Committee member Simon Wilkinson invariably pops up at events all over the place, usually to run, but regularly to act as a volunteer. He’s often seen marshalling at the parkruns at Halifax and Brighouse, and when I took part in the Jane Tomlinson Run For All 10K in Leeds last July, there he was again in his designer high-viz jacket. It’s actions such as these that saw him invited on Monday evening to the Kingscroft Hotel in Pontefract – ironically, just two days after he’d run the parkrun around the racecourse there – for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Awards. Accompanying him was fellow committee member Ally Canning, but she, like Simon, wasn’t there for fun, nor just to be well fed. No, Ally was there to see Simon collect his well-deserved regional Volunteer of the Year Award, and how mighty happy he looked at receiving it, too, as you can see.
Simon’s journey doesn’t end there. Being the Yorkshire and Humberside winner sees him go forward to attend the national awards ceremony event at the Ricoh Arena on 14 October. There, his winning entry will be placed alongside the other regional winners from around the country for the ultimate Volunteer of the Year award. Impressive, eh?
We all wish Simon well and thank him for all he does for Northowram Pumas and everything else. There is, however, no truth in the rumour that he stayed behind in Pontefract to help wash up.
On Thursday (7 September), whilst enjoying a quiet drink with fellow Pumas, Simon Wilkinson was shocked when club chairman Andy Haslam gave him the news that not only had he been nominated for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Award, but that he’d actually gone on to win the darn thing itself. Simon was initially gobsmacked but he did take time out later to read a carefully prepared statement: “I’ve won!!”
Simon will be presented with his award at the Kingscroft Hotel, Pontefract, on Monday 2 October, and rest assured, full coverage of the event will be given here.
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….
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;
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.
A journey of 13.1 miles starts with just one step…
It’s hard for me to write this as I still really can’t believe that I, Laura (who couldn’t run to the end of Westercroft Lane in mid- April this year without being out of breath and praying for the breather to be elongated due to the main road being busier than m62 at rush hour) completed the Manchester Half Marathon on 16th October, just seven months after joining the Pumas.
On January 1st 2016 I had embarked on a New Years resolution-cum-Yorkshire Air Ambulance fundraiser in memory of my cousin Georgina Lockey; For every pound in weight I lost, I would put a pound coin in a piggy bank for YAA. My start weight was 18 ½ stone and I had a goal in mind to lose 8 stone of that by the end of the year using Paul McKenna ‘I can make you thin’ and Joe Wicks ‘Lean in 15’ recipes. I began walking to improve my fitness, alongside a kettlebell class and although I had kind of reached a plateau I was reluctant to step it up any more at this stage for fear of doing too much too soon and putting myself off exercise all together.
Joining a running club
I came to my first beginner’s session in April this year following much persuasion from Holly Parry who convinced me to give it a go, despite my reassurances of ‘I can’t run!!’ she talked me round by saying that the beginners sessions were perfect for people like me; an introduction to running with other people of similar ability and no pressure. It would help to keep me losing weight and putting money in the piggy bank so I caved and said I’d come along- after all every one of us has to start somewhere!
Well, we were both right; I couldn’t run very far, but the session was perfect. Ian has this knack of making me continue running when I don’t want to! He was so encouraging without being pushy which is what someone with my mentality needed.
I would never have thought despite enjoying the session that on 16th October in the same year I would run a half marathon in under 2 and a half hours- I don’t think I thought I could ever achieve that in my lifetime.
Through attending the beginners sessions and running with Holly, Ian and Alison I began to see the improvements over time, granted some runs were harder than others, but every week got a little easier plus I had targets to aim for which kept me focussed. I signed up with Holly and Caroline for the Solstice Saunter at Bolton Abbey on 20th June, a five mile run which was anything but flat and the furthest I’d run prior was 3 ½ miles, but it was something to aim for and I’d promised myself that if I did it under an hour I’d reward myself with a fitbit Blaze. I walked a third of the course in and amongst, but managed to just sneak in under an hour.
