Competing in what was only her second 10k race on Sunday was Eileen O’Brien, who teamed up with her friend Anne Molloy of Sowerby Bridge Snails at Bramley, the race organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. Myself and Eileen – together with Gill Holmes – have something in common; we joined Northowram Pumas on the same evening, just over two years ago. Several years earlier Eileen had been a member of Stainland Harriers, but since retiring from work, had lapsed somewhat. In fact, it might be fair to say she’d given up. Her only (loose) association with any sort of sporting activity was lying on the settee reading ‘Runner’s World’. Eventually, Eileen decided to get involved once more and pitched up at Northowram Pumas where we bumped into each other. I remember the occasion well, as we were the first people to show up, and we wondered whether we’d got the right night or, indeed, the right venue.
Eileen has been regularly taking part in our local parkruns, either as a runner or as a volunteer. She joined the Pumas as an improving athlete; at the time she was in the middle of achieving a total of TEN consecutive personal bests at Halifax parkrun, setting her fastest time there at 34:01 on 14 November 2015. But she went into this Bramley 10k having run even faster a week last Saturday when the Pumas made an excursion to Pontefract parkrun, where Eileen clocked 33:42.
The course at Bramley was two laps of 5k, therefore 10k in total, taking the runners around the historic town first mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It begins and finishes in Bramley Park, starting by running clockwise around one of the inside paths, then takes the runners out through the main gates and left onto the A657 Upper Town Street. At the junction with Broad Lane, the runners turn left and follow it for some distance before the road eventually meets Swinnow Lane. Swinging left, the route then runs into Stanningley Road and takes the runners back up to rejoin the A657 Upper Town Street and the long drive towards Bramley Park. The runners re-enter the park to continue their second lap. Having completed the circuit once more, the runners then enter Bramley Park for the finish.
Having set a parkrun personal best only eight days earlier, you could say Eileen went into this Bramley 10k on a bit of a high. So there was every chance that she might improve on her time of 1hr 14:24 set at the Kirklees 10k Challenge back in May. Eileen duly did, despite admitting that she felt ‘scared’ beforehand. There was no need to be; in conditions suited to this sort of distance, she smashed the Bramley course in 1hr 11:31, finishing 133rd out of 140 runners. For her part, Anne Molloy finished 115th in 1hr 02:11. The winner was Tim Davies of Leeds City in 34:44.
So Eileen knocks off over three minutes off her previous best 10k race. You can run a long way in three minutes, so her performance should not be understated. Well done!
Committee member Simon Wilkinson invariably pops up at events all over the place, usually to run, but regularly to act as a volunteer. He’s often seen marshalling at the parkruns at Halifax and Brighouse, and when I took part in the Jane Tomlinson Run For All 10K in Leeds last July, there he was again in his designer high-viz jacket. It’s actions such as these that saw him invited on Monday evening to the Kingscroft Hotel in Pontefract – ironically, just two days after he’d run the parkrun around the racecourse there – for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Awards. Accompanying him was fellow committee member Ally Canning, but she, like Simon, wasn’t there for fun, nor just to be well fed. No, Ally was there to see Simon collect his well-deserved regional Volunteer of the Year Award, and how mighty happy he looked at receiving it, too, as you can see.
Simon’s journey doesn’t end there. Being the Yorkshire and Humberside winner sees him go forward to attend the national awards ceremony event at the Ricoh Arena on 14 October. There, his winning entry will be placed alongside the other regional winners from around the country for the ultimate Volunteer of the Year award. Impressive, eh?
We all wish Simon well and thank him for all he does for Northowram Pumas and everything else. There is, however, no truth in the rumour that he stayed behind in Pontefract to help wash up.
Hollingworth Lake is a popular tourist resort for locals and incumbents alike. It’s an ideal spot for picnics in summer, and with several hostelries dotted around the lake’s edge, what’s not to like? The sight of sailing boats drifting slowly by emanates an air of tranquillity. Asked to run around it twice at moderate pace, and suddenly the place doesn’t seem so appealing.
But that was the size of the task facing me when I signed up for this 10K race several weeks ago. Happily, I didn’t make the journey over the Pennines on my own. Matt Newton, with or without ankles, claimed he would always be ok to run it, and Tracey Ann was an eleventh hour addition to the entourage. If she was eleventh hour, then her significant other Jason Boults must have been close to throwing out time when he was coaxed into taking part.
We were joined at race HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, by many familiar faces, as the Sowerby Bridge Snails were using this event as one of their club championship races. There were also a good few Halifax Harriers in attendance as well as a sprinkling of Stainland Harriers and Queensbury Running Club runners, so we weren’t completely overshadowed by our Lancastrian neighbours.
