way & numbers pinned to tops, the magnificent 7 made their way across to Clay House for a 10am start.
Ally was first into the starting area took her position surprisingly near the front, so the rest of us joined her there, the Magnificent 7 now in the starting pen ready for the off. A few moments later we were all off on our 10 mile tour around the picturesque outskirts of Halifax. Richard was off at a good pace followed by Luke, myself, Liz and the rest of the Pumas a little behind.
The route took us from Clay House on to Stainland road and then left on to a loop through the woods at which point Luke slowed a little to play Pacemaker for Ally, allowing Liz and myself to pass, with Helen and Tiffany keeping a steady pace just behind. Once through the woods it was back on to Stainland road and then up to Salterhebble basin and onto the canal towpath.
With the sun now out and the temperature on the up, we came off the Canal towpath and started making our way up the cobbles and started climbing our way round towards Siddal. As we turned onto Siddal New road we caught our last glimpse of Richard disappearing into the distance, always destined to be first Puma home. (I believe a journey to Middle Earth to collect a pair of rings beckoned that afternoon). So a quick run for Richard it would be.
We were now approaching Trooper at a steady pace. Turning onto Swan Bank lane, with Nestle in the background you’d be expecting a handful of Smarties to be handed out, but instead we were greeted by a Marshall handing out Jelly Babies (the first of many). Up Swan Bank lane past the Cemetery on the right and on to the Trooper Lane climb and it didn’t take long for the run to turn from run to jog to walk, with our pace dropping as low as 19 minutes per mile. 0.7 Miles later we were at the top and in desperate need for water.
Refreshment out of the way and then up to Beacon Hill we went and a little cooling breeze and stunning views across to the Pumas home.
Round to Norcliffe we went where we got our first sight of the Bluebells (Feeling Young at Heart as we glided through them) and onto Southowram, where Water & Jelly Babies were served by the Friendly Marshall’s to keep our energy levels up.
Then onto Elland with plenty of ups ,downs, single file paths, fields, dirt tracks, a lovely run through the Elland Park woods and then a long red brick road that took us all the way down to Elland where we meet with Steve B at the crossing point on Park road with a smile as he waved us across the road.
With the end almost upon us it was a quick run past the now Closed Barge & Barrel and down on to the canal towpath. With the foot temperature rising that river crossing was looking more and more enticing. So it was as quick as the legs would go to get to the bridge crossing the canal and a short dash to the river crossing. Onto the River bank we stepped and then down the walk way into the river Calder we went. With water knee deep we crossed the river, and how that river cooled those hot feet. Clambering up the other side to the last 100 metres with cooled feet gave you that extra zip for the last 100 metres and everyone ran home with a beaming face.
Within 2 hours the Pumas Magnificent 7 were all back cooled wet feet, Happy faces and ready for a pint.
The final results
Congrats to all on completing the Bluebell 10
Finish Time Position
Richard Ogden 1.26.24 72 #FMPH
Peter Reason 1.35.54 155
Liz McDonnell 1.36.11 158 #FFPH
Ally Canning 1.45.41 241
Luke Canning 1.45.43 242
Helen Jackson 1.57.010 341
Tiffany Lewis 1.58.40 355
Thanks again to Peter Reason for a fab write up of a glorious mornings racing, and also to our friends at Stainland Lions RC for hosting a lovely race with a spectacular (read horrifyingly hard, uphill nightmare) route and super friendly and encouraging marshals all the way round. Kudos Lions!
In our first year of WYWL, we were asked to host the PECO Vs WYWL relays. Here’s our awesome blogger Johnny with a low down of the adult races, and Junior Pumas Jude and Orlagh Kenny with all the details from the Junior races…
The Adult Relays
On Sunday 12 March, 2017, Northowram Pumas were privileged to host the annual relay race between the best of the West Yorkshire Winter League and their Leeds and district counterparts PECO. Having previously hosted the Burner and Coley Canter, the Pumas were well versed in how to pull things off, and once Andy Haslam and his team had been given the green light, they set to planning a 5k route that would give the plucky runners the chance to experience the best of what the Northowram suburbs had to offer. Wickedly, the lofted terrain was utilised to the full.
WYWL team manager Steve Boyer had an array of talent to choose from, but sadly, he would have to make do without Ben Mounsey, winner of the four Winter League races he’d entered. Still hopeful of retaining their title, he could still count on Matt Livesey, Isaac Yasin and Mark Pottinger for the Open Age team, with Andrew Croft, Gav Mulholland and Quentin Lewis making up a strong Men’s Over 40s team.
Of course, many other clubs entered their own teams in various categories, and in total, there were forty-one registered by various clubs. Northowram Pumas elected to send out just the one, all hopes being pinned on Richard ‘Oggy’ Ogden, Liz ‘Supershorts’ McDonnell and Tim ‘I’m At My Best When Hungover’ Brook.
It was a mild Spring morning to which everyone awoke, and many volunteers arrived at the clubhouse early to help set up the markers for both junior and senior relays. The junior race was due for a 10.00am start; by the time that had got underway, the marshals for the senior race were being drilled by Andy Haslam. We were then split into two groups; I went with the group led by Tracey, and she walked us all to our designated marshalling points. Mine would prove to be towards the latter end of the course, at the top of a field just below the A6036 Bradford Road. There I remained for the best part of two hours, though I was fortunate to have a couple of newly acquired friends for company; two horses on the other side of the electric fence who came a-noseying.
The senior relay was set for an 11.00am start; deep in the forest, the marshals were awaiting any signs of movement through the trees; it was really exciting! On Northowram Fields Cricket Club, the first leg runners assembled, listened to their brief, then they were off. Those who had recced the course would know just how difficult a route it was; those who went into it ‘blind’ were in for something of a shock.
Once the runners had done two sides of the Fields cricket pitch – this would help thin out the pack before they went out yonder – and run across the top of neighbouring Hedge Top CC, they descended Hedge Top Lane, the start of a welcoming early downhill section, but this would prove to serve only as the proverbial calm before the storm. Once the bottom of Hedge Top Lane had been reached, the course then continued across the quarry and on to a track through the woods until it joined Wood Lane.
There then followed the arduous climb towards the wooded section, already questions being asked of the resilience of the runners. Gradually the road climbed until it veered off into the woodland section. Runners bore left across the top of the woods; from my standpoint, they flitted about like phantoms in the mist as they dashed through the trees. Here, runners would gain some respite from the climb, and in time they would head downwards to link up with a track which ran across the bottom of the woods; the course then took a swift right turn downwards through a field, rejoining Wood Lane, but happily – for the time being – turning right and downhill until it reached the basin. The course then veered off left for the most demanding section; the tough climb up through the woods and grassy pathways which in time would bring the runners out on the main Bradford Road.
It was here that I would greet each runner in turn, and point them in the direction of the lamp posts that were peeking out on the horizon. The runners would reach the main road but have little time to recover as they were asked to turn right uphill once more until being directed right onto another track which continued for quite a while until it joined up with the familiar Hedge Top Lane. As they reached the top there, the runners would turn right into a track which runs parallel with the bottom of Hedge Top Cricket Field, where they would hand over to the next runner. As Bruce Forsyth might have said, “That’s all there is to it.”
It would be fair to say that the PECO contingent established themselves very soon into the race. By the time the leading runners reached my marshalling point on the first leg, Lee Athersmith of the PECO Men’s Open team held a short lead from fellow PECO runner Will Kerr of the Men’s Veteran Over 40 team. Leading the charge for WYWL Men’s Open team was Matt Livesey, and he would pass Kerr somewhere between myself and the handing-over point, giving Isaac Yasin an eight-second advantage. Athersmith meantime handed over to Alec Francis, and he maintained PECO’S lead. Leading the charge for the club runners on the first leg was Abbey Runners’ Ross Armstrong, who handed over to Clare Barratt-Mold in fourth. For the Pumas, Richard Ogden gave a really good account of himself, and he handed over to Liz McDonnell with Pumas lying fifteenth.
