Ploughing a lone furrow at the Meltham Tough 10k on Sunday was Pumas’ very own Jude Roberts. He was a brave man, indeed, for Meltham Harriers, who stage the race, pride themselves in calling it “the toughest 10k in town”. It’s one not for the faint-hearted, as it incorporates quite a few challenging hills, and situated out in the sticks, is susceptible to the elements. In 2014 they had two cases of hypothermia!
Indeed, high winds and pelting rain were a feature of this race and if that wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s always the odd injury that might get you. True; one female runner was reliant on the Colne Valley Mountain Rescue team to get her back to base after her calf muscle gave out shortly into the race.
Happily for Jude, he had no such problems and ran a strong race, no doubt spurred on by his two girls who’d made him feel extra special by making their own banner just for dad. How could he not run well when they’d gone to so much trouble?!
The rain and sleet arrived just in time for the 9.30am start, but Jude was soon amongst the front runners as the field left the Meltham Community Sports Centre for the initial downhill stretch which helped break the runners in. In essence, the route circumnavigates the Blackmoorfoot Reservoir, starting by heading up Broadlands Road to Helm Road, then taking up in Harrison Lane, Arborary Lane and Nopper Lane before taking a sharp left turn into Blackmoorfoot Road. This runs into Holt Head Road then the route swings around into Varley Road, then onto B6107 Slaithwaite Road for a long stretch that climbs to the highest point at 951 feet before the steep drop of about a mile towards the roundabout close to Morrisons supermarket. Here, you could see the runners – Jude amongst them – going hell for leather as they charged downhill, but then there’s one final climb to make, up the appropriately named Mean Lane which heads back towards the finish line at the Community Centre.
The race was won by Scott Hinchcliffe of the Penistone Footpath Runners in 35:16, although Jude wasn’t too far behind, coming home in 42:52 to finish 28th out of 327 finishers. “Got to be happy with that,” he beamed afterwards, and the general feeling amongst others was that so he should be!
It’s fair to say that Northowram Pumas delivered what it said on the tin; a league race set in winter. What would you expect? Hosting one of these unique events for the first time, if the feedback is anything to go by, they pulled it off in style. One visiting runner remarked, “Absolutely a credit to you guys for putting on the show. Doesn’t get any more XC than that!” But that wouldn’t even be telling half the tale!
The planning into what was the third race in the Winter League schedule, the course, the marshals, car-parking, you name it, was meticulous, and the visiting clubs were full of praise for everyone who worked behind the scenes. But as at South Leeds in the preceding race, the overnight frost caused some problems and necessitated a slight re-route, although the course itself was no less challenging for it.
To say the weather was cold would be – pardon the ironic pun – putting it mildly. It could have been described in one or two words, but let’s just say it was fit for brass monkeys. And that was just for the runners. The marshals, too, had to brave the elements, some for almost two hours, and the thought must have crossed their minds that there could have been better ways to spend a Sunday morning. So hats off to all of them.
The mass of runners gathered at Shelf Park, a venue that probably hasn’t had as many visitors at this time of year since – ever. Set for a 10.00am start, the race got under way just as the first flurry of snow landed on the heads. The course took the runners around the football pitch then had them descend into the woods, many treading gingerly in the manner of the secret lemonade drinker. Those at the front had a clear run, the main body of runners forced to form an orderly queue as they negotiated the steps. Once they’d hit the bottom there was the arduous climb up the other side before they entered the tarmacked Green Lane and heading right to the top corner. The long stretch down the track which was a continuation of Green Lane was welcome enough as it headed down towards Norwood Green, and once Village Street had been reached the runners followed the track that took them to the fun that is known as Judy Woods. Climbing up the infamous steps, the runners followed the path, emerging at a farm track, swinging around to the right, crossing fields and tracks before re-entering the woods and heading back up towards the top of Green Lane. By the time the runners reached this point, they were contending with a mini-blizzard, but at least they had a downhill canter towards Brow Lane before they entered the woods at the kissing gate. They were now on the homeward stretch, but Shelf Woods still has the knack of asking questions of each and every competitor. Slushy mud, steps, water, a brook, and if the sharp descent wasn’t hazardous enough, the climb up the other side and back into Shelf Park pushed the runners to almost breaking point. Many had already had the energy sapped out of their legs, but once they’d climbed out of the trees the finishing line was in sight, with many, if not most, reaching it in the manner of someone who had found the crock of gold at the foot of the rainbow.
