Stanbury Splash,

Penistone Hill Country Park, Sunday, 14 January, 2018.

Northowram Puma Robert Shirlaw enjoys fell running, and so once again he made the trip to Penistone Hill Country Park, near Haworth, for the thirty-fifth staging of the Stanbury Splash. This event in the past, I believe, has been hosted by the recently retired Woodheads, so it was Wharfedale Harriers who staged the event for the first time.

The race starts in the quarry at the bottom of Penistone Hill and circuits the upper reaches of Ponden Clough and Stanbury Moor. The Wharfedale Harriers website describes the route as follows: ‘Starting from the quarry bottom on Penistone, turn right onto the road and then left onto the Bronte Way track.  Just past the ruins of Middle Intake Farm it turns right through a gate and down through the fields to cross Sladen Beck, the first of many times for wet feet.  It’s then an inevitably muddy climb, back up the other side to reach the track continuing from Back Lane. Turn left, uphill, on a good track, to Upper Heights Farm where the route branches right on a narrow footpath to circuit Ponden Clough and passing by Ponden Kirk. On a clear day there are magnificent views down the Clough, but on a misty day it can be quite bleak. After circuiting the Clough, with several more beck crossings and even more wet feet, you will meet back with the outgoing course, when you will retake the route back towards the start. Careful as you descend back to cross Sladen Beck as it can be hard to stay upright, then climb back through the fields. Just after you pass Middle Intake farm, bear right off the track and onto the path to take the shortest way back to the finish line on the cricket pitch.’

Robert Shirlaw coming home to finish the Stanbury Splash.

Set for an 11.30am start, the morning wasn’t a particularly warm one, but at least the runners didn’t have to contend with snow as they did two years. The challenging course of seven and a half miles, rising 400 metres, didn’t faze Robert, as he loves this kind of thing, and he finished in 108th in 62:22. The winner was Jack Wood of Ilkley in 45:44. 309 runners et off, though four failed to finish the course.

Daleside Auld Lang Syne,

Penistone Hill Country Park, Sunday, 31 December, 2017.

Out of a disused quarry they appeared in their hundreds. Almost resembles a scene from Dr Who. Mind, one of the Daleks was in there somewhere.

It’s not every day you find yourself pitting your wits against an Olympic champion, but that’s exactly what Tim Brook, Luke Cranfield and Ally Canning found themselves doing at the annual Daleside Auld Lang Syne fell race on New Year’s Eve. This 9.6km event, organised for the last time by Woodentops’ Dave and Eileen Woodhead and raced over the moors above Haworth, is always a popular one with many entrants donning fancy dress, as is their wont. This year, those dressed as Santa Claus, elves, Batman, Daleks, bishops – you name it, they were all in the mix – as well as runners dressed in more conventional attire, came across a familiar face on the starting line. Some had to look twice to be sure, but yes, it was positively our double Olympic gold medallist triathlete Alaistair Brownlee MBE, although in fairness, this wasn’t a new event for him. He first entered in 2005 when he won the Under 18s race, and he’s triumphed in the senior race three times since them. Mr Brownlee would win this race, too, although it has to be said, his time of 44:54 was over three minutes slower than that of last year’s winner, Horwich’s Chris Farrell. So this lad is beatable.

From the start, Luke tries to keep an eye on Alistair Brownlee, who is somewhere up ahead.

The 368 runners once again set off from the disused quarry at Penistone and though this year there was no accompanying bagpipers, no one was in any doubt that this truly was the Auld Lang Syne. The route scales and descends the Haworth moors in a sort of out and back kind of manner. Early on, the runners slip and slide down the hillside before crossing the Sladen Beck, and then, weary legged, negotiate it once more on the way back in. The recent thawed snow and subsequent rain made the course a joy to behold, but no one expected anything less than a good rock and roll in the mud. One Todmorden Harrier, Martin Roberts, completed the course carrying a body board, which he utilised to good effect sliding down the muddy slopes.

Focussed…or just cold.

The weather wasn’t particularly kind, with the runners facing a strong headwind as they climbed up to Top Withens. Ah, but its’s behind you on the way back. All the way around, Luke and Tim kept each other company, but the former stretched out as they approached the finish line at Haworth West End Cricket Club to record a time of 51:55. Luke, two places behind, was but thirteen seconds slower, whilst further down the field, Ally Canning completed the trying course to finish in 218th place. Luke said of the Auld Lang Syne course that he felt that it was a little wetter than the previous year, with the muddy hill more slippery to climb and descend this time around. There were also plenty of puddles on the tracks, too, so this might explain his time of 51:57 being almost a minute slower than that of his effort last year. But this would not necessarily explain how Ally managed to knock off almost ten minutes from hers! Ally’s had a fine year-end, not only being #FPH at the Halifax Christmas Day parkrun, but also clocking an overall personal best in the process.

Alistair Brownlee, MBE, comes home to claim his fourth Auld Lang Syne winners’ crown to go with his two Olympic triathlon gold medals, four World Championships gold medals, three European Championships triathlon gold medals, and quite a few other titles time doesn’t permit me to mention.
Was this the race of the day, though? Tim Brook strides out to fend off the challenge of friend and rival Luke Cranfield.
Ally Canning sees out the year on the top of her form. The relief is there for all to see.

