Footballers often use that old adage about taking each game as it comes. Runners could almost say the same, especially when events come thick and fast like they do over the festive period. Why, the three amigos Brook, Canning and Cranfield (sounds like a shoe shop chain) had only just finished the Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve when they were planning their next run – the very next day. Actually, the Giant’s Tooth seems to be a nice way to start any new year, a non-too taxing jaunt around the moors and Ogden water, and with a handy noon start, what’s not to like?
Our three dedicated runners were joined here by several other Pumas, with husband and wife team Rick and Anna Ralph, Robert Shirlaw, who loves this kind of event, and Gina Farley, who was representing her parent club Bradford Airedale, all managing to recover from ‘the night before’ to make it to the start line.
The start of the race is on the pathway running parallel to the water, a little distance from the main car parks, and the route winds through the woods then ascends the moors, reaching the Giant’s Tooth monument (hence the name of the race) at 1,257 feet, then continues higher to the summit at 1,291 feet before dropping back down through the woods to join the reservoir. Following the path anti-clockwise around the water, the route then veers off right back up through the woods to retrace the path downhill back to the finish. A distance of roughly three miles.
It was Tim Brook, 23rd, who once again found himself #FPH, whilst second Puma home was Rick Ralph (almost a full five minutes quicker than his time of 2017), with Robert Shirlaw the third Puma back. Luke kept Ally company and helped her shave off 1 minute and forty seconds from her time from the previous year. Anna Ralph was the last of the Puma contingent home, but her time of 33:07 was a marked improvement on her 34:56 of last year.
Penistone Hill Country Park, Sunday, 31 December, 2017.
It’s not every day you find yourself pitting your wits against an Olympic champion, but that’s exactly what Tim Brook, Luke Cranfield and Ally Canning found themselves doing at the annual Daleside Auld Lang Syne fell race on New Year’s Eve. This 9.6km event, organised for the last time by Woodentops’ Dave and Eileen Woodhead and raced over the moors above Haworth, is always a popular one with many entrants donning fancy dress, as is their wont. This year, those dressed as Santa Claus, elves, Batman, Daleks, bishops – you name it, they were all in the mix – as well as runners dressed in more conventional attire, came across a familiar face on the starting line. Some had to look twice to be sure, but yes, it was positively our double Olympic gold medallist triathlete Alaistair Brownlee MBE, although in fairness, this wasn’t a new event for him. He first entered in 2005 when he won the Under 18s race, and he’s triumphed in the senior race three times since them. Mr Brownlee would win this race, too, although it has to be said, his time of 44:54 was over three minutes slower than that of last year’s winner, Horwich’s Chris Farrell. So this lad is beatable.
The 368 runners once again set off from the disused quarry at Penistone and though this year there was no accompanying bagpipers, no one was in any doubt that this truly was the Auld Lang Syne. The route scales and descends the Haworth moors in a sort of out and back kind of manner. Early on, the runners slip and slide down the hillside before crossing the Sladen Beck, and then, weary legged, negotiate it once more on the way back in. The recent thawed snow and subsequent rain made the course a joy to behold, but no one expected anything less than a good rock and roll in the mud. One Todmorden Harrier, Martin Roberts, completed the course carrying a body board, which he utilised to good effect sliding down the muddy slopes.
The weather wasn’t particularly kind, with the runners facing a strong headwind as they climbed up to Top Withens. Ah, but its’s behind you on the way back. All the way around, Luke and Tim kept each other company, but the former stretched out as they approached the finish line at Haworth West End Cricket Club to record a time of 51:55. Luke, two places behind, was but thirteen seconds slower, whilst further down the field, Ally Canning completed the trying course to finish in 218th place. Luke said of the Auld Lang Syne course that he felt that it was a little wetter than the previous year, with the muddy hill more slippery to climb and descend this time around. There were also plenty of puddles on the tracks, too, so this might explain his time of 51:57 being almost a minute slower than that of his effort last year. But this would not necessarily explain how Ally managed to knock off almost ten minutes from hers! Ally’s had a fine year-end, not only being #FPH at the Halifax Christmas Day parkrun, but also clocking an overall personal best in the process.
When everyone was gathered in, Alistair Brownlee was happy to pose with fellow competitors for post-race photos. As #FPH Tim Brook, too, was ready for an autograph – but nobody asked him.
Positions and times of Olympic champions and Northowram Pumas;
1 Alistair Brownlee 44:54
43 Tim Brook 51:44
45 Luke Cranfield 51:57
218 Ally Canning 66:40
Photos courtesy of Mick Fryer, Linda Grundy and Kath Bridger.
Last Saturday saw the Northowram Pumas’ second hosting of the revived Coley Canter. After the success of the previous year, where the event attracted 72 willing participants, this year the number was greatly increased, to the extent that there were 129 lining up at the start.
Of course, events such as these take some organising, and while Andy Haslam acted as Race Director, without the help of the many marshals it couldn’t have gone ahead. There were many Pumas who were happy to stand at the strategic points for a good hour or more in the freezing cold to help the race go smoothly. But while the race organisers were indebted to them, there were in the large field of runners, a small sprinkling of Pumas who perhaps thought that running the Coley Canter might just be the lesser of the two evils, although in the event, it was questionable as to who had the most fun.
A decent downfall of overnight snow through Thursday and into Friday morning had given way to rain by the afternoon, which by Saturday morning had rendered the course in many places at best treacherous. But oh the joys, and how they loved it, although I’m not necessarily talking about the runners. Slippery downhill grassy pathways gave the runners a challenge barely half a mile in, and those that didn’t take a tumble were perhaps thankful for the boundary wall to which they clung on to for dear life.
There were many taking part in this race for the first time, so they weren’t perhaps so familiar with the route which crossed fields from Coley down to Syke Lane, followed tracks up into Norwood Green, headed out towards and into Judy Woods, up through the trees before it dropped down to negotiate the brook (with the advice being to tackle it whichever way suited you best), followed bridle paths then entered the woods and the inevitable steep climb up to Shelf Park, tracks and fields that headed back towards Coley, coming out on Coley Road itself and the run for home having crossed Denholmegate Road via farm and field to Westercroft Lane and the cricket field where it all started. Still got your breath?