I’d run a couple of 5K races around here earlier this year but never over 10K, and the course, apparently, was much changed from last year. Starting opposite the train station at the bottom of Hollingworth Road, the route rose ever so gently – but for quite some way, I might add – before joining Lake Bank with Hollingworth Lake on our left. Keeping to the road, we ran parallel to the lake before making a swift left-hand turn immediately after The Beach public house to follow the path which circumnavigates the lake, following it anti-clockwise. All fairly flat and scenic, but perpetuated with puddles, dog walkers and horse riders. Eventually the path joins Rakewood Road, but before continuing along the lake side, the route diverted sharply to the right along Syke Road to do an out-and-back (swinging around a marshal, if you get my gist) before rejoining Rakewood Road. The route rejoins Lake Bank before beginning the second full circuit. Upon completion, and having made the swift detour up Syke Road and back, the route swings right to take the return journey along Hollingworth Road, and the welcome downhill stretch to the finish.
Myself, Matt, Tracey and Jason joined the runners at the start, although there was a sense that none of us should really have been there at all. I was suffering with stiff thighs after yesterday’s efforts at Pontefract parkrun, Matt was troubled with his dodgy ankles, Tracey has succumbed to, among other things, glutes (now recognised in these parts as the top sports injury, having overtaken the metatarsal that no one had ever heard of until David Beckham suffered broken one), whilst Jason had never attempted to run this sort of distance before, and but for Tracey’s insistence, would otherwise never have dreamt of it.
But there we were, making up a field of 249 runners, and at 10.00am, we were off. We swung immediately into Hollingworth Road and began the gentle ascent. There was never a question of me bombing off – I’m too long in the game for that lark – and soon, up alongside me, was Matt Newton, and I’d share more than half the race in his company. Matt had joked he’d be more likely be bringing up the rear, clearly this wasn’t going to happen. I did half expect him to kick on as normal, but perhaps his ankle really was hampering him.
We ran around Hollingworth Lake in each other’s company, though I’m pretty sure I had to put in the most effort. So much concentration did I put into my running that I hardly noticed Matt exchanging pleasantries with a marshal at the Pavilion Café where we veered a sharp right turn. Had I been more attentive I would have noticed the marshal was our friend Paul Hopkinson. I hope he didn’t think I was being rude! We meandered along the path before hitting Rakewood Road and shooting up Syke Road. We did a quick shifty around the marshal (presumably they’d run of cones) then rejoined Rakewood Road, just as Tracey appeared to start her out-and-back.
As we continued along Lake Bank and turned onto the path around the lake for the second time we were joined – and overtaken – by a woman I recognised as one we’d spoken to at the Conservative Club when we collected our race numbers. She turned out to be Lisa Kempster, and she certainly upped the pace. Before I knew it, her and Matt were pulling away from me, though never too far away. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I kept them within my sights as we toured the lake on this second lap, once again omitting to acknowledge our friendly and supportive marshal at the café. We continued along Rakewood Road, took the down-and-back on Syke Lane, then shortly after passing the watering station (where, incidentally, Jenny Hopkinson was handing out refreshments) we were ushered right to take up Hollingworth Road on the return home. Familiar with this section, I had prepared myself for a grand downhill finish, and this is what I gave myself!
I got into my stride and before I knew it I was making up good ground on Matt and his companion Lisa, soon on their heels and then passing them as I sped up. Matt offered encouraging words, as did the runner I passed further along. “Go on lad,” he said, typifying the kind of spirit which regularly shows itself among athletes. I burst passed him, then had this horrible feeling that I’d gone too early; there was at least another quarter of a mile to go. This runner, who I later learned went by the name of Paul Gandy, a Meltham runner, was soon on my shoulders, but instead of racing me, was offering more encouraging words which I’ll never forget. “Go get that train, go get that train, don’t miss that train,” he urged me, and once again I lengthened my stride to pull away. “Good response,” I heard him say, but I still had some way to go. I kept it up for as long as I could but felt I couldn’t sustain it. Paul closed in on me again just as the finish line came into view. “Go on,” he shouted, and with that I gave one last kick for home. I finished exhausted and carried on walking to regain my breath, thus not having the chance to thank Paul for his encouragement.
Behind me, Lisa Kempster must have shrugged off Matt in the sprint for the line, for she finished three seconds in front of him. But she was grateful to Matt because, not for the first time (I didn’t realise they’d encountered each other before) he’d helped her to a personal best at this distance (as he’d helped her to a PB several weeks ago at Halifax parkrun). Having regained my composure, I joined Matt then we walked back up the road to await Tracey coming in.
Now from what I can gather, Jason had been quite some way in front of Tracey for much of the race; as they both appeared, she had now stolen a march (no pun intended) to lead him in. She finished in 55:10, a time which pleased her no end; at the beginning of the month Tracey had run the Kirkwood Hospice 10K (a slightly easier course, I’d say) in 56:41. One might say she’s putting herself back in the game.
The winner of the race was Ian Livesy of Barlick Fell Runners in 33:52.
Pumas’ (and Jason’s) finishing positions and times were;
136 Johnny Meynell 51:28
139 Matt Newton 51:36
165 Tracey March 55:10
168 Jason Boults 55:15
Action photos supplied by Jonathan Moon (Sowerby Bridge Snails).
Sunday saw the staging of one of the toughest runs on the local circuit, the Stainland Trail 10k. Having taken part in this event last year, I can certainly vouch for that; the climbs, the mud, the slippery paths. Anybody who wants to do themselves justice would need to be on top of their game. Advice which needs to be well heeded.
This event was also happened to be the next round of the Northowram Pumas’ club championship, and as such, you’d expect anyone who’s anyone to have shown up to challenge for the points on offer. There was, however, over that weekend, a conflict of interests, with many Pumas attending the high society wedding of the year – that of Neil Coupe and Jo Allen the day before. The afternoon stretched into the evening, and the evening long into the night. If, by the end of it, many of our would-be runners weren’t in a comatose state, they were certainly rendered incapable.
During the course of the celebrations, some of those who otherwise would have gladly taken part in the Stainland Trail were already pulling out, but no one could really tell if that was just the drink talking. On the other hand, there were those who had paid to take part but had resigned themselves to missing out due to injury, and in this case Peter Reason (weak core and glutes) and Matt Newton (Tan House ankle) were particularly unfortunate. As, too, was Liz McDonnell, who, but for a domestic mishap, would gladly have been there.
So which of the Pumas did actually manage to make it? Well, giving an 8.00am social media rallying call was the tee-total Jane Cole, who appeared to be chomping at the bit. Why, you could almost imagine her jumping up and down on her bed with excitement, like a young child on Christmas morning. She was informed by Lisa Aspinall that Tim Brook was still snoring in his bed, though to be fair, he had only just got in. Incredibly, though, Tim dragged himself up, bemoaning the fact that the barmaids never know when to stop filling up his glass (because of the copious amounts he’d downed he was wisely advised not to breath out near anyone having a cigarette). Similarly, Luke Cranfield confounded the doubters, of which they were many, myself included. Around 8pm the previous evening, I’d had a brief conversation with him, and come to the conclusion that if Luke wasn’t ‘already gone’ by then, he was certainly ‘on his way’. He left his house in the morning without Ally Canning, who, having arrived home from the wedding party the same time as Luke, was only missing the Stainland race due to a convenient dodgy ankle.
Andrew Tudor, having missed out on all the celebrations, was a cert for the race; never fully fit these days, he shows real dedication to get up and drag himself around any course put in front of him – when there’s points up for grabs. Indeed, Andrew has taken part in all but two of the eleven club championship races, though never with the same set of body pieces.
And there was a fifth Puma on show. Here, making a special guest appearance, was Richard Ogden. Injured running in the Calderdale Way Relay last May, Richard married Jennifer in July and was last heard of living it up on his honeymoon in Mallorca. But he’d paid for the Stainland Trail months ago and not being able to get to the Pumas’ sessions, has been, word has it, pounding the streets solo, often undercover, to get himself in shape. Here’s a man who would willingly pay twenty quid in taxi fares so that he didn’t waste his £10 race entry fee.
So that’s the Pumas’ cast, what of the race itself? Well, this is one that starts and finishes at Stainland Recreation Ground, though what goes on in between I’ll perhaps leave to your imagination. The drop down towards Fall Spring Wood is fair enough, though treacherous near the bottom. The route then climbs west through the woods before coming out into fields. Next up is Milner Wood, where a tough climb awaits the runners. Then there’s Beestones Wood, which eventually brings the runners down to dry land at the Sonoco Recycling Plant and the welcome watering station. Veering right, the runners next take a trail path called Cray Lane and follow it around until it joins the tarmacked Stainland Dean, which rises steadily. The runners then turn a swift left to take up Berry Mill Lane, initially steep, following it around until entering Firth House Wood and continuing for some way along Crow Wood Lane and Dog Lane before circumnavigating Sonoco (where the watering station is there for anyone wanting a top-up) and starting the ascent homeward. Up through the fields, the route eventually picks up Beestonley Lane, and the runners climb back up the fields they’d come down earlier. By now, legs would be aching, and even though the finish line isn’t too far way, there is still much work to be done in order to get there. The route veers right, taking the perimeter of the fields, and then there is one last climb alongside Stainland Recreation Park before it enters the park at the top right hand corner. The runners then run three-quarters of the field clockwise before reaching the finishing line.
The race was due to start at 10.00am, just enough time for one Puma to make one last desperate run for the gents. “You could hear him throwing up in the corner,” said one key eyewitness of Tim Brook, who, nevertheless, dusted himself down to help make up the field of 144 runners on the start line. And then they were off.
According to Luke, both he and Tim “took it steady”, though Tim would probably have had to take his word for it because, according to him, the whole six-mile course was “a blur”. They still managed to keep among the leaders, with Tim just summoning up enough energy to pull away from Luke in the final stages to take the honour of #FPH and a credible seventh place. Luke was but one place behind him, just six seconds slower than his time of last year.
Richard Ogden finished an uncomplicated 32nd, comfortably inside the hour mark, whilst some way behind him there was drama of sorts. Andrew Tudor was suffering badly with injury over the last half of the course, and in time was caught by a rapidly improving Jane Cole. Maybe they helped each other, but upon finishing, Andrew gave Jane credit for pushing him on when he was clearly struggling. Jane, modestly, returned the compliment, but had she had any more conviction about her she may just have caught the runner just one place ahead of her. Using some skulduggery, he pipped her by two seconds; had she beaten him she most definitely would have been shouting about it, for this was her very own marito, Piero Tozzi, a Baildon runner. Jane, in fact, despite being Pumas’ sole lady, was the ninth female home. Yep, she’s brutal alright.
The race was won by Stainland Lions’ very own Gavin Mulholland in 41:18, over two minutes ahead of second placed Joe Crossfield of Halifax Harriers.
Injuries, illness and assorted mishaps apart, next year we could perhaps see a greater turnout, though the purists would say that this year Pumas more than doubled in appearance – yes, last year, only myself and Luke took part. But unless Mr and Mrs Coupe decide to renew their wedding vows twelve months hence, I would expect the numbers to at least reach double figures. All sober, too.
Running somewhat under the radar was recent Pumas’ recruit Rebecca Stanley throwing herself headlong into the challenge of the Sheffield 10k, part of the Jane Tomlinson Run For All Series. This was her first run at this distance, though, I hasten to add, not necessarily one of her own making; she’d been entered into it by her friend’s husband as far back as last January. By April, Rebecca thought she’d better do something about it and so turned to the Pumas to get her moving. She started out with the Beginners’ run/walking group and put in as many shifts as she could, helped along by Ian Marshall, who’s encouraged her no end.
It wasn’t until as recently as 2 September that Rebecca ran her first parkrun at Brighouse, clocking 34:10. Two weeks later she returned, and showing obvious signs of improvement, knocked two minutes 44 seconds off her previous time to record a PB of 31:26. By then, she was working as hard as she could to give herself the best chance she could at today’s Sheffield 10k.
This event was staged for the first time in October last year, attracting a field of over 3,200, with the route taking in the roads around Sheffield city centre. Starting and finishing at Arundel Gate, the runners follow the route along Charter Row and into Ecclesall Road, before skirting the edges of pretty Endcliffe Park as they make their way along Rustlings Road. At the end of this road, the runners almost double back on themselves to follow the route along Graham Road, reaching the halfway point just as they approach Riverdale Road. They then follow the route along Endcliffe Vale Road, close to the Botanical Gardens, then swing right down Brocco Bank before picking up Ecclesall Road once more and making the return journey for the last 3k and what the race organisers term “an exhilarating city centre finish”.
Come the day of the event, perhaps the timing of it could have been better. What I mean to say is, Rebecca might have been crying out for another week. Because…she went into it with that dreaded syndrome. An injury, no less. That’s right, she was suffering with a bad back, something sustained, Ian Marshall assures me, through work with her personal trainer, and not anything to do with Northowram Pumas. But, it was either give the Sheffield 10k a miss, or give it a go. Fortunately, she chose the latter option, and felt overjoyed when she completed it. So much so, that she rang our Ian to tell!
Rebecca had no pre-conceived ideas of what sort of time she was hoping for. In the end, she finished in 2,860th position out of a field of 3,744 runners, crossing the line flanked by two Dewsbury Road Runners. Her time was 1 hour 10:26, but her chip time was an even more satisfying 1 hour 07:26 (thus giving her a chip position of 2994).
Afterwards, Rebecca paid tribute to her Puma colleagues, saying how nervous she had been initially when she joined the club, but now admitting it was the best thing she ever did. She’s on the long list (now running into three pages and almost as many buses) of runners wanting to take part in the Abbey Dash in November, a race run over the same distance. At the rate she’s going, she’s sure to better her time from Sheffield. We shall watch with interest.
Halifax parkrun, Shroggs Park, Saturday, 23 September, 2017.
It was a parkrun like no other. I mean, where else could you have expected to find an array of priests and vicars, an abundance of elegant (and some not so) dames, chimney sweeps, ridiculous wigs (some even fitted correctly), glasses of Prosecco downed pre-run, and where a pregnant bride was shoved over the finish line in a wheelbarrow by the mother of same said bride? You couldn’t make it up.
As if you haven’t guessed, the occasion was Halifax parkrun, unofficially labelled ‘Neil and Jo’s Wedding Run’. And their friends from Northowram Pumas were out in force to make it all the more memorable. Yes, Neil Coupe and Joanne Allen, married officially the day before (but willing to go through it all again in front of the watching masses later in the afternoon, where the wedding rings were delivered by Barney the Labrador) had invited all their running friends to make this parkrun one to remember. One to remember? It’s one nobody will ever forget!
‘Twas a colourful scene, what with all these outfits and everything, though one of the funniest sights was that of vicar-clad Chris Ellis arriving late (long after the photo-shoots and first-timers’ briefings had been done) and hurtling up Harrison Hill with a horrified look on his face, one that suggested he was about to turn up for his own sermon only to find all the parishioners had gone home. He made it in time, and on the starting line, those dressed for the occasion were joined by others who looked, for once, kind of out of place – runners in running gear.
Race director Stephanie Hull did an amazing job when addressing the 191 runners and giving the compulsory race briefing, her delivery cleverly based on a wedding theme; “We are gathered here today…Does anyone know of any reason why this parkrun should not go ahead?” Stephanie then led Neil and Jo through the crowd – and back again – in the manner of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea. Her race briefing duly completed, there was one last task to perform before Harrison Charles got the runners under way, and that was Neil and Jo stepping forward to release a couple of doves (acquired by Gabriella Kenny via Queensbury Running Club) – these are homing doves, apparently, and sure to return from where they’d been brought.
Before you knew it, we were off, as we all know, roughly three-a-half-laps of Shroggs Park. Oh what a circus; three fellas humping it around in suits that would help them sweat out almost half their body weight, ladies almost tip-toing around whilst holding the hem of their dresses, and Shana Emmerson carrying a special type of boyfriend, probably the best kind, one that doesn’t answer back (but destined never to get a recorded finish – because he didn’t have his BAR CODE!). Mind, from what I can gather, neither did many others, seemingly too concerned with ‘looking the part’ than hunting out that essential item, one without which, we are told, means, “No time.”
Of course, once out in the field, there were those, despite how they were dressed up, wanted to knock off something respectable. Luke Cranfield, who arrived in a tight-fitting white laced dress covered up by his Pumas hoodie, for fear of arrest, took the honour of being #FPH. His dress barely reached the top of his thighs, thus giving him plenty of leg manouvreabilty* (Back in the day, you could just hear an old dear warning her daughter dressed in similar attire, “You’ll catch a chill, you know.”)
Not too far behind was Tim Brook. He finished eighth but was first in a newly created sub-category – #FPHIAS (First Puma Home In A Suit). First female Puma home was Kirsty Edwards, skipping around in her frock in a manner that suggested perhaps that she may have just done this sort of thing before. Jane Cole came in 57th, choosing this occasion to run her first parkrun. She can’t usually make Saturdays due to work commitments. She offered me a small cash inducement to publicise her hairdressing business, but being far too professional and honest I couldn’t accept anything like that. Just as professional and honest as Peers and Cole Hair, 34 Well Green Lane, Hove Edge.
Claire Ramsbottom, Rachael Hawkins and Andrew Mellor were also Halifax parkrun first timers; fortunately for them, next time out they should record personal bests, and questions will surely be asked if they don’t. Worryingly, however, two Pumas actually managed personal bests, one being Wendy Hewitt, who ran in a pretty blue frock decorated with birds and clocked a time over two minutes faster than her previous Halifax PB. Which begs the question: What was she doing last time out? More importantly, what was she wearing? Clogs? Simone Brook, who ran her first parkrun here two weeks ago, beat her time that day by eleven seconds, so there’s another one who might like to pay attention to detail when choosing her running outfit.
For some it was a familiar tale of suffering. Matt Newton limped over the line as he has done on several occasions before, suffering with an ankle injury sustained when scaling Tan House Road the previous evening. Though in the past, injured or not, he can never have claimed to look as fetching as he did here, matching lemon dress and tights and all (although in some quarters, he was likened to Big Bird from Sesame Street).
Of course, we all awaited the arrival at the finish line of the newly-wed Mr and Mrs Coupe. They finished in style; Neil humping Jo into a conveniently placed wheelbarrow (one can only assume this prop was planted pre-race, as in the previous forty-one Halifax parkruns I’ve run, I’ve never seen a wheelbarrow placed handily on Harrison Hill). And pushing her with consummate ease (again, does he do this regularly?) over the line under a shower of confetti.