On the second leg, WYWL’s Men’s Over 40 runner Gav Mulholland ran the quickest leg of the day, clocking an impressive 18:55 and helping his side from seventh to fourth. But whilst PECO’s Alec Francis was handing over to last-leg runner Ali Burns, team mate Paul Millgate of the PECO Men’s Veteran team had overhauled WYWL’s Yasin to hand over to his last-leg runner Will Kerr, who, as you’ve probably gathered, had also run his team’s first leg! Liz McDonnell overtook more runners than overtook her, and helped the Pumas rise to fourteenth by the time she handed over to Tim Brook.
On the last leg, Tim quickly made up ground, though by now the leaders were well in front and unassailable. Ali Burns brought the PECO Men’s Open team home in a time of 59:49, the only team to complete the course in under an hour. Some 46 seconds later, Kerr came in second, whilst Quentin Lewis of WYWL Men’s Veterans, by clocking 19:58, overtook team mate Mark Pottinger (WYWL Men’s Open) to claim third place.
Of the women, PECO Ladies Open team, thanks in no small part to second leg runner Crystal Goeker, who ran the fastest female time (22:49), finished seventh to claim the Ladies’ prize, with the WYWL Ladies Open team finishing twelfth. They had been beaten by one place by the Northowram Pumas, with Tim Brook making up ground and stealing four places. Of the other club runners, Abbey Runners Club were the first home, making up two places at changeover to finish sixth.
At the other end, Pumas’ Andrew Tudor guided Kirkstall Ad-Hocs’ Randolph Haggerty home as they finished fortieth, whilst Liz McDonnell regained her fitness, if not her sanity, to go around once more to accompany Wendy Murgatroyd of the South Leeds Lakers ‘E’ team, who brought up the rear.
All-in-all, it has to be said, Northowram Pumas’s staging of the event was hailed a success; there had been no glitches that I was aware of, at least. And with the bar in the clubhouse being made full use of, the awards were handed out whilst servings of hot pie and peas were being dished out. A result all round, I think you’ll agree!
Northowram Pumas’ runners, positions and times;
Richard Ogden (15th) 26:09
Liz McDonnell (14th) 26:35
Tim Brook (11th) 22:10.
Overall time: 1:14.54.
The Junior Relays
We awoke to a beautiful crisp spring morning for the day of the cross-country relay race. It had been raining for the days running up to the race so the ground was still really muddy – Yeah!! Just like an off road run with Luke Cranfield!!
We arrived at the Northowram Cricket club the venue for the days race nice and early so that we could help set up and warm up. After we had helped mark out the course it was time to get the team together to start warming up. We had a walk round part of the course, then did some warm ups. Next we had a Puma photo with the girls team in the shot first and the boys photo was taken second. We had all spotted a very tall boy who looked about 17 so we asked the adults if he was the pacer, but NO was the answer, he was actually one of the kids taking part?? We were all very worried then, but my mum told us just to try our hardest!
In the Pumas relay for the girls team was Jessica Cameron, Carris Lightowler and Scarlet Garland.
For the boys team it was Jude Kenny, Sam Bell and Reuben Bartkiw.
At the start of the race Ruben set off as the first boy and Carris set off as the first girl, they were all running so fast and we were screaming for them to come on!! Jessicas mum ran for a bit with Carris to help spur her on this very tough course. After Carris and Ruben had finished their first lap Sam and Scarlet set off to do their lap as the second girl and boy. Sam and Scarlet had to catch some people up now as Pumas were not in the lead after their lap it was the turn of Jude and Jessica to do the last lap.
As Jude and Jessica had almost finished their last lap almost every body was cheering them on. At the end of the race everybody was tired out from all the hard work of running the Relay Race but the Pumas did really well.
Then we saw the top three teams in each race get announced and they each got a chocolate egg and the glory of coming in the top three. Finally everyone went home with the feel of running in the air, everybody’s trainers were muddy as it was a boggy course and lots of people fell over including one of our team members (Jessica Cameron). Luckily, she wasn’t hurt!
Everybody enjoyed the race a lot.
By Jude Kenny and Orlagh Kenny
Everyone tried really hard on the day and I just wanted to mention the fantastic teamwork both our teams showed. Jessica was our last athlete running in so when she was in sight, the other members of the team ran over to her and ran back in with her!! It was so brilliant and made me feel so proud of our juniors and their fantastic attitude to running, they might not have crossed the finishing line first, but I thought they were all winners! Gabriella Kenny – Proud to be a Puma!!
For the final time this WYWL season, Johnny Meynell gives us the race day low down…
On Sunday (19 February), Stainland Lions were our hosts for the final West Yorkshire Winter League race, staged at West Vale, up and around North Dean Woods. Having already sampled the previous five meetings, it wasn’t as if we didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for, but like the punch-drunk boxer who keeps coming back for more, the runners turned out for the finale, some more eager than others. The Pumas once again excelled, with thirty dragging themselves out of bed and making their way to West Vale. Some had even entrusted Neil Coupe to get them there; the Pumas On Tour Express rounded up several back at base so they needn’t have had to worry about much else. Just the course they had to face.
We congregated initially at Heath Rugby Union Club, and after the obligatory photo-call, made our way over the main road and into the woods. The sight of so many runners congregating here was quite spectacular – one wonders what the local squirrels made of it all. Yet of all the starting points for the races over the course of the season, this one perhaps cut the most comical, with the runners tightly crammed on the cobbled pathway that led you into or out of Clay Park (depending on which direction you’re going). It was stone’s thrown from the impressive four-gabled house which was built by the Clay family between 1650 and 1661, and which is purported to be haunted. But we were not here for a history lesson; nor were we about to go on a nature trail, though the route that was mapped out for us took us very close to the epicentre of nature itself.
As one might have expected, Stainland Lions like to put the runners to the test; ask anyone who ran the Stainland Trail back in September, organised by the same mob who were about to prove they still had a wicked sense of humour. We were briefed by Steve Boyer of what we could expect, and sure enough, the usual mix of hills, mud, trail and fields were all there in abundance.
By now, of course, for the three-hundred or so runners assembled on the start line, there was little turning back, and any of those squeezed sardine-like in the middle of the throng now having second thoughts would soon find themselves being swept along like driftwood on an outgoing tide.
Before we knew it, we were off, slowly and carefully at first so as to avoid the obvious hazards such as cobbles, loose stones and a central bollard, which was guarded by a marshal for safe-keeping. The first mile or so of the route was a loop of a section of North Dean Woods; this in itself was non-too tasking, though having meandered through the trees, we had a steep climb and a high wall to negotiate before we turned sharp left and headed back towards Dean End. Then it was a double left onto Lindwell Avenue and the charge towards Clay Park once more, passing the start line and continuing onwards until we reached the high wall once more. This time we turned right into what many of us might loosely term uncharted waters.
The loop we’d just run did at least give us chance to sample the mud that would hamper us throughout; at times there was no other option but to stick your feet straight in the middle of it. But isn’t that what we enjoy most, anyway? Well, perhaps not, but either way, it was unavoidable. We snaked our way along the trail path through North Dean Woods in the direction of Copley, and while this seemed pretty straightforward, it did throw up the odd casualty. Take yours truly; on an uneven stretch of pathway I lost my poise and took a tumble in much the same manner as I had done at Queensbury (though there, tired legs might have been my excuse; here we were less than two miles in). There were many witnesses; club mate Robert Shirlaw was, to my surprise, still behind me, as were Ally Canning and Neil Coupe, who both caught sight of me lying prostate on the deck. Neil, as was his wont, found the episode so amusing, he never really recovered.
I wouldn’t be the only casualty, and my fall disrupted what had been up to then a somewhat comfortable outing. What I didn’t need at that point was a massive hill to climb. But as if by magic, one appeared. We came out of the woods and suddenly there was this almighty climb of tarmac going by the name of North Dean Road. Ahead of me, many competitors were already walking, but this was reassuring, if only because it didn’t mean my own efforts were any more conspicuous. And in any case, why conserve so much energy when you don’t know for how long you’ll be climbing, or what you’ll find when you get there?
Thankfully, what we did find at the summit was an immediate descent before we made our way into more woodland section and the treacherous part of the course which dropped sharply down to the stream. I heard there was more than one casualty here; even our Neil felt his ankle twist. Marshalling at the bottom was my old friend Tim Neville, who offered a helping hand to anyone in desperate need as they crossed the water. Our eyes were fixed firmly on the slope as we descended, then, as we strode over the steps in the water we took a glance upwards and gasped in horror. We now had the arduous task of scaling the banking on the other side. Stooping, gasping for energy and with hands on thighs, I reached the top where another marshal was there directing us right through woodland which thankfully had a downward look about it.
The infamous injury zone
We continued on our merry way for quite some distance before any further major climbs. I had by this point been passed by young Conor Lynch, but I would steadily make up ground on him as we made our way down a section of the course affectionately known, so I’ve been told, as the ‘Log Flume’ because it used to be something of a water carrier (in layman’s terms, a stream). I was happy to let myself fly down here, though others trod more gingerly. I caught up Conor, but not before passing another Puma, who turned out to be Chris Ellis, in some distress I later learned (at the time, I thought he was retying his laces and didn’t feel he needed me to make a loop for him). Chris had gone over on his ankle, the injury so severe that it later showed up on social media.
As we turned into Hollas Lane, Conor looked over his shoulder, didn’t like what he saw (me) and kicked off. I too managed to stride out, and ahead of me I could see Kirsty Edwards and Matt Newton. This flat section gave everyone chance get their breath, but any comfort was soon short-lived. Suddenly I looked up to see runners staggering up a field. Sure, this course wasn’t for the faint-hearted. I managed as best I could, catching up Matt, who was clearly struggling. The field steepened at the top, we climbed through a stile and headed for the summit, rejoining the aforementioned North Dean Road but happier in the knowledge we were now having to head downhill.
3 down, 2 to go
At this point, I could console myself with the thought that I was now homeward bound, but there were still two miles to go, depending on which marshal you cared to believe. But running down North Dean was a lot easier than running up it, and soon we were directed into the woods, taking the higher path which proceeded to ask further questions of our ability. Here, we had more climbs, one which forced myself to stop and take a breather and wonder just how many more we had to face. Because, quite frankly, I’d had enough of them for one day. There was one more effort required, a big climb with steps, at the top of which was marshal Andy Smith, loaned from Queensbury, offering encouraging of words saying we still had two more miles to go! As a marshal a mile further back had also told me.
Fortunately, the course evened itself out after that, I gained my strength and got my head down, and eventually, in the distance down below, was the sight of the rugby posts at Heath RU. Though not a great lover of the fifteen-man code, these goalposts did have a heartening effect, the fact that I knew we were on the finishing straight. Through the trees we skipped and eventually, just up yonder, there was a marshal hanging about on a bend. We reached him and there, thirty yards further up, was the thick white line, visible from space I believe, that signalled the end of the race. I crossed it to the sound of Andrew Tudor shouting that I was ‘second [Super Vet] home’, which I couldn’t quite believe, for though I knew Robert Shirlaw had been ahead of me since my fall, I had literally no idea that Paul Hopkinson was still out there.
As were many others. I began my recovery then joined the rest of the Pumas who’d already finished, and we watched the other runners come home. Then it was time to dissect the race, and there were many stories of derring-do to be heard.
First Puma home, it comes as no surprise, was Luke Cranfield, finishing fourteenth, a position he must have been delighted with as it was his highest of the season. Next was Tim Brook in 28th, whilst there was quite a wait for the third Puma home, Adam Standeven finishing a still excellent 68th. Richard Ogden found a second wind to outstrip Andrew Tudor to the line, whilst further down the field, the ever-smiling Liz McDonnell did her utmost to catch Shaun Casey on the line, but failing by inches at least sought consolation by being the first female Puma home in 137th. She scored as a Veteran, whilst making up the scores for the impressive Ladies’ team were Lucy Oxley, Kirsty Edwards and Alison Pearce. Once again, the Ladies had outdone the chaps and finished fifth in their category on the day. By finishing 125th Tom O’Reilly completed the scoring in the Men’s team, thus helping them to a ninth place finish. The Supervets fielded only two runners (of which I was one); Robert Shirlaw, 158th, held off the challenge of Conor Lynch, who’d worked his way steadily through the field.
Just over a minute behind me, Matt Newton was involved in another dramatic finish. Remember how he’d formed the Skipton triumvirate with Jane Cole and Alan Sykes? Here, he proper raced home John Tayler (Stadium Runners) and Wayne Ryan (Dewsbury), but his dip over the line was extended somewhat and he fell nastily on the deck. His finish was in sharp contrast to Alison Pearce who casually strode home seconds later.
Ally Canning, who was in the running for most-improved female at the start of play, came home in 205th, whilst behind her, Chris Ellis had gamely soldiered on to complete the course in 214th. Neil Coupe, having started under the weather, had a laughing fit then twisted his ankle, followed in Carine Baker (presumably to make sure she didn’t sneak off), whilst Debbie Fox embraced Shelley Ferneyhough (Queensbury) immediately on crossing the line, the latter winning the dual, though each had kept the other going throughout.
Tiffany Lewis, who may have reckoned she’d be last Puma home, finished before Jo Allen in 297th, but perhaps this was due mainly to a recurrence of a knee injury suffered by Jo playing netball several weeks ago route; Jo would have expected to be much higher up the field. But talking of injuries, Gabby Kenny proved to be our very own Florence Nightingale when she was first to tend to Susan Coates (Baildon), who fell heavily. Gabby summoned a marshal but in doing so, jeopardised her own chances of winning the race, her pre-race spirits lifted by the non-appearance of Ben Mounsey!
Once all the results had been collated, it turned out that Northowram Pumas had finished the campaign a commendable eighth, a satisfactory position in what was our inaugural Winter League experience. Later in the day, many of us reconvened in Sowerby Bridge for curry and drinks at Syhiba, discussing at length not only the day’s events, but now more importantly whether to go for a masala, dopiaza or bhuna. We were well looked after, and I’d recommend this place any time*. Later we retired to the William over the road before ending up, some the worse for wear, at the Hog’s Head. The drinks flowed, for some longer into the night than others, the topic of conversation descending into farce when it was suggested an impending autobiographical ‘Fifty Shades of parkrun’ might be a misleading title or not. But if it sells, who cares?!
I’ll recommend the idea to the House.
* No money changed hands for this small piece of advertising, nor was I offered a complimentary free meal.
Full list of Pumas who were on duty, with finishing places;
Johnny, Our Winter League correspondent and his coverage of the penultimate race of the 2016/17 series….
Following the shenanigans at Oakwell Hall a fortnight earlier, order was restored when Queensbury Running Club hosted the fifth round of the West Yorkshire Winter League at Foster Park** on Sunday. Queensbury, the village that surveys all before it; yet our hosts managed to find us all a course that had hills upon a hill.
A chilly start
As the day broke the runners stirred early, a quick glance outside telling us all that it was brass monkey weather. Along with the regular tops and trainers, people took to wearing thermals, bobble hats, mittens and anything else that might keep the body warm. Put mildly, it was a cold ‘un.
Mind, the cold snap did have its advantages; anyone who recced the course the previous Sunday would testify just how saturated the fields were, particularly Foster Park itself. The weather during the week had helped dry out certain sections to some degree, but along the paths in the fields, we were still greeted with that commodity every cross country course needs to make it worthwhile; mud. Loads of it. Squelchy, slurpy mud. The kind of thing you used to enjoy stomping about in when you were five.
Undeterred by the crispness of the morn, thirty-seven Northowram Pumas turned out in force to face whatever Queensbury RC and the route threw at them.
They made up a total of 321 runners, who, once summoned, assembled at the start to listen to some cautionary advice from the race director Dave Hepworth. “It’s harder than it looks,” he yelled, and by the time we’d all finished, we realised he hadn’t been joking.
Ready, set, RUN
The countdown commenced, and the shout of “Go,” was the cue for a mass stampede, everyone heading down towards the bottom of the field, jostling for positions and keen to avoid trouble.
As the course wound its way towards the bottom corner, the field of runners was already spreading out, and soon we were facing our first serious climb. We turned a sharp left to begin the steady climb, the route getting steeper towards the top, then we had some respite as the course headed back down, following the perimeter of the park. It was but brief, however. We climbed once more, tackling what looked like a massive step in the hillside, runners conquering it as best they could. Legs were still obviously fresh at this point; by the time we would face it again plenty of runners would be on their knees.
Once at the summit, we veered left and back down towards the start, enjoying another canter downfield, this time taking a right at the bottom and returning back towards the main entrance of the park via a woodland section. By the time we’d reached the top of this, we had – so we were reliably informed during the recce – covered the first mile. The meant there was only around 3.7 miles left to cover. The hardest bit was already over, right? As if.
We swung right and entered the woods once more, following the trail until it came out at the top of the grass banking we’d earlier run up. Careering down the hillside – oh what fun – we reached a stile at the bottom, waited our turn to pass through, then lo and behold, we were out in the open countryside. On such a morning, what could be nicer?
Drier fields, actually. The pathway we followed was now churned up mud following heavy rain, sleet and (probably up here, snow) the previous week. And trying to run at speed whilst planting your feet on the cobbles isn’t necessarily easy, either.
Having already run the course, up to press I couldn’t actually tell if my own race was going to plan. It’s not as if I didn’t know what was lying ahead of me. But I’d already been passed by Kirsty Edwards (twice, in fact), Tom O’Reilly and young Conor Lynch. As we trekked across the fields, Matt Newton put in an appearance, and then he was gone, too. Then Neil Coupe was on my shoulders. I actually had the chance for a brief conversation with him as we formed an orderly queue at one of the stiles. If there was one thing that hampered the runners, then these stiles in the first half of the course were them. Where you might have built up a healthy lead on any rivals you may have had, suddenly they were within touching distance as the runners concertinaed while awaiting their turn to pass through. No sooner had Neil Coupe skipped through, then Alison Pearce was the lone voice in the immediate pack behind me shouting for me to get a move on – or words to that effect.
Having negotiated the fields, we then had a climb along a farm track, somewhere in the vicinity of Brightwater Farm, before emerging onto Stocks Lane. We turned right down this pleasant trail section before turning our attentions to the next section, a stile, on the other side of which was a heavy mud pool, though it wasn’t as bad as when we did the trial run the week before. We rounded the field, then headed upwards into the next. On and on we cantered or staggered, towards a farm, keeping left of the cattle grid, after letting a couple of oncoming dog walkers through, of course.
As we turned onto the short tarmacked section, I’d been caught by Alison. This was the top of Stanage Lane, a section I’ve encountered many times but which suddenly looked strangely unfamiliar. Alison passed me here but I kept close to her as we descended a steep clay banking which led us to a ‘water crossing’ (as some would term it, a stream to you and me). Taking advice from the marshal, we successfully passed through, then clambered our way up the other side, into more fields which seemed to keep rising. By now, my legs were feeling heavy, and I was pretty much running out of any steam. Alison, too, appeared to be feeling it, but she evidently had more energy than I did, and pulled away.
We swung left around the farm, then entered the final field before closing back in on Foster Park. That was the good news. The bad, which came in a package, was that my legs could hardly move, and there was thought of the two climbs in the park before the finish. Then there was the hazardous trail section which ran parallel to the park itself. Full of loose branches, stumps, fallen leaves and mud. It certainly kept you on your toes; everyone’s except mine, seemingly, as I tried to dodge a moving tree. How else could you explain myself landing on my back up against the wall after falling quite dramatically? Other runners bore witness to this, though none stopped to pick me up – we were, after all, still racing – though happily all I suffered was a bruised ego. But as I picked myself up, over the wall I could see Ally Canning and Paul Bottomley gaining ground. I attempted to get back into my stride, which by this point was a pretty slow one, and dragged myself to the top of the pathway through the trees before turning immediately right down the other side. It was here that Ally passed me, but with no energy to keep pace, I watched her pull away from me. Thankfully, this trail section was downhill; the section we’d run up just after looping the park at the start. But as we reached the bottom and turned left, we had the climb up the side of the field once more. Paul caught me and passed me but both of us found the terrain a real struggle, as did others around us. Some, myself included, resorted to walking, but once we’d reached the top we had the downhill section which gave us chance to set ourselves for the final assault. We swung around to face the final curtain – well, the end was near – and pulled and clawed our way up the giant’s step. Photographic evidence later showed at least one competitor tackling it on his hands and knees, but that wasn’t me.
Through the short woodland section we trundled, then back down into the field where we could see runners finishing, almost within touching distance. A short run downfield, a swift turnaround, then the short sprint to the line was all that was now asked of us. Or so I had it in my head. There was a catch; there always is. Despite having done the recce the week before, and told on the day by a prominent member of the organisers that there had been no last minute changes to the course, perhaps he or she had forgotten that the run down field had been extended to a mound which looked miles away. Paul had maybe ten yards on me by now; Ally was further ahead. We trooped down towards the mound, catching sight of the runners on the opposite side making their run for home. It was a long way, but once we’d looped around it, the finishing line was in the distance. Way, way in the distance. I summoned every last fibre to make a dash for it, passing Paul and possibly one or two others. I’ve usually something left in the tank for the final push, but this really was a massive ask. I finally reached the line in a state of total exhaustion, practically walking through with Paul but a few seconds behind me.
Of course, whilst all this was going on, I was oblivious to anything that had gone on ahead. Fortunately, the results and accompanying video gave us a clear picture. The race was won yet again by Stainland’s Ben Mounsey, but as far as we’re concerned, the honour of first Puma home went once more to Luke Cranfield, who finished 23rd. Tim Brook was involved in his own particular dual with Pudsey Pacers’ Ryan Noon, but mounted one last almighty effort to see him off in a sprint finish to become second Puma home in 40th.
He scored as a veteran, as did Andy Haslam (76th) and Andrew Tudor (95th), whilst also scoring for the Men’s team were Deke Banks, Richard Ogden and evergreen Robert Shirlaw, a Super Vet, too, sixth Puma home in 104th, to give them 1,640 points and ninth place. Shaun Casey, Adam Standeven and Conor Lynch, who obviously had worked his way through the field, gave us a quick-fire 141-142-143, whilst several places behind them was the first female Puma, Diane Cooper, a creditable 148th. The Northowram Pumas Ladies, in fact, outshone the men yet again and will no doubt want to remind us frequently. Backed up by Kirsty Edwards (177th), Alison Pearce (192nd) and Ally Canning (195th) they finished an impressive fifth with 1,095 points.
Further down the field, Alan Sykes, sixty-four years young, had enough for an impressive final kick towards the line, Paula Snee looked unruffled as she finished, Andrea Warrington swayed from side to side as she approached the end but managed to guide herself through the posts, whilst Carine Baker crossed with the now-familiar beaming smile across her face, one belying the gruelling course she’d just encountered. Last home for the Pumas were Jennifer Lees and Sarah Firth, who arrived in tandem to the loudest cheer.
With all points totted up, Northowram were left with 2,735 points to finish on the day in eight place out of the thirteen teams taking part.
Queensbury Racers did a sterling job in hosting the event, leaving many with the feeling that they’d left a tough act to follow. “A proper cross country course,” was what one or two runners described it as, and everyone was really impressed with the cheerful and plentiful marshals who made sure everything ran – geddit? – smoothly. The final round sees us all heading the other side of Halifax to Stainland. It’ll be a toughie – expect nothing less.
* Also known locally as Littlemoor Park.
Full list of participating Pumas and finishing positions;
No introduction needed…over to Johnny for the low down…
To blog or not to blog. That is the question. How easy is it to concoct something about a race that will be wiped from the record books (but not our memories) and try to make it meaningful?
For those of you who are already losing my drift, the event in question was the fourth round of the West Yorkshire Winter League, the venue being Oakwell Hall, the hosts the Stadium Runners. A course that had been carefully planned out, marked out and heavily marshalled, and with Oakwell Hall familiar to many runners who’ve taken part in the parkruns there, the stage was set. What could possibly go wrong?
The fate of the race
Needless to say, discussions amongst the race officials went on long into the night to determine just what did go wrong. In the end, it seems, the race was sabotaged by one or more unknown suspects, causing most of the runners to take the wrong route, run further than they should have done, and ultimately render the event meaningless.
If it’s any consolation, the best laid plans have been kyboshed on bigger and grander scales. Take the 1993 Grand National, for instance, where some of the runners and riders set off in haste, some of the horses draped in the starting tape, with the starter and officials trying to flag down the field. The race was declared null and void. But still, there were plenty of things to talk about. As there was on Sunday.
With Oakwell Hall being local enough – indeed, many of our runners have regularly participated in the Saturday morning parkruns there – there was no real need to call upon the Pumas On Tour Express. If we had have done, you may have heard someone suggest in Brody-esque tones, “You’re gonna need a bigger bus.” For in total, a whopping forty one Pumas made the short trip across to take part, the largest field put out by the club. It was quite a sight. The photographers had to stand way, way back to fit us all in on the customary commemorative pre-race photo shoot.
The race start
The fun started when all the runners, nearly four-hundred of us, were told to assemble at the starting point. On a relatively narrow stretch of path, so many were itching for pole position. So much so that many edged over the line, the starter almost helpless as he tried to force the scrummage to push back. In many ways, it was totally reminiscent of that ’93 National. I stepped out of the pack and took a position on the grass verge, thus avoiding any trouble, something that stood me in good stead for the initial charge once the race had started (but not much more after that).
The course took us directly up the path from the start, then, as on the parkrun route, a sharp right through the woods. We wound our way downwards, then veered off left to make our way back up the slope. On the starter’s orders, one could say that I got off to a flyer, having the distinction of being the first Puma to turn onto the first trail section in the woodland, though I was soon passed thereafter by Luke Cranfield… Tim Brook…Robert Shirlaw… Andy Haslam etc.. Need I go on? But it was soon after this that things started to go awry, though few of us would realise at this stage. Like sheep, we just followed the line in front of us.
We found ourselves climbing some steps up the woods, negotiating a couple of stiles which, so early on, forced the inevitable bottle-neck. But onwards we charged, through the trees before finding our way into daylight and the open fields, through another stile, then entering another trail section which ran parallel to the M62. Thankfully, this was a downhill and flat section, although there was a catch. The starter had warned us that there was something on this route for everyone, including plenty of mud, which we all love. To be honest, I thought I’d earlier passed the section to which he was referring. But this paled in comparison with the section I soon found myself slugging through. Not for nothing did it lend itself to the title ‘Muddy Hell’. Depending on your size (and I could feel for Paula Snee here) it was literally ankle deep, almost as if it had been shipped in purposely. It goes without saying that several runners had their shoes sucked off their feet, Andy Haslam one of the victims.
Around me, runners were looking for the shallowest point, as if there was one, and though I survived it, little did I realise that I would be wading through it once more in a matter of minutes. Already, my legs were feeling drained, and the field which we ran into it and rose gradually did little to alleviate the suffering.
We reached the top and bore a left, down through woodland once more. Having been passed by several other Pumas en route, I was soon caught by Matt Newton, and we ran together for a while until he pulled away briefly. It was around this point, however, that the second error was made by the competitors, for whatever reason. In hindsight, I’m sure we should have turned a sharp right at some point; instead, we found ourselves back on familiar territory. A kissing gate, then a field, then some trees, then all of a sudden, we were back at Muddy Hell. Here, I was beginning to feel something wasn’t quite right, my concerns backed up by further clues along the way. As we ploughed our way through it, one girl was heard to remark, “Should we be going through this again?” When we climbed the field on the other side there was a marshal asking the runners if they were on their first or second lap of this loop. Seemingly we were now mingling with runners who hitherto had been behind us. The race organisers, I can only imagine, had realised things had gone terribly wrong by this stage and decided to send all remaining runners through the mud twice.
Now, instead of turning left, we turned right and headed down towards the southern section of Oakwell Hall. But not without further hazards. Rightly or wrongly, we entered another field, at the top of which was a gate – closed.
As I neared it, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was shut, and whether, in fact, we were meant to cross it at all! Blimey! This really did have all the hallmarks of the Grand National.
We waited our turn to climb over it, then without further ado, went on our merry way. I’d caught up Matt by this time, and having asked if he knew how far there was to go, he replied that, according to his Strava device, there were 1.6 miles left. But that figure was surely based on the real route, and in any case, his Strava was now going into meltdown.
We entered a section which at long last had that old familiar look about it; a trail lined by trees, downhill. It was the reverse route of part of the parkrun course, and for once I got my bearings. The finishing line couldn’t be so far away now. But we were still being asked questions about our resolve. Having joined the tarmacked path which took us past the playground, we were then directed left in order to circumnavigate a large field, frustratingly rising up the left side. I was passed by Tom O’Reilly, and by this stage, all thoughts of myself having a decent finish had given way to just getting around the course. I really must do some more hill work. Running down the other side of the field was easier, but having followed Matt along the pathway, I was on my knees as I staggered up some steps into some parkland, then followed the marshal’s directions back into woodland.
We followed the trail, then, at last, the turn for home. I could see Matt, who had pulled away, about one hundred yards in front of me crossing the line which was positioned a little further back than the normal parkrun finish. I made a bolt for it, endeavouring not to be passed, and crossed it in a state of near exhaustion. Minutes later, however, I was told that mine and everyone else’s efforts had all been in vain.
In the end
It must have been soul destroying for the Stadium Runners who had worked so hard to plan and prepare the route, only to have it decimated by spoilers. Closer to home, the Puma most aggrieved was Tim Brook, who was the first of our runners home, beating Luke Cranfield by seven places.
The video of the finishers made for some smashing viewing, though, and there were some impressive finishing bursts, not least that by Carine Baker, who somehow managed to shrug off the excesses of the weekend to burn off several rivals in the final few yards, though it was Diane Cooper who had the distinction of being the first female Puma home, just holding off a late challenge from Skipton’s Jayne Butterworth. Andy Haslam’s expression depicted a runner who thought the finishing line was getting away from him, sharply contrasting Liz McDonnell’s, who could afford a smile as she crossed. Elsewhere, Richard Baker left it late to surpass Kirsty Edwards, Gill Holmes proved to be something of a dark horse, whilst Andrea Warrington and Johanne Clay crossed the line hand-in-hand. And there was a glut of Pumas finishing so close together, among them Neil Coupe, no doubt ensuring none of them got lost any further.
The video does give the impression that the last competitor home was our very own Laura Fairbank, but this, in fact, is untrue. That honour fell to Peter Yates of LBT (Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club), but the tape must have run out by the time he came into view. In any case, the last person home should have been the tail runner Nikki Hill, who, as we saw at the start, left at the back of the field with Idle’s Ana Lincoln, almost at walking pace. My unofficial list had the tail runner home in 339th place – with fifty-four runners behind her! Anyone with a vivid imagination might liken it to that classic fable ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. Yes, something had gone terribly wrong, and the organisers had no alternative but to declare everything null and void.
Sort of results
We’ll all go again in two weeks’ time at Queensbury. In the meantime, he’s my list of the Pumas’ runners, with positions (just for fun);
As ever, thanks to our Johnny, not only a tremendous runner but also our superstar blogger. Who better to sum up the first proper race organised by the Pumas!