There were laughs along the way, for sure, but for those with their eyes on the prizes, there was much work to be done. Making light of it was race winner Owen Beilby, who completed the course in 56:26, a time some five minutes slower than Gary Priestley, who won the event the previous year, albeit in better conditions. Beilby was followed home by the familiar Gavin Mulholland – third last year – but there was something even more recognisable about the runner next home; a Pumas vest. Yes, it was Tim Brook, and had Olympic medals been given out he would have taken bronze. As it was, he had to settle for age winner in the Male Over 35 section, beating Richard Harrison of St Theresa’s in the same category by half a minute, whilst Tim’s time of 1:00:28 was a Puma record, beating that set last year by #FPHs home Rick Heaton and Shaun Casey by well over twelve minutes.
Andy Barnes was second Puma home, finishing nineteenth, and Richard Ogden was third Puma in 24th, whilst first female Puma over the line was Diane Cooper. She finished 28th, not only second female home in the Ladies’ Over 45 section, but also the fourth Puma home. Further down the line, Rachael Hawkins and her two best friends Claire Ramsbottom and Andrew Mellor went through the mill together from start to finish, whilst just behind them, Glenn Ackroyd found the Coley Canter a whole different ball game to the Abbey Dash, and as such, didn’t have much to say!
The recent cold snap may have put paid to several local parkrun weekends, not to mention the second Winter League meeting up at Queensbury, but no Arctic blast was going to prevent the twenty-ninth staging of the endurance test that is otherwise known as The Stoop. Held up high on the moors above Haworth, the 8km fell race starts at Penistone Hill West End Quarry, climbs over tracks, pathways and a footbridge heading towards Harbour Lodge, before continuing up to the standing stone known as The Stoop and heading back down towards the finish at West End Cricket Ground.
The tough course this year was summed up nicely by one runner who, post-race, remarked, “I’d like to publicly massively thank Dave and Eileen [Woodhead, organisers of the event for the last time] for giving me and thousands of others a reight craic in the form of mud, bogs, weather, chocolate missiles, Santa hats, Soreen, Curly-Wurlies, beefy coffee and precarious Portaloos.” Which sort of gives you the idea of what The Stoop was all about.
Among the 245 starters in the senior race were three Pumas, namely Tim Brook, Ally Canning and Vicky Owen, wearing suitable attire in the form of waterproofs and mandatory Santa hat, thus disguising the traditional Puma yellow, red and black. Needs must, I suppose. Braving the elements was Lisa Aspinall, on hand to take some fab photos which illustrated fully how much the three Pumas really enjoyed the conditions.
The race was won by Pudsey & Bramley’s Harry Holmes in 31:06, a time that gives some indication of how well Tim did to finish 33rd in 38:21. The ever-improving Ally was 137th in 47:37, whilst Vicky finished 174th in 51:55.
The senior race had been preceded by a junior fun run and two junior races, run over one mile (Under 10,12,14s) and a two miler for the Under 17s. Eleven-year-old Finley Canning took part in the mile event and doubtless relished the climb of 150 feet. He finished 57th in a time of 9:11.
Sunday heralded the start of the West Yorkshire Winter League, with Dewsbury Road Runners, as they did last year, hosting the first race. But while generally there is usually an air of excitement for the start of any new season, I’m not sure that this applies here, if the comments of some of our Pumas are anything to go by. Having staggered round, the terms ‘brutal’ and ‘beast’ were used in certain quarters to describe the Mirfield-based course; Matt Newton also used a word beginning with ‘B’ but as this is a family-site, we won’t repeat it here, though he really should have known better, anyway. After all, he ran it last year so knew what to expect! In total, thirty-one Pumas – many with faces painted in the colours of the team to show they meant business – turned out on a chilly morning; doubtless the number would have been even greater but for those who were either injured, having a weekend away (no names mentioned, although this in turn meant that the tour bus was rendered inactive), or just not fancying it! The race was set for a 10.00am start, so there wasn’t too much hanging about trying to look over-excited.
The 5.7-mile course had been slightly tweaked from the previous year but it was no less challenging, containing as it did all the usual elements we all love so much; steep hills, troublesome woods, fields and thick mud in abundance. The race started with a loop of adjacent fields behind Hopton Mills, Hagg Lane, to help thin out the pack and thus avoiding much congestion further down the line, and then it was straight into the first major climb up into Hagg Wood, taking in what is affectionately known as the ‘Golf Course Climb’, closely followed by Scopsley Lane Climb, with Dewsbury Golf Course off to the runners’ left. Fixy Lane Dash Down offered some relief, but only in readiness for the toughest of the three climbs, that of Back Lane Climb, along the edge of Liley Clough, reaching the summit at 182 metres as they crossed the fields around halfway.
The downhill section of over 1k which followed was most welcome but legs would be getting weary as they crossed the fields and headed back towards Lily Clough Woods. Coming out of the north side, the course then ran along the edge of some fields before entering Whitley Wood and the arduous climb of 160 meters before picking up Back Lane and the return journey, giving the runners a nice downhill, if not tricky, stretch before finishing in the fields off Hagg Lane where they’d begun their assault.
So how did the Pumas fare? Well, given that several key runners were missing, they had a pretty productive day, and things certainly auger well for future races, particularly in the Ladies’ field. As expected, it was Tim Brook and Luke Cranfield who led the Pumas’ charge, Tim finishing fifteenth, just two places and, by my reckoning, nine seconds in front of Luke. These two were our first scorers, and they were ably backed up by Rick Ralph, Jude Roberts, Andy Barnes, Adam Standeven and Shaun Casey, with Tim, Rick and Jude picking up the points in the Veterans’ category.