When all was gathered in, the Pumas entourage made its way back to the Northowram Social Club, for a welcome breakfast of bacon, sausage and/or egg butties, tea and coffee. Where, amongst other things, Matt Newton was declared the Best Dressed Puma, and Bella the dog managed to hoodwink everyone in an impromptu game of Hide and Seek.
What a morning. What a carry on. What on earth just happened? And that was just the start of the day.
Carlsberg don’t do parkruns. But if they did…
* No such word.
For prosperity, Pumas and associates’ positions and times were;
5 Luke Cranfield 19:11
8 Tim Brook 19:58
43 Andy Haslam 24:08
44 Tom O’Reilly 24:12
47 Jude Kenny 24:30
49 Peter Reason 24:52
51 Kirsty Edwards 24:54
57 Jane Cole 25:45
67 Jonathan Meynell 26:41
73 Claire Ramsbottom 27:28
75 Andrew Mellor 27:39
76 Finley Canning 27:44
77 Victoria Owen 27:50
78 Chris Ellis 27:58
80 Simon Wilkinson 28:03
82 Paul Bottomley 28:31
83 Rachael Hawkins 28:34
91 Matt Newton 29:15
94 Mark Brook 29:27
97 Amanda Huddleston 29:52
98 Charlotte Reason 29:54
104 Anna Ralph 30:28
113 Wendy Hewitt 30:59
120 Sarah Haigh 31:47
121 Debbie Fox 31:53
125 Shana Emmerson 32:04
127 Simone Brook 32:12
132 Alan Sykes 32:53
133 Tracey March 32:57
134 Nicola Pennington 32:59
136 Paula Snee 33:00
138 Gabriella Kenny 33:04
142 Neil Coupe 33:33
143 Mrs Coupe 33:33
156 Tiffany Lewis 34:12
160 Eileen O’Brien 34:42
161 Tamara Gibson 34:58
163 Patricia Taylor 35:06
170 Megan Casey 36:17
171 Shaun Casey 36:20
174 Mai-Lyn Brook 36:28
176 Nicki Hartley 36:35
Unknown positions and times for Adam Standeven, Lisa Aspinall, Carolyn Brearley, Ally Canning, Laura Fairbank, Jane Henley, Nichola Mathieson. How does that mantra go again…?
The Great North Run is one of the major events in the athletics calendar, certainly the biggest in Britain, and one that was inspired by the former Gateshead Olympic medallist Brendan Foster. First staged in June 1981, the race evolved out Britain’s first-ever Fun Run which was held on 29 October 1977, an event, incidentally, which I was privy to as I was there that day running for Halifax Harriers as a thirteen-year-old in the Gateshead Road Races.
The first Great North Run was competed for by 12,000 runners. The event has grown considerably in stature since then and over the years has attracted many top athletes and famous names, such as Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie, Kevin Keegan, Paul Gascoigne (who pushed wheelchair-bound Maureen Martin around in 1986), Nell McAndrew, Ricky Wilson, Jon Culshaw, Davina McCall and Andy Haslam.
The iconic 13.1-mile half marathon route starts just outside the centre of Newcastle on the central motorway. Continuing down the A167 the course takes the runners past Jesmond, Haymarket, Monument and Central Station before arriving at the Newcastle side of the Tyne Bridge. Here, as the runners cross the bridge they approach the two-mile mark. At this point, as usual, there is the fly over of the Red Arrows. Having entered Gateshead and being welcomed by the shimming sight of The Sage, runners are directed on the A184 to make their way towards Heworth. On route, they pass the renowned Gateshead Stadium as they approach the three-mile mark. Having entered Gateshead, the route continues on the A184 for the beginning of a six-mile stretch before being taken onto the A194. This takes the runners into South Tyneside, and they pass the eight-mile mark at the A19 interchange. Taking the A1300, participants pass Whiteleas and Centenary Avenue before they change onto the A183 just past Marsden Lane at the twelve-mile mark. Now on the home stretch in South Shields, runners are welcomed by the view of the sea in one of the most scenic and enjoyable parts of the whole course. With just over a mile to go on Prince Edward road, runners are cheered profusely as they make their way to the finishing line.
Yesterday, the 43,127-strong field included sixteen Northowram Pumas, most taking part for the first time. Each had their own reasons for being there, some raising money for charity, others doing it, in the words of George Mallory on why he set out to conquer Everest, “Because it’s there”. Sadly, Mallory never returned from his quest in 1923; happily, all Pumas made it to the finish line, all proud as punch for achieving what they’d set out do. There would have been others there, too, but for a variety of reasons (injury, other commitments) they had to miss out.
