Leeds Abbey Dash,

Sunday, 5 November, 2017.

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.

Pumas on the bus ready for the off. This scene drew comparisons with a similar image taken from the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie. Well, for some of these Pumas, it was a mystery tour of sorts.

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.

Ready to nail the Abbey Dash is Emma James.

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.

The photographer didn’t have a wide-angled lens to get everyone in, so he had to back out into the road to get everybody on, almost getting run over. But the trouble was worth it for this shot of all the Pumas who’d disembarked the bus.

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.

So many pre-race selfies. Who’s on this one? Why, if it isn’t Mr Motivator Ian Marshall with (from left) Carolyn Brearley, Louise Heath, Simone Brook, Nichola Mathieson and Kelly Smith.

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.

Capturing the atmosphere inside the race pens, this selfie features Louise Smith, Alison Shooter, Helen Doyle, Tamara Gibson and Melanie Meleschko.

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.

This 50-minute pacer is Matt Newton. But he has a secret – he’s going to go much faster. At the moment, only Jane Cole can keep up.

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.

Laura Fairbank happily chats away to Lisa Harrison as they make their way up Kirkstall Road. Well, it takes her mind off the race.

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.

Happy to be back. Jo Clay’s smile says it all.

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.

Laura Hattersley keeps an eye on the Pumas in front of her.

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.

Peter Reason leads Jodie Knowles and Claire Ramsbottom into the unknown – two personal bests.

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.

Young Charlotte Reason has obviously warmed up and feels the need to take off her gloves.

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.

Skip to it. #FPH Tim Brook is all smiles as he starts the last half mile towards the finish line.

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!”

Coming through. That’s Tiffany Lewis as she approaches the finish line.

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.

The rose between two thorns fast approaching the finishing line is Sara Britton.

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.

We all stand together. Making sure Melanie doesn’t get left behind, Tamara and Alison keep hold of her.

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.”

Andrew Mellor proudly wears his new T-shirt, and hopes it deflects from talking about his socks. “Mistakes were made,” he admitted.

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?

Back at base, this motley crew happily pose despite being eager for breakfast.

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.

Mei-Lyn Brook proudly shows off her medal after completing the Junior Abbey Dash.

Finishing positions and times;

40 Jude Kenny 7:32

49 Reuben Bartkiw 7:32

81 Freddie Baker 8:07

104 Olivia Bolton 8:39

106 Jessica Hughes 8:32

108 Amelie Baker 8:33

109 Thomas Horn 8:43

138 Amelia Jackson 9:06

147 Mei-Lyn Brook 9:15

150 Jeremy Bartkiw 9:17

151 Orlagh Kenny 9:25

175 Lana Brook 9:52

190 Elizabeth Lyons 10:04

200 Stanley Zlotowski 10:22

257 Sophie Hughes 13:09

 

Worksop Hallowe’en Half Marathon,

Sunday, 29 October, 2017.

Sunday saw the 36th staging of the Worksop Hallowe’en Half Marathon, an event which attracted a handful of Pumas. Running under the Northowram umbrella were Alison Shooter and Sharon Wilson, whilst Paul and Jenny Hopkinson ran wearing the colours of Halifax Harriers. Registered to run but having to opt out was Laura Fairbank; seemingly she had succumbed to Halifax’s own version of Montezuma’s Revenge, but we’ll spare you the details.

Also known as ‘the scenic one’, the Worksop Half Marathon takes place on the last Sunday in October every year, hence the Hallowe’en theme. It attracts a large number of entrants, and, indeed, there were 2,482 willing participants lined up at the start this year. Some really entered into the spirit (geddit?) of things and donned ghoulish outfits and scary masks.

Foil blankets are usually given out to runners once they’ve finished the race. But it was cold enough at Worksop for Alison to feel the need to wrap one around her before she set off. Still, this counts as a pre-race selfie.

The route touches the edge of Worksop but also takes in Clumber Park, so the scenery is a sight to behold – if you’ve time or the energy to take it in. Setting off from Outwood Portland Academy, the course rises to 310 feet over the first mile and a half, heading southwards along Ollerton Road for several miles, turning left into Lime Tree Avenue before taking a scenic detour through the trees around Clumber Park itself, with the glorious lake in view. The route then continues northwards then veers off onto country lanes, taking in Clumber Lane, swinging right at Truman’s Lodge into Clumber Road before making a sharp left turn into Old Coach Road, a route that is shadowed by trees. There then follows a loop around Worksop College before the course picks up Ollerton Road, and a devilish climb as it heads back towards the finish at Outwood Portland Academy. Photographs of the route would make a nice postcard scene, but they disguise the inclines. The total elevation was 667 feet and Alison Shooter’s described the course as “undulating”.