Matt Newton (140th) followed Richard Ogden home, but only six places further back, and having the run the race of her life, was Ally Canning, who was the first female Puma home. Diane Cooper (a veteran, but not in the strictest sense), Jane Cole and Kirsty Edwards also scored points and by the end of the day’s play the Ladies team were sitting proudly in third place.
In the Supervets category, Jon Ding was the first to bring home the points, finishing 162nd, whilst the unsuspecting Mark Kirkby also managed to score. Needing a female to complete the set, this honour fell to Katrina Wood, who was first over-50 female Puma.
Elsewhere, there was a personal battle going on between Sarah Haigh, Dawn Higgins and Jo Clay, all three appearing in the finishing straight together, but Sarah winning the sprint for the line. One place behind, but oblivious to the mad-dash which had just preceded her, was Rachael Hawkins, whose run to the line was slightly more refined. But she must have had some concern for her new best friend, Andrew Mellor, who marked his Winter League debut by suffering a nasty gash to the knee following a fall (graphic photos of which later appeared on social media and are definitely not for the squeamish).
All-in-all, a pretty successful morning, and one that augers well for future races. Commander-in-chief Andrew Tudor described it as “a great team effort,” whilst Shaun Casey was heard to say that the Pumas roared loudest. To which we all concur.
Hats off to Jodie Knowles, who, having entered the Detroit Turkey Trot*, decided to make a holiday of it. Or was it the other way round? Either way, it does help if you’ve got family out there.
Jodie was one of 4,744 runners who lined up at 7.30am just a short hop from the Cobo Center [sic], in freezing conditions I might add, on Grisworld, 54ft 10in south of light pole on the South/East corner of Fort Street, for the start of the 10k race.
The event marking Thanksgiving Day is a family tradition that has been held in downtown Detroit for the past thirty-four years. There are a variety of races, with a 5k and a one-mile race to go alongside the 10k that Jodie’d put her name down for, but the occasion is much more than that. Here, thousands of participants dress in costumes for the event which is often declared “The Parade before The Parade”, where they “frolic by the largest spectator crowd in Michigan”.
I’ll understand many of you won’t be familiar with the route, or Detroit itself for that matter, but for the purists, the course runs northwards up Woodward Avenue, then swings back down at West Kirby, turning right into West Adams Street, then picking up Washington Boulevard, crossing Michigan Avenue, the turning right into West Fort Street. The route then continues for some way before looping back along 8th Street and Cabacier Street, picking up Jefferson Avenue, then veering off right onto Steve Yzerman Drive, running parallel with the Detroit River before finishing eight feet west of second light pole west of Cobo Center overhang. Got it?
The Detroit Turkey Trot has grown considerably over the years to the point where it’s almost impossible to run in the early stages, and this obviously impacted on runners’ finishing times. Jodie’s been lowering her 10k times over the past year, and at the Abbey Dash earlier this month she ran 52:38. Her time in Detroit of 55:01 was obviously slower (she’d have run faster had it not been for those pesky kids) but was still more favourable than her recorded times at the Helen Windsor in July and the Kirkwood Hospice in August. And what of her other stats? 425th female out of 2,297, and even more impressive, 65th in her age range Female 30-34 of 319 runners. Still something to shout about, I’d say.
Showered and changed, a slightly warmer Jodie then enjoyed the Thanksgiving Parade, and rounded off the day by attending the Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings at the Ford Field Stadium (for those with a passing interest by, Detroit lost their first game of the season under new head coach Jim Caldwell 30-23). As for the Turkey Trot, the race winner was Stephen Biebelhausen from Lake Orion in 32:12. Should he ever pop up at any of our local parkruns, remember the name.
There were 2,564 runners taking part in Sunday’s Conwy Half Marathon, among them Pumas’ own Brett Swiffen and Rachel Calvert, who, perhaps, had been attracted to the event after it had been voted in the top five most scenic half marathons in the land by readers of ‘Runners’ World’, writes a special correspondent.
Now in its ninth year, the Conwy Half Marathon has already been described as a “classic”, with the start and finish on the quayside in front of Conwy Castle which was built for King Edward 1 at the end of the thirteenth century. The route runs along the road adjacent to the Conwy River as it proceeds towards Deganwy beach and the West Shore Llandudno, and from there it goes along Church Walks towards Llandudno Pier, then around the Great Orme, taking in views of the Isle of Anglesey, Puffin Island and the surrounding North Wales coastline. The route then heads back towards Conwy and the finish line.
Two months earlier, both Brett and Rachel participated in the Great North Run, completing the 13.1 miles in 3h hours 21 minutes. Here, at Conwy, they had a great time and were both beaming at the end. Rachel said, “Best run of my life by far!” And Brett agreed, adding, “Today was honestly one of the happiest days of my life, the run was so amazing.”
And why were they feeling so good? Well, they’d not only taken over twenty minutes off their time from the Great North Run, but they’d also smashed the three-hour barrier as well. Fantastic achievement, I think we all agree. Rachel, feeling proud, later admitted that her body “aches from top to toe,” – and then the pair of them hopped into the hot tub.
Reflecting on how far they’ve come since joining the Pumas, Rachel said, “Massive thanks to the Pumas for your support and encouragement these past few months,” and gave special praise to Lauras Fairbank and Hattersley, Ian Marshall and Neil Coupe.
Brett also added that the Conwy Half Marathon was the most scenic race he’d even taken part in, and then suggested the Pumas put it on their calendar for next year. Any takers? Matt Newton?
“Do you fancy running this new event, it’s around Bolton Abbey?” was a question put to me. I reckoned I was up for that; after all, Bolton Abbey may be big, but it’s not that big. I duly signed up. Only later did I realise just what it was, in fact, that I’d registered for.
This Run Bolton Abbey event was being staged for the first time, raising money for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. There were four different races on offer; a 2k, 10k, ten-miler, and half-marathon. I’d signed up for the 10k, as had several other Pumas. Enough of us, in fact, for it being worthwhile Neil Coupe digging out the minibus once more to get us there.