Over to Johnny….
The Coley Canter. Ah, how the name conjures up idyllic thoughts of ambling over the rural pathways and fields around the village and surrounding areas. The perfect trek for a warm summer’s evening stroll, perhaps. Set off earlier, and you could imagine a family picnic, basking in the golden sunlight, drifting away while you relax as the children and dogs frisk away among the daisies.
But this is December, the day breaking cold, yet bright and sunny. Crisp is a word you could use to describe it. Awaiting is a gruelling eight-mile trudge through thick mud, woodland climbs and steep hills. This was the reality. This is the real Coley Canter!
The real Coley Canter
For several years, this event was established on the local running calendar, having been run by top athlete Karl Gray. However, it hadn’t been staged for four years, but with the Northowram Pumas happy to resurrect the race, it seems set for a healthy future.
Of course, to make such an event possible, much hard work needed to be put into practice, and to that end, Race Director Ally Canning did a sterling job. Not only did this mean organising and positioning the marshals (without whom there wouldn’t have been any chance of the race going ahead), it also meant planning the route in the first place, something that included appeasing local farmers whose land we would be trampling upon. Together with the help of Luke Cranfield, she ensured the route was as tough as possible. And while the race wasn’t due to start until 11.00am, around three hours earlier, Luke, Julie Bowman and Liz McDonnell went out to check that the whole eight-mile course was still clearly marked out.
The rest was down to the participating runners, of which there were 74, a total which included ten Pumas, one of whom was Shana Emmerson, who was happy to take on the mantel of Tail Runner. Karl Gray was also among the competitors, one of the favourites, in fact, but he would be challenged by Gary Priestley of Salford Harriers. We trooped around to the bottom side of the cricket field, gathered in a huddle, listened to our briefing from starter Andy Haslam, and before you knew it, we were off, slowly but surely (most of us, anyway; well, that way you feel you’re getting your money’s worth).
Immediately out of the cricket field we took a right turn and followed Westercroft Lane to the junction with Denholmegate Road where marshal Paul Hopkinson was holding up the traffic to let us cross. We turned left onto the pathway leading towards St John the Baptist Church, followed a trail path then hit Coley Road. All was well at this point, and having done the recce a couple of weeks earlier, I knew that that the first two miles or so wouldn’t be asking too many questions. Turning right on Coley Road, we then took the track to our left and careered through the fields, crossing Northedge Lane, then picking up the trail through the trees and fields, heading toward Syke Lane.
By this time the leaders were well in front, with Rick Heaton and Shaun Casey tucked in neatly towards the front. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack and running for the most part up until Judy Woods with Matt Newton. Ever the gentleman, by the time we reached the stile at Syke Lane, I let Matt go through first, then chased him along the tarmacked road until we veered off to the right and picked up the trail that headed onwards and upwards towards Norwood Green. It was along this section that we had the most fun. Resembling scenes from Takeshi’s Castle, we passed through a stile which necessitated something of a jump, and found ourselves landing in thick mud – ankle deep, it was – and the photographer standing by must have chortled at the sight of runners looking for the driest landing spot. Oh the joys.
The pull up the field to Norwood Green was our biggest challenge so far on the route, steep and with few footholes, but once we’d climbed it we turned a sharp right and continued through the trees, climbing steadily until we reached Village Street.
We took a left and followed the field as it turned in to the track, then headed down towards the direction of the intimidating Judy Woods. At the entrance to the woods, Matt and myself were given a rallying call from marshal Paul Bottomley, then we crossed the brook and started the steep climb up the steps. I never looked back, but if I had have done, I would have noticed Matt struggling a little. Once I reached the top of the stairway, I got my head down and worked hard as the deceiving incline up through the woods started to take its toll as legs became ever heavier.
The pull through Judy Woods, as scenic as it was, seemed to take an age, but in time I reached its highest point, then made the welcome descent down towards the brook. As we reached it, the terrain seemed to take on vertical proportions, and I dare say I wasn’t the only one who took a tumble, though thankfully, I didn’t end up in the water. Once the brook had been negotiated, there was then the climb up the other side on what was a narrow, slippery, muddy path, with one heck of a drop on your right hand side. If you’ve ever seen ‘The Italian Job’ and that coach ride up the mountains, you’ll get my drift.
By now, I had the company of two other runners, one being Jo Talbot-Patterson. We exchanged positions several times over but we were never too far apart, until the finish, that, is. We climbed out of the woods then enjoyed the canter across the fields, working our way diagonally until we reached the farm track. We turned right, then a left at the top where the route joined Green Lane and thankfully a nice downhill stretch.
After all this effort, you’d have forgiven me for thinking that I was well over the halfway point by now, and, in fact, I consoled myself with this very notion. But then we arrived at the watering station, with bottled water being handed out by Carine Baker en famile (except dad Joe, who was taking part in the race, though way ahead of me). Carine proved a natural dispenser, no doubt rolling back the years when she acted as drinks monitor at school. This, in fact, was the halfway mark – we were nowhere near home.
Carine told us to keep going until we found the next marshal, whom we encountered after a somewhat laughable jaunt avoiding massive puddles. Here was Liz McDonnell, ushering us into what was Shelf Woods, but whilst most of this section was quite favourable, the gradual pull up to the top had several runners, myself included, having to walk, despite the attentions of the photographer who caught us in the act. There then followed the carefree charge back down towards the beck, before we wound our way up the other side and entered Shelf Park and familiar territory.
The track from Shelf Park known as Bridle Stile gave us our longest stretch of downhill running and the chance of a much-needed breather. But there was still much to do. We ran down towards a farm, veered right, crossed a field, then entered another woodland section. It was nice running down through the trees, but there’s always this nagging feeling that the next climb isn’t too far away. And sure, enough, we were met by another staircase, and as if that wasn’t enough, once we climbed our way up there, there was the gradual incline up through the fields. I’d caught up some other competitors by now, but only because they were walking, heaving, like me, as they did so. One lady, walking her dogs downhill, remarked “Good sound effects,” to which I retorted, ‘These are for real.”
We staggered through two fields, entered a farm track, bore a sharp right, then made our way across more fields, thankfully flat in nature. In the distance the church at Coley came into view. But it was at this point that I checked over my shoulder to see the sight of club mate Jane Cole several hundred yards behind me, and closing. Bearing in mind that I’d not seen any other Pumas for nearly six miles, suddenly I was asking questions of myself. Was I slowing down considerably, or was she timing the race just right and catching me? Or both? We’re all competitive by nature in this sort of environment, you’ve only to look at the photos (and accompanying video) of Jane, Alan Sykes and Matt Newton in the sprint finish at the end of the Winter League race at Skipton to see that. To avoid a repeat here, I knew I had to dig in and press on. We turned through a stile that almost had you doubling back on yourself, crossed the field, then joined up with Coley Hall Lane. I wasn’t finding any of this easy at all; my legs were feeling ever more tired, and a couple of runners who hitherto had been way behind me, passed me with consummate ease. We turned right back onto Coley Road, and though I knew that we were in the closing stages the gradual incline was bringing me to an almost standstill. Behind me, Jane had narrowed the gap to about one hundred yards. I was gripped with panic! Up Coley Road we climbed and climbed before turning left down a track which led to Denholmegate Road. We crossed the main road, headed towards a farm, through the yard, then headed downfield, my legs suddenly finding a new lease of life. Near the bottom Gabby Kenny, with Jude and Orlagh, were giving us what looked like the Mexican wave and cheering us on, perhaps the most pleasing sight other than the finishing line itself.
I careered through the farm yard, hit Westercroft, then entered the cricket field. A quick check over my shoulder to confirm I was under no threat, and I made a charge for the line, greeted as I crossed it by Neil Coupe and his timing equipment.
There was no one immediately behind me; myself and Jane were actually separated by the aforementioned Jo Talbot-Patterson, who had given up the ghost in our own personal dual up Coley Road.
