On Sunday 4 September, Leeds Road Sports Complex played host to the Kirkwood Hospice 10K. Northowram Pumas were originally to be represented by four strong-willed participants, in Melissa Hall, Vicky Owen, Carine Baker and yours truly, but after this particular scribe suffered an horrific toe injury on the Wednesday prior to the race – the injury was so bad, in fact, that several dosages of Ibuprofen needed to be administered – the contingent was down to three. However, at the last moment, Matt Newton (who else?) stepped into the breach having being coaxed, seemingly, by Carine, to the point where Matt simply couldn’t refuse.
Having being alerted to my non-availability by certain members of the Pumas, it was put to me that perhaps I could give some coverage to the performances of our runners, so armed with my Kodak EasyShare DX7630 – a state -of-the-art- model when it was purchased in 2005 – I was on hand to take some jolly snaps to help illustrate my report. Which is as follows.
The main event
Pre-race, and myself and the four ever-willing runners met up to discuss the run. The course itself was straightforward enough and none too tasking; two laps of the field (thereby completing the first mile), out on to Leeds Road heading in a north-easterly direction for a few hundred yards before turning back on themselves along the canal. From there, it was around another half-a mile before taking the bridge (the only inclined section) to join the cycle path. After another half-mile the course rejoined the canal, the route taking the runners back towards the sports complex and out onto the road to begin a second circuit.
The Pumas posed for the obligatory pre-race photos before joining in with a nifty warm-up routine, one in which Matt showed some lovely hip movements, doubtless honed from his time spent in the discos with Neil Coupe. But just as they were getting in the groove, the runners were told to make their way to the start. I can’t be certain, but the words ‘taking it steady’ were overheard coming from the Pumas, something which bore testimony when the fab four took their places towards the back of the assembled throng, which mustered over two-hundred.
The race began, with the Pumas all smiles for the cameras, Melissa and Vicky giving reassuring waves.
After two laps of the field, the run was developing. Matt and Carine had stolen a march on Melissa and Vicky, and the runners headed out onto the road.
A quick sprint (despite aching toe) meant that I could catch up them again along the canal, Matt and Carine still leading the way for the Pumas. Not far behind, Melissa was striding out, though Vicky was running comfortably and still able to give us another smile.
The runners disappeared from view, giving myself and mascot Bella time to peruse the facilities. The burger bar looked tempting, but being a disciplined athlete, I managed to refrain, much to Bella’s dismay.
The finish of the 10K involved running three-quarters of the adjacent athletics track, which, before I knew it, was welcoming in the first of those running the 5K.
In due course, the Pumas appeared from their first trek along the canal and cycle path to begin the second lap. Matt was leading the Pumas along, Carine was next, then Melissa, and finally Vicky. Again, from a distance, through the trees as they ran along the canal, it seemed a case of ‘as-you-were’. It wasn’t unreasonable, then, to expect Matt to be the first Puma to enter the final section of the course – the athletics track. But events out in the sticks meant that things were not so clear-cut. As the leading runners entered the car park and through the funnelled section which led them to the track, this intrepid reporter positioned himself handily to capture the first Puma.
Soon enough, they appeared. But wait; those were not the long legs of Matt. Who could it be? Well, distinctively, it could only be Melissa, now leading the charge for the finishing line.
She had a smile on her face when she entered the funnel, but that seemed to disappear when she realised there were still 300 metres of the track to negotiate!
Mel stuck to it, and crossed the finishing line in 59:42.
Who would be next? It was Carine, putting on a spurt to finish in 1h 01.08.
Vicky followed, looking so relaxed nobody would have thought that this was only the second 10K she had tackled. Her finishing time was 1h 02:42.
And around 200 metres further back was Matt. He made it to the finish clearly in some distress and was on the verge of collapse as he crossed the line. Six weeks of inactivity through injury (Achilles) had taken its toll, and the final 3-4K were perhaps a few steps too far. But full credit to Matt, and indeed, all our runners for completing the course.
Everyone was smiles after the run, and experiences and stories were exchanged. Food and (non-alcoholic) drink was consumed. Bella was exhausted after all the excitement.
And Matt, Melissa, Carine and Vicky all seemed delighted to have taken part. As indeed, would this roving reporter have done. A quick check of the results might suggest that, as a matter of fact, he did, in a time of 1h 03:48. For after all, why should Matt do all the worrying?!
Massive thanks to Johnny Meynell, reporter extraordinaire.
Distance: Under 8’s 0.65km, Under 10’s 1.5km and Under 12’s 2.0km
Who: Our awesome Junior Pumas
This was the first official race that our Junior Pumas have taken part in. Organised by the Calder Valley Fell Running Club it was a bit of a baptism of fire for our Junior Pumas!
We had Juniors running in 3 of the different age categories:
The race was all run on the fells surrounding Heptonstall. This type of running was a massive change for our juniors, who have done some ‘off road’ running but nothing compared to the terrain on a proper quarry run (the term used for a junior fell run). As Maia Tudor said ‘I had to climb up a big rock and it was a bit dangerous because if I’d have fell I would have landed in the river’.
Even though all of our juniors have run longer distances the tough terrain and steep hills made it a challenging course.
But this didn’t stop them. Each and every one of our Junior Pumas raced to the best of their ability and performed absolutely amazingly.
We even had a medal winner, Tailla Green-Moore who came 3rd in the U8 girls! An amazing achievement.
The team spirit they showed was also great to watch, as they stood and cheered the rest of their team mates across the finish line.
As a coaching team we couldn’t be more proud of how well our Junior Pumas did, we were definitely #proudtobeapuma on Wednesday night.
The times and places of our junior runners are available here.
The Helen Windsor 10k is a yearly event organised by the Halifax Harriers. This year we thought it’d be a great one to get a load of Pumas involved in.
Two Pumas completed the race in 2015. Last years course was the reverse of this years, and it was tough last year as it was around 30 degrees.
Thankfully the temperature was much more bearable this year, and the course was being run in the opposite direction. Which meant that even though there were still some tough climbs, they were generally shorter than if you’d have run it in the other direction.
So, we arrived, en mass. This was probably the biggest turn out of Pumas for a single race, we almost equalled all the Stainland Lions there! In total we had a pride of 23 Pumas running, and two awesome Pumas supporting. Thanks for being there Sarah Firth and Simon Wilkinson – I know we can attribute our awesome times to your cheering skills!:
The course is all run on road up and around Norland. The roads were fairly nice and quiet which allowed the runners to pretty much take over one side of the road without running the risk of being run over.
As routes go, it’s nice. The scenery down into the valleys below is lovely (if you get chance to enjoy it!). There are some hills, and tough ones at that. but these were always met with nice downhills afterwards.
A water station was placed halfway round, and was much needed as it was quite close weather wise.
The Harriers had placed km markers all the way round the route, and a few of us (ok, maybe just me and Neil) were pretty impressed that they had got these spot on! Well done guys, best ones we’ve seen!
The sting in the tail of the course was that the finish was an uphill, and personally, I struggle with an uphill finish as it’s hard to push yourself up a hill, at a sprint, when you’ve run hard for 50 minutes.
We had some absolutely fantastic results on the night.
Where: Sheffield When: Sunday 26 June Terrain: Mixed. Road and trail Distance: Multi stage race – 12 miles running, 14 miles in total
The Round Sheffield Run was a first for me, I’d never done a race like this before. Basically it was an 11 stage race, each stage was timed and then you had a ‘rest’ between each stage that wasn’t timed, and you used this to walk from the end of one stage to the start of the next one.
You could either run as an individual or as a pair, so when we signed up myself and Luke agreed we’d take it on as a pair. We had a team name and everything.
We arrived at Endcliffe Park in plenty of time for our wave to start (we were the second to last wave and started between 10am and 10.15am) because as well as picking up our standard race number we had to collect our timing chip. This was like a little dibber attached to a lanyard that Luke ran with. This little dibber was what we used to check us in at the start of each stage and out at the end of it. So it recorded how long it look you to do each one. We also got a handy little card that told us how many kilometres each stage was and how long we had from the finish of each stage to get to the start of the next one. If you took longer the additional time was added to your stage time.
It might sound a bit complicated, but once you got into the swing of it it was really easy, and there was a marshal at every stage start and finish to make sure you did it correctly.
So the stages…
Stage one – 2.9km – gentle
The race started from Endcliffe Park and followed some paths though the park before crossing a road and starting to follow some more trail like paths through some woods. So far so good, this was fairly flat and we were able to set an ok pace.
Each time you came across a road crossing while you were running, you could use your dipper to check in and out, so you didn’t lose any time waiting for traffic, but we found the roads were pretty quiet so we could just get across without needing to do this.
With the first 2.9k down, I was feeling pretty confident, consulting my map I saw the next stage was 2.5k, half a Parkrun, how hard can it be?
So I asked Luke, what does KOM/QOM stand for next to where it says stage 2…
Stage two – 2.5km – KILLER
As all Tour de France aficionado’s will know KOM (or QOM) stands for King of the Mountain. Oh. Bugger.
They weren’t lying. It started off pretty gently, and I thought to myself, ahhhh they mustn’t have hills like we do. But they do. The hill was a killer, pretty steep and one of those unrelenting ones that never seem to end.
Our pace took a bit of a dent on this stage and we slowed right down (as did a lot of the people around us!).
The route was lovely, through some nice wooded countryside with a stream running through it. If my legs hadn’t been screaming at me, it would have been very pleasant!
But finally the 100 meters to go sign came into view and we could enjoy the fact that that stage would soon be over. At the end of this stage there was a water station with bottles of water and bananas! Very nice!
Stage 3 – 2.5km – Lovely bit of down
An awesome bit of trail to make up some time from the last section (offftttt a lot of walking in that stage). This was possibly my favourite section of the whole race, you can’t beat a good downhill section and it’s lovely running trails that you haven’t run before.
Stage 4 – 1.8km – Mud!
After quite a lot of rain (’cause you know it is summer!!!) the previous three days this was quite a muddy section. There were a fair few times I thought I’d be ending up with a fairly muddy bum!
I have to say my favourite bit was probably racing through the middle of the mud while watching some of my fellow competitors gingerly pick their way round the edges of it!
Stage 5 – 2.5km – Knackered before the start
To get to the start of this leg involved a ‘lovely’ climb up steps through some woods. Suffice to say, my legs were burning before we even started this one! After a couple of minutes plucking up the courage to start again we were off.
Happily the lovely surroundings made this leg seem a bit less harsh. The route described it as undulating. I think I’d just call it up!
Stage 6 – 0.9km – that’s only 900 metres
It’s funny how much further 900 metres seems when you’re legs are getting tired! Pretty thankful this was a nice short one!
Stage 7 – 1.4km – eughhhhhh. That is all.
An uphill slog. There’s no other way to describe it. This was hard. My legs were tired, Luke looked like he had barely broken a sweat and it was all uphill. I hate uphill. It sucks. But I was looking forward to the next water station to refuel and fill up my water bottle.
Stage 8 – 1.3km – what goes up must come down
Yay, a nice downhill! A fast trail section. Plus at the end of this one there was a water station with LOADS of Jelly Babies. So we took on board a few (handfuls) of them… purely to replenish our energy reserves, not because we love Jelly Babies.
Stage 9 – 0.8km – Quick one!
This stage was over with pretty quickly, mostly downhill through some woods but on a tarmac path so you could really ramp up the speed on this one. Another good stage to make some time back, especially with all the Jelly Babies for fuel!
Stage 10 – 2.2km – Sad face, more hills
Oh my god, I was not prepared for the hills on this penultimate stage. They floored me. It was up a steep road and then into some woods. Once we were into the woods the hill became a lot more gradual rather than straight up, but it was still a tough leg to complete especially with tired legs.
Stage 11 – 0.4km – THE FINISH!
Just 400 metres through the park to the finish line. It was flat, but my legs didn’t want to move so it definitely wasn’t a sprint finish!
Overall it was probably one of the most enjoyable races I’ve done in terms of the route and the stages. It broke the race up, and added an extra element of fun into the day! I think it made what would have been a pretty tough course if you ran the whole thing, into quite a manageable race.
Out of the 148 mixed pairs that completed the race, me and Luke came 37th, so not a bad effort. All of our stage times (if you’re interested) are here.
The Burner is an annual race held every year by a group of schools within Calderdale.
For the past two years the race has been hosted by Bolton Brow school and has negotiated the hills surrounding Sowerby Bridge.
But this year the race moved to the Pumas home turf! So we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get involved and help out.
Much of the behind scenes organising was done by our chairman Andy Haslam, along with the help of the rest of the Burner committee and a number of Pumas who, suffice to say, now know the route like the back of their hand!
The criteria was simple:
Off road. We love our off road running us Pumas. So the route decided by Andy and Ian incorporated some of the best trails and scenery we have to offer. And obviously, it’s June, how treacherous could some off road running be?
And hills! You can’t escape them in Yorkshire, so we thought we’d pick some reet tough ones to run up. I’m certain the route was pretty much 80% uphill!!!
After all the organising, recce runs and more recce runs, the big day finally came around.
The first race of the day was the 2.5k fun run. There were over 450 runners. Most of them youngsters. The atmosphere was fantastic and we had a great warm up by Amanda Tuck.
After the 2.5k, it was time for the 10k to get underway.
Again Amanda took us through a warm-up, with Puma Johnny taking it VERY seriously:
And then, after Andy’s safety briefing, we were off.
The first couple of miles were a mixture of road and trail,
Thanks to the great British summer weather it rained pretty much constantly the days leading up to the Burner. This meant that the lovely downhill trail sections of the course started to resemble something from a Tough Mudder event!
The first few miles, although uphill (and including a bit of a slog up towards Queensbury), were mainly on roads so the pace was pretty quick and all the fellow runners seemed pretty happy.
The hill into Queensbury had most people looking a bit tired:
The fun started on the descent down into the valley, I imagine those at the front of the race had an easier time than those of us towards the middle/back, as by the time we got to trail sections the ground had been thoroughly churned up by the 80 plus runners before us!
But, it’s no fun if there’s no mud! And even though it made it tough it didn’t seem to dampen anyones spirits. As with every race I’ve been to, you could hear all the competitors having a laugh and a joke about it, regardless of club, pace or ability. One of the reasons why running is such a great sport!
Once we’d passed the mud slide, and the mountain rescue man who was manning the stream crossing with a rope in case anyone got swept away, it was pretty much back to solid ground. A nice downhill and flat section gave everyone the chance to make up a bit of time. Before the dreaded Whiskers Lane.
To our Advantage (or possibly, actually, disadvantage, as we’d all spent the whole race dreading it) the Pumas knew what the finale of the race had in store. Whiskers Lane is a rocky, vertical (ok, not vertical, but it feels like it!) climb back up towards Northowram. It is a killer. If you’re ever in the area we’d definitely recommend giving it a go, if you get up it without walking you deserve a medal!
Thankfully after the climb the final stretch was flat-ish (it is Yorkshire after all!) back to the school playing field.
The winner was Joe Sagar with an outstanding time of 39:41
The first male Puma home was Luke Cranfield with a time of 45:14. Although he needs to work on his finish line face…
And the first female Puma home was Liz McDonnell with a smashing time of 54:31
Also a massive well done to all the Pumas who took part in the race, it was an amazing team effort!! As with every other event we’ve done the amazing team atmosphere and camaraderie between the Pumas makes me #proudtobeapuma.
And finally we’d like to give a massive shout out to:
Andy Haslam – Race Director Extraordinaire
Ian Marshal – Just for always being there to help out
Henry Naylor – For some great race timing skills
Simon Wilkinson – for yet again pulling out some first rate organisational skills and co-ordinating the marshalling of both events
Sarah Rushforth – For helping to organise the whole event
The Burner Committee – for bringing the whole event together
All the other helpers and volunteers for working hard to make it a brilliant day!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
Leg 2 – Hinchcliffe Arms to Todmorden
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!
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…..
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…
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.
This leg started at Todmorden Leisure centre and ended at Blackshaw Head. After the first 600m we began the climb which felt like forever.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Others ran set times to pace anyone who had a specific time goal in mind or wanted some help beating the clock.
Members also baked amazing cakes, biscuits and flapjacks for those running.
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!”
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:
7 to 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)
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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
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.
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.