Manchester Half Marathon
Shortly after this there was talk on the Pumas facebook page of the Manchester Half Marathon, and spaces on the bus were limited… I must have had a serious case of fear of missing out and booked my seat. Panic ensued. What have I done! I can’t run 6 miles?! Let alone 13.1!! I’d better get training…
I downloaded a beginners 12 week training programme from Runnersworld which the facebook group helped me with some of the terminology (apparently HMP is half marathon pace, not Her Majestys Prison, and LSD is Long Slow Distance not drugs).
I did additional runs alone which were sometimes enjoyable and sometimes hard work but each one was essential, I also ran with a couple of friends who are Sowerby Bridge Snails members who run at a similar pace to me. I had some tough weeks where things didn’t go to plan… you find things out about your bodies tolerances and more so your mental state over physical, but the important thing was to keep chipping away at the end goal, not give up and if I’d had a bad day write it off and start again the day after.
I’d been ticking off the sessions on the plan on my fridge and before I knew it the day was here- I was petrified. We got on the coach at 6 45am and off we went to Manchester. The atmosphere on the bus was as to be expected; friendly and supportive.
I was telling anyone who would listen how worried I was and then Alison Shooter offered to drop back a pen and run with me. I felt better immediately. Alison was a tremendous support for me, she gave me a foil blanket for the starting pen as I was freezing, gave me energy gel and kept reassuring me. Basically she was my Run Mum! Without Alison the run may well have been different for me; she made me smile when I felt like crying, ensured I took advantage of the photo opportunities and selflessly kept checking in on me at every single mile- I am truly grateful. Alison helped out another lady at 12 miles who was breaking down, and pulled her through to the finish line. Real Puma spirit!
There was a great inclusive and social feel about the whole day with so many people taking part in their first half marathon and exceeding their own expectations. The reward for this was drinking and eating whatever I wanted following the race… Cakes, Chinese and gin!
Glow in the Park
On 28th October I ran in a 5K at Heaton Park, Manchester called ‘Glow in the Park’- it was more of a fun run than a race, where participants put as much light up/glow in the dark on as possible and ran through disco zones. Great for beginners; no pressure for times etc and plenty of distractions to take your mind off the running.
Then on 6th November I’ve registered for the Abbey Dash 10K where I’m aiming to finish under 1 hour- something which I’ve not managed to do throughout my training. If I achieve this? Brilliant! If I don’t? Nevermind, there’ll be another run to aim for.
Following on from that I’m aiming to hit my weight loss target by losing my last 2 pounds to take me to 8 stone (112lbs/ £112) in total, and hopefully raise just under £1000 for YAA as a number of very kind people offered to match what I put in the piggy bank also.
I would encourage any beginner to set a short term, realistic and achievable goal with a small reward in mind, whatever that may be; Sign up to a 5K, attend a Pumas session every week, run one extra lamp post than the week- before it really does help. And once you’ve achieved that- set your next goal and reward. All the guys at the club are welcoming and approachable; don’t be afraid to ask for advice. It’s also really important to be kind to yourself and remind yourself how far you’ve come so far- getting kitted up to come to that very first session instead of sitting and watching TV is a huge but important step!
Thanks to: Helen and Amelia for their smashing write up and Matt for coordinating people, cars and parking.
Another ridiculously early Sunday morning get up could only mean one thing – another race and Amelia’s first. We somehow managed to drag ourselves out of bed and get ready in time for our lift into Leeds, a bit too tired and cold to really feel the excitement or nerves yet. After driving round in circles for what felt like ages trying to navigate around the road closures we finally got parked up. Getting out of the car we realised how freezing it was and were very glad we had brought our headbands and gloves. I think Carine was rather regretting her decision to wear short shorts though!
