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

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

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

The run up

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

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

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

She was that brilliant we got her flowers and everything

Tracey our awesome Team Manager
Tracey our awesome Team Manager

Not only did Tracey:

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

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

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

Race Day

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

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

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

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

Leg 1 – Clay House to Hinchcliffe Arms

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

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

Leg 1 teams
Leg 1 teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leg 2 – Hinchcliffe Arms to Todmorden

Johnny’s perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ally’s perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were pretty excited at the start…..

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

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

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

At 9.45 off we went.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leg 3 – Todmorden to Blackshaw Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jess and Mel enjoying a bit of down

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

Obligatory start line selfie
Obligatory start line selfie

Leg 4 – Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leg 5 – Wainstalls to Shelf

…a tale of stripping, getting lost and solitary stones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leg 6 – Shelf to Clay House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie and Andrea at the finish line
Julie and Andrea at the finish line
On Saturday 21 May the Northowram Pumas took over Halifax Parkrun. This free, weekly timed 5k run takes part at Shroggs Park in Halifax every Saturday morning and there is almost definitely a few Pumas there each week! As our local Parkrun it was a great opportunity for us to let our Parkrun friends know who we were and what are about as well as share some delicious sweet treats and promote the forthcoming Northowram Burner.
Club members volunteered to marshal around the course, cheering on the runners as well as some making their own fantastic banners.
Some awesome homemade banners to keep the runners going
Some awesome homemade banners to keep the runners going
Others ran set times to pace anyone who had a specific time goal in mind or wanted some help beating the clock.
A couple of the 'pacers' before the start. We even had a Junior Puma pacer
A couple of the ‘pacers’ before the start. We even had a Junior Puma pacer
Members also baked amazing cakes, biscuits and flapjacks for those running.
Enjoying the baking. Well earned after a mornings run
Enjoying the baking. Well earned after a mornings run
Some of the treats baked by the Pumas
Some of the treats baked by the Pumas
A massive thank you to everyone who volunteered, paced, baked or took part in the run – it was a fantastic turnout from the club and despite the threat of rain, 151 runners took part. Feedback from people has also been great – a few comments from the Halifax Parkrun Facebook:
“Thanks Pumas! You did a great job, it was my first time, thanks to all the encouragers, especially the children – it really helped!”
“Awesome Parkrun today. Massive shout out to the Northowram Pumas – amazing cakes!”
Thanks also to Nick Windsor who captured the morning through photography. The photos are available to view via this link: https://www.flickr.com/gp/143565035@N07/2037bZ
We’re looking forward to the next one!

It seems like quite a long time ago that we first started playing around with the idea of junior Pumas. Since before Christmas we had discussed running a junior course, and over the following months we started putting the wheels in motion. Applying for grants, attending coaching and safeguarding courses, buying equipment, finding coaches. There was quite a lot to do before our intended start date of 13 April 2016.

But 13 April came round soon enough, after an initial meeting with our official coaches, Mark and Alastair, we anticipated that on that first week we’d have between 5 and 20 juniors joining us….

Our first session

We had over 60 juniors join us! To coach Mark’s astonishment (and possibly a little bit of fear) we had 60 children ranging from 5 to 15 turn up, wanting to fine tune their running skills!

To be honest, we were a bit thrown, we never expected such an incredible turn out. But after a couple of minutes of shock, we got stuck in.

We decided to split the groups based on age ranges, so we had:

  • under 7’s
  • 7 to 9’s
  • over 9’s

Each group was lead by a coach or assistant coach and then some willing volunteers from our adult running groups. For our first week we stuck to the cricket pitch and did a variety of skills based games with each of the groups.

After a slightly chaotic, and exhausting hour, we got some great feedback from the kids in each of the groups and most of them (we will concede that running isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (although we will never understand why?!?)) were already looking forward to coming back next week.

Here are our Junior Pumas (and coaches)

DSC_2933
Junior Pumas (we’re runners not photographers!!!)

Over the next few weeks…

We were amazed that each week we had at least 60 children turn up ready to run (there’s only been one week since we started that we’ve had less than 60, and even then 54 kids still turned up).

After our first week, we’ve also introduced a lot more off road running into our sessions, even our under 7’s have been enjoying some of the great trail routes around Northowram!