When everyone was gathered in, Alistair Brownlee was happy to pose with fellow competitors for post-race photos. As #FPH Tim Brook, too, was ready for an autograph – but nobody asked him.

Positions and times of Olympic champions and Northowram Pumas;

1 Alistair Brownlee 44:54

43 Tim Brook 51:44

45 Luke Cranfield 51:57

218 Ally Canning 66:40

368 finishers.

Photos courtesy of Mick Fryer, Linda Grundy and Kath Bridger.

The Stoop,

Penistone, Sunday, 17 December, 2017.

The recent cold snap may have put paid to several local parkrun weekends, not to mention the second Winter League meeting up at Queensbury, but no Arctic blast was going to prevent the twenty-ninth staging of the endurance test that is otherwise known as The Stoop. Held up high on the moors above Haworth, the 8km fell race starts at Penistone Hill West End Quarry, climbs over tracks, pathways and a footbridge heading towards Harbour Lodge, before continuing up to the standing stone known as The Stoop and heading back down towards the finish at West End Cricket Ground.

Ready to brave the elements – that’d be Mei-Lyn, who was there to support dad Tim Brook, Vicky Owen and Ally Canning.

The tough course this year was summed up nicely by one runner who, post-race, remarked, “I’d like to publicly massively thank Dave and Eileen [Woodhead, organisers of the event for the last time] for giving me and thousands of others a reight craic in the form of mud, bogs, weather, chocolate missiles, Santa hats, Soreen, Curly-Wurlies, beefy coffee and precarious Portaloos.” Which sort of gives you the idea of what The Stoop was all about.

All smiles from Tim, destined to be #FPH.

Among the 245 starters in the senior race were three Pumas, namely Tim Brook, Ally Canning and Vicky Owen, wearing suitable attire in the form of waterproofs and mandatory Santa hat, thus disguising the traditional Puma yellow, red and black. Needs must, I suppose. Braving the elements was Lisa Aspinall, on hand to take some fab photos which illustrated fully how much the three Pumas really enjoyed the conditions.

Around The Stoop we go – Ally clearly loving this.
Vicky approaches The Stoop with that resigned look on her face that suggests there must be one-thousand-and-one other things she could be doing on a Sunday morning in the middle of December.

The race was won by Pudsey & Bramley’s Harry Holmes in 31:06, a time that gives some indication of how well Tim did to finish 33rd in 38:21. The ever-improving Ally was 137th in 47:37, whilst Vicky finished 174th in 51:55.

The senior race had been preceded by a junior fun run and two junior races, run over one mile (Under 10,12,14s) and a two miler for the Under 17s. Eleven-year-old Finley Canning took part in the mile event and doubtless relished the climb of 150 feet. He finished 57th in a time of 9:11.

Muddy-nosed Finley Canning on the way to the finish line in the juniors’ one-mile event.

Run Bolton Abbey,

Sunday, 12 November, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

10K RACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

85 Diane Cooper 1:03:29

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

200 Katrina Wood 1:09:39

201 Gina Farley 1:11:10

287 Shana Emmerson 1:17:41

381 Jo Coupe 1:25:03

463 Carolyn Brearley 1:32:02

484 Sara Britton 1:33:50

502 Johnny Meynell 1:36:36

551 Carla Sharp 1:42:54

577 Eileen O’Brien 1:46:18

659 runners.

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

TEN MILE RACE

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

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

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

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

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

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

33 Matt Newton 1:40:38

72 Jane Cole 1:54:21

307 runners.

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

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

Withins Skyline Fell Race,

Penistone Hill, Haworth, Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

“Autumn and the great weather it brings will soon be on its way and that means the challenge of Haworth Moor will be calling you, after all you know you love Penistone Hill and the ‘pleasure’ it brings.”

So said the Woodentops in the build up to the staging of their 26th Withins Skyline Fell Race. This is a somewhat daunting event, held high on the moors of Penistone Hill, above Haworth, but nevertheless, one that continues to attract many runners. This year, 358 runners congregated in a quarry close to Penistone Hill Country Park, among them Northowram Pumas’ very own Robert Shirlaw.

The runners enjoy this descent, and Robert Shirlaw is in there somewhere. But this is just after the start, and there’s a long way to go.

The course set out in front of the runners asks much, with tough climbs – not for nothing does the race call itself ‘Skyline’ – and ankle deep mud pushing them to the limit over 12k. Rising up from the quarry, the runners descend to take up Moorside Lane before swinging left and beginning a clockwise tour of Haworth Moor. The route at one point picks up a section of the Pennine Way, passing Top Withens which, as literary buffs might like to acknowledge, is a ruined farmhouse is said to have been the inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw family house in Emily Bronte’s novel ‘Wuthering Heights’. The course leaves the Pennine Way, veering off to the right to take up Enfield Side Road. This track eventually drops down to cross Bronte Bridge, and the route swings sharp left to pass the Bronte Waterfalls. The runners continue along Enfield Side Road before crossing the moors on the way to rejoining Moorside Lane and the climb up to the finish.

Robert digging in as the runners cross the moors.

With Hallowe’en coming up, the organisers invited the runners to dress up in appropriate costumes, but most didn’t bother, feeling perhaps that the course was scary enough. The set off time was 11.30am, so an unusually late start compared to most, and off they went.

The end is nigh, as Robert reaches the finish line.