One person who’d missed out on seeing the start live over the previous 36 years was instigator Brendan Foster, but now retired from the BBC commentary box, he was there to start off all the runners at Spital Tongues, the elite wheelchair race getting under way first at 10.10am. Five minutes later, the gun sounded for the start of the elite women’s race, and at 10.40 the elite men and mass ranks of thousands behind set off, though for the likes of Mo Farah and his compatriots, he had no problem at all in getting into his stride. Some of the competitors would take over an hour to reach the starting point!
It wasn’t a particularly warm day; there was a definite cold snap in the air, something which gave Katrina Wood a bit of a dilemma; what or what not to wear. In the end, she went with bright pink T-shirt under her Pumas’ top, with neat Karrimor black peaked cap. A pair who had decided weeks in advance of exactly how they were going to dress up for the event were Cathy Farley and Katharine Barnett. Raising money for a Bradford cat rescue centre, they’d already left all those at the Brighouse parkrun open-mouthed eight days earlier when they arrived sitting inside their unicorn – or Pumacorn – outfits; now they were going to show all of Tyneside, too. And didn’t they just? Not only catching the eye of the thousands of spectators, but also those of a roadside BBC reporter who pulled them aside for a quick chat – live on TV in front of a few million viewers.
Those who lined the route or watched on television from the comfort of their front rooms doubtless had an interest in Olympic champion Mo Farah, to see if he could pull off a record fourth successive Great North Run victory. He successfully managed it by pulling away from New Zealand’s Jake Robertson in the final 200 metres, but while Mo basked in his personal glory (lying prostrate on the tarmac), Robertson duly got down on his knees to propose to partner Magdalyne Masai (who’d finished fourth in the ladies’ race) seconds after he crossed the line.
But what more of our local interest? Well, the honour of being #FPH fell to relative newcomer Andrew Barnes, who finished in a time of 1hour 35:19, some two minutes faster than second Puma Rick Ralph. Rick was back in good time to cheer home wife Anna, who completed the course in 2 hours 14:05.
Paul and Jenny Hopkinson were representing Halifax Harriers once again, and as at Fleetwood three weeks earlier, Paul took the domestic honours (with a personal best to boot). And Vicky Owen would be the first to acknowledge the invaluable help given to her by Julie Bowman (who had selflessly helped Matt Newton prepare for the London Marathon earlier this year). Both Julie and Vicky comfortably managed sub-two hours and seemingly had more trouble finding their way back to the car. Agonisingly, though, Katrina Wood missed beating the two-hour mark by just 29 seconds. Yet she should still feel proud of her achievements; several weeks earlier injury looked to have threatened her participation at all.
Claire Ramsbottom was quick to praise friend Rachael Hawkins (who’d she travelled up with) and fellow Pumas after completing the race in just over 2 hours 16 minutes. “Super proud of myself, what an amazing event and couldn’t have done it without my amazing friend Rachael Hawkins and the fab Pumas,” she exclaimed post-race. Rachael, to her credit, finished in 2 hours 33:08.
Hard on her Yorkshire Lass Sportive thirty-mile bike ride four weeks ago, Sarah Firth donned running shoes to complete the Great North Run in a respectable 2 hours 16|:28, whilst Brett Swiffen and partner Rachel Calvert continued their impressive road to fitness. The vagaries of the system meant that Brett finished two places in front of Rachel, though she managed the course eight seconds faster!
Perhaps the final word should be left to Carla Roxann. After finishing her first half marathon, she paid tribute to the Pumas, and the run leaders in particular. “I just want to say a massive thank you to our run leaders! If it wasn’t for them, especially Ian Marshall, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did today at the Great North Run!” Carla only ran her first parkrun last April and joined the Pumas the following month. She’s put the work in and the long Sunday sessions have certainly paid off. Serving as an inspiration to others, Carla added, “For those who think you can’t do it, you can! I always told myself I couldn’t run, but I did!”
Northowram Pumas’ finishing positions and times were;
Whilst the Great North Run may have been grabbing all the media attention on Sunday, in an event a little closer to home, and one a little less congested, Alison Shooter, Adam Standeven and Shaun Casey were representing the Northowram Pumas in the must-do, sell-out Vale of York Half Marathon.
This event starts on a race track and ends by a runway and takes in scenic closed roads on the way. Setting off in Sherburn-in-Elmet, the route heads south-west before doubling back, going past the start line then veering off left up Lennerton Lane before turning right and continuing along Bishopdyke Road for almost a mile. The route then swings right into Scalm Lane; this may be the longest section but it’s also the most picturesque, with fields and woodlands to your left and right at any given time. At the crossroads with Broad Lane, the route turns a left then completes a clockwise loop, taking in Broad Lane, Windgate Hill Lane (the halfway point) and Long Lane, which winds its way around to eventually reach the Broad Lane-Scalm Lane crossroads, with just over four miles to go. Then it’s a case of retracing the route back along Scalm Lane and Bishopdyke Road, before completing the last mile by turning left into New Lennerton Lane.