We’ve also started to adapt the groups, so that we’re working on ability based groups rather than purely aged based groups. This means that, regardless of their ability, each child is running with a group tailored to them.

Here are a couple of shots of the sessions in action…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Where we are now

All the kids that attend each week are showing some brilliant running potential. Each week we’re staggered by their enthusiasm and willingness to try something new. Especially when something new is running up hills!

West Yorkshire Sport have also put together a brilliant video that shows what we’re about and how we got to where we are:

 

We’d love for as many of our juniors as possible t0 sign up and run the Northowram Burner 2.5k fun run.

We’re also looking into organising a Pumas summer event, open to adult and junior members and possibly entering some of our juniors into some junior races. Keep checking the website and Facebook group for more information.

The best way to find out about what’s going on with Junior Pumas is to join our Facebook group.

If you’ve got any questions, comments or ideas then please just email us at juniors@northowrampumas.co.uk or speak to one of us on a Wednesday after the sessions.

We’d also like to say a massive thank you to all the parents who bring their kids along, all of our adult Pumas who help us out on a Wednesday, and Alastair and Mark from Calder Valley Running Club who come and help us coach each week.

 

Event: Scarecrow fun run

Location: Northowram and surrounding trails

Weather: Wet, wet, wet

Date: Monday 2 May 2016

The Northowram Scarecrow Festival takes place every year over the May bank holiday, and as runners, the obvious highlight of the weekend for us Pumas is the Scarecrow fun run/walk.

There were two distances to choose from. A steady 3.5 mile route or a more challenging 4.2 mile route both starting and finishing at The Northowram Sports and Activity Club at 11.00am.

Both routes were a mixture of trail and road and took the runners/walkers around some of the beautiful sights around Northowram village. There were also the chance to catch a glimpse of some of the many amazing scarecrows that were scattered around the course (a fleeting glance of course….people were going pretty fast!).

Even the, at points torrential, rain didn’t dampen anyones spirits, with an amazing 108 people turning up for the event. This also included quite a few children and some of our new junior Puma members.

Everybody that took part successfully completed the run/walk and all the children received a finishers rosette.

Matt Newton was the first person back to the club after completing the 4.2 miles, despite getting lost and taking wrong turns along the way!

Thank you!

Northowram Pumas would like to thank everybody that turned up and joined in with the fun run.

It was the second successful fun run/walk hosted by the club and £210 was raised for the Scarecrow fund.

We’d also like to give a HUGE thank you to:

  • Julie and Holly for the fantastic work in registering everybody
  • and all of our amazing marshals: Paul, Jenny, Rob, Dale, Andy (also the on-course photographer!), Andrea, Elaine, Steve, Tracey, Councillor’s Baines & Taylor, Dave, Jess and John who battled some wet conditions to make sure everybody (including Matt who clearly didn’t read his route map as well as he should have!) stayed safe on route.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When the booking was made at Jeremy’s at the Boathouse for the Northowram Pumas Running Club I’m sure that the Brighouse pub were expecting a group of very fit looking, health conscious, yet quiet and reserved members…how wrong they were!

Following months of hard training, determination, marathons, half marathons and 10ks it was time for the Pumas to relax and let their hair down and that is exactly what they did.

33 Pumas attended the Club’s 3 rd social event on Friday 29 April 2016. The evening started with a sit down meal which had been pre-ordered from the tasty main menu. The Steak, Fish and Chips and Burgers were very popular with just myself opting for the sensible option of the Vegetable Picnic Loaf, which would have been a very healthy meal if Matt had not been generously sharing his very large portion of Beer Battered Onion Rings!

Drinks at the bar followed the meal, which were followed by more drinks at the bar. At 9.30pm the lights went down and the live band, The International Party Doctors came on stage. The dance floor was waiting to be filled and the Pumas were ready to dance. The next two hours quickly passed by with the group’s energy and stamina rocking the venue. The band were that impressed that they invited Lisa, Claire and Liz onto stage to provide the backing vocals for one of their favourite tracks, Bryan Adams ‘Summer of ’69’.

The band’s final track Purple Rain was dedicated to Prince. The evening came to an end for some whilst the After Party continued the night in Halifax Centre’s late night pubs.