The walk to meet up with the other junior Pumas seemed to take ages and Amelia was starting to feel the nerves now. The butterflies were starting to flutter in my stomach too but for Amelia, not me. After being re-directed a few times and sent the wrong way a couple more, we finally made it to the meeting point to find a friendly Puma gathering waiting for us. A quick toilet break and essential pre-race photoshoot and the junior Pumas were heading to their starting pen. At this point myself and Carine left the kids in Gabriella’s capable hands and made our way to the adult start. I was starting to feel excited about my own race now, but was disappointed not to be able to watch Amelia’s first race. This is how it went from her point of view:
Amelia and the Junior Dash
I was really nervous that I wouldn’t do very well but wanted to do my best and had decided to try and keep up with Amelie. It was nice to be part of a group entering the starting pen knowing that I had support around me. We did some warm ups first which made me feel a bit silly but everyone else was doing them so I joined in too. Then the man at the front counted down really loudly and we were off! Everyone ran off really fast and I tried to keep up.
There were lots of children and I had to dodge to get past. I was trying really hard to keep up with Amelie and couldn’t spot the other junior Pumas.
After a bit, I started getting tired and hoped the finish wasn’t that far. Finally, I went round a corner and could see the finish. I tried to sprint but my legs were too tired, so I just ran as fast as I could over the line. I felt tired but was really happy I’d done my best and had beaten my pb by a whole minute, finishing in 8:39 right behind Amelie at 8:38. The first junior Puma to finish was Jude Kenny in 7:15 and everyone else got amazing times too.
We got our t-shirts, medals and lion bar and walked up to try and find Gabby but had to wait for her to come and get us. We had a lovely, warm hot chocolate and then went to watch the adults finishing.
We had to wait a long time but I was really pleased to see my mum, though she looked like she was about to collapse!
Helen and the 10k
And I was! I’d decided to take a new approach to this race and instead of taking it easy and building up my pace gradually, I was going to go all out from the start.
Once myself and Carine got to the start area we managed to spot a fellow Puma’s tall head above the crowd and went over to join everyone. It was freezing and everyone was wrapped up, to varying degrees, in jackets, scarves and throwaway jumpers with one Puma even in some throwaway jeans! We all kept our layers on as long as possible and I’m sure Neil has never had so many women telling him to take his jeans off! Another male Puma that was enjoying the female attention was Matt as he somehow agreed to pace a group of about 6 of us to try to get 50mins. I knew this was probably a reach too far for me but I wanted to give it a go.
We finally got underway and were immediately all split up as we tried to dodge people to get round and get a decent pace going. I somehow managed to keep up with Matt and as Amelia had been intent on keeping up with Amelie, I had the same aim of keeping up with Matt. I was not as successful as Amelia though and by around mile 2 his head was only just visible in the distance. I was however, running at a much faster pace than normal thanks to his start and was just trying now to maintain it. This was made really hard, not just by my own lack of fitness but the sheer volume of people that made running more an obstacle course! I managed to spot and try to keep up with Carine and Mike along the way, only to lose them in the crowd.
By mile 5 my legs were getting heavier and heavier and I was really starting to struggle. I was just thinking of having a little walk to recover when Debbie ran past. That was all the motivation I needed as I had a new target – to try to stay with Debbie. I somehow managed to get my legs going and worked hard to stay with her, even up that last hill towards the finish. Then as I rounded the bend the finish line was in sight. I was so happy to see that finish line and tried to drag a sprint finish out of my legs. Barging past people to try to keep my sprint going I was focused on the finish when suddenly I spotted Simon near me. He gave me a shout of encouragement which saw me over the line where he then had to hold me up as my legs collapsed! On stopping my watch I realised I had smashed my pb by nearly 3 mins. I hadn’t made the 50mins I had aimed for, but 51:57 was near enough for me!
I was so happy to see Amelia and find out how she had done and also all the other Pumas and junior Pumas who had done amazing. First Puma home was Tim Brook in a supersonic 40:52 followed by a whole heap of fantastic times. Loads of people managed to achieve pb’s, which considering the crowds and the weather was amazing.