The weather was kind – blimey, just imagine what it must have been like had it been pouring down – and Robert, without his trademark cap for once, had a decent run, and finished 195th in 64:10. The winner was Harry Holmes, who finished in 42:40.

 

Photos courtesy of Woodentops and Linda Grundy.

ISLE OF SKYE HIGHLAND GAMES HILL RACE

Wednesday 9 August, 2017.

What to do when you’re far away from home on your holidays. Why not sign up for the local hill race at the Isle of Skye Highland Games? “Don’t mind if I do,” reckoned Tim McBrook, holidaying with the lovely Lisa and Mei-Lyn, and just short of donning a kilt, he lined up for the race which has been a feature of the Games since, well, forever.

Tim McBrook, braced and ready to tackle that Hill.

The Games were inaugurated in 1877 by the Skye Gathering Committee, and except during the World Wars, have taken place annually in the natural amphitheatre at Portree, known locally as The Meall (translated as ‘the lump’). However, the tradition which they represent goes back hundreds of years before that, with clan celebrations that included fiercely-contested feats of strength and endurance, together with piping and other forms of entertainment similar to those that can be enjoyed at the games today.

Tim, therefore, had a nice array of events from which to choose in a programme which included piping, dancing, sailing and tossing the caber. Tempted or not by the thought of humping a nineteen-feet tapered pole, Tim decided to play safe and pitched himself – Pumas top and all – into the Hill Race, though by all accounts, this 2.7 mile event isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Here’s a course description just to set the scene: “Once you leave the games field you must choose which route to take to the foot of the hill. Longer and safer via the road, or an obstacle course via the foreshore. Most people take the shorter route. This goes over a low wall with an 8 foot drop into a cemetery, through a graveyard, over barbed wire fence, down grassy bank avoiding the nets drying, over a gate and onto the beach, then across seaweed, mud, stones, a couple of paddles through burn outlets, then back up to the road beside the petrol station. There are several ways up the hill, either following a narrow winding path or by cutting through the grounds of the Viewfield Hotel. Both end up on a narrow path to the right of a fence heading up to Suidh Fhinn. You do not go to the top of this hill. At about 170m you turn right and contour a couple of hundred metres to a prominent white flag, where the marshal hands you a token. At the road you again have the choice, longer and drier or shorter and wet.”

The size of the task. Tim’s probably about seventh here.

Fortunately, the event was held in warm sunshine, and Tim, being the natural athlete that he is and never one to shirk a challenge, chose….the longer and drier. Bearing in mind, if you hadn’t heard, he had sustained a nasty ankle injury the day before clambering over rocks and stones, so fair’s fair.

With cash prizes on offer to the first three competitors home (£100 for the winner is something not to be sniffed at) Tim had every incentive, particularly as, word has it, it was his round next. The runners began with a lap and a half of the field before making their way out through the town and towards the hill, with Tim at this early stage lying third and giving hope to his family that he really could bring home the readies. Out of sight they went and just went on out there is anyone’s guess. But Tim gave it his all, climbed the hill via the road, collected said token and made his descent. Alas, he found himself out of the money-placings as the runners re-entered the field, but over the final lap and a half, Tim showed a clean pair of heels to his nearest rival and made a dart for the line. Cheered on by literally thousands of spectators, Tim finished a more than creditable sixth out of a field of thirty-three runners, beating many of the locals, and he must have been happy with his time of 21:18, though having never run this race before, to what could he compare it?

Tim makes a dart for line in front of literally thousands of spectators.

The event itself was won by Chris Edis of Keswick, whilst the Ladies’ section was won, for the eleventh time, by Christina Rankin of Uig. And while Tim isn’t the first Yorkshireman to have run this race – indeed, last year, the event was won by Leeds’ Noah Hurton – I’m pretty confident in saying that he is the first Puma to have entered it, so how lucky was he that he happened to be on the Scottish island when he was, with the Games nicely coinciding with his holiday. It’s not as if he actually planned it.

Is it?

WIDDOP FELL RACE,

WEDNESDAY 19 JULY 2017.

The latest event in the club championship was this daunting seven-miler up the fells around Widdop, near Hebden Bridge. Advertised as a “classic high moorland route…good and interesting paths with a few tussocks and chest high bracken thrown in!”, this enticed only four Pumas, Luke Cranfield, Tim Brook, Andrew Tudor and Peter Reason.

In total, there were 146 starters, two of whom failed to finish. First Puma home (#FPH), officially for the first time, was Tim Brook, whilst the event itself was won by Wharfedale Harriers’ Sam Watson in 52:13. Tim finished eighteenth in 1 hr 1:04. Full Pumas’ results here;

18 Tim Brook 1 hr 1:04

37 Luke Cranfield 1 hr 04:39

103 Peter Reason 1 hr 19:07

111 Andrew Tudor 1 hr 21:19.

Northowram Pumas were eligible for the team event, and with the first three runners home counting for points, the team totalled 158 and finished eighth from ten in the Men’s event.

 

When: Wednesday 20 July 2016

Where: Widdop (near Heptonstall)

Distance: Under 8’s 0.65km, Under 10’s 1.5km and Under 12’s 2.0km

Who: Our awesome Junior Pumas

This was the first official race that our Junior Pumas have taken part in. Organised by the Calder Valley Fell Running Club it was a bit of a baptism of fire for our Junior Pumas!