Northowram Pumas Running Club would like to thank Jeremy’s at the Boathouse for hosting an unforgettable evening. The 33 meals were delivered promptly and were all 5 star meals. We will definitely be visiting them again!

Hope to see you all there and at our next social event, our very own Summer BBQ and Band Night on Saturday 23 July 2016.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Entering the Race

After the 2015 London Marathon I decided to enter in 2016, unfortunately I didn’t get in through the ballot, although my friend and fellow Puma Adam Standeven did. He kindly declared that if I entered through a charity place, he would also raise money for the same charity and make raising the minimum £1,800 easier. This is what we did, and through friends, family and one or two events including setting up and organising a Puma’s New Years Day Fun Run with fellow Pumas Adam Standeven, Andrew Tudor, Deke Banks and Ian Marshall we eventually raised £2,800.

Training

Unfortunately my training didn’t go quite as well as the fund raising and in fact was completely derailed after an 18 miler in February that ended with a bad injury, before the marathon this was the longest distance I had ever run! Unfortunately I now know that I should have stopped running, gone to see a doctor to be referred to a specialist, it turns out keeping on running and simply decreasing milage as the pain increases isn’t actually that good a way of getting rid of an injury!

After many weeks of pain, physio and hateful gym work (to keep up my fitness) I finally managed to get back to running properly at the beginning of April, only to be thwarted almost immediatly by the insoles that the pediatrist sold me (to fix the cause of the problem), these gave me blisters and stopped me running almost entirely for the 10 days prior to the race in the hope that I could get them to clear up.

Throughout all my training and no matter how hard it got, and however unlikely it seemed that I would be able to run the marathon I managed to smile and keep a positive out look on the whole situation. Actually that’s a lie, I became totally obsessed with completing the run, wouldn’t take any advice and was generally a right pain in the arse to be around, plus I spent a small fortune on anything that I thought might fix my ailments!

The Big Day

In the end though it all came good, and on the day, up until the last couple of miles, it was looking like I was going to achieve my target of completing the marathon in under 4 hours. Unfortunately the last 2 miles were hell with both legs cramping up so badly that I could barely walk, let alone run. I have never wanted to stop running so much whilst at the same time having hundreds of people yelling my name, telling me I could do it and basically making it impossible for me to actually stop! I did eventually finish in 4 hours and 5 minutes, which considering my lack of long runs I feel was better than I could possibly have hoped for, particularly as 3 weeks earlier I didn’t think I would be running at all!

Along the way my friends, family, running partner (Adam), and Puma’s running group have given me great support, I even had a prototype massage strap Fedex’d from New Zealand by Steve to help aid my recovery. On the day of the marathon the number of messages by text or through Facebook was incredible, I later found out that many of my friends and family were watching my progress on the Marathon website and cheering me on from their living rooms. In London I had support from family and friends, racing around London to see me in as many spots as possible and this certainly helped take my mind off the blisters and lack of long run training, oh and stopped me thinking about needing to have a pee for at least a few miles!

Future plans

People keep asking me will I do it again, and straight after the race it was a definite no, but its amazing how a few days can make the memory of the pain merge into a memory of  cheering spectators, crossing the finishing line and a general feeling of well-being, and yes there is still that small matter of completing it in under 4 hrs to consider…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Date: Sunday 17 April 2016

Time: 9.30am

Distance: 10k and 5k

Location: Trinity Academy Halifax

A clear blue sky and crisp conditions greeted the Pumas that were setting out to complete the Overgate 10k or 5k races.

A few of the Pumas pre-race
A few Pumas pre-race

Talk before the race had been about how hard the course was, that the hills were long and steep and that it’d be quite a challenge. So, it was with a slight nervousness that we gathered together near the start line.

It was fantastic to see so many Puma t-shirts gathering together, and it seemed to boost everyone’s confidence a little bit.

As we made our way over to the start line, the majority of us positioned ourselves near the front of the start. As we’ve all been told, it’s easier to start at the front and let people overtake you than it is to start further back and try to overtake people in front of you.

Here’s a quick start line selfie of us….

Obligatory start line selfie
Obligatory start line selfie

Some of us were made slightly nervous looking at the other participants around us (especially when one of them was Tanya Seager!).