Having run a lot on my own before joining the Pumas I can honestly say finding them was the best thing that ever happened for me and my running. I know for a fact that there is no way I could have got my pb today without the support and encouragement from fellow Pumas, not just on the day but constantly. Amelia also loves it and has made so much progress in a short amount of time. #proudtobeapuma
Our fantastic running commentator Johnny Meynell gives us the low down on the first ever (well, first ever for the Pumas) WYWL race!
Football Vs Running
As the start of the new football season brings with it much excitement and anticipation, then so does the opening fixture in the West Yorkshire Winter League. Added to the fact that Northowram Pumas were entering this particular event for the first time, why, it’s likely that some of our runners hardly slept the night before.
But whereas the football season usually kicks off in baking hot sun, the would-be runners on Sunday awoke to a cold and dreary October morn. Still, undeterred, they dragged themselves out of bed and made for the meeting point up at the club. Most of us travelled in relaxed style aboard the minibus kindly loaned to us by Salterlee Primary School, and driven with due care and attention by Neil Coupe, donned in 1920s fashionable flat cap. Our destination was Lower Hopton Cricket Club, Mirfield, the venue chosen by hosts Dewsbury Road Runners, and we arrived in good time. The journey over gave me chance to reflect upon days of yore; I hadn’t really done anything like this since my cross country days running for Todmorden Grammar School, though the two-lapped course of Savile Park and Manor Heath I tackled on my last outing in March 1978 was pretty tame in comparison with the route we were set to endure.
We were met at the course site by our lovely team organiser Tracey, who supplied us all with our race numbers (and safety pins) that we would need for all six races (Lest anyone loses or destroys theirs, the culprit must apply for a new one AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE, we were warned!). There had been several late withdrawals for varying reasons, so our team was twenty-three-strong. Those that had made the trip in cars joined us in the carpark.
Thereafter, we spent much of the waiting time milling around the edge of the cricket field along with runners from the other clubs before making our way further up the road to the start and herded into a field populated by cow pats (the story goes that Neil lost his cap and tried on at least three before giving it up as a bad job).
At the start line
Clustered together, was anyone else slightly startled when the starter, seemingly without any prior warning, simply shouted “Go!”? Before we knew it, we were off:
Up around the field which served not only to spread out the field of runners, but also to indicate how tricky conditions were to be underfoot. Mud, mud, and more mud. One lap of this field
then back down the tarmacked road before being directed right for the first real test, a steep uphill climb through the woods. Little did we know it then, but as bad as this seemed, things were going to get a whole lot harder. We were less than a mile in, but already those around me were having to walk.
I managed to pass Matt Newton (who was seemingly to endure a torrid time) and Johanne Clay, though I was passed in turn by Jenny Hopkinson. I later caught up with her once we’d reached the top of the hill and snaked our way across the top of the woods before descending down through muddy fields. There were several hold-ups at these stiles we kept having to negotiate, but if it meant getting the chance to catch up with others then I wasn’t complaining. Every little helps. Jenny soon enough pulled away and I wouldn’t see any more Pumas until the latter stages of the race. What was going on ahead of me or behind me, I had no idea.
“What goes up must come down,” sang the aptly named Blood Sweat and Tears in 1969, and the downhill stretches were most welcome, even if they were, in parts, quite hazardous. We negotiated our second serious climb, then it was flat and downhill once more. Over vales and hills, with Dewsbury Golf Club apparently to our left. This was the life. We must have looked an impressive sight, too, as we wound our way through the woods. We were directed to a flat section of track, but this was so muddy that I found myself zig-zagging for where the grass looked greener.
We’d run around four miles of the 5.3 mile course, I reckoned, and our descent from here gave us a chance to stretch our legs once more. In the distance I could hear cheering. Blimey, we were almost home, I thought. Soon enough, I could spy the cricket field and the finish, and as we were reacquainted with tarmac I recognised the field in which this ordeal had begun. Any minute now, I reckoned, we’d be directed left towards the finish. Suddenly, there was a spring in my step.
Hills. Hills. HILLS
It proved to be a false dawn.