We had Juniors running in 3 of the different age categories:

Under 8’s

  • Finley Canning
  • Orlagh Kenny
  • Sophie Booth
  • Caitlin Booth
  • Maia Tudor
  • Reuben Bartkiw
  • Henry Rathbone
  • Tailla Green-Moore

Under 10’s

  • Tegan Green-Moore
  • Jude Kenny
  • Amelie Baker
  • Jeremy Bartkiw

Under 12’s

  • Olivia Fall
Junior Pumas Ready to Race
Junior Pumas Ready to Race

The race was all run on the fells surrounding Heptonstall. This type of running was a massive change for our juniors, who have done some ‘off road’ running but nothing compared to the terrain on a proper quarry run (the term used for a junior fell run). As Maia Tudor said ‘I had to climb up a big rock and it was a bit dangerous because if I’d have fell I would have landed in the river’.

Even though all of our juniors have run longer distances the tough terrain and steep hills made it a challenging course.

But this didn’t stop them. Each and every one of our Junior Pumas raced to the best of their ability and performed absolutely amazingly.

We even had a medal winner, Tailla Green-Moore who came 3rd in the U8 girls! An amazing achievement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The team spirit they showed was also great to watch, as they stood and cheered the rest of their team mates across the finish line.

Some team players cheering Olivia home
Some team players cheering Olivia home

As a coaching team we couldn’t be more proud of how well our Junior Pumas did, we were definitely #proudtobeapuma on Wednesday night.

The times and places of our junior runners are available here.

Our junior pumas post race
Our junior pumas post race

On Sunday 15 May 2016 Halifax Harriers held their annual Calderdale Way Relay fell race.

Andy had floated the idea a few times, that it would be really great to enter a Pumas team into the race.

Little did he know what a monster he would create with this suggestion!

The run up

The enthusiasm amongst the Pumas was overwhelming. Not only did we have enough runners sign up to create a team, we actually got enough willing (read crazy) volunteers to create two separate teams, a male and female team.

This in itself is amazing, given that we only became a proper affiliated running club 12 months ago.

Tracey “volunteered” herself to be our Team Manager. Without a shadow of a doubt, we would not have managed it without her!

She was that brilliant we got her flowers and everything

Tracey our awesome Team Manager
Tracey our awesome Team Manager

Not only did Tracey:

  • work out everyones running partners
  • supply us with updates and information about the event
  • co-ordinate kit checks
  • answer our endless, repetitive and sometimes daft questions (for example, does a Babybel count as emergency food?)
  • shuffle and change running partners to cope with injuries
  • collect money and signatures off us all

But she also got herself and Simon up at 5am on the morning of the event and they then made their way to the start of each and every leg to see off the leg runners and welcome home the runners of the previous leg.

We might not have been the fastest team to complete the event and we may never be superstar fell runners, but without a shadow of a doubt we had the best team atmosphere out there! And we have Simon and Tracey to thank for a lot of that. Without their cheering and sweets we wouldn’t have found it half as enjoyable.

Race Day

I think it’s safe to say that most of us were pretty nervous as race day approached. Most of the runners had been to complete recce’s of their routes (apart from one cavalier runner *cough* Neil *cough* who was just going to do it on the day) and I think we were all feeling a bit wary about the amount of hills we would be running up.

There were six legs in total, and we had four runners (2 runners in each team, so two male and two females Pumas) in each leg.

We thought the best way to give you an idea of how the day went is to let a runner from each leg explain it to you.

So over to Neil our ran leg one with Luke, Johanne and Kirsty

Leg 1 – Clay House to Hinchcliffe Arms

Rewind back to the 5th March 2016, there I was happily skiing  in the French Alps when I  saw a Facebook notification inviting me to take part in the CWR 2016.   Further reading of the notification I saw that my good now bad lady had confirmed (without discussion) that I would be taking part.   I had no idea what it entailed and thought it was some kind of orienteering event like that i took part of once on a outward bound course when I was 17.

I was already pretty fit and thought well it can’t be that difficult and I knew I had the will power if not fitness to complete what was expected of me. On return from skiing I realised that my good lady had only volunteered myself and not her! I also realised after a few runs off road that this was going to be completely different to any running that I had done before. As the event was approaching the enormity hit home,  and being part of a team of such fantastic runners I was nervous not to let anyone down. I was also running with Luke Cranfield who I know is a far better runner than myself and felt anxious at the thought of holding him back.

Leg 1 teams
Leg 1 teams

The day had arrived and it was an early start ( I even turned down a night out the day before). I  picked Luke up at 6:00am and met the other team leg 1 runners, Kirsty and Johanne.  I had to leave my car at the finish so I could get straight off, we all drove over to the start where Joanne informed us that she had tried to drink a lot of water to keep hydrated but had coughed and was sick all over her dashboard and steering wheel, maybe it was nerves  and she wasn’t by herself feeling the nerves!
We made our way over to the start  ….my heart was beating ten to the dozen.  We were let loose 8:00am.