The race was won by Crossgate Harriers’ Adrian Holliday – his wife Lindsay was second female home in 38th – whilst for the Pumas, Tim Brook was not only first home, but as at South Leeds two weeks earlier, he finished eleventh overall. Luke Cranfield was next, finishing eight places behind, though it must be added here that he and Tim between them had clocked up more than twenty miles, having checked the course early in the morning to make sure it hadn’t fallen foul of would-be saboteurs. The Pumas’ male team’s scoring was completed by Rick Ralph (34th), Jude Roberts (37th), Deke Banks (64th|), Andy Barnes (74th) and Shaun Casey (95th. They finished the day in sixth place of the fourteen competing clubs.
Tim Brook and Rick Ralph also scored for the Veterans’ team, and they were joined by Diane Cooper, now running back to her best, who was first female Puma home in 121st. They amassed 844 points. And the Super Vets, once again, managed a full quota of finishers, with Jon Ding (179th), Mark Kirkby (265th) and Katrina Wood (282nd) all scoring. But the real talking point, especially among the girls, was of the girls, who exceeded all expectations – or perhaps that’s doing them a disservice – by finishing an amazing third, as Diane was followed home by Ally Canning (135th), Kirsty Edwards (143rd) and Jane Cole, who came home in 173rd to give the team 1,127 points.
There had been Winter League debuts for Lindsay Grix, Karen Matos, William Bonfield and Carla Sharp, who elected to act as a tail-runner with Shana Emmerson, just to make sure nobody got lost. And despite the elements, there’s no doubting that the Pumas had pulled off a great event, well organised, cheery marshals, and the snow was, when all’s said and done, a fantastic bonus! The plaudits were led by Dewsbury’s Laura Pearmain, who said, “Thanks for a great run today, especially the marshals for standing out in those conditions. Think Northowram gets the prize for muddiest course so far this season!” But she was more grateful than most, in fact – her car needed to be given a shove by several runners to get her out of the car park!
Pumas finishing positions;
11 Tim Brook MV
19 Luke Cranfield M
34 Rick Ralph MV
37 Jude Roberts MV
64 Deke Banks M
74 Andy Barnes MV
95 Shaun Casey MV
115 Chris Crabtree M
121 Diane Cooper FV
128 Andrew Tudor MV
135 Ally Canning F
143 Kirsty Edwards FV
173 Jane Cole FV
179 Jon Ding MSV
185 Tom O’Reilly MV
188 Peter Reason MV
209 Victoria Owen F
210 Julie Bowman FV
218 Simon Wilkinson M
222 Ian Evans M
236 Paula Snee FV
237 Sarah Haigh FV
238 Matt Newton M
251 Andrew Mellor MV
253 Claire Ramsbottom F
255 Kathryn Cleaver FV
257 Dawn Higgins FV
265 Mark Kirkby MSV
268 William Bonfield M*
272 Lindsay Grix F*
282 Katrina Wood FSV
287 Anna Ralph FV
288 Jodie Knowles F
303 Tiffany Lewis FV
306 Neil Coupe MV
309 Gabriella Kenny FV
318 Charlotte Reason F
322 Jo Coupe FV
335 Karen Matos FV*
348 Carla Sharp F*
349 Shana Emmerson FV
With thanks for the use of photographs to Lisa Aspinall, Smith Photography and Steve Boyer.
Penistone Hill Country Park, Sunday, 14 January, 2018.
Northowram Puma Robert Shirlaw enjoys fell running, and so once again he made the trip to Penistone Hill Country Park, near Haworth, for the thirty-fifth staging of the Stanbury Splash. This event in the past, I believe, has been hosted by the recently retired Woodheads, so it was Wharfedale Harriers who staged the event for the first time.