As we made our way along the road, the next thing we knew, we were directed right and began climbing once more. How deflating was that? “We’re not going round again?” I joked with a few spectators, but believe me, this was no joke. I’ve no idea if this particular section has a name, but I could certainly give it a few choice ones. Behind me, Neil Coupe and Paul Hopkinson were closing, but this was in some strange way quite heartening for me, as I’d assumed they were well ahead of me by this stage. Perhaps I was running better than I thought. But there’s irony here, for by now, nobody was running up this hill. We were almost at breaking point, and this path seemed to have no end. Neil and Paul in turn passed me with their faster and in some cases, longer legs (Paul’s, obviously) but I kept them in sight. The happiest sight, however, was that of the top of the ‘mountain’. There was a sense of relief as we turned left and began the charge down the track which, as it happened, was the first hill we’d climbed. It was a whole lot easier going back down, that’s for sure, and I even managed to gain a couple of places. I also found myself making up ground on Neil and Paul, and there was hope of joining them on the run-in.
That soon disappeared as we returned to the road and headed for the finish. Tired legs found it hard to push themselves up this gentle incline and the gap between me and the runners in front steadily grew. We were directed off the road onto a path which led to the bottom side of the cricket field, and then there it was, in the distance, the finish line.
As I turned into the home straight, someone shouted, “Don’t let him catch you,” and I gave it one last push, only to discover that there had been no one there at all! I could hear fellow Pumas shouting me in, and I crossed the line in a near state of collapse. Did anyone else feel the same?
In total there were 337 finishers from the thirteen participating clubs, so Luke Cranfield’s position of 29th was noteworthy. Tim Brook’s 54th-place finish was also commendable, and the third top scorer for the Pumas was Adam Standeven, who came in 85th. Our first female Puma home was Jenny Hopkinson, who finished 192nd, beating husband and Super Vet Paul by twenty-eight places. Paul, in fact, had beaten Neil Coupe in a sprint finish. I recovered sufficiently to see other Pumas finishing, and as we waited, many took up the opportunity to grab a drink in the adjacent hut. We were on our way back by 12.50, after Jo had redeemed her winning ticket in the raffle – a pair of yellow football socks, obviously not first prize. Back in our home village, many of us congregated in the Yew Tree, where we could relax and contemplate the race. The general feeling was just how much they’d enjoyed the day, so much so, in fact, that club secretary Johanne Clay has it on record that she didn’t want to go home!
As the Winter League suggests, we are in competition with other clubs, but I won’t go into the vagaries of the scoring system. It does seem quite complex, but all we need to know is that, as Neil Coupe put it, “We ain’t bottom.” And there’s a long way to go. We’re officially ninth at the moment, but with many other runners to join up with us, we could climb higher. And that’s the point; it’s not necessarily about the top competitors. The more runners a club enters, the more points they stand to get. I would encourage anyone at Northowram Pumas to give one or more of these races a go. Just ask any of those who took part last Sunday. They’ll tell you just how much fun it is (those pained expressions as they crossed the finishing line were just for show anyway).
Full list of Pumas who were on duty, with finishing places;
29 Luke Cranfield (M)
54 Tim Brook (MV)
85 Adam Standeven (MV)
149 Richard Ogden (MV)
166 Tom Moran (M)
177 Richard Baker (MV)
192 Jenny Hopkinson (FV)
220 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)
221 Neil Coupe (MV)
229 Jonathan Meynell (MSV)
239 Jane Cole (FV)
250 Simon Wilkinson (M)
251 Johanne Clay (FSV)
255 Ally Canning (F)
265 Matt Newton (M)
268 Shana Emmerson (FV)
271 Carine Baker (F)
285 Mike Hartley (MV)
294 Nicola Pennington (FV)
297 Vicky Owen (F)
298 Jo Allen (FV)
308 Jennifer Lees (FV)
328 Tiffany Lewis (FV)
The results for the league place pumas in the following positions out of the 13 clubs taking part: