Our new yearly road race will take place next June & take in the very best areas of the village and the surrounding areas. Please check back soon for further details and links to entry forms
The Great North Run is one of the few iconic yearly running events that brings together 1000’s (about 43,000 actually) of runners from the length and breadth of the country. After the London marathon it is the most publicised and popular run in the country, indeed as of this time it is the largest Half Marathon in the world. Even the BBC with Steve Cram & Paula Radcliffe dedicate an entire morning of live broadcasting to it one Sunday every September, relegating Match of the Day and Andrew Marr to BBC2 so it must be something special.
They even manage to get some blokes called the Red Arrows to fly around until they get dizzy. In short, The Great North Run is big; very big. If the biggest race you’ve done is a Parkrun in Shroggs Park on a cold Saturday morning in the middle of winter, nothing is going to prepare you for this.
With such a large family of Pumas, it’s odds on that there’s going to be a few doing it every year and this year was no exception. In order to get a place in the run, each hopeful must either enter a ballot or try to get one of the many charity places available. There are over 40 charities to run for and each one is allocated a set number of spaces so if the initial ballot is unsuccessful, the lucky few might just be able to get a place supporting their favourite.
This year 28 lucky Pumas managed to blag a place, some just running for themselves but a lot for running for dedicated charities that were dear to their hearts. With everyone running for different reasons, there were numerous groups travelling up at different times. Some had booked rooms for the night before and the night after the race to enjoy the delights of Newcastle’s excellent drinking holes (guess who.!) whilst others had decided to get up before the crack of dawn and travel up on the day. Regardless, as the start of the race grew ever closer, the various little groups migrated to a single point and a mass gaggle of Pumapeople were ready for the photo opportunities and a spot of celebrity spotting.
Whilst Lara Croft (or some woman called Nell McAndrew) was more than happy to be mugged by a group of our intrepid runners, unfortunately Mo Farah had photo-fatigue by that point. As Britain’s most highly decorated & most famous long-distance runner it seems that everyone wants a selfie so I don’t think anyone could blame him for finally decided enough was enough on the morning (albeit with a smile)
Just getting to the start point at the Great North Run is a feat in itself. Despite the Newcastle Metro running at full load and sending trains every 5 mins, each one is packed with runners and spectators from at least 7:30 in the morning and once at the final station, there is still at least a 30 minute walk through a vast sea of bodies to reach even the closest starting pens. This walk will inevitably lead past one of the traditions of the Great North Run, the casting off of jumpers which are then rounded up and distributed to local charities.
The pens are laid out in traditional style with the fastest runners at the front and the slowest at the back although I suspect the guy dressed as a fridge who was near the front might have been pushing it a bit.
But the scene was now set and thankfully the sun was shining and as the start got ever closer, the irritatingly jolly compere introduces an even more irritatingly jolly fitness guru to lead the 43000 sea of competitors through a series of warm up exercises.
As with the London Marathon, the starting times for each pen is staggered so that the 1000s don’t all fall over themselves at the same time. First off are the Elite Wheelchair racers then each zone behind at set intervals until the very final zone gets underway. Such are the numbers that the last runners start nearly an hour after the Elite guys leave the start line so by that time, just about the entire 13.1 mile route is nothing but a sea of runners and wheelchair athletes.
I wasn’t running this year so joined the equally vast crowds who decided to cheat and take the Metro from the starting point in Newcastle to the finishing point in South Shields. I did think that there would be lot more wriggle room on those trains than there had been in the efforts to get to the starting point; how wrong I was. By the end of the line we were hot and highly intimate but the thought that our lot was so much easier than it was for the competitors kept us going through the hardship. Leaving the train was another long walk to the finishing line with thousands of people looking remarkably like a North-Eastern zombie apocalypse.
But anyway, enough of my whinging and back the really important people who were doing the trip the hard way. Starting from the central motorway in Newcastle city-centre the race runs slightly downhill for the first mile before reaching one of the most famous view of the race, the Tyne Bridge. If you’re lucky you might just get there in time for the Red Arrows first appearance of the day. If you’re even more lucky, you might even get you picture taken.
By this time the runners around you should have spaced out a little bit and you should no longer be blocked by people who are walking, having optimistically suggested to the organisers that they could do the course in 1:30 and started in a zone way ahead of you.
Slight uphill into Gateshead on the other side of the Tyne the route turns right to follow the river down to the coast. En-route and towards the quarter point of the race, the Gateshead stadium with music stands lining the route and joining the crowds in urging the runners on. No doubt along the way you’ll be shocked that some random stranger knows you before realising your name is written on your bib.
Mile 4 heads upwards on a gentle drag to the highest point of the race at Black Bull. The next 3 miles head relatively downhill till eventually the large crowds on the Tyne Tunnel come into view.
Heading through miles nine to eleven, along the John Reid road are usually described as the hardest of the race and a chance to take one of the many cold shower stations to cool down (that’s apart from the hundreds of kids squirting water from the crowds).
Past the Nook shopping complex and getting close to the Coast with a stand on the side of the road offering free pints of beer run by the local Hash House Harriers. If you’re planning a run/walk, that’s the time to walk..
By the end of mile 11 the course is right by the coast with the fresh sea breeze in the air and one final climb up to Marsden Inn before a sharp drop down to Coastal Road Bank.
By the last 2 miles the crowds at the huge cheering points are three or four deep right to the finish line the end of the world’s biggest half-marathon. This is the time to feel a huge sense of pride, not just at finishing but also at managing to catch and overtake someone dressed as a banana (even though you did get overtaken by at least three Pandas and a Honey Monster along the way). Once again if you’re lucky, the Red Arrows will be doing their thing just for you as you cross the finishing line.
Such is the size of the race, trying to find everyone at the end of the race really was almost impossible, even with well-made plans. As already suggested though, each little group of Pumas had their own plans for the rest of the day and the evening so it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that once again, people had come together to represent themselves and the club and the Facebook feed for the Pumas group was full of pride & congratulations. Fast, slow or in-between doesn’t matter in this group, none of that ‘we only want to be represented by our elite runners’ rubbish here, which is just as it should be.
Pumas Great North Run Times 2018
Deke Banks 01:36:13
Kirsty Edwards 01:46:45
Andy Haslam 01:47:38
Julie Bowman 01:49:05
Simon Wilkinson 01:53:03
Andrew Tudor 01:53:06
Sarah Haigh 01:59:02
Christopher Ellis 02:00:29
Victoria Owen 02:00:29
Dawn Higgins 02:11:17
Paul Bottomley 02:11:37
Jodie Knowles 02:11:55
Andrew Barnes 02:14:25
Peter Reason 02:16:25
Tiffany Lewis 02:17:56
Sarah Firth 02:20:48
Melissa Hall 02:22:32
Alison Shooter 02:28:44
Brett Swiffen 02:41:33
Gillian Holmes 02:49:59
Emma John-Baptiste 03:04:58
Dean James 03:07:47
Rachel Calvert 03:16:42
Fiona Averill 03:21:54
Katharine Barnett 03:56:05
Cathy Farley 03:56:06
Ok, ask yourself a question, what’s worse:-
- Running relay race for 24 hours or,
- The thought of running a relay race for 24 hours.
If you feel the answer is ‘1’, then perhaps you need to take the plunge and give it a go, just like a group of suckers for punishment did at the height of this summer in the picturesque landscape of Bramham Park just outside Leeds
Endure24 is advertised as ‘Glastonbury for Runners’. Now I’ve never been to Glastonbury but I’m sure they’re not exaggerating that up at all, I’m sure it’s *exactly* like Glastonbury. Except for the running & the drugs & the bands. What it most certainly does have in common is the sleep (or lack thereof) and the fact that you’ve got the kind of camaraderie that can only be replicated when you get 1000’s of people all in one place with a common interest and a common goal.
The rules are quite simple. Get yourself or a bunch of yourselves into groups of between 1 & 8 people then attempt to get a wristband around an 5 mile semi-trail course as many times as you can in 24 hours.
A lot of the Pumas had already done the event in 2017 so knew what to expect and this year there was a concerted effort get as many members as possible to participate, ensuring the club was represented en-masse and to try to make our own little area of the campsite a true home from home; or as much of a home as a campsite with no electric, crap showers and portaloos could possibly be.
