West Yorkshire Winter League, Race Two,

Middleton Park, Leeds, Sunday, 7 January, 2018.

Judging by the reactions of almost every runner who crossed the finish line at the end of the second West Yorkshire Winter League race on Sunday, that was some tough run. But South Leeds Lakers, who staged the race for the first time – and pulled it off in style – clearly needed to put everyone to the test, and the course they eventually mapped out certainly did that.

The sunlight casts itself over Middleton Park on a glorious crisp winter’s morning, as Jude Roberts and Robert Shirlaw lead the charge.

The Northowram Pumas were out in force again, with Cpt Coupe de-icing the tour bus in time to take a contingent of the team to Middleton Park. It was another great turn-out; all told, there were thirty-one Pumas on show. The cold snap wasn’t going to deter this lot, although it did play havoc with the original route that had been designed by the hosts. The race organisers were out by first sunlight on the Sunday morning to check that the course passed health and safety legislation, and ever the careful planners, when a section of the course was deemed too hazardous due to ice, they reverted to their cunning Plan B, and arrangements to put this in place meant there was a twenty-minute hold up for the start of the race.

That’s Andy. Messrs Haslam and Barnes in deep thought.
Winter League debutant Chris Crabtree finds that this is a slightly more different proposition than running up Westercroft.

Put simply, what the competitors now faced was a two-lapped course around Middleton Park, the first loop slightly longer than the second. But that’s not saying much, when the challenge before the near four hundred runners asked much of limbs and lungs. The start was straightforward enough, a single anti-clockwise loop of the field the runners started in, before the route took them out into the sticks, dropping down a steep hill, left up a long incline of rubble and old tarmac, up a muddy hill then up into the park. Lined by leave-less trees, this track is obviously more picturesque in summer, but most of the runners wouldn’t have had time to admire the scenery anyway as the route winded around the perimeter of the park, climbing to its zenith at 474 feet around the halfway mark on the first loop. A long stretch of downhill on the tarmac was most welcome, then there was a climb of a mud hill, followed by a left turn onto a grass path which eventually led the runners back to the field where they’d started. Only to do it all again! When the runners had reached this point a second time, there was the flat run to the finish line ahead, a total of, depending on whose Strava app you want to believe, of around 5.5 miles.

Sarah Haigh, Paula Snee and Julie Bowman crowd out a Stainland Lion (Michelle Rogerson).
Captain Caveman himself. Neil Coupe clearly enjoying the experience.

Inevitably, some runners found the going easier than others, though that’s not to say that anyone found it easy. In fact, the finish line videos showed most, if not all, on the point of exhaustion. But however hard Tim Brook pushed himself, and he was among the front runners from the start, he still summoned up enough energy for one last surge to pip Tom Langdon (Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club) to finish eleventh, roaring like a real Puma as he crossed the line. Luke Cranfield was six places behind him, and making up the scoring in the Male team were Rick Ralph, Jude Roberts, Robert Shirlaw (the first Super Vet Puma home), Andy Barnes and Andy Haslam to give them a seventh place finish on the day from the thirteen competing clubs. The first female Puma home was Veteran Diane Cooper in 162nd pace, and she was backed up for the team points by Ally Canning, Kirsty Edwards and Paula Snee, and the Pumas’ Female team finished on the day in sixth place.

It’s often been said that dogs are a man’s best friend. But there’s a time and a place.
Claire Ramsbottom is followed by Katrina Wood as they attempt to nullify the threat of Queensbury’s Zoe Hipwell.
Making her Winter League bow was Kathryn Cleaver, seen here trying to negotiate unfamiliar terrain.

The Veterans’ scorers of Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Diane Cooper helped the team to an impressive fifth place finish, whilst the Supervets’ scorers Robert Shirlaw, Jon Ding and Katrina Wood saw them finish on the day in ninth position. With a combined Male and Female total of 2,801 points, Pumas finished overall in sixth position.

Let me hear you roar. Tim Brook duly obliges as he pips Tom Langdon on the line to finish eleventh.

Elsewhere down the line there were stories to be told. Chris Crabtree completed his first-ever Winter League race, finishing 115th, whilst Simon Wilkinson, 242nd, felt the course was a tough one, but anyone who’d filled up over the Yuletide period on cheese and chocolate was Bounty. The aforementioned Paula Snee, who was initially listed as a second Neil Coupe, excelled herself to finish just three places behind Simon. There’s no real reason why she should have been confused with Neil, other than the fact that she dislikes this sort of event as much as he does (but doesn’t tell us). Neil, on the other hand, likens all this Winter League stuff to caveman-running, and we’re still awaiting the day when he runs with a club in one hand whilst beating his bare chest with the other as he darts through the forest.

Diane Cooper was first female Puma home, but snaps of her in action proved quite elusive. She was going so fast, obviously. But she appears here about to leave Skipton’s Michael Fothergill in her wake.