The start of the race...spot the Puma
The start of the race…spot the Puma

My first memory was that for some reason we were filtered up some stairs and it was only wide enough for 2 persons and everyone seemed to be scrambling up a vertical wall and I thought this is only the start what awaits us, but Luke my relay partner had already done a recce of the route and seemed confident that I would get through it. We seemed to climb for around 2 miles into some waste land and I remember passing a runner who was getting medical treatment. As it leveled out we looked behind us and was hoping that our other team wouldn’t be far behind but they was no where to be seen.  Luke informed  me that they were taking it easy on the first assent.  By this time I was quite sweaty and knew I hadn’t any fluid in my ruck sack left and that I needed to cool down, but I was feeling strong so continued into Ripponden. As we were descending I remember  Luke saying to me that the worse climbs were still to come, thanks mate !!

As we started to climb out of Ripponden I was getting quite warm and sweaty again and felt a bit disorientated and knew I had to cool down as I was loosing too much fluid.  I knew I was holding Luke up, who was an excellent partner and never pushed too hard and was always close by.  As we got to the top of the second climb (approx 3 miles which I had to walk 30 percent of it to cool down) I looked back and saw our other team members approx 50m behind me and I shouted down to them. They soon caught us up and we were now a team of four,well 3 and Luke was our guide, LOL !  We walked, ran and talked to each other and supported each other but no one had any water left.

Approx 2 miles from completing our leg Luke whispered to me “come on we can’t let the other team beat us” I looked at him and thought mmm yes we best crack on or we would never live it down and we went for it.   We pushed hard to the finish and completed our leg in 1:54 with the other team a couple of minutes behind.

As I was approaching the finish I saw and heard familiar faces and voices which helped me to speed up .   I must say that this is one of the hardest BUT most satisfying events that I have taken part in.  I first joined Pumas to meet new like minded friends and improve on my fitness.  It was one of the best decisions that I have made!

Luke and Neil at the finish line
Luke and Neil at the finish line

I would like to thank all the people who was at the end to support.  Yes, even my good lady even though I hadn’t talked to her for a month beforehand for volunteering me in the first place. I would also like to thank my partner Luke for encouraging me throughout and my respect goes out to all the Pumas who completed a section.  Finally , I would like to thank Tracey Ann, who without her organising the event would never have taking place.
Proud to be a Puma 🙂

Jo and Kirsty at the finish line
Jo and Kirsty at the finish line

Leg 2 – Hinchcliffe Arms to Todmorden

Johnny’s perspective

When it was first suggested that Northowram Pumas take part in the Calderdale Way Relay, there was always the dilemma of whether of not a fledging club such as ours would be able to raise a team. That we managed two is testament to just what an enthusiastic bunch we are. The event has been staged for many years, but in all honesty, it had never been on my radar.

With no Vets team entered I was squad-listed for the Men’s/Mixed team. But of which leg to run. Well, being a Tod lad, there was the appeal of Leg 2 – Cragg Vale to Todmorden. But let me say, the thought of returning to my home town was the only thing that was appealing. Of how to get there; that was a different matter.

After much juggling of the team by our Tracey, my running buddy was Robert Shirlaw, with Ally and Liz running the same leg in the Ladies’ event. We’d met up two weeks prior to the Relay to recce the 8.4 mile route, so come the day, we knew what lay ahead.

Logistics meant our day started with a 7.00am meet-up at the club; this in itself necessitated for myself a 6.15 alarm, which is just what everybody loves to hear on a Sunday morning. We travelled in two cars to Tod, so well organised were we that we had the pick of the car park spaces at the High School where our leg would finish several hours hence. Then it was the journey back to the basin at Cragg Vale, where we registered outside, rather than inside, the Hinchcliffe Arms, and had our equipment checked, if you know what I mean, by keen marshals.

Other runners arrived, loads of ‘em. Many, in fact had to queue to register. I mean, what was all that about? We’d been there so early, we were close to having help set up the trestle table. It was all going so smoothly, plus there was the reassuring arrivals of Tracey, Simon and Matt (emergency cover, despite having Leg Six to run – oh, the irony!) to see us off.

The Leg One cut-off point was 9.45am, but we were all confident that Luke and Neil would comfortably beat this. The Leg Two runners started lining up, most in some sort of serious and nervous state. But amid the growing tension and apprehension, two of our party were calmly sipping warm drinks supplied by mine hosts at the Hinchcliffe Arms; Liz bought one for herself and Robert, a ‘coffee-while-u-wait’ type of thing.

Excitement began to mount as the first of the Leg One runners descended the hill towards the line, a supreme band of elite athletes. Surely Luke and Neil (or Johanne and Kirsty for that matter) would be among these? We hoped and we waited. They didn’t show and at 9.45 prompt the Leg Two runners were called to order. This was it, there was no turning back (that only added to the agony, because running the opposite direction seemed mightier easier than the hill we were about to face).

The countdown to zero began, and suddenly we were off, the more athletic among them jostling for prime positions, while the more sedate of us, such as myself, made headway in a preamble kind of manner. The thought of climbing towards Widdop Clough Reservoir and beyond, with a bulky backpack strapped to my back, did not sit easily on this runner’s mind. Robert had led the charge, and I wouldn’t meet up with him again until we reached Stoodley Pike; in the meantime, all I had to do was concentrate on my own effort, as painful as it was.

Past Widd0p Clough, we entered fields through a stile, and ventured upwards and over the tops. This terrain wasn’t particularly steep, but it was quite arduous, and boggy in places. The sight of Stoodley Pike appearing in the distance was comforting, and I got my head down knowing that our first descent was soon upon us. Robert was there waiting patiently, but there was no time to rest. It’s a magnificent view from Stoodley Pike, although I had no time to take it in. Nor did I have time to have a conversation with the marshal who clearly recognised me and shouted out my name as I approached. I took a quick glance backwards and yelled, “Who is it?” but no reply was forthcoming, and I wouldn’t find out his identity until the following day (Let me interject at this point to say that I can really vouch for the beauty of the views from the top of the hill; when I was a kid, my mum took us on a glorious picnic on a lovely warm afternoon, and I had more time to take it all in).

We careered down the Todmorden side of the Pike; Robert quicker than me once more, but between us, we did manage to make up some places. The descent wasn’t so straightforward, involving a tricky rock-filled path that could easily have caused harm. But we survived intact, and hit the road at Manckinholes, tuned left down a cobbled path that took us invitingly but frustratingly in front of the Top Brink Inn, before we began the drag up towards the Shepherd’s Rest. Legs were starting to hurt but with the town centre visible below, the thought that we were over halfway was of some relief.

Five-hundred yards or so beyond the pub, we began heading down towards Todmorden town centre. Very steep and sharp in places, Robert found the grass verges an easier option than tarmac, and we hurtled down past the Unitarian Church and soon enough found ourselves on the Rochdale Road where we were greeted by workmen road surfacing. Were the red lights for us to stop? It was a tempting thought. We veered right up Dobroyd Road towards the footbridge over the railway line. As we trudged down the steps on the far side, legs felt like jelly, which wasn’t a good sign given that we now had the most difficult part of the route to attempt. As a youngster, I’d often played on this road, but only the bottom section. I had no idea (until we’d checked it out) just how high it climbed. A stairway to heaven is an apt phrase. So steep, and never ending. Robert was brave enough to run the early section (and maybe more) but for myself and those around me, walking was the obvious and necessary option. We climbed and climbed, I took a wrong turning at one point before being shouted back, took a tumble, and just when we’d hit the top of the road, we were through a stile into another field which climbed even higher. Still knowing the area, I knew the finish was just down the other side of the hill, less than a mile as the crow flies. But no crows were flying this particular race; we crossed the fields, then headed left for a further section of uphill climbing on a road I always knew as Doghouse Lane (it actually runs into Parkin Lane, and that’s where were at). At last, we reached Todmorden Edge Farm, and the downhill charge to the finish. Oh that this was simple. The track through Buckley Wood was narrow, slippery in places, and very uneven, with one helluva drop to our left. Still, without a care for limb or life, me and Robert gained two more places, and when we hit Ewood Lane, there was no looking back. With my backpack continuing to slip from my shoulders (as it had all the way round – who designs these things?) we opened up and made for the finishing line just at the entrance to the school.

We were greeted by Tracey, Simon and Luke (fresh from running his leg!) but no Leg Three runners; our cut off time had been 11.00am, we’d missed it by just short of fifteen minutes, and they’d already gone. With Liz and Ally coming in around five minutes later, collectively, our job was done, and there was some sense of satisfaction and pride that we’d completed what we set out to do, and played our part in a great team effort.

The Calderdale Way certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, but I’d certainly recommend those willing enough to give it a go. I’m up for it again next year – if selected, of course!

Ally’s perspective

Our race day started at 7am (well technically earlier as we had to get up, changed and eat our respective and much discussed race day breakfasts, I always vote for porridge on a race day) when we met at the sports club in Northowram ready for our drive to the finish line.

After depositing a car at Todmorden, we drove back to Cragg Vale, parked on the main road and then walked down to the start area outside the Hinchcliffe Arms pub. Looking back, we probably didn’t need to be there an hour and 45 minutes before we actually set off…..but if you ask me it’s always better to be early to race. You don’t need to worry about being late on top of race day nerves!

And there were some big race day nerves, especially on my part.

We registered and had our kits checked. After all the discussions we’d had about kit and what to take or not to take, it was good to get this bit out of the way!

We then hung around and waited, getting slightly more nervous as more runners turned up. Especially as they all looked a lot more ‘fell racey’ than we did.

A real bonus was getting to use the pub toilets rather than the pretty whiffy portaloos. Simple things.

We were pretty excited at the start…..

The leg 2 team
The leg 2 team
Looking enthusiastic before the start....the smiles didn't last long
Looking enthusiastic before the start….the smiles didn’t last long

As the first runners started to come in we were astounded at the speed they were running. I mean I know the finish to that leg one is down a hill, but they were going fast. Really fast.

Unfortunately our leg one teams didn’t get to us in time to hand the baton over, so we started in the mass start. We reckoned that maybe about half the teams were left at this point.

At 9.45 off we went.

Leg 2. Ughhhhhh. It starts with an uphill. literally as soon as you set off you’re on a steep climb up to Withins Clough reservoir. This first bit of climbing lasts for about a mile. You then get a nice stretch of flat (if you’re not too knackered to appreciate it) as you go along the side of the reservoir. and then inevitably the climbing starts again.

Although this time it’s a bit nicer as we were on fields rather than road. We continued to climb until we reached Stoodley Pike. This is a great moment as you know you’ve got the first 3 miles out of the way, and that’s 3 miles of climbing done. Plus you get an awesome bit of downhill running to play with.

Although, in the back of your mind you know that when you’re at the bottom, it’ll be back to hills.