To this end Peter Reason took over the mantle of team organiser and promptly wished he hadn’t; without going into too much detail at times it looked like the task of organising 29 Pumas (& honorary Pumas) into teams proved more difficult than the Brexit negations. All credit to Pete though, it all worked out in the end and everyone managed to do the laps they wanted on the day and everyone came out of the weekend with a massive buzz; but more of that later.
Home from home
The first Pumas started to arrive fairly early on the Friday to help set up camp. Gazebos were erected, cooking areas designated and an area marked out with tape to accommodate the later arrivals. Unfortunately Chris wasn’t at work so the crime scene tape couldn’t be utilised but after a period of erecting tents for some of the Pumas arriving later, the motley crew of early arrivals gave up the will to live and in traditional Pumas fashion, broke out the alcohol.
This theme continued through into the evening with more people arriving to take in the glorious evening sun. A few hardy individuals decided to walk the course to see what they would be up against the next day; the rest decided to keep getting drunk. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine who did what and when.
Stargazing became quite popular
As morning broke the camp became a real hive of activity with the Pumas designated foster parents for the weekend (Sharon Reason and Rob Bowman) cooking up a real feast of a breakfast to fuel the intrepid group for the next 8 hours until tea time.
Rob’s famous bangers
There were a few more stragglers turning up ready to run till about 11am but come the 12 o’clock start, all teams were as organised as they were ever going to be and the first runners ready for the countdown. Some decided to wear their Puma tops but then promptly regretted it as the swarms of insects rushed to them faster than flies round a freshly dumped cowpat.
The Final Countdown
The 8k or 5 mile loop started with largely downhill 1K through woods followed by a drag uphill before flattening out past the Temple of the Lead Lads. Then an open section leading downhill to Temptation Corner, where the SKAbus was parked with a couple of the Reading Roadrunners dancing around to Madness for the whole event while handing out shots of energy drink.
The Ska Bus
Up a rise to the first gazebo where marshals in hula skirts danced urging runners on towards The Deep, Dark Wood – the only really cool area and welcome break from the dusty gravel that most of the route followed. Slight downhill to Shambles Café & a water station offering Shot Blocks just over half way. The fastest descent followed before a sharp little incline to a copse then out onto a long stretch across the Festival Field. One more descent and incline into a tree lined path and the finish was in sight with a dip and cheeky, highly annoying little rise to the end of the lap.
As the race started, we all knew it was going to be a hot one, but I don’t think anyone realised quite how bad it was going to be. As each person took over the baton (wristband) from their previous teammate, all began to be clear. Whilst a lot of the course was run through woodland, just as much was exposed and with temperatures on the day hitting 26 degrees in the shade, the area over the Festival Field was akin to a fire walk in a sauna on the 9th level of hell.
But whatever the conditions, everyone just kept on going. Some walking, some defying the odds and running the whole lot. Solo runners were particularly obvious to spot thanks to a big “Solo Runner” sign on their backs, but that just encouraged the rest of us to support them as we inevitably went past (some faster than others).
As evening set in our Sharon & Rob provided us with a hearty meal of pasta to try to build up some of the carbs lost during the day ready for the push through the night. Although the night stints were initially looked at with dread they actually produced some of the best times as temperatures tumbled and breathing became easier. With it being mid-summer the sun was only down for a few hours and some even had time to stop and enjoy the beauty of the pre-dawn as the sun began to light up the morning mist.
Andrew Mellor pauses for what is probably the best photo of the weekend
Once the morning broke the atmosphere was a sharp contrast to the previous evening. The excitement and upbeat attitudes had given way to a mass of tired and aching bodies who were just happy that the end was now in sight.
Trying not to set light to the field
It wasn’t long before temperatures started to rise again but at least it brought another slap up cooked breakfast from Rob & Sharon to try to replenish the tired calorie drained muscles.
Just 3 hours to go now and the leading Men’s and Women’s teams both had prestige targets in their sites. The lead men ‘We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village’ were in 2nd place and whilst beating the leading team might have seemed like a massive effort, they were defiantly determined not to let the Mo Farriers in 3rd place catch them. Likewise ‘Not fast Just Furious’, the lead female Pumas team were flying high in 3rd place with the ‘Sole Mates’ snapping at their heels, this despite losing a key team member in Elizabeth McDonnell who could only commit to 2 laps before leaving the site. This left just 4 Pumas ladies hammering round and trying to stay ahead.
As the last laps came around the organisers encouraged all the members of each team to cross the line together. Tiff was the first Puma to cross the line for ‘Ha Puma Matata’ after the 24 hour cut-off at 7 minutes past 12. Despite her best efforts she didn’t manage to beat that 12 noon target which meant I couldn’t do another lap (shame..!). Next were the lead guys who had decided to let Tim do their last lap as he was the best chance they had at keeping hold of that second place although we were denied the classic Tim Brook sprint finish as he stopped to let the rest of the team catch up and cross the line together.
One by one, all the teams came in until the very final Puma, Lisa crossed the line accompanied by the entire Puma family (and supporters) at 12:53.
The last few yards
At the prize giving it was confirmed that our lead Male and Female teams had managed to hold onto 2nd and 3rd in their respective categories but each member of all the teams felt a huge sense of pride and achievement at having completed the 24 hours. All this despite the furnace of the day, the cold in the dead of night, the drained bodies and the lack of sleep.
Whilst endure 24 does fill a lot of people with dread, what it certainly does create is an undying sense of camaraderie not just within teams but across teams as well. Whilst running round the course, the amount of encouragement to and from fellow runners was very uplifting and as I’ve already mentioned on Facebook, where else could some random bloke I’ve never seen before, in the middle of a wood in the dead of night ask me if the Pumas might be putting on the Coley Canter this year? Best not answer that but at least at Endure 24, it was all above board.
Massive thanks go to all the supporters and helpers who turned up and camped with the runners:-
Sharon Reason, Charlotte Reason, Rob Bowman,Hollie Bowman, Paul Trudgill.
Your intrepid teams
We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village – 2nd place Male 3-5 members
40 Laps, 200 miles , 00:36:27 Average Lap, 00:32:34 Best Lap
Not Fast Just Furious – 3rd place Female 3-5 members
32 Laps, 160 miles, 00:46:07 Average Lap, 00:40:36 Best Lap
Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies – 6th place Male 6-8 members
32 Laps, 160 miles, 00:46:00 Average Lap, 00:37:02 Best Lap
Scrambled Legs – 6th place Female 6-8 members
27 Laps, 135 miles, 00:55:18 Average Lap, 00:44:33 Best Lap
Ha Puma Matata – 70th place Mixed 6-8 members
25 Laps, 125 miles, 00:57:55 Average Lap, 00:46:02 Best Lap
On Sunday, 25 March, mother and daughter Gill and Zoe Holmes travelled to Liverpool to take part in different events. Zoe took part in the Half Marathon, completing the 13.1-mile course in 2hr 17:23 to finish 1035th out of 2,563 runners. Gill completed her first-ever Ten Mile event, finishing 305th out of 358 runners in 1hr 53:06.
On the same day, Alison Shooter took on the beastly Canalathon Ultra 50k race, a run along the Rochdale Canal stretching from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. By her own admission, she hadn’t prepared as thoroughly as she might have done, so was mightily pleased to have the company over the last stages of Simon Wilkinson, Peter Reason and Tamara Gibson (on her bike) whilst greeting them all in was Laura Fairbank, who plied them with beer and cake. Alison completed the 31 mile route in 7hr 53:32, and finished 128th out of a field of 141 runners.
Kirkstall, Leeds, Saturday, 24 March, 2018.
On Saturday, Pumas Tiffany Lewis and Karen Matos took part in the Canal Canter at Kirkstall, Leeds. There were four distances from which to choose, ranging from the shortest at 10k, to the longest at 32 miles, but Tiffany and Karen opted for the half marathon, mindful of the fact that this would still give them a decent enough recovery time in the pub.
Described by the It’s Grim Up North organisers thus; “A scenic, fast and flat, out-and-back route along the beautiful Canal tow path, great for achieving PBs.”
All the four distances started and finished at Kirkstall, but where Tiffany and Karen were concerned, their route initially headed out west, beyond Bramley Fall Park and to the outskirts of Farsley before turning back, hitting the four-mile mark and heading towards Kirkstall, then running beyond the start in the opposite direction, completing ten miles, then turning back just short of the Royal Armouries Museum and making the last three miles to the finish line.
As expected running along the canal, the route was as flat as any course you’re likely to find, though that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Said Tiff, “I was really surprised how hard it is to keep running on the flat. I am the first to complain about hills but at least there is the relief once you’ve reached the top of running downhill and getting your pace up. I finished but with my slowest Half Marathon time to date.”
It was a pleasant day for it, and they both enjoyed the scenery on the run out towards Shipley but Tiffany later admitted that she was losing the will to live on the return stretch from Leeds to Kirkstall as it was such a long, dull stretch of canal.
Tiffany finished 213th in 2:16:59, whilst Karen was four places behind in 2:19:52. There were 243 runners.
Photos courtesy of Theresa Tate and Mark Kirkby.
West Yorkshire Winter League Presentation Night,
Wharf Chambers, Leeds, Friday, 23 March, 2018.
Four of our Pumas were among the honours when the West Yorkshire Winter League held its Presentation Night at the Wharf Chambers, Leeds on Friday evening.
Putting the Northowram Pumas on the map were;
Tim Brook 1st M35
Rick Ralph 2nd M40
Jane Cole 2nd F40
Diane Cooper 2nd F45.
Congratulations to all of you, and here’s to next year!
Lancaster, Sunday, 18 March, 2018.
It was a monumental task, and the effort required pushed them to the limit. There must have been times when they never thought they’d make it. But with sheer grit, determination, patience, and plenty of will-power, they persevered. It took an age, of course, but finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Amid huge sighs of relief, they’d done it.
And then, having cleared away all the snow, they got in the cars and set off to Lancaster.
Yes, the Trimpell Twenty asked much of three intrepid Pumas, not solely of the course itself, for with snow lying several inches deep in and around Halifax, there were serious questions as to whether they’d manage to get up to Lancaster at all, such were the conditions. But yes, they got there safely, only then to deal with the next obstacle, that of sauntering (in freezing conditions) around the city of Lancaster.
I have it on good authority that Lancaster and the west coast of Lancashire in general was bereft of white fluffy stuff, and the locals may have thought that Brett Swiffen and Rachel Calvert, and Laura Fairbank who, with her good friends Becky Allatt and Karen Hood, made up Team RLF, were making things up when they regaled the them with tales of drifting snow that had left many roads impassable. The aforementioned were all using the race as training for their London Marathon, which, as if they need reminding, is but five weeks away. It was cold, granted, but all-in-all, it was like a different world.
The runners gathered in front of the entrance to Lancaster Castle, a tourist attraction on a good day and perhaps a better option than having to run twenty miles on this, and at 11.00am they were heading off on their way, travelling along Castle Park, picking up Long Marsh Lane and meandering along the tracks through the trees before crossing the River Lune and following the path that initially runs parallel to Morecambe Road for a good two miles. The route, through a line of trees, then veered off left for a triangular clockwise circuit around Trimpell Sports and Social Club via Out Moss Lane then heading back towards the city centre, having accomplished five miles before they crossed the River Lune on the return. The runners then headed out north, across parks and woodland with the Lune on their left, then crossed the river on the A863, a dual carriageway that headed out for what seemed an eternity. The general consensus hinted that this was the hardest part of the course, the Bay Gateway, but they had to tackle it, almost two miles out before doubling back and making the return trip, passing the sixteen-mile mark along the way. The route crossed the river once more, then took the runners on a loop section before picking up the track that took them back to the centre, the Lune now on their right hand side. Everything by now was in reverse (possibly even the legs) and in time, having run through the familiar woodland and tracks, they re-entered Long Marsh Lane and headed for the finish back at Castle Park.
Facing at times a gale force wind, and having to tackle a hideous hill just before the finish, you could say that the race was far from easy, and it was won by Martin Green of North Wales Road Runners in a time of 1:55:47. For Laura, the twenty-mile course was torture, particularly as, only two miles in, she was struggling with her knee. Fortunately, she had, in the form of Gayle Forster, a nifty runner by all accounts, but one that has been encouraging Laura via social media and a saviour on the day, running with her for the most part to help her through the ordeal. They met for the first time at Lancaster but her support for Laura was unequivocal. “Gayle has been so supportive to me and my running. She came to run at my pace in the freezing cold and she was absolutely amazing,” said Laura, who felt sure that she would have given up the ghost without Gayle being there. Laura dug in deep and finished the course in 4:26:50.
As for Brett and Rachel. They’d had two sessions of hypnotherapy in the build up to the Trimpell 20, and the sessions clearly paid off. Said Rachel, “I can’t tell you how amazing today felt! It was easier than the three half marathons I’ve run even though my body was battered and crying out in pain. My mind won over!” Brett’s had his own battles over the years, but as Rachel added, “He is my inspiration! We’ve had the toughest nine months and faced challenges no one knows about, but we are so strong together, there is nothing we can’t face now!” What did it matter that the pair brought up the rear of the 516-strong field? Their aim was to get around, and though it took them nearly five hours, they did it! And anyway, sometimes it pays. By the time they returned to Blighty late Sunday afternoon, the worst of the snow had gone!
Pumas’ positions and times;
506 Laura Fairbank 4:26:50
515 Rachel Calvert 4:57:55
516 Brett Swiffen 4:57:55
Photos supplied by Sprint Finish Photography and Andy Forrest.
Sunday, 11 March, 2018.
Sunday saw the annual Keighley BigK, an event held every Mother’s Day and once which has over the past ten years raised over £350,000 for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in Keighley. With 10k and 5k races on offer it’s one that attracts competitors from far and wide, and the 10K race this year saw 754 runners line up at the start, among them two Pumas, Katrina Wood and David Collett. Katrina ran this 10K race last year and finished with a time of 58:29, so she was hoping to go better this time around, whilst David, who was last seen running the coastal walkways in the Great North West Half Marathon at Blackpool in February, was continuing with his training for the London Marathon, now just over five weeks away.
In a nutshell, the Keighley BigK is a challenging 10K (or 5K) which starts and finishes in Victoria Park off Bradford Road. It follows a clockwise circular route through the paths, parks and roads around the Keighley town centre, initially taking in Low Mill Lane, Great Northern Road, Worth Way, Mariner Road and Malsis Road before entering Lund Park. Exiting at Exley Street, the course continues on Arncliffe Road then left onto Fell Lane before climbing up Holme Mill Lane and entering woodland that rises to 154 metres, descends then rises once more. Crossing the fields at the top of North Peak, the course picks up North Dean Road, crossing West Lane and continues along Edensor Road, eventually picking up Cartmel Road and the drag that reaches its zenith at 166 metres. The course swings around and cuts through the greenery of Devonshire Park before crossing over Spring Gardens Lane and running through the grounds belonging to Cliffe Castle, circumnavigating the castle itself then into a nice downhill stretch that follows the line of trees and comes out at Skipton Road. Crossing this, the course continues on the other side of the valley, going over the railway line at Royd Lane, then there’s the run for home along the cosy tracks through the trees, along Royd Ings Avenue, then finally turning into Alston Road before re-entering Victoria Park and the dash towards the finish line.
The race started at 9.00am, and both our runners were back well within the hour. David had the honour of being #FPH, in 49:47, a time which he tells us is a personal best for him over this distance. He’s well on track for that London Marathon, especially after recent training in sunnier climes abroad. Katrina had a fantastic run, too, and after all the hard work she’s put in was rewarded with a time of 53:38, almost five minutes faster than that of twelve months earlier. There were fifty-one runners in her age category, which (and I know you’ll find this hard to believe as she looks so young, is Female 50) and of these she finished FOURTH. Katrina obviously sets herself big targets, for while most would have been rightly proud of finishing so high up the order, she felt a tad downbeat by not finishing in the top three, thereby missing out on a gong. The general consensus was that she was been too hard on herself.
I’ve a feeling there’ll be more Pumas tackling this event in 2019, and Katrina highly recommends it. “A great race,” she said, “well organised, and food, drink (and loos) at the start and finish. Variety of on and off road, uphill and down.” What’s not to like?!
Positions and chip times;
154 Dave Collett 49:47
239 Katrina Wood 53:38
West Yorkshire Winter League 2017-18,
Foster Park, Queensbury, Sunday, 4 March, 2018.
It could hardly be said that all roads led to Queensbury for the final Winter League race of the season; half of them were deemed impassable due to the remnants of the Beast from the East, which had left the outlying roads and pathways hampered by drifting snow. Where everyone parked their cars is anyone’s guess. The race officials had been out in the early light to check the course was safe, and though it looked, on the face of it, worse than when the event was cancelled last December, here there may have been more snow, but less ice. The race got the green light.
Nothing much deters the Northowram Pumas, and the thrill of running in ankle deep snow as opposed to mud enticed thirty-nine runners from the comfort of their beds. Foster Park, where the race started, cut a picturesque sight, a blanket of virginal snow lying peacefully over the lush green grass underneath. Oh that it would remain so. But the moment starter Dave Hepworth had counted down the seconds, the park would never look the same again.
A mass stampede followed, a total of 309 runners charging down to the far right hand corner of the park for what was just the beginning of a gruelling 4.2 mile course. And just to make them feel at home – this is the Winter League, after all – almost right on cue, it started snowing. Yeh!
The route hadn’t changed much from the previous year, so there was the accustomed anti-clockwise circuit of the perimeter of the park, which involved a hefty climb from the bottom, and another climb up through the woods before descending back to the start line and heading for the bottom corner once more. Here, the course doubled back on itself as it swung up through the line of trees which run adjacent to the park, before it crossed the top of the park and into the section of woodland on the opposite side. It then picked up the reverse of the perimeter of the fence, once again landing at the bottom section of the park, crossing into fields and a run out into the countryside, eventually coming out on Stocks Lane. All in snow, don’t forget. The route then carried down this track before veering right into more fields, climbing at certain points before reaching a farm track which, assuming one followed the right direction, brought the runners out at the junction of Stanage Lane, a familiar section of the route to most Pumas. It was but short, however, as the runners were then directed through a stile and down the fields, heading back towards Foster Park. Hitting the bottom section of the park once more, the competitors ran adjacent to the park itself, a tiresome section, so close, yet so far away from the finish line, and on an incline. They then entered the woods and made their way back to the bottom of the park for one last time through the trees, before following the perimeter as they’d done at the start, although this time, as opposed to last, the course omitted the final wood section that came out by the finish line; before reaching it, the runners were directed towards the mound down the field, rounded it, then headed for the finish line, just beyond the first set of goalposts.
The mist had descended by the time the first of the runners came home, Queensbury’s Tom Collinge crossing the line first, some way ahead of Stainland’s Gavin Mulholland. There was a trickle of runners passing through after that, and the atmosphere was all rather tranquil. Then, suddenly, there was a commotion, as, through the gloom, there was hurried activity. It was like the Batman and Robin scene in ‘Only Fools And Horses’ (1996), but here, three runners were making a mad-dash for the line, among them our own Tim Brook. He was edged out of that mini-battle by Dan Naylor of Baildon, but, by sneaking in front of his club mate Jeff Singleton, Tim secured a fourteenth place finish.
As far as the Pumas were concerned, only one other finisher came close to crossing the line in similar fashion as Tim, that being Andrew Tudor. He suddenly found that extra bit of energy to beat the pack around him, which included team mate Chris Ellis, to claim the coveted 130th position. Sadly, Andrew’s efforts didn’t get him onto the scoring sheet, as there were several other Pumas in front of him, with Luke Cranfield the second home, finishing seventeenth. Also scoring for the male team alongside Veteran Tim were Rick Ralph and Jude Roberts, complimented by Deke Banks, Robert Shirlaw and Jon Ding to total 1,819 points and give them an amazing fourth position on the day. The Ladies team went one better, finishing third, helped in no small way by Diane Cooper, the first female Puma home, crossing the line in 109th. She was backed up by Jane Cole, Kirsty Edwards and Ally Canning to give the Ladies’ team 1,133 points.
With Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Diane making up the Veterans’ scoring, they totalled 849 points, to finish on the day in an incredible third place, with only Stainland and Baildon above them. The SuperVets also had a field day, with Robert Shirlaw and Jon Ding backed up by Katrina Wood, who had one of her best runs, to give the team 646 points and sixth place on the day. Overall, Northowram Pumas finished in fourth place of the fourteen competing clubs. Words such as ‘sensational’, ‘brilliant’, ‘awesome’ and ‘flipping amazing’ were used by some to describe the achievements of the team, and I’ll add to that by saying it was simply an astonishing feat.
Elsewhere, Paul Hopkinson ran home in 198th, wondering how he’d gone from the buzz and excitement of Tokyo just seven days earlier to this, but the word ’jetlagged’ was never mentioned. Lindsay Grix made drastic child care arrangements and set off in good time to make sure she made the start, so due respect to her.
As suggested above, snow had begun to fall just as the race started. It’s fair to say that the later the runners finished, the worse the conditions were. And whilst most people gave the impression that they’d been ‘done in’ by the time they finished, Helen Jackson’s actions outwardly demonstrated how others probably felt, as she flung herself to the ground and lay prone on her back for what seemed an age. There were fears, naturally, until one marshal allayed these when he caught her just about breathing. Further down the line, Gabby Kenny made a strange admission: “You won’t hear me say this often, but I enjoyed the run,” then gave much credit to Shana Emmerson, whose girl talk along the way helped take their minds off the job in hand.
Northowram Pumas’ finishing positions;
14 Tim Brook (MV)
17 Luke Cranfield (M)
27 Deke Banks (M)
31 Rick Ralph (MV)
47 Jude Roberts (MV)
80 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)
84 Andy Barnes (MV)
97 Chris Crabtree (MV)
99 Andy Haslam (MV)
109 Diane Cooper (FV)
125 Jane Cole (FV)
130 Andrew Tudor (MV)
133 Chris Ellis (MV)
144 Jon Ding (MSV)
160 Kirsty Edwards (FV)
177 Ally Canning (F)
186 Peter Reason (MV)
188 Julie Bowman (FV)
198 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)
201 Tom O’Reilly (MV)
202 Neil Coupe (MV)
203 Simon Wilkinson (M)
208 Sarah Haigh (FV)
211 Paul Bottomley (MV)
218 Matt Newton (M)
240 Katrina Wood (FSV)
246 Paula Snee (FV)
248 Mark Kirkby (MSV)
249 Claire Ramsbottom (F)
259 Lindsay Grix (F)
263 Jo Coupe (FV)
268 Tiffany Lewis (FV)
272 Anna Ralph (FV)
288 Helen Jackson (FV)
289 Tracey March (FV)
290 Carolyn Brearley (FV)
296 Gabriella Kenny (FV)
297 Charlotte Reason (F)
298 Shana Emmerson (FV)
Photos courtesy of Joanne Punt, Carolyn Collinge, John Loughran and Steve Smith (Smith Photography).
Harewood House Half Marathon,
Sunday, 25 February, 2018.
With the London Marathon looming on the horizon (less than two months away) Brett Swiffen and Rachel Calvert decided that they’d better get some miles in. Which is why, while many Pumas were trundling through the woods around West Vale and Copley in the Winter League, these two were to be found at Harewood House. But though Brett and Rachel may have a passing interest in Chippendale furniture and the magnificent Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped gardens and other delights housed within, that’s not why there were there. They were on a serious mission that involved dragging themselves around the Harewood House Half Marathon.
I use the word ‘dragging’, but not in detrimental terms, for it’s fair to say Brett and Rachel’s run wasn’t without incident. It’s not as if the course wasn’t hazardous enough but when both runners suffered mishaps en route, that they got around at all is testimony to their determination. This should stand them in good stead for the streets of London.
The organisers of the event – they also staged a 10k run, but that wasn’t far enough for Brett or Rachel – advertised the event thus; “This extremely hilly route offers a challenging trail run with miles of muddy tracks, steep forest inclines and tree-lined fields, all set within the stunning grounds of Yorkshire’s historic Harewood House.” So the warning signs were clearly there long before they’d set off.
When you’re running having pulled a calf muscle six days prior to the race, as Rachel did, then there are added worries, and any runner who has set off with injuries on their mind will know what she was going through. Sadly, Rachel’s injury flared up within minutes of setting off, but she soldiered on, determined to get through. Then, around the eight-mile mark, Brett took a tumble that, in his own words ‘Ronaldo would have been proud of.’ He picked himself up and together, he and Rachel completed the last five miles or so. Officially, Rachel pipped Brett by one second and one place, finishing 815th in 3 hours 28:12.
Having recovered, Rachel admitted that the race had been ‘the hardest mental and physical challenge yet’, whilst Brett added that the ‘muddy course was a killer’. But, they are now one step closer to London, and with a few 10ks and a twenty-mile run to complete next month, they are well on track.
Positions and chip times;
815 Rachel Calvert 3:28.12
816 Brett Swiffen chip 3:28:13