After some very strict rules from the starting lady, the countdown started and we were off.

As soon as we left the main entrance of Trinity Academy we started climbing, it was definitely a hard start to the race, even though it wasn’t the steepest hill we’d encounter, it was definitely a hill. We carried on up towards Bradshaw (after getting some moral boosting cheers from fellow Pumas who were marshalling the race) and past a cenotaph. From here there was a bit of a flat to get your breath back.

This was also the point where the Pumas in the 5k race peeled off and did a smaller loop back towards Trinity Academy.

Then came the killer climb, easily the worst out of the three hills we’d be tackling, a pretty long and steep climb, with a nasty bend half way up (as you thought you might be nearing the top, but no, just more hill!) up towards the Raggalds pub. This was a hard hill.

When we reached the top it was a left turn and then up Perseverance Road. Personally I thought this would be the hardest hill, but in fact it was over pretty quickly and once we’d got to the top we hit the 5k mark and there was the reassuring knowledge that it was pretty much downhill for the rest of the race (it must be true there was a sign telling us so!).

So down we went, carefully at some points, as there were patches of the steep descent that were still icy!

With the knowledge that the worst of it was over people started speeding up, we rounded the corner just after the Moorlands pub. WHAT? WHAT IS THIS? There was another hill!

Feeling a bit mislead, as the sign at the top of Perseverance Road said it was all downhill now, we geared up and slogged up what was definitely the last hill of the race. The top of this hill was around the 9k mark. So the last 1k was all downhill back to Trinity Academy and the finish line. Time to get a sprint on!

As we rounded the last corner fellow Pumas and race marshals Tracey and Melissa were ready to shout some words of encouragement as we gave it everything to get to finish line…they just about found time to do this in between eating their sandwiches!

Hungry work is marshalling
Hungry work all that marshalling

As we finished the race it was great to see fellow Pumas at the finish line, cheering us in. Apart from Luke, who was the first Puma home, so there was no one else there yet to cheer him in!

To say it was a challenging course (around 650ft of climbing in the first 3k) the general feeling was that it wasn’t as bad as we’d all expected.

And brilliant, even on a hilly course, a couple of Pumas even managed to get new 10k PB’s!

Our 10k times and positions were:

  • Luke Cranfield – 41:23 – 9th overall and first Puma home
  • Matt Newton – 47:04 – New PB
  • Liz McDonnell – 47:36
  • Paul Hopkinson – 50:37
  • Neil Coupe – 52:24
  • Andrew Warrington: 52:26
  • Ally Canning – 52:28 – New PB
  • Johnny Meynell – 54.17
  • Holly Parry 54:32
  • Jo Allen – 66:14

Our 5k times and positions were:

  • Katie Lumb – 30:00
  • Helen Charles – 31:10
  • Kerry Hall – 34:40
  • Kirstene Kettlewell – 44:32

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even Tracey, Melissa, Simon and Sarah had a great time being part of team who were organising and marshalling the race.

We all agreed afterwards that it was a real boost seeing so many of us there, it keeps you going when you could see the other Pumas around you. It was also great to us our club kit amongst the more established clubs like Stainland Lions and Queensbury RC.

Thanks to all the marshals and Overgate Hospice for organising the event. It was a great one!

With my 30th birthday on the horizon, I decided it was time to start doing a little more exercise so I joined the Northowram Puma’s and entered the local Overgate 10k on 17th April.  My aim was to run a sub 55 minute 10k (to prove I wasn’t over the hill!).  I was then told that Overgate is really hilly, so I had a rethink and entered the Wakefield 10k on 3rd April on the understanding that it was relatively flat.

Walking into that first Puma’s meeting on a cold dark Wednesday in January was daunting and the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome so far.   However my fears soon disappeared – everyone is so welcoming and friendly that there really is nothing to worry about.  After a few weeks in group 4 with Ian running between 3 and 4 miles each week, I took the step up into group 3 in early March knowing I needed to up my miles.  Ally (group 3 leader) likes hills and off-roading which has helped up my fitness.  I also braved a couple of Sunday morning long distance sessions with the club.

I set off to Wakefield at an early hour in the cold and fog, questioning my sanity.  I’d lost my running wing man due to injury so had to brave my first real ‘race’ with just with my husband as chief supporter.