Mind, the prizes on offer were not to be sniffed at. The overall winner walked away with £80 plus a pair of local retailer Hoka One One running shoes, whilst second and third place also received a pair of trainers and £60 and £40 respectively. Fourth place got you £40 and a Trespass Cancan Running Belt. There were also cash prizes for each age group winner, male and female.

The race was scheduled for a 10.00am start but mounting problems in areas such as lack of parking meant there was a delay. Which was something of an inconvenience for those who’d got there on time. It wasn’t exactly a warm morning. So cold, in fact, that Alison felt compelled to don a foil blanket before they set off! Still, the Worksop Salvation Army kept everyone entertained as it played continuously for an hour and a half, though in light of what lay ahead of the runners, this drew comparisons with the band that ‘played on’ while the Titanic sank.

Alison’s already digging in as the runners tackle the first of several inclines (hills).

Eventually, the runners were sent on their way, meaning for Sharon Wilson a second half marathon in the space of a fortnight, having taken part in the event at Manchester fourteen days earlier. She completed that in 2:08:26; here, on a tougher course, she bettered that time, finishing in an impressive 2:04:16. Of the race, Sharon said, “I quite enjoyed it as it was testing in places with a few inclines. Scenery was nice too and the support was great.”

I’m not sure if Alison enjoyed the run quite as much, if her post-race comments are anything to go by. Looking at her medal, she reckoned it matched her race experience – ugly! She finished in 2:18:05, then immediately turned her attentions to this Sunday’s Abbey Dash.

Paul and Jenny Hopkinson love each other’s company so much that they ran the full thirteen and a bit miles together. Paul finished two seconds in front of Jenny, clocking 1:41:39. Walking away with eighty quid in his pocket and a spanking brand new pair of running shoes was race winner Stuart Spencer of Notts Athletic Club. Hope they fit him.

Two half marathons in fourteen days. Make no wonder Sharon Wilson looks pleased with herself.

Pumas’ positions and chip times;

518 Paul Hopkinson 1:41:39

519 Jenny Hopkinson 1:41:41

1,524 Sharon Wilson 2:04:16

2,020 Alison Shooter 2:18:05

“That’s what you get for all your troubles.”

Bradford City Runs,

Sunday, 29 October, 2017.

On Sunday, Bradford MDC hosted the sixth Bradford City Runs, a unique event which includes three races on one course. Here, one loop of 5k gives the runners the chance to view the city in all its glory as the course skirts the centre. But for those who couldn’t take it in first time around, then two laps, therefore 10k, might do for you. Here, Pumas’ very own Simon Wilkinson, Mark Brook and Bryonie King decided that this was the option that suited them. Tiffany Lewis, on the other hand, is someone who works in Bradford and therefore perhaps felt duty-bound to pay the city of her workplace full homage. She elected to run four laps (and a little bit more) to thus complete the half marathon event. Watching frustratingly from the side-lines was Wendy Hewitt. She’d registered to run the 10k but had to pull out due to illness.

Mark Brook, Tiffany Lewis and Simon Wilkinson pose pre-race. One of these runners will run more than twice as far as each of the other two. Can you work out who?

All three races started off simultaneously at 9.30am from Centenary Square, the route taking the runners up Thornton Road, left down Longside Lane, left into Shearbridge Road before picking up Great Horton Road and heading back towards the city centre, having circumnavigated the University of Bradford. Dropping down Morley Street, the route passes the Alhambra Theatre on the left and continues around the Magistrates Court along Princes Way, along Norfolk Gardens with City Hall on the left, then picking up Broadway, looping around the shopping centre and heading towards Little Germany and a slight climb via Well Street, Vicar Lane and Peckover Street. The route then heads back down towards the city centre, passing Bradford Cathedral on Church Bank, then continuing down Lower Kirkgate, into Hustlergate and Market Street and into Centenary Square to complete one circuit. Each route finishes with a three-quarter loop of City Park Mirror Pool and Fountain to finish beneath the Magistrates Court.

Mark and Simon capture the atmosphere on the start line with this all-important selfie.

The 10k event attracted the most interest – 416 runners as opposed to 287 running the 5k race – with Simon Wilkinson determined to achieve one of his targets for the year, that of completing this distance in under fifty minutes. Incredibly, he ran the first half of the race in 23:56 to give him a great chance, and though he slowed somewhat over the second circuit, he managed to finish in a personal best of 49 minutes 13. He was, of course, #FPH. A fantastic achievement, and clearly the sky’s the limit for this Puma. If he carries on like this, he’ll probably go beyond that, too!

Tiffany Lewis wades through the hoards of runners shortly into her race. At this point, there’s just about another thirteen miles to go.