A smooth drive up into North Yorkshire was halted once we’d reached the Bolton Abbey estate, and the first of many hitches encountered on the day. The 10k race was due for an 11.00am start, but clearly, with a massive queue of cars from the roundabout, the subsequent set-off times were put back. With our race numbers still to be collected, we didn’t need anything else to hamper us pre-race. And then the bus got stuck in the mud.
We were told beforehand that we would experience a mixture of paths, tracks, woodland trails and open land, taking in a run through Strid Wood, over Dicken Dike, a climb of the Valley of Desolation and the Launde Plantation and a stretch of Barden Fell. This was, to all intents and purposes, a “diverse range of surfaces and stunning landscapes all crammed into one challenging run.”
All races were preceded by the bugle-sounding of ‘The Last Post’, and a two minutes’ silence impeccably observed for Remembrance Sunday. Then the 10k runners were called to order, and packed in tightly on the tarmac in front of the Pavilion Café – where each race would eventually finish – we were sent on our way, ever slowly, negotiating the bridge over the River Wharfe, then winding our way single file up through the woods like school children on a nature trail. Yes, it was slow going, though hardly what you would call easy, as it was something of a climb. After a mile, one female runner was in trouble; struggling to breath, she was pulled out of the race by a marshal as we turned left onto a flat section of the course.
One female Puma showing no signs of trouble was Diane Cooper, who got away from the main pack of runners almost immediately, and benefitted from not having to queue for any length of time. I followed her for a while up through the first set of woods, and Neil Coupe was soon up alongside me. The course had punishing sections; while much of the 856-feet rise was a gentle incline, there were steep sections which tested the runners to the limits. We also had to negotiate a bridge, several stiles that, like the bridge, had runners queueing for ages and ages (twenty minutes in some cases), and a gate that one farmer, who, it would imagine, had agreed with the organisers beforehand to keep open, decided at the last minute to keep shut, necessitating a scramble. Just after this, the runners around me were taken on a sojourn we needn’t have taken, a loop around the moors amounting to an extra 1k. Just who was at fault, no one was sure, but speaking with runners later on, not everyone took this unnecessary route.
One person who clearly hadn’t was Gina Farley, for as we started the long descent to civilisation, she was there in front of me. I’d passed her at the start so I couldn’t work out at the time just how she’d managed to be in front of not only myself but Neil as well. Not that I cared too much; by this time, my race was over. Careering down from the top of the hillside, something ‘gave’ in my left knee, a sharp pain which caused me to stop immediately as I realised something was seriously wrong. I attempted to carry on, and even scaled the five-feet high wall at which I’d seen Gina climb over ahead of me. Neil waited his turn to use the part of the wall with foot rests, whereas I, in my haste, climbed it too, only to find myself plonked on top of barbed wire before levering myself down. I soldiered on, but the pain in my knee told me it was pointless exercise, and I ended up walking much of the remaining three miles back.
Which was a pity, for that section was the most enjoyable, not least because it was, in the main, flat. Having reached the bottom of the hill, the runners took a gravel path then over a field before taking the bridge into the woods and making the run for home along the trail that ran parallel to the river. Neil, who had passed me twice already in the race, overtook me a third time on the field and would be second Puma home, Diane by this time well ahead of him. For Diane, someone who’s been out of action for quite some time, the race was a triumph of sorts, not only #FPH by finishing 85th in 1:03:29, but also first home in her category Female 45, which comprised 62 runners. That seems quite impressive.
Neil Coupe was next home, his frustrations at this self-christened ‘caveman running’ extending beyond the finish line. The published results not only had him down as representing Marsh Harriers, his time was recorded at 1:09:11, nearly six minutes after Diane, even though he saw her finishing in the distance. Neil’s Strava time was deemed a truer reflection, but subsequent correspondence with the race organisers have yet to iron out this discrepancy.
Katrina Wood ran well to finish third Puma home, whilst Gina Farley, who ran in the colours of her first claim club Bradford & Airedale, finished in 1:11:10. Further down the list, I walked over the line having being passed by five other Pumas in the woods, obviously disappointed in the way things had panned out, but heartened by the concern I’d been shown by not only my fellow Pumas, but also runners I’m never likely to recognise ever again. I must have sounded like a well-worn record, though, trying to explain that my knee had gone rather than just being tired, although the young lady, with the right intentions, didn’t quite believe me when she grabbed hold of my hand whilst inviting me to run over the line with her.
Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;
85 Diane Cooper 1:03:29
175 Neil Coupe 1:09:11 (Strava 1:04:21)
200 Katrina Wood 1:09:39
201 Gina Farley 1:11:10
287 Shana Emmerson 1:17:41
381 Jo Coupe 1:25:03
463 Carolyn Brearley 1:32:02
484 Sara Britton 1:33:50
502 Johnny Meynell 1:36:36
551 Carla Sharp 1:42:54
577 Eileen O’Brien 1:46:18
It had been a testing run, the lengthy and frustrating hold-ups at the stiles not helped by the bitterness of the cold. No, it wasn’t a warm morning by any stretch of the imagination. So, to that end, each Puma was no doubt delighted to have reached the finish line and happy that they didn’t have to go any further. I mean, who would? Oh wait…
TEN MILE RACE
The field of 307 runners who lined up for the start of the ten-mile event included two Pumas, Jane Cole and Matt Newton, although, if the stories are to be believed, both not too sure as to how they ended up being there. Jane had contemplated running this event but not entered, only to take the place of the unfortunate Helen Jackson, who’d had to withdraw through injury. Jane thought Helen had put her name down for the 10k race, so must have been delighted in the end to find out that she was now running the race of her choice. As for Matt, nobody’s certain, but his tale of pressing the wrong event button when applying online is quite believable. Only him…
Their race started after the 10k runners were on their merry way, and once they’d set off, they did at least manage to get a decent view of the Abbey in all its splendour, as their route headed out in that direction – a nice flat section, too – before crossing the river and making the arduous ascent of the fields in the direction of Stead Dike. These runners, too, had their ‘stile breaks’, Jane claiming she had to wait “half an hour” at 7.3 miles. Still, as they climbed higher – the summit was reached at 1,034 feet – they got a better view, and, having started the decent, and at around half way, they picked up the route of the 10k race, so they still had the pleasure of the shut gate and the five-feet high wall and queues.