A lot of the hills are deceiving, Liz spent a lot of the race trying to convince me I was nearing the top of the hill only to find we were about half way up it (not that it should have been a surprise as we’d recce’d the route a few weeks before, but I think she’s a glass half full sort of person!).

But the final sting in leg 2’s tail was the climb from Todmorden up to, well I guess the top of Todmorden. It was really tough, but at least you knew it was the last hill and then it was all down to the finish. And look how happy we were to finish…

Ally and Liz at the finish line
Ally and Liz at the finish line

All in all a pretty gruelling leg. But I’d definitely do it again, mainly so I could improve on the 97th place we got (sorry Liz!)….

Leg 3 – Todmorden to Blackshaw Head

Helen Jackson, Alan Sykes, Jessica Edwards and I (Melissa Hall) took on the challenge.

The leg 3 team raring to go
The leg 3 team raring to go

This leg started at Todmorden Leisure centre and ended at Blackshaw Head. After the first 600m we began the climb which felt like forever.

Helen and Alan still going up hill....
Helen and Alan still going up hill….

It was like Howes Lane but 100 times longer. This part, I believe, even the elite walked part of it. At one point I thought we would need to get the climbing equipment out! Ha! At the top we joined a bridle path with a few styles it was more manageable terrain and only slight hills. Absolutely amazing views of Stoodley Pike and Mankinholes.

We passed through some farms with usual farm animals, Wallabies and Llamas! Some parts of the path were a bit boggy. As we got nearer the end the path seemed to disappear and we had to do a bit of scrambling before joining Davey Lane for the final climb towards the finish line.

 

Jess and Mel enjoying a bit of down

There were some welcome familiar faces cheering us on to the end. In total according to Strava the total elevation gain was 1,098ft! I will keep my Calderdale Way Relay coaster and show it with pride. I thoroughly enjoyable and well organised event.

Obligatory start line selfie
Obligatory start line selfie

Leg 4 – Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls

Stopping for a selfie during a run is not something we usually do; however with the sun shining down on the majestic Calder Valley, we couldn’t resist capturing the moment.

Can't beat a good race selfie....especially with those views
Can’t beat a good race selfie….especially with those views

I hasten to add this was on our recce of Leg 4 of the Calderdale Way Relay, one week prior to the actual race.

Our fellow team Puma CWR comrades would undoubtedly have frowned upon such frivolous activity during the event itself. Although me and partner Shaun would have welcomed the opportunity to stop and catch our breaths on the challenging (chuffing knackering!) course.

Doing the recce meant we had the advantage of knowing the route and not getting lost (something we realised had happened just after snapping the selfie above – which soon wiped those smug smiles off!).

Doing the recce meant we also had the disadvantage of knowing the route – and knowing just how arduous those inclines were that awaited us!

Being more of a road runner with little experience of fell running, I found the undulating countryside trail hard going. It demands total concentration to ensure you’re following the correct route (which is not always clear!) and also avoiding slipping on the rough terrain. The risk of twisting an ankle is pretty high and there were a couple of times we both lost our footing.

It was a relief that the weather was on our side with no threat of rain to make the route more treacherous, especially on those steep downhill stretches where I was struggling for traction in these dry conditions.

It would have been unnerving running on the tops of Hardcastle Crags if damp under foot. My aching feet were so close to the edge of the narrow track that sloped sharply down to that rather grand canyon with sweeping views across to Stoodley Pike over yonder, which our Puma pals passed by on Leg 2.

Before the race we were nervously checking out the pics posted on the Pumas Facebook page of the starting line-up. Noticing most of the runners appeared to have hardly any extra baggage for their equipment, I felt like an amateur fell runner adorning my gigantic rucksack weighed down with my bulky waterproofs, emergency food (jelly babies!), young son’s childish compass I’d stolen earlier and a family heirloom – a 1970’s police whistle (issued to my dad when he became a constable in Calderdale before I was even born).

After dropping Shaun’s car off at the finish near Mount Tabor, we headed over to the start in my car just beyond Hebden Bridge – it was only then that we realised that despite carefully ticking off the checklist for the essential, obligatory kitlist, one of us had forgotten a rather key piece of equipment – running trainers… Despite this minor mishap, we made it to the start with plenty of time to spare and it was good to see the familiar faces from the other Pumas team joining us for this leg, Holly and Nicola.

Leg 4 team - Adam, Shaun, Holly and Nicola
Leg 4 team – Adam, Shaun, Holly and Nicola

I really enjoyed the run and despite it being about a third of the distance of the London Marathon I’d completed the previous month, I found it just as challenging but in a different way – with the contrasting scenery and antithesis of the terrain – but was equally tired at the end after enduring those precipitous paths.

We were chuffed to reach the end, although miffed when the next mishap with our planning dawned on us – having built up a substantial appetite, the packed lunch we’d been dreaming of tucking into once passing that finish line was sadly not there – we’d unfortunately left it in the wrong car – the one that was almost 10 miles away back at Blackshaw Head!

Proper fell racing action shot!
Proper fell racing action shot!

However, you can see from the expressions on our faces as we jogged along together in the splendour of the Calderdale Way (in the pic of a splendid view ruined by the two grinning blokes) that we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It was great to run an event as part of a team – like many of our club comrades commented on Facebook that evening, it did make us feel proper proud to be Pumas.