I saw neither runners finish as I was deep in recovery mode and gathering my senses. When I felt up to it, I walked back to the finishing line to welcome in the fellow Pumas, Matt leading Tom O’Reilly home. Roy Lindsell was the next Puma home, followed in due course by Jo Allen and Tiffany Lewis. Shana was the last runner home, as she had to be! I was the third Puma home, the distinction of being the first falling equally to Shaun Casey and Rick Heaton, both linking up as they crossed the line, though mysteriously, Shaun being given a time four seconds faster than Rick. Either one of them had very long arms, or Neil’s equipment was proving momentarily dodgy.
Before I’d crossed the line, the race had been won some twenty-nine minutes earlier by Gary Priestley, maintaining his lead over Karl Gray having pulled away from him through Judy Woods.
There appeared to be only one casualty on the day, Alex Whyte having to pull up, but she was well tended to, getting a lift back to the clubhouse and being supplied with icepacks.
When it was all over, there was the chance to relax in the bar, with home-made pie and peas being served up. Which made you realise just how much had gone into making the event a success. From start to finish, the planning, the organising, the volunteering. So much that we sometimes take for granted. Upon reflection, perhaps the running of the Coley Canter was the easiest part.
All roads led to Skipton for the third round of the West Yorkshire Winter League. Not technically in West Yorkshire but near enough, the Pumas On Tour Express was nevertheless ready to roll once more, and with resident driver Neil Coupe now sporting a peaked cap one would be forgiven for thinking he was enacting the role of Stan Butler from Seventies classic sitcom ‘On The Buses’. He looked the part, and just as cheeky (ask Nicola Pennington, nudge, nudge, wink, wink!). There were those who also saw a resemblance to the moustachioed Leatherman in the Village People. Take your pick.
All buckled up, the passengers were in good spirits, and with several team members making their way in other modes of transport, the Pumas line-up was a healthy one; all told there were 27 making up the team. Destination was initially Sandylands Sports Centre, and in keeping with the ‘On The Buses’ theme, we set off ‘almost on time’, arriving a good forty minutes before the race which was scheduled for a 10.30 start. This was important because it gave certain runners the chance for a loo call and dress code adjustments. Here, we had Alan Sykes having to re-pin his vest number having originally threaded it through front and back, and Paul Bottomley putting his shorts back on the right way around. Needless to say, these two were WYWL debutants, but I’m sure they’ll get the hang of it, though I hasten to add, other newcomers to this kind of event, Paula Snee, Debbie Fox and Alison Pearce had little trouble, Alison’s panic being reserved for the return journey.
In Memory of Helen
We all donned black armbands in remembrance of club member Helen Silson, who sadly passed away recently far too young, and there was a thought for our regular co-ordinator Tracey Ann, who was absent due unforeseen circumstances. Taking on her mantel of pocket organiser for the day was Simon Wilkinson, who not only supplied the first-timers with their race numbers, but also brought along one of those giant shopping bags for use of Pumas tops and other non-running attire, indicating the steady progress the club is making.
Whilst we’d all headed for the Sandylands, the course itself was a short walk away at Aireville Park, a nice place for a picnic, but not on a day like this. We milled around as the minutes ticked by before being called to order. We made our way to the starting line where the other club runners were about to find this Northowram team not so accommodating as before; we held our positions near the front as opposed to being straggled at the back, much to the delight of Andrew Tudor, who, on more than one occasion in the run up to the event, had reminded us that, “This is a race, you know.”
This race was preceded by the presentation to the best dressed runner in Christmas outfit, and ten were plucked out of the pack, among them our very own Luke Cranfield and Helen Jackson. Being near the front had other advantages, for in another throwback to days of yore, the old ‘clap-o-meter’ method was used to determine the winners. Helen, dressed as an angel (what else?) received the loudest cheer, particularly from those of us at the front, and she duly received her customary tub of Celebrations. Also receiving his best dressed ‘male’ prize, which was exactly the same as Helen’s, was Queensbury’s Lee Tidswell, clad in a classic inflatable Santa outfit. And fair play to him; once he’d got into the costume, he was going to get his money’s worth, and shuffled his way around the course wearing it.
Once these runners had rejoined the throng, it was time for the serious stuff. While the presentations were being made, the rest of the field had had chance to survey what lay ahead. It looked kind of intimidating. A gentle incline up the field was just what everyone needed (sic) and before we knew it, we were off, a mass stampede heading out and beyond.
The course itself was loosely a figure-of-eight, three laps of which covered four-and-a-half miles. Why, just an extended parkrun, I hear some of you exclaim. Those that ran it might beg to differ. From the start, as I’ve hinted, there was several hundred yards of gentle uphill climbing before we turned a sharp left and a welcome downhill stretch. Before we rose again in the adjacent field (which happened to be the pitch and putt golf course) we sampled the first heap of not so glorious mud, several inches deep. We would trudge through this six times in total. The course then swung (did you see what I did then?) left to take us around the perimeter of the golf course, making the steep descent before turning sharp right, perhaps the most treacherous part of the course. We entered the first woodland and came out of the other side to cross the field before tackling the hardest section, a hill that began in more woodland and continued higher to the top of the field. Once we’d reached the summit, the sight was more appealing, the descent towards the entrance (and THAT mud) back into the main section of the park. We bore left up the field, then almost turned back on ourselves. One further climb and we were into the final woodland trail, the most welcome part of the course. That’s if you could keep your balance, mind, as there was a pretty nifty camber to negotiate, not to mention the tree roots. But once you’d made your way across the top of the woodland, there was the descent where you had the chance to build up some speed, and before you knew it, you were back at the start.
Though I started near the front I wasn’t there for long, being swallowed by the pack, and I quickly realised that this was no cake walk, despite the claims in some quarters that this was perhaps the easiest course on the circuit. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it was tough going from start to finish. As we approached the first turn, I could see ahead of me Luke and Tim Brook making their way towards the front. Down the incline, we cagily negotiated the mud before entering the pitch and putt course. The field settled down once we’d made the sharp turn towards the wooded area, where we ran in single file. The sight of the tough hill we had to climb, however, was intimidating, even at this early stage. To think we had to attempt this twice more before we were done (in). And running up here wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed. Getting a decent grip was a challenge in itself, and I found the best way of manoeuvring was to climb almost sideways, a bit like a crab, only not as fast. All the time, the energy being sapped from my legs.
Having reached the top without stopping, there was the canter down the slope, through the mud and into the main park. Around this point, I was passed by Jenny Hopkinson and Matt Newton, though any notion I might have had of trying to keep pace with them at this stage was quickly put to bed. My legs felt as if they could hardly move. Slowly, I followed the course around and entered the longest woodland section, knowing that when I came out of the other side, I’d be starting the second lap. It was slightly worrying, even if one marshal tried to encourage us all by calling out, “Only another two laps.”
As I entered the pitch and putt course for the second time, I was joined by Alison Pearce, who seemed to me to be running a lot more freely than I was. Yet we swapped positions several times through the rest of the course, and in fact, were of the same mind when we climbed the biggest hill once more. Halfway up there was a handy resting place. Not that I’m suggesting that was what it was officially called, nor that it was put there deliberately, but we found ourselves stopping for a quick breather, as well as to gather our senses, before continuing the assault. On the other side of the hill, I was lapped by leader Ben Mounsey of Stainland Athletic, and through the woods I was reminded by a couple of spectating youths.