Matt Newton was the first of the pair home, finishing 33rd, whilst Jane was some fourteen minutes behind.
Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;
33 Matt Newton 1:40:38
72 Jane Cole 1:54:21
After everyone had picked up their goody bag and novelty medal (one that Mark Brook could only look at in envy), we all reconvened in the Pavilion Café to warm ourselves through. Later, the organisers, while pleased with the fact that they managed to set off a total of 1,370 runners in four different events within eight minutes, later admitted there were faults, particularly with the 10k race. They also gave credit to all the marshals, some of whom had found themselves shivering in the cold for up to five hours. This, however, cut no ice with one or two of our runners. Neil Coupe, having been given a finishing time some five minutes slower than he’d run, demands a refund, whilst Sara Britton claims she’d gladly go back – but only to walk the dogs.
Who’d be a race organiser, eh? (The Coley Canter is on Saturday, 30 December, btw).
How did you get involved with the Pumas? I helped set Pumas up and was involved from the start!!!
One of the first four run leaders in September 2014.
I run because… (some people might have started to run in someone’s memory etc) It helps me stay healthy!! I’ve run since I was very young, my parents run!!
By joining the Pumas, what were/are you hoping to get out of it? (eg simply to keep fit, improve your running, run faster). It’s easier to run if you have company and you get to meet fabulous friends.
Do you have any personal goals and running aims? Get faster!
Did you run before you joined the club, or is it totally new to you? Do you or did you do any other sports? I can’t remember ever not running. I’ve run since I was young and probably did my first run aged ten, I think ! I spent many a weekend with my parents going to different running events. When I was 22, I ran my first and only marathon – the London Marathon.
What’s your favourite part of being involved with the Pumas? Finding new places to run.
Have you got any favourite routes? I like to run around Norwood Green and Coley. I enjoy running off-road.
What do you find the biggest drag in running? Starting!
How do you feel you have benefited from joining the Pumas? It keeps you running in the winter months and you can enter more races.
Have you taken part in any organised events? (eg Overgate 10k, Leeds Half Marathon). Yes, loads.
If so, what was your most memorable run? I love the Calderdale Way Relay. I also loved the Oxenhope Straw Race, mainly because you get to drink loads of beer when you’ve finished it!
What most people don’t know about you is…I’m a nurse!
If you were stuck on a desert island what would your luxury item be? 🙂 🙂 🙂
If you were stuck on a desert island who would you like to be there with? My constant comanion Levi (the dog) who would always run around with me.
If you were stuck on a desert island name your three favourite songs (at least one should be your favourite song to run to)? My favourite song is ‘Over the Rainbow’ sung by Eva Cassidy, though it’s not one to run to. I’ll run to anything else that makes me run faster!
There was something rather eye-catching among the several thousand runners meandering up and down Kirkstall Road for this year’s Abbey Dash; the throng was awash with yellow, red and black, the colours of the Northowram Pumas who had turned out in force for this event. You’d think they were taking over. But don’t think this was any accident. Au contraire; the planning had actually been meticulous in the extreme and, in fact, had taken several months.
Strategist Ian Marshall had whipped up his troops into shape. Regular attendees at Monday and Wednesday training nights would see how these ‘Abbey Dashers’ (as they became affectionately known) had grown in number and had risen to the challenge that would ultimately see them complete an organised 10k race, many for the first time. Training runs had lengthened over the weeks, and as the day drew nearer, Ian had managed to authenticate the conditions by throwing in a water station at Wibsey halfway around a six-mile route he’d drawn up. Of course, with the group being as large as it was – sometimes there were more than forty pounding the streets of Northowram and beyond – Ian had to call upon a willing body of helpers to assist, and to that end, Alison Shooter, Paul Hopkinson, Laura Fairbank, Laura Hattersley, Peter Reason and Simon Wilkinson deserve a mention.
On the eve of the run, Ian drafted up a check-list for each and every runner, then ended with the cautionary advice that all runners should prepare for the race itself by keeping away from nightclubs. And to ensure they observed this, Ian thus found himself having to trawl places such as Yates’, the Roxy and the Smokehouse (not necessarily in that order) on Saturday night. Just to be sure.
To transport the runners to Leeds, the club hired a coach and having met up at the club, by 7.45 most of the runners had jumped on board like eager children on a school outing. Pleasantly, the Pumas lot were better behaved. The radio wasn’t working, so there was no pre-race motivational music, and the only song to be heard was the chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ which everyone sang to Sharon Reason. She wasn’t divulging her age, and the six candles on the cake she was later presented with didn’t offer any clues (although Neil Coupe did suggest each candle represented ten years). Of the runners on the bus, a show of hands revealed nineteen were running their first 10k.
In Leeds, the coach party met up with other Pumas who’d gleefully made their own way there, and at the last count, there was a staggering total of sixty-five Pumas shuffling into the respective starting pens, each one buzzing like bees around the honey pot, and looking much the same. It’s a testimony to how far this club has grown, and how everyone just seems to really enjoy it.
Of course, there were seasoned Puma runners taking part in the race, some willing to lend a hand (or legs) by acting as pacers to help some of the Abbey Dashers achieve their personal goals. Here, we had Matt Newton (fifty minutes), Peter Reason (55), Neil Coupe (60), Alison Shooter (65), Laura Fairbank (75), Laura Hattersley (85), and, of course, floater Ian Marshall himself, each pacer hoping to adhere to the rule of the old Trumpton clock; steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly. Except Matt Newton.
There was a great deal of hanging around before the runners were unleashed, and it wasn’t as if it was a particularly warm morning, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Still, unlike the boys from the press, at least the runners would get to warm up once they were on their way. The sun did put in an appearance but it was only half-hearted, though that’s something that can’t be labelled at our runners, many of whom, if not running 10k for the first time, managed to slash seconds and minutes off their previous best times.
The Abbey Dash is what’s considered a fast route. Starting from Wellington Street, the runners headed straight up the A65, turning around at the 5k point at the entrance to the Abbey House Museum and in the shadows of the ruined Kirkstall Abbey itself. The route then headed back down the A65, veering off left to take up the A58 for the last half mile, and finishing on the Headrow in front of City Hall.
The elite and sub-fifty runners were off on time at 9.30am, and when they’d all past through the starting gates, the rest of the field, which had sifted down, were released and in time everyone was on their way. By the time the Abbey Dash was over, 8,890 runners had passed over the finish line.
Many of those at the back of the pack had only just reached the 1k mark, close to fire station, when the leading runners appeared down the other side of the A65 on their final stretch. They were led home by Sam Stabley of Wreake and Soar Valley, and he finished in 29 minutes thirteen seconds. First female home was Eilisha McColgan (daughter of former 10,000m World Champion and Olympic medallist Liz McColgan) who finished in 32:05, a course record for a woman.
For any race, there was to be #FPH, and here – as if anyone was surprised – it was Tim Brook. He’d gone sub-forty minutes at the Kirkwood Hospice two months earlier and was heard to say before the race that he was hoping to go below thirty-nine minutes. He not only managed this with consummate ease, but literally smashed this target by finishing in under 38 minutes – just for good measure. And so a trend was set as personal bests literally tumbled.
Paul and Jenny Hopkinson – in that order – were running under the Halifax Harriers banner once more, but Paul has given much to the Abbey Dashers over the past few months he could easily qualify as a Puma. They were next past the post – six seconds apart if the chip times are to be believed. Then came Kirsty Edwards, first female Puma, in a ground-breaking time of 47:18. Tom O’Reilly managed to beat the 48-minute barrier, then came Matt Newton with his charges. Matt was meant to be pacing at fifty minutes, but swayed along by the runners around him and the support from the side-lines, he not only went around in 47:44, he also managed to help Jane Cole and Paul Bottomley to times they could hitherto only have dreamed of. Jane crossed the line with Matt, whilst Paul, on the brink of exhaustion, was just seven seconds behind. They both paid tribute to Matt and his pacing, with Jane saying, “It was absolutely fantastic! A massive thank you to all the pacers who forfeited their own time to help the rest of us out! You all rock!” Glenn Ackroyd had much to owe Matt as well. He’d kept him in sight for much of the time on the way to PB of 49:45. He was cock-a-hoop, and had he been allowed to shout it from the City Hall rooftop, he doubtless would have done. His reaction was to rant in the manner of Norwegian commentator Bjørge Lillelien following his side’s World Cup qualifier victory over England in 1981: “Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher…are you watching?!” Glenn stopped short of saying, “Your boys took a hell of a beating” but his previous time over 10k of 53:05 certainly did.
Finishing over four hundred places behind Glenn was Jon Ding. But don’t be fooled by this; evidently, Jon had started much further back in the pens and had therefore taken some time to cross the start line which activated his chip. Once he’d got going, he waltzed around the course and was fourth fastest Puma in a time of 46:29, easily his best-ever. Similarly, Andrew Mellor finished in 51:14, a whole five minutes faster than last year’s effort. Andrew has been continually chipping seconds off his 10k times, but his time here was clearly a personal best for him. Pity that his lengthy grey socks that almost reached his knees became such a talking point; one wonders if he’d got them for another occasion, but then again Andrew is doing the Amsterdam trip next February.
Jo Clay and Dawn Higgins were both very satisfied with their runs. Jo’s been out of action for quite some time and had done so very little training of late, so she was more than happy with her time of 52:10. And Dawn, running in her first-ever race at this distance, was delighted to have run 52:36 and put it down to the training she’s been doing with the Pumas. “I’m so glad I joined,” she smiled, and praised everyone for all their help and encouragement.
Pacer Peter Reason helped guide Claire Ramsbottom and Jodie Knowles to sub 53-minute times. Claire was “over the moon” with her time, and Jodie claimed she would never have kept that sort of pace running on her own. Peter helped both Claire and Jodie to personal bests – of course. Afterwards, Jodie said, “Brilliant outing today, thank you to everyone who made it happen. This is what being part of Pumas is all about.” Also dipping below 53 minutes was Gina Farley, running this distance for only the second time. She ran a superb race and was “well happy” with her time which was a new record for her.
And what of Mark Brook? He’s setting new records every time he goes out, which at the moment appears to be every week. Having set a PB at the Bradford City Runs just seven days earlier, who’d have thought he would have gone even faster so soon? Don’t underestimate this kid; anyone who saw him charging past other runners in the dash for the line would think he does this for a living (actually, he almost does). His image was but a blur on film, and he knocked nearly half a minute off his Bradford time.
And like Mark, Tiffany Lewis also ran at Bradford, albeit in the half marathon. No doubt she found the Abbey Dash a tad easier, and her ever-improving standards saw her clock 57:14, her fastest over this distance. Also cracking the 58-minute barrier was Bryonie King. She’d taken part in her first-ever race at Bradford the previous week, so this was her second. When asked how she felt upon completing the Dash, she replied, “Exhausted,” but was still all smiles. Not too far behind her was Sarah Firth, who had started the race with her friends Sunny Kanda and Mel Rainford. They both beat her to the finish line, but Sarah claims they’ll never beat her to the bar. Charlotte Reason was the youngest Puma in the race and she ran her fastest time over this distance to finish in 57:50. Also just managing to finish under 58 minutes was Nichola Mathieson, helped in no small way by Neil Coupe, who paced her round. She was quick to praise him, and added, “An amazing day with a fantastic club who all support each other. Well done everyone.” Carolyn Brearley, too, also set a PB over 10k, clocking 57:31, a time that she was clearly pleased with.