Leg 5 – Wainstalls to Shelf

…a tale of stripping, getting lost and solitary stones

Our story of the Calderdale Way Relay started two weeks before the race itself. Paula, Gabriella and myself (Chris was busy working and couldn’t make it) decided to do a recce. We set off, and the first half a mile or so was great. Gabriella’s inability to read a map or follow instructions quickly got us into trouble and before we knew it we were horribly lost.

We thought we had made it back on the correct route, but a good hour or so spent trying to find a “solitary stone” on the instructions was an absolute joy. It turns out that, come race day, we were looking for the bloody solitary stone in the wrong field!

Anyway, we were helped by a couple of runners from Keighley and Craven, and the five of us completed the course. We covered 10.5 miles on the recce, and leg 5 is only 7.5 miles! Oh, what fun.

Come race day, and we all congregated at Wainstalls, nervously awaiting the start. I think Paula and Gabriella thought the race was being run in its traditional date of mid-December. They were covered in head to toe gear, including hat and gloves. But more of that later.

Ready for their 'December' run
Ready for their ‘December’ run

The tension mounted as some of the first teams came in and handed over their batons. It was great to be part of such a fantastic event and the excitement and tension was starting to mount. 1pm arrived and our mass start set-off. Learning the lessons from the recce and my tactic was to get away from Gabriella and Paula as quickly as possible! Chris and I quickly picked up the pace and we were soon overtaking other teams, particularly on the early ascents.

A couple of miles in and the early pace was starting to tell. Chris and I took a little breather by slowing our pace a little. My mind wandered to our partners in crime, Gabriella and Paula, who I mused were probably looking for the solitary stone again!

We made good progress in the middle of the race and we were picking other teams off. It was great to overtake a couple of teams who had taken a wrong turning and before we knew it, we were climbing the big hill towards Queensbury. It’s a tough climb but we knew that once we reached the summit we would be in familiar territory and well into the final stages of our leg.

Paula and Gabriella were also making excellent progress. Their pre-race decision to wear winter gear was causing issues however. The sun was now out, and, feeling the heat Paula whipped her top off! What a delight for the other teams!!

We made up even more ground as we entered the familiar territory around Northowram. We were on home turf now and we were determined that no other teams would pass us. Gabriella and Paula (now with her top back on, I think) made slightly unorthodox progress down a muddy bank (on their backsides!) but they did a fantastic job.

Chris and I arrived in Shelf to be cheered on by fellow Pumas, finishing our leg in a respectable 1hr 15minutes. Gabriella and Paula were not very far behind and made it to the finish line fully dressed with big smiles on their faces!

Leg 6 – Shelf to Clay House

The sixth leg was described as the easiest leg, not sure our legs agreed with that descriptor. The waiting around did nothing for nerves but the cold we felt soon went once we started the scramble through the uneven paths in the woods.

The Leg 6 team. Andrew, Matt, Andrea and Julie
The Leg 6 team. Andrew, Matt, Andrea and Julie

Warning ‘sink holes’ is the declaration we heard. Cautiously we ran down the uneven path.   The young children sat in the beer garden give us a welcome cheer running through the village.

The country roads took us to the top of brighouse, the views were spectacular, not so much the smell of nature and the horses that had Misbehaved  on our recce watched us closely. This route took us to places you never realised were there.
Descending down into brighouse and along the canal the smell of fish and chips were tempting distraction for what was up ahead.

The hill that hill! We had started our ascent to Southowram, the uneven track made it difficult but we made it that was the first hill and the hardest so they say but the next hill took us through woods carpeted with bluebells, no time to take in the surroundings we had to get to the top. The boost from other runners and a lone runner certainly spurred us on .We started our descent an surprising and unwelcome sight having to pass an injured team member.

Matt and Andrew crossing the finish line
Matt and Andrew crossing the finish line

Our legs picked up speed and we finally made it to the canal. Final stretch one that we had done on many occasions on a Sunday morning. The legs were heavy for the final half mile but we did it we crossed the line together to the loudest cheers from our club #proud to be a puma

Julie and Andrea at the finish line
Julie and Andrea at the finish line

Most girls (generalising a bit here) spent their New Year’s Eve day getting glammed up, I’m talking taking a relaxing bath and doing their nails while having a cheeky glass of wine. Lucky them!

I spent my News Years Eve day running up some very muddy fells. The WoodenTops Auld Lang Syne race started on the hills just outside Oxenhope.

Beautiful scenery near Oxenhope
Beautiful scenery near Oxenhope

Caution! First time fell runner
Caution! First time fell runner

After scaling the slopes of a quarry to the sound of bagpipes it was onto the fells.

Lulled into a false sense of “oh, this isn’t too bad”, after the first mile of gentle path and downhill the next 4ish miles were pretty much a brutal uphill slog. It turns out fell running is much harder than good old road running. If you’re not going uphill, you’re wading through some very boggy fields!

After 6.7 miles I was well and truly knackered. But, as hellish as it sounds, the scenery was beautiful and the atmosphere and encouragement from other, much more experience runners, was really positive. Plus, as a reward there was a bottle of beer for all the runners!

My time wasn’t amazing and I finished about 10 places in front of last place, but it was (I’ll grudgingly admit) kind of fun. And I definitely earned my New Years champagne!