Rachael Hawkins’ appearance as she crossed the finishing line also confused the organisers, probably because she didn’t have her friends with her. When she identified herself, she then asked if she’d won, almost as if she had been dreaming and suddenly awoken from her slumber by a South Leeds Laker. I wonder who had the heart to tell her she’d just missed out? Rachael was, in fact, 326th, one place ahead of Kathryn Cleaver, who was running her first Winter League race. Jo Coupe finished in time to cheer home Carolyn Brearley and deafen the video man in the process, whilst just beating Carolyn was Helen Jackson, now getting back into the swing of things after injury. Emma James, also making her Winter League debut, was the last – but certainly not the least – Puma home and by the look on her face, she clearly enjoyed the experience (not).

“So, did you enjoy your first experience of the West Yorkshire Winter League?” Emma James tries to find a suitable answer.

Northowram Pumas’ positions;

11 Tim Brook MV

17 Luke Cranfield M

46 Rick Ralph MV

63 Jude Roberts MV

92 Robert Shirlaw MSV

95 Andy Barnes MV

103 Andy Haslam MV

114 Shaun Casey MV

115 Chris Crabtree M*

121 Andrew Tudor MV

153 Richard Ogden MV

162 Diane Cooper FV

169 Matt Newton M

176 Ally Canning F

195 Kirsty Edwards FV

211 Jon Ding MSV

219 Tom O’Reilly MV

222 Neil Coupe MV

242 Simon Wilkinson M

245 Paula Snee FV

240 Julie Bowman FV

253 Sarah Haigh FV

261 Victoria Owen F

292 Ian Evans M

296 Andrew Mellor MV

304 Claire Ramsbottom F

308 Mark Kirkby MSV

326 Rachel Hawkins F

327 Kathryn Cleaver FV

328 Katrina Wood FSV

331 Jodie Knowles F

349 Gabriella Kenny FV

353 Tiffany Lewis FV

372 Jo Coupe FV

379 Helen Jackson FV

380 Carolyn Brearley FV

381 Emma John-Baptiste FV

397 runners.


With thanks to Smith Photography, Lisa Aspinall and Robert Samuels for use of photos.

Giant’s Tooth,

Ogden Water, Monday 1 January, 2018.

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.

Pumas’ positions and times;

23 Tim Brook 20:57

27 Rick Ralph 21:12

56 Robert Shirlaw 23:25

84 Ally Canning 25:35 (27:15)

85 Luke Cranfield 25:37

131 Gina Farley 31:12

140 Anna Ralph 33:07

153 finishers.

Daleside Auld Lang Syne,

Penistone Hill Country Park, Sunday, 31 December, 2017.

Out of a disused quarry they appeared in their hundreds. Almost resembles a scene from Dr Who. Mind, one of the Daleks was in there somewhere.

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.

From the start, Luke tries to keep an eye on Alistair Brownlee, who is somewhere up ahead.

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.

Focussed…or just cold.

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.

Alistair Brownlee, MBE, comes home to claim his fourth Auld Lang Syne winners’ crown to go with his two Olympic triathlon gold medals, four World Championships gold medals, three European Championships triathlon gold medals, and quite a few other titles time doesn’t permit me to mention.
Was this the race of the day, though? Tim Brook strides out to fend off the challenge of friend and rival Luke Cranfield.
Ally Canning sees out the year on the top of her form. The relief is there for all to see.

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

368 finishers.

Photos courtesy of Mick Fryer, Linda Grundy and Kath Bridger.

Coley Canter.

Saturday 30 December, 2017.

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.

The Pumas are all smiles here. Mind, this was before they’d seen the conditions. From left; Chris Ellis, Andrew Mellor, Richard Ogden, Andy Barnes, Tim Brook, Diane Cooper, Shana Emmerson, Rachael Hawkins and Claire Ramsbottom.

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.

And they’re off, these way-out wacky racers.

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.

Chris Ellis…on his way…just about keeping upright…
…unlike Queensbury’s Neil Windle, who went all the way.

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?

The appropriately named Tim Brook at his gymnastic best, flies across the fast flowing stream-cum-river. Death-defying stunts like this helped Tim to a third place finish.
Diane Cooper wades through the water but still has time for a warmish smile.
…whilst Glenn Ackroyd surveys the situation before trying an unconventional method. When asked how he felt he’d managed the Coley Canter, he replied, “Nothing to shout about.”

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!

Stuck on you. The gluepot conditions around the course were tackled in style by Rachael Hawkins, Claire Ramsbottom and Andrew Mellor, who pulls his friends towards the finishing line.

Pumas’ finishing positions and times;

3 Tim Brook 1:00:28

19 Andy Barnes 1:13:12

24 Richard Ogden 1:15:50

28 Diane Cooper 1:16:47

30 Chris Ellis 1:17:19

66 Tom O’Reilly 1:27:05

88 Claire Ramsbottom 1:39:48

89 Andrew Mellor 1:39:48

90 Rachael Hawkins 1:39:48

91 Glenn Ackroyd 1:40:35

129 Shana Emmerson tail runner

The Stoop,

Penistone, Sunday, 17 December, 2017.