For those runners whose goal was to beat the one-hour mark, nine must have been particularly pleased. Emma James is beginning to look the part; why, she even painted her nails in the colours of the Pumas (but not the yellow!) especially for the occasion. She’s been adding Friday night runs to the Monday sessions and this paid off with a satisfying time of 58:05. Lisa Bennett completed her first ever 10k, and thanked partner Ian Evans for encouraging her and Ian Marshall for persevering with her. “I did what I set out to do – finish in under an hour,” she said afterwards. She came close to 58 minutes, actually, whilst also beating the hour mark with time to spare were other debutants Louise Smith and Katherine Scargill. Katherine felt “chuffed” with her time and gave credit once more to the Pumas for getting her back into running. “It has done me the world of good both mentally and physically,” she said.
Alison Wilkinson ran the Abbey Dash last year, but despite not being as fast this time around was still pleased to maintain the form that kept her under sixty minutes. And Jo Coupe was running a landmark event; her first under her newly married name! She ran faster last year, but still managed a sub-sixty minute this time. As did Shana Emmerson; she went under 54 minutes a year ago and went around here in 58:46. However, she was still upbeat: “Not my best time, but happy to finish in under an hour,” she admitted, before adding “It’s the furthest I’ve run in a while!” She’s also recently been holidaying in Portugal, so perhaps hadn’t re-acclimatised! Adele Speight was the last of the Pumas to dip under the hour-mark, and she had a word or two for her running colleagues, saying “Thanks again Ian for your support and to everybody for making me feel welcome. I love running with the Pumas!” But spare a thought for Christine Baines and what might have been; just another foot quicker and she too would have just gone under that magic hour. Instead, she finished dead on sixty minutes. It’s still a great time, though, and if she’d been looking to get close to the hour, it could at least be said that she timed it to perfection!
There were several Pumas whose next aim is surely to run under that mark, for they came pretty close here. Once his partner Lisa Bennett had left him en route, Ian Evans encouraged Cathy Heptinstall, and she finished just eight seconds over the hour. She was full of praise, though, for all the help she’s had since joining the Pumas, saying, “Thank you Pumas, had a great day, couldn’t have done it without all the training and commitment from all the leaders.” Kelly Smith, who’s been coming on steadily, helped herself to a personal best over this distance and was quick to praise everyone for the whole day, saying, “The day was super organised, thank you to all the run leaders as they all provide encouragement and support. I’m proud to be a Puma.” Meanwhile, Simone Brook and Louise Heath kept each other company throughout as they both completed their first-ever 10k races. Both were delighted with their times, and had no ill-effects. Said Louise, “Well, I’ve done my first 10k and surprisingly I feel ok!”
Injury had prevented Helen Doyle from taking part in last year’s Abbey Dash, but back fighting fit, she completed it in 1:01:16 whilst raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. “Better late than never!” she quipped before adding, “I absolutely loved it.” Joanne Shaw wasn’t too far behind. When she first joined the Pumas, she wasn’t convinced she could run even half this distance, so to knock off a time of 1:01:30 was quite a performance, even if she did describe the experience as “painful”! And let’s not forget Stuart Thornton, who was running with the Pumas for the first time. He looked a figure totally focussed on the way out; and just as determined on the run for home.
Three Pumas finished exactly on or came close to one hour three minutes. Sara Britton, Carly Dunnachie and Jess Wilson were separated by ninety-one places – but only three seconds apart! Whilst Richard Kennedy, a Puma for only a couple of months, completed the course in 1:03:55. “Thanks Ian et al. As a relative newbie it’s been great to progress from 5k Parkruns to 10k in a relatively short space of time. Definitely inspired to go for the next challenge,” said Richard after he finished.
Then there was the small gang that Alison Shooter paced around. Alison’s last outing was the Worksop Half Marathon two weeks earlier, so a distance such as this would pose no problem for her. I’m not sure if Tamara Gibson and Melanie Meleschko felt the same, but they were, nevertheless, grateful to Alison. Actually, Melanie’s major concerns about the Abbey Dash weren’t so much whether she’d manage to complete it or not, more the practical arrangements, such as the availability of toilets, losing everyone, forgetting where the bus was, missing the bus or even being sick on it on the way back! She was even concerned about smelling all sweaty and that. Well, Melanie, nobody noticed – or said anything, at least! – and just to make sure she didn’t get lost, Alison and Tamara got hold of her and they all crossed the line hand-in-hand.
It was nice to see Gill Holmes up and about ready to represent the Pumas once more; she has one Winter League race to her name. She finished in 1:04:44, exactly the same time that Lorna Ludlum recorded. And it was a bit of a turn up for the books for Claire Crossley, who had been adamant that despite training with the Pumas, she wasn’t going to participate in any races. That is, until Caroline Malone realised that her holiday in New York clashed. What to do, eh? Get someone else to do it for you, which is how Claire found herself in the starting pens, and, to her credit, she completed the Dash in just over one hour and five minutes.
Rebecca Stanley and Philippa Denham ran round together, Rebecca knocking two minutes off the time she ran at Sheffield in September, whilst Philippa went slightly betterm, beating her own previous best by almost three minutes. She clearly enjoyed it all. “What a great day. I love being a Puma and all you run leaders are the best,” she exclaimed. Lisa Harrison admitted to feeling “nervous” pre-race, but cast any doubts aside to finish in 1 hour and six minutes, whilst for Sharon Reason, she was given a real birthday treat, being guided home by none other than Ian Marshall himself. It was indeed an honour for Sharon, as Ian’s blue shorts are rarely seen this side of Westercroft. And another of our run leaders, Laura Fairbank, acted as chaperone to young Katie Healey, who excelled herself to finish in 1:13:03. Katharine Barnett has completed the Great North Run dressed as a unicorn, so without drawing the attention to herself and being dragged over for a live BBC interview, she ran the full course without stopping, something of which impressed herself. She was another to praise those run leaders at the club, saying, “All credit to you and your amazing team. It’s you guys who draw us in, keep us motivated and make it worthwhile. You’re all fantastic.”