The BBC cameras may have been conspicuous by their absence, and conditions slightly overcast, but the field of 1,621 runners soon warmed up after they were set on their way at 9.30am.
The Vale of York Half Marathon is depicted as fast and flat, and therefore reckons to be the perfect course to lower a runner’s personal best. Here, as far as Adam and Shaun were concerned, it didn’t disappoint. A little over an hour and half after setting off, Adam was #FPH, completing the course in 1hr 33:53, his fastest time to date over this distance – just. Two years ago, he completed the Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon six seconds slower! A little further down the field, Shaun Casey must have been satisfied with his new PB, finishing in 1hr 41:44 (at Liverpool in 2015, Shaun finished in 1hr 42:31). It’s hard to imagine that while they were finishing, many runners in the Great North Run in Newcastle wouldn’t even have reached the start line! Adam and Shaun only entered the race on Wednesday, wanting to be part of Strava’s attempt to create a world record (and helped in no small way by those using the app at the Great North Run) for the most half marathons run in a single day.
As for Alison Shooter. Well, she didn’t quite manage her own personal best (achieved, incidentally, at the Humber Bridge Half Marathon in June), coming home in 2hr 20:39, but she was, nevertheless, still proud to be a Puma!
Northowram Pumas’ positions, finishing times and category positions;
On Thursday (7 September), whilst enjoying a quiet drink with fellow Pumas, Simon Wilkinson was shocked when club chairman Andy Haslam gave him the news that not only had he been nominated for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Award, but that he’d actually gone on to win the darn thing itself. Simon was initially gobsmacked but he did take time out later to read a carefully prepared statement: “I’ve won!!”
Simon will be presented with his award at the Kingscroft Hotel, Pontefract, on Monday 2 October, and rest assured, full coverage of the event will be given here.
On Wednesday, Northowram Pumas celebrated their third anniversary of the formation of the club. Yes, it was in September 2014 that a team of four hardy leaders turned up and awaited the arrival of other willing participating runners. Around seventy turned up via word-of-mouth that first evening, and the club has never looked back. Today, we have a membership of over 150, and hold regular training runs three, sometimes four, days a week.
The four willing run leaders three years ago were Ian Marshall, Andy Haslam, Liz McDonnell and Katie Phillips. They were all in attendance on Wednesday, with Katie Phillips, who now runs for Bingley Harriers, making a welcome guest appearance. Invited to join us, as they were twelve months ago, were our friends form Sowerby Bridge Snails, with a nice array of distances from which they had to choose.
Leading the run/walking group were Laura Hattersley and Paul Hopkinson. For those wanted to run a little further, Julie Bowman, Wendy Hewitt and Laura Fairbank worked in tandem with the 3½ mile group, whilst Ian Marshall, Liz McDonnell (making a welcome return to the fold after several weeks away) and Katie Phillips reunited to lead the four-mile group. There were two groups running 4½ miles; Neil Coupe led his group down to Shibden, whilst Ally Canning took a scenic route through Coley and Norwood Green. Luke Cranfield and Peter Reason led out their group for a 5.7 miler which typically threw in a fair bit of off-road, whilst Adam Standeven plotted a nice loop of a route taking in Coley, Norwood Green, Lightcliffe and Hipperholme for those turbo-type runners.
Around thirty Snails joined us for the evening, and depending on capabilities, chose a running group to suit, though none were, it seemed, keen on Ally’s off-road route across fields and through woods (it was a pity because it was a nice night for such a stroll). Each group set off at 6.45pm, and everyone was back within the hour.
Afterwards, Pumas and Snails mixed in the bar, and many enjoyed the chilli rice/chips combo served up by Jacky Midgley and her small team of helpers. Later, we watched a short slide-show, the montage put together by Matt Newton, that showed how the Pumas have grown.
A pleasant evening all round; here’s what some of our guests said about it;
Jodie Smith: “Thank you Pumas for inviting us to celebrate your 3rd birthday! You’re a running club we look up to and we congratulate you on your success! We’ve had a lovely evening and the chilli was spot on.”
Laura Armstrong: “Thanks for a lovely run Pumas, really enjoyed it!”
Abi Clark: “I really enjoyed running through the fields and the chilli was a nice bonus.”
Nelle Page: “I enjoyed running thru fields and dodging cow pat strangely!”
Joanne Pollard: “Fantastic evening helping the Pumas celebrate their birthday. Worked my socks off tonight, although just over 6k it wasn’t the distance, just the pace, and the running through fields and woods, that’s hard work – and uphill for the last 1k. Loved talking to the horse and chatting with the Pumas, they made us all feel welcome. Thanks everyone. PS good delicious food.”
With thanks as always to Lisa Aspinall for use of most of the photos on here.