The race starts in the quarry at the bottom of Penistone Hill and circuits the upper reaches of Ponden Clough and Stanbury Moor. The Wharfedale Harriers website describes the route as follows: ‘Starting from the quarry bottom on Penistone, turn right onto the road and then left onto the Bronte Way track. Just past the ruins of Middle Intake Farm it turns right through a gate and down through the fields to cross Sladen Beck, the first of many times for wet feet. It’s then an inevitably muddy climb, back up the other side to reach the track continuing from Back Lane. Turn left, uphill, on a good track, to Upper Heights Farm where the route branches right on a narrow footpath to circuit Ponden Clough and passing by Ponden Kirk. On a clear day there are magnificent views down the Clough, but on a misty day it can be quite bleak. After circuiting the Clough, with several more beck crossings and even more wet feet, you will meet back with the outgoing course, when you will retake the route back towards the start. Careful as you descend back to cross Sladen Beck as it can be hard to stay upright, then climb back through the fields. Just after you pass Middle Intake farm, bear right off the track and onto the path to take the shortest way back to the finish line on the cricket pitch.’
Set for an 11.30am start, the morning wasn’t a particularly warm one, but at least the runners didn’t have to contend with snow as they did two years. The challenging course of seven and a half miles, rising 400 metres, didn’t faze Robert, as he loves this kind of thing, and he finished in 108th in 62:22. The winner was Jack Wood of Ilkley in 45:44. 309 runners et off, though four failed to finish the course.
They say there’s no rest for the wicked. Why else would Pumas Andrew Mellor and Peter Reason find themselves tackling this relatively new event, the Temple Newsam Ten? Hosted by St Theresa’s Athletic Club, this race, now in its third year, has already become an established part of the running calendar. Last year, all one thousand entries were snapped up; Andrew and Peter took no chances and booked well in advance.
So what was on offer? Well, the official site describes the event; “Staged in the beautiful grounds of the Temple Newsam Estate, discover 500 years of history with the magnificent country mansion set within 1500 acres of beautiful parkland. The course is mainly bridle and country paths (it could be muddy) covering areas of the estate that you wouldn’t normally see. There are stunning views of the 17th Century House and gardens designed and re-landscaped by Capability Brown. The course also takes in the nearby nature reserve, lakes and canals that form part of the Woodlesford navigation.” Why, it almost makes you think you’d want to set off with a picnic hamper. But this is January, of course, so the runners may have been drawn to the bit that states (almost as if it was an afterthought) that the course could be “muddy”. The runners had been warned.
With the Tudor/Jacobean Temple Newsam Stately Home providing a scenic backdrop, the course, in a nutshell, took the runners out through fields, tracks, paths and trees, running anti-clockwise around the Temple Newsam golf course, under the M1, then again anti clockwise around the lake of Skelton Country Park, back under the M1, then following the route through trees, along Bullerthorpe Lane before heading back to the finish line in the field where they’d started some time earlier.
Whilst the clock ticked its way down to 9.30, the eight-hundred or so runners huddled behind the start line, and before you knew it, the race was under way. Andrew and Peter positioned themselves near the rear of the field and adopting the attitude of ‘someone’s got to do it’ they set off. Ahead of them lay ten miles – you sure get your money’s worth at events like this – of wet grass, puddles and mud, and whatever else the course threw at them.
Though they set off together, Peter soon pulled away from Andrew, but both loved it, of course. Negotiating the obstacles in their own manner, Peter, painting pictures with words, described his attempt at tiptoeing around the edge of the mud as being “like a hippo trying to walk a tightrope,” whilst Andrew used all his Winter League experience to take the quickest route – directly through each and every puddle. With two miles to go, Peter began to feel the pain of a blister on his small toe (left foot), but undeterred, he soldiered on, climbing the last hill through gritted teeth before entering the finishing field. “My hero,” wife Sharon would later call him when he arrived home for Sunday dinner, whilst Andrew was beaming with pride as he showed off his first bling of 2018, a runner’s finish medal (not the T-shirt). It’s what it’s all about.
Finishing positions and times (age category and position);
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
With thanks to Smith Photography, Lisa Aspinall and Robert Samuels for use of photos.
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.