Bringing the Pumas’ team home were those from the Beginners/Walking group, often led on a Monday evening by Laura Hattersley. Becky Jackson finished 1:10:36, whilst some ten minutes further back was the distinctive sight of Kathy Towers. Brett Swiffen and partner Rachel Calvert, with one eye on next year’s London Marathon, used the Abbey Dash to help get some mileage in, whilst Laura, herself, perhaps felt obliged to make sure all of her charges arrived back safely, and brought up the rear.
It really was an exceptional effort by everyone, and along those lines, a clearly proud Ian Marshall said, “Today has been a momentous day in the club’s history. When we set up the club [three years ago] never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be represented by approximately eighty runners across the junior and adult races. I am confident that this is the Pumas’ biggest turnout.” Ian went on to give thanks to several people who had helped out, including those race leaders who had perhaps sacrificed their own personal bests to help others achieve theirs. One of whom was Peter Reason, who spoke volumes, “Amazing day, amazing club. If anybody would have said what this year would bring, I wouldn’t have believed it. Had so much fun and met so many new friends at the club. Seeing you all finishing and getting PBs today was better than myself getting a PB. Here’s to the next achievement.” Hear, hear!
The morning didn’t end there, either. For those that were inclined, there was the retreat back to the club where butties were served up – huggins of them – by Jacky Midgley, Simon Wilkinson and their team – bacon, sausage, fried egg butties. Laura Fairbank considered it a result when she held out for one of everything. Tea and coffee went down well, as did the post-race banter. What other club looks after its runners like this?
And to those Pumas who ‘accidentally’ found themselves in more exotic or exciting climes such as New York and Milan, you don’t know what you were missing. Still, there’s always next year….
In most cases, the finishing positions of each Puma didn’t correspond with the times recorded; it all depended on where each runner started from and when each crossed the start line to activate their chip. But for the record, in order of how each crossed the finishing line, this is the complete list of Pumas’ positions and times;
520 Tim Brook 37:57
1465 Paul Hopkinson 44:21
1472 Jenny Hopkinson 44:26
1905 Kirsty Edwards 47:18
2022 Tom O’Reilly 47:54
2076 Matt Newton 47:44
2078 Jane Cole 47:44
2089 Paul Bottomley 47:51
2381 Glenn Ackroyd 49:45
2675 Johanne Clay 52:10
2708 Dawn Higgins 52:36
2815 Jon Ding 46:29
3280 Tiffany Lewis 57:14
3440 Andrew Mellor 51:14
3571 Gina Farley 52:54
4092 Peter Reason 52:20
4128 Claire Ramsbottom 52:29
4159 Jodie Knowles 52:38
4889 Joanne Coupe 59:06
4899 Bryonie King 57:25
5223 Sarah Firth 57:44
5290 Charlotte Reason 57:50
5541 Louise Smith 58:28
5625 Katherine Scargill 58:26
5651 Mark Brook 53:47
5770 Adele Speight 59:24
5897 Emma John-Baptiste 58:05
5976 Alison Wilkinson 58:48
6023 Helen Doyle 1:01:16
6103 Joanne Shaw 1:01:30
6249 Christine Baines 1:00:00
6294 Carolyn Brearley 57:31
6312 Sara Britton 1:03:01
6317 Neil Coupe 57:47
6328 Nichola Mathieson 57:49
6351 Carly Dunnachie 1:03:02
6390 Lisa Bennett 58:23
6403 Jess Wilson 1:03:00
6438 Shana Emmerson 58:46
6054 Stuart Thornton 1:01:11
6510 Tamara Gibson 1:04:19
6511 Alison Shooter 1:04:19
6512 Melanie Meleschko 1:04:19
6582 Gill Holmes 1:04:44
6674 Claire Crossley 1:05:05
6675 Ian Evans 1:00:12
6700 Cathy Heptinstall 1:00:08
6836 Louise Heath 1:00:49
6837 Simone Brook 1:00:48
6868 Richard Kennedy 1:03:55
6775 Kelly Smith 1:00:35
6981 Lorna Ludlam 1:04:44
7068 Rebecca Stanley 1:05:24
7072 Philippa Denham 1:05:26
7313 Sharon Reason 1:09:29
7316 Ian Marshall 1:09:30
7551 Lisa Harrison 1:06:01
7590 Katherine Barnett 1:09:13
7961 Laura Fairbank 1:10:25
7962 Katie Healey 1:13:03
8106 Rebecca Jackson 1:10:36
8653 Kathy Towers 1:20:46
8709 Rachel Calvert 1:23:31
8711 Brett Swiffen 1:23:32
8864 Laura Hattersley 1:36:05
Junior Abbey Dash
The 10k Abbey Dash was preceded by the Juniors’ 2k race, which took the runners up the A65 as far as the fire station, then back up to the finish on the Headrow. Northowram Pumas were represented by fifteen runners, one of whom, eight-year-old Elizabeth Lyons, was willing to give us her take on the experience:
“On a cold November morning, fifteen Pumas set off to do the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash. We did the warm-up and then all of us set off. It was great fun racing against all of my friends and seeing if I could beat my time. We did a lap and then everyone finished at the Town Hall, collected their chocolate bar, medal, Abbey Dash T-shirt and then lined up to go home. I beat my target and did the Dash in 10 minutes. I was very happy. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
Tim Brook and partner Lisa Aspinall kept Mei-Lyn’s entry to the race a secret until the night before, so how thrilled she must have felt! It must have felt almost like Christmas, and I bet she hardly slept with the excitement of it all. Jude Kenny and Reuben Bartkiw, though finishing separately, recorded identical times and were the first two Pumas home.