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.

Ready to brave the elements – that’d be Mei-Lyn, who was there to support dad Tim Brook, Vicky Owen and Ally Canning.

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.

All smiles from Tim, destined to be #FPH.

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.

Around The Stoop we go – Ally clearly loving this.
Vicky approaches The Stoop with that resigned look on her face that suggests there must be one-thousand-and-one other things she could be doing on a Sunday morning in the middle of December.

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.

Muddy-nosed Finley Canning on the way to the finish line in the juniors’ one-mile event.

West Yorkshire Winter League, Race One.

Hopton Mills, Mirfield, 26 November 2017.

The Pumas line up before the race. Most have had their faces painted in the club’s colours and look the bee’s knees. The hooded Tom O’Reilly, however, cuts a mean figure and could almost pass for the Grim Reaper.

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.

Jude Roberts helps form an orderly queue for the trail through the woods.
Andrew Mellor – looking for a way out?

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.

Galloping through the leaves are Matt Newton and Richard Ogden. Photo courtesy of Smith Photography.

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.

Katrina Wood showing grace and poise as she negotiates this tricky section, proving that this trip down into the woods was anything but a teddybears’ picnic. Photo courtesy of Smith Photography.

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.

#FPH Tim Brook breezes to the finish line.

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.

Proving that there really are some benefits to hill training, Ally Canning is the first female Puma home.

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).

They’re all good friends, really, but nevertheless, Sarah Haigh continues to watch her back as she outsprints Dawn Higgins and Jo Clay.

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.

Pumas’ finishing positions;

15 Tim Brook (MV)

17 Luke Cranfield (M)

61 Rick Ralph (MV)*

78 Jude Roberts (MV)*

100 Andy Barnes (MV)*

108 Adam Standeven (MV)

112 Shaun Casey (MV)

139 Richard Ogden (MV)

140 Matt Newton (M)

146 Ally Canning (F)

153 Chris Ellis (MV)

162 Jon Ding (MSV)*

163 Andrew Tudor (MV)

185 Diane Cooper (FV)

192 Jane Cole (FV)

211 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

213 Kirsty Edwards (FV)

218 Peter Reason (MV)*

250 Vicky Owen (F)

253 Julie Bowman (FV)

270 Katrina Wood (FSV)*

273 Sarah Haigh (FV)

274 Dawn Higgins (FV)*

275 Johanne Clay (FSV)

276 Rachael Hawkins (F)

303 Mark Kirkby (MSV)*

308 Ian Evans (M)*

328 Andrew Mellor (MV)*

331 Tiffany Lewis (FV)

332 Sharon Wilson (F)

359 Charlotte Reason (F)*

371 runners.

* Denotes first Winter League race.

How we stand (14 teams);

Male – 8th

Female – 3rd

Veterans – 7th

Supervets – 12th

Overall – 9th



Detroit Turkey Trot,

Thursday, 23 November, 2017.

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 checks in.

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”.

What a spectacular sight.


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?

Getting ready for the off – and not a turkey to be seen.

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.

“So how many of you have got one of these?” Jodie proudly shows off her medal.

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.


Conwy Half Marathon,

Sunday, 19 November, 2017. 

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.

Brett and Rachel are all set and ready to smash that three hour barrier.

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.”

All smiles as Brett and Rachel approaching the finish line.

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?

Feeling proud. Brett and Rachel show off their medals before heading off to the nearest hot tub.

Finishing positions and times;

2512 Brett Swiffen 2:56:22

2513 Rachel Calvert 2:56: 28


Run Bolton Abbey,

Sunday, 12 November, 2017.

“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.

The Pumas pose before the race. It was wise to keep as warm as possible until the very last minute.

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.

The 10k runners cross the bridge just after the start and begin the ascent up through the woods.

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.

Shana Emmerson isn’t on this photo – because she took it, waiting patiently in turn to cross this stile.

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.

My knee had ceased up at this point. The last thing I wanted was to find myself perched on barbed wire on the top of a five-feet high wall.

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.

All smiles, Diane Cooper approaches the finish line, #FPH and first female home in her category.

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 missed the pre-race photo-shoot, but could still manage a smile after six gruelling miles.

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

659 runners.

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…


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…

Start of the Ten Mile Race, Jane Cole deep in concentration with Matt Newton not far behind.

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.

“There were incredible scenes today as three-hundred runners arrived en mass to cross a bridge.” Matt Newton’s turn will come, he’s only waited fifteen minutes.

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

307 runners.

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).

Name:  Elizabeth McDonnell.

Age: 41.

Occupation: Clinical Nurse Specialist: Nutrition.

No matter how far she’s run, Liz is always happy to smile for the cameras.

Group you frequently run with? 1 or 2

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.

Liz shows off her medal for being second female home at the first Bolton Brow Burner, 2014.

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!