The second lap felt a lot tougher than the first, but doubtless the last lap would be even harder still as the legs grew more tired. I braced myself, whilst keeping my feet through the longest woodland section, for the last circuit, consoling myself that there was just one and half miles to go. But it was a slog, there was no other way to describe it. The major hill looked and felt even bigger, and once more, me and Alison found ourselves taking another breather. By this time, we’d caught up Matt Newton, as he too was finding the going tough. I told myself that we were on the last leg once we’d reached the top and then there was the run for home. But still there were anxious moments. Back in Aireville Park we made our way across the field to the point where we doubled back on ourselves. I tried to keep focussed, daring not to look across to see who was behind me. But it was unavoidable. Whilst myself and Alison were locked in battle, Matt had drifted off behind us, but closing down on all of us were Jane Cole and Alan Sykes. I wasn’t up for losing any more places if I could help it, and suddenly found the drive to push myself up the last climb and into the final trail section. I even found it within myself to pass a couple of other runners, and once the wooded area bent around to the left, I knew the finish wasn’t far away. There was no looking back. I emerged into daylight with Alison in hot pursuit and the shouts from fellow Pumas who had long since finished certainly spurred me on as I put my head down for the sprint – loosely termed – to the line. I pipped Alison by a nanosecond, and felt nothing but total exhaustion. I began my immediate recovery and therefore missed the battle royale behind me as Jane, Alan and Matt raced each other home, Jane just managing to stride out and win that particular battle (I think Alan dipped too early).
Ben Mounsey cruised to victory, but Luke Cranfield can once again be satisfied with his nineteenth place finish – his best so far – making up for being overlooked in the pre-race Christmas outfit contest. As he crossed the line he swiftly whipped on his red face mask and had it not been for his race number, why, nobody would have known it was him. Tim Brook was next to finish in 41st place, the first of the Male Veterans. Andy Haslam (61st), whose dart to the line warded off any potential threat, and Adam Standeven (76th), who in contrast ambled home, also scored as a Veteran in the Men’s team, And Richard Ogden, coming 93rd and Shaun Casey, in 96th, were the next open age Males home to score. Andrew Tudor clearly had reserves left in the tank for a monumental charge to line where he took out two rivals (one of whom had another lap to run!) to complete the Male scoring. He finished in 100th position, four places behind a more composed Shaun Casey.
Excelling once again to be the first female Puma home was Veteran Jenny Hopkinson, who came in 139th (and fifteenth in her field), whilst Alison Pearce, on her debut, was next home in 189th. Jane Cole, despite feeling she had to fend off the challenges of club mates, had already done enough to bag some points, as had Paula Snee, further down the field, outmanoeuvring Simon Wilkinson one place behind. In the Supervets category, Paul Hopkinson proved once again to be the super Supervet Puma, finishing 152nd.
Other Winter League newcomers saw Paul Bottomley finish a tidy 196th, and Debbie Fox in 219th, pipped to the line by Julie Bowman, whilst it’s only fair to mention the ‘angelic’ Helen Jackson, who showed she had a real mean streak to pass Craven’s Bridget Slater on the line (a wave of her wand would have been easier, but perhaps not as satisfying). It was pleasing to see Tom O’Reilly have a better time of things after his injury-riddled runout at Pudsey, whilst Ally Canning kept Queensbury’s Julie Hepworth at bay. Carine Baker set off with antlers, but had long since discarded them before the finish, for fear of being mugged by a moose. Tiffany Lewis may have been the last Puma home, but she was afforded the biggest cheer.
After several stewards’ enquiries, the results were ratified, and the Female Pumas were confirmed in seventh place in their category, as opposed to – as if the ladies couldn’t help reminding us – the men, who finished ninth. All told, Northowram Pumas finished the day in eighth position, and in the overall standings, lie eighth out of the thirteen competing teams.
There was still time for drama on the way home. Neil Coupe had to put his foot down when word got back to us that the pizza delivery man was closer to the clubhouse than we were. Happily, he was stalled in the car park, enabling us all relax for the next hour or two as we replenished ourselves. Then, after departing, Alison Pearce was texting Neil, worrying that she’d left her trainers on the bus, only to find out she’d left them in her car. Would you believe it?!
Results and our next outing
Next race is in three weeks’ time, hosted by the Huddersfield-based Stadium Runners. Word on the street is that the course will be staged at Oakwell Hall, a course familiar to many of us. The Pumas On Tour Express may be in operation once more. Fares please…
Full list of participating Pumas and finishing positions;
Thanks, as always, to our star blogger Johnny. Who makes us all sound like champion runners!
The Ladies section excelled themselves when Northowram Pumas took part in the second round of the West Yorkshire Winter League at Pudsey on Sunday, 27 November, writes The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Once again, the club was thankful to Salterlee Primary School for the kind loan of the minibus, and the Pumas On Tour Express, crammed with eager runners, winged its way to Pudsey courtesy of the skilled driving once more of Neil Coupe, who for the only time that day found himself at the front.
For those runners who didn’t take part in the first race at Dewsbury, the Pudsey course may have seemed slightly daunting, though for those who did participate at Dewsbury, the general consensus was that the Pudsey course wasn’t as testing. Still, it had all the ingredients to make it a fun event; steep climbs, woodland trails, fields, and plenty of mud thrown in for good measure.
The Pumas were without several runners who had to pull out through injury or illness, or in one case, both. Nevertheless, they sent out a team in numbers; twenty-nine, in fact, took part, which is a great credit to a relatively new club like ours when you consider that this is the first time we’ve entered the competition and we only celebrated our 2nd birthday earlier this year. There were a total 356 competitors who lined up at the start at Round Hill, a field that not only saw the runners off, but would also usher them back in. The course took in Black Carr Woods where the organisers advised off road shoes, but such footwear was needed long before the runners reached the woods; immediately from the start, they had to negotiate the fields of Round Hill, which were described in certain quarters as “very dicey”.
Welcome downhill sections gave the runners the chance to gather themselves after some arduous climbs.
perhaps the most testing being the steep trail hill around half a mile from the end.
For prosperity, a happy snapper was there to photograph the competitors as they reached the top of this section. Looking at the Pumas at this stage, there was a mix of facial expressions. Andy Haslam showed fierce determination:
Tim Brook seemed to be treating it as ‘just another day at the office’
Adam Standeven’s smile disguised the sheer relief at conquering it
Whilst Neil Coupe seemed to be expecting a fanfare for managing it
Richard Baker, Matt Newton and Jo Allen obviously know how to ‘work the camera’, whilst Carine Baker and Nicola Pennington were too preoccupied to actually notice it. The pained expressions of Rick Heaton, Andrew Tudor, Paul Hopkinson, Ally Canning, Victoria Owen and Tiffany Lewis perhaps tell you all you need to know
though you’d be forgiven for thinking that Julie Bowman had actually finished the race.
There was still some way to go, however, and there was that final killer hill up the tarmacked road to tackle before the runners re-entered Round Hill and made a short burst to the finish line. Which (judging by the video, at least) seemed to have been plonked randomly in the middle of the field. Still it was a welcome sight for each and every runner, there’s no disputing that.
Winning the race by the proverbial country mile was Stainland Lion’s international fell runner Ben Mounsey, but tucked in just behind the leaders to finish an impressive twenty-third was Pumas’ dependable Luke Cranfield. Tim Brook was the next Puma home in 51st place, Andy Haslam, in his first Winter League race, finished a handy 68th, whilst Adam Standeven was the other Puma to finish in the hot one hundred.
For the Ladies, Jenny Hopkinson must have run the race of her life to finish twentieth in her field and 159th overall
and she was backed up by Liz McDonnell, Kirsty Edwards and Lucy Oxley, who were all taking part in their first Winter League race of the season. Jenny, in fact, was chased to the line by Rick Heaton, who’d done well considering he’d been out of action for three weeks, whilst further down the field, Tom O’Reilly struggled with injury but still managed to complete the course. Tom was one of fourteen Pumas competing for the first time; I hope he and the others aren’t put off and are ready to go again!
We are, after all, a team. And never was this more apparent than when a large contingent reconvened in the Yew Tree, where drinks and pizza were the order of the day. As they should be.
Once all the positions had been calculated, it was pleasing to see that the Ladies had finished fifth in their category, moving up the table one place to eight. Overall, the Pumas remain in ninth position. But there’s plenty of time to go. Book your places now for the Pumas On Tour Express. Next stop – Skipton.
Full list of participating Pumas and finishing positions;