The event was well run and as I had registered early I‘d received my number, timing chip and details in plenty of time so got organised the night before.  This was good forward planning as we ended up walking an extra loop of the park to the start and everyone was just filtering down to the line when I arrived!  I left my supporter and wiggled my way through the crowd to about ¼ of the way back – completely selfish but I’d been told it’s easier to let people over take you than to have to dodge people yourself!

So the theory that the course is flat is not quite right – the start and finish lines are on a hill and it is undulating throughout!  But it is a straight out and back course so no repetitive loops that mentally flaw me.

I know that I set off too quickly and I was delighted to reach the turnaround point and water station where I gathered myself for a few seconds before pressing on – I had a time to beat after all!  Thankfully the sun came out at this stage too.

Kilometres 6 to 9 seemed to go on forever but knowing I’d overtaken the 55min pacer kept me going.

The finish line was on top of the hill and required one last dig supported by a lonely cheer!

My official time of 51:31 came through an hour after finishing and I kicked myself all day for not pushing a bit harder – next time I’ll be chasing the 50min pacer!

Holly with finishers medal and t-shirt
Holly with finishers medal and t-shirt

Event: Canalathon

Location: Start – Manchester, Finish – Sowerby Bridge

Date: 27 March 2016

Distance: 50km (31 miles)

I decided to run the Canalathon – my first Ultra-Marathon – when I received the standard London Marathon rejection. I considered other Spring Marathons but wanted to do something different. I was also inspired by the several other Pumas running marathons and didn’t want to miss out on the fun!

The Canalathon is an Ultra-Marathon with three distances on offer – 50K, 75K and 100K. I decided on the “easy” option of 50K – the longer distances can wait for another year. The 50K race starts in Manchester, and as the title suggests runs along the canal to Sowerby Bridge.

Training went reasonably well. It was great to train with other Pumas, offering support, advice and encouragement to each other was a great help. A niggling Achilles injury in February set me back a little but luckily the injury improved and I was back to where I wanted to be by early March.

Race day

The big day came and it was an early start. Made even earlier by the fact the clocks went forwards the night before the race. So getting out of bed at 5AM really did feel like 4AM! A bit of breakfast and off to Sowerby Bridge to register. As I parked my car I realised I was at the point where the gripping finale of “Happy Valley” was filmed. I wondered if the valley would be a happy one for me today.

Registration was bustling, and before we knew it the 50K participants were on board a double decker bus heading to Manchester.

The start of the race was in a very inauspicious retail car park in Manchester. I met my running partner for the day, Iain, and after a final toilet stop we were on the start line ready for the off. The first couple of hundred metres was run in the car park, which felt a little odd, but before we knew it we were on the canal heading for Sowerby Bridge. Only 50KM to go.

Pacing the race

Iain and I had agreed on a 10K an hour schedule. We also agreed to run 5 miles and walk ¼ of a mile to give the opportunity to talk on fluids and food. That seemed to go out of the window somewhat – we were making such good, steady progress we didn’t feel the need to stop and walk.

We reached 20K well under the 2 hour mark and were making good progress. We passed the first check point at around 11 miles and felt good. A quick stop and we were on our way again.

The next 20K also went very well. It was good to have a running partner as this kept the pace even and the chatting took your mind off the running.

Hitting the wall

It was after the second check point at around 20 miles where it really started to get more difficult. We stopped for a little longer this time (perhaps a mistake in hindsight) and walked a little before getting going again. The next section took you off the canal as it was closed due to the Boxing Day floods. This thought put the temporary pain we were going through into perspective – the floods devastated homes, businesses and lives in this area and it will take many years to recover.

This stretch was perhaps the hardest of the race. It was all on the road from Todmorden through to Eastwood. It was not made any easier by us knowing that we had to find a small entrance back onto the canal at some point to stay on the course. This seemed to take forever and I had convinced myself several times that we had missed it!

Anyway, we did find it. The small steps we had to go over to get back on the canal were a killer, but we were back on the canal and psychologically we knew this was the final stretch. It was great for me at this point as the surroundings were more familiar. I knew we only had Hebden, Mytholmroyd, Luddenden Foot to get through and the next stop would be the finish.

Whilst those last few miles were tough and our pace had dropped quite dramatically, it was great to be on the home straight. Sowerby Bridge was now firmly in our sights and it wasn’t long before we approached the finish.

I think we actually managed to speed up and crossed the finish line in 4 hours 59 minutes. Not bad given we had set a target of 5 hours! It was fantastic to see a few Pumas at the finish line to support us, it really was appreciated. My parents had also made the journey up from Sheffield as well, so it was great to see everyone.

Whilst on the course, both Iain and I mused that this would be our last long distance race and half marathons would be our maximum in future. However, two weeks on and I’m now thinking…maybe 75KM next year….

Results and pictures

Andy and Iain smashed the course and came 8th and 9th respectively (out of 166).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having completed 100 miles walking & running in 2 weeks in 2015, I was intrigued to see if the magic 100 could be completed in a week.

After discussing the idea with a few experienced runners while running on the hills of Luddenden Foot it got me interested, as everyone said it would be a massive pull on the body, not to mention the time involved.

Not to be deterred, it remained on my radar during marathon training with Emma Forester Thompson and I slipped the idea in during one of our Sunday runs.

I’m not sure if I was ignored (we were concentrating on 16+ miles) or if Emma thought I was mad. Anyway the timing wasn’t right during the marathon training and the winter months set in.

I reminded Emma again in January about the 100 challenge and I was pleased to hear, “I’ll think about it”. After giving Emma 2 months thinking time I reminded my amigo and to my surprise yes was the reply.

Plans started to be put in place, dates, times and routes developed. We came up with the novel idea of asking for the donation of Easter eggs rather than sponsor money.

Day 1: Our first run commenced on the 18 March on the canal from Copley to Todmorden where fellow Puma, Lynsey Clarke, joined us as part of her marathon training. We completed 20 miles.

Day 2: Our second day started with Huddersfield Parkrun (3 miles) followed by 15 miles on the canal out to Cooper Bridge and on the canal to Brighouse through to Copley. We completed 18 miles.

Day 3: Saw us running from Copley to Hebden Bridge with lots of Pumas doing various distances in between – we actually set out to do 16 miles but one of our friends doing marathon training was struggling so we carried on running to encourage them. We completed 19 miles.

Day 4: Day 4 was my birthday, and what better way to spend it than running from Copley to Beacon Hill and down Shibden to Brookfoot leading us on the canal back to Copley. We completed 15 miles.

Day 5: I took the train to Huddersfield to meet Emma straight from work and the wheels turned again as we ran back to Copley. We completed 13 miles.

Day 6: We joined in with the Pumas club run from Northowram – a scenic run with group 2 with a mixture of road, trail and cows. We completed 8 miles.

Day 7: For our final run we hijacked a club run with Stainland Lions – the final countdown with around 20 runners on the canal from West Vale to Sowerby Bridge and loop back for a surprise party on at the club. We completed our final 7 miles.

100 miles complete, a daily average of 14.46 miles, completed in an average pace of sub 9 minutes – injury free.

The support on route was tremendous. It’s amazing where you see people you know or don’t, (as was the case when a runner on the canal said I’ve seen your faces numerous times this weekend – both Emma and myself thought each other knew the runner – turned out he was a newsagent who had seen our picture in the Courier).

Additionally a massive thank you to each and everybody who donated Easter eggs, toys or money.

I can honestly say I was like a coiled spring looking forward to the next days running and it was strange not running on the Friday – but delivering Easter eggs to the Children’s ward more than made up for it as we shuttled 200 plus eggs up to the ward.

Saturday we delivered to the family food bank who where so kind and grateful with lots of children receiving eggs whom would have missed out over Easter.

#100milesfor100smiles was a slogan we adopted – it turned out to be more than 300 smiles from all the eggs we where able to donate to local causes.

Emma and myself met at a beginners running course 3 years ago – so when people think they can’t run I say breathe, body straight – #Believeinyourlegsnotyourhead!

Finally, a massive thank you to Emma, family, work and still managed time to complete the challenge, oh and having to put up with me!

Now whats the next challenge we have been asked…….. ermmmmmm………………………………

This slideshow requires JavaScript.