Several weeks ago, Mark Brook completed the Cannonball Brighouse 10k in 54:52 on a course that was as flat as anyone could have expected. So it was always interesting to see how he’d fare on this Bradford circuit where there were slight climbs, a pull up to Little Germany but nifty downhill sections. Mark’s been coming on leaps and bounds, so it surprised no one who’s been following his progress to see him complete this course in an even quicker time of 54:15. Obviously he’s getting fitter and faster, though just what was behind this time we’re not quite sure. It could be that he was still on a high after attending a Little Mix concert two nights earlier – or perhaps it’s the benefit of all that looping paying off. Asked how he felt after completing the two laps, Mark, a man of few words, replied, “Great.” He said the same when describing the Little Mix concert.

Simon passes the watering station and is ready to start his second circuit. He’s just run an impressive sub 24-minute first lap and will smash that fifty-minute barrier.

Bryonie King was not only representing the Pumas for the first time, or running her first 10k race. She was, so she tells me, running her first race EVER! Her time, therefore, of 1:01:59 is encouraging. Bryonie will have a good crack at lowering this next time out – which is this weekend when she, like scores of other Pumas, tackle the Abbey Dash.

Bryonie King returns to the finish line to proudly show off her medal having completed her first ever race.

There were 195 runners taking part in the Half Marathon, among them Tiffany Lewis, who’s willing to try any event over any type of terrain. Field and fountain, moor and mountain, she doesn’t care. Always with a smile, she was well acquainted with the sights and sounds of Bradford as she trooped around, coming home in what was, for her, a personal best of 2:09:36. She finished 151st and was also seventh in her age category. She felt the course was “hillier than expected” but at least her Strava showed an impressive increase in her elevation gain (996 feet!) – because she had to do the same circuit four times!

Tiffany heads towards the finish line, her smile telling you all you need to know; a half marathon personal best.

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

10k race –

80 Simon Wilkinson 49:13

169 Mark Brook 54:15

283 Bryonie King 1:01:59

Half Marathon –

151 Tiffany Lewis 2:09:36

Manchester Half Marathon,

Sunday, 15 October, 2017.

The Pumas ready to roar in Manchester.

“If you only enter one half marathon this year, make it the Manchester Half Marathon. One of the flattest and fastest around. Only 41m of elevation gain and a two- mile finishing straight, we expect to see some very fast times here.” So said the event organisers, and whilst all this may be true, many Pumas were backwards at coming forwards. Perhaps some were put off by the unearthly o’clock rising time to be ready for the 6.45 bus. Others maybe by the thought of running thirteen-and-a-half miles. Or it could have been a bit of both. Whatever, there were twenty-eight Pumas running the inaugural Manchester Half Marathon last year; this time around, there were just less than half that number, with only five reappearing. And that despite this event being the latest in the club championship – the last until February. They were all aboard on time, save for Paul Pickering, who, having slept in (by all accounts) and missed the bus, made his own way there, and Philippa Denham, who had elected to stay over in Manchester the night before. “One less thing to worry about,” she said.

Last year, the race got under way in a downpour; there was little chance of that happening this time, and on one of the warmest mid-October mornings we’ve seen in a long time, over eight-and-a-half thousand runners lined up for the 9.00am start. Ahead of them lay 13.1 miles, the route familiar to a few Pumas, not so to most.

Ah, a pre-race selfie. Here, we’ve got Jodie Knowles, Helen Jackson, the shy Carine Baker, Paul Bottomley, Sarah Haigh, Sharon Wilson and Matt Newton.

The course took the runners around the Salford area, up the A56 Bridgewater Way and looping all around Stretford via East Union Street, Henrietta Street, St John’s Road, King’s Road, Seymour Grove and Talbot Road. It then rejoined Chester Road for the long run due south west all the way to the Crossford Bridge and into Cross Street and Washway Road. The runners then negotiated several back streets to join Hope Road, Broad Road, Dane Road, before the run for home back down Chester Road. The course veered off into Talbot Road to the finish line just outside Lancashire County Cricket Club.

As expected, Tim Brook was #FPH, clocking 1:29:59 but thereby managing to finish, as he had done at Fleetwood, inside an hour and a half – if just by one second. Mind, had it not been for an unscheduled pit-stop (and no one actually timed how long it took him) he perhaps could have set a new PB. Next in was Tom Moran, who, having taken his lucky Calderdale Way Relay Leg Six map with him once more, found his way around the course without any problem. But hailing from the area, perhaps it had more to do with the fact that he was running on home turf.

All’s well with Jodie Knowles.

One of the happiest Pumas was Sarah Haigh. Upon finishing in a time of 1:49:27 she admitted to being “pretty chuffed” but was quick to give praise to Matt Newton, who paced her all the way. As the pair hit the ten-mile mark, they consoled themselves with the thought that “it was just a parkrun now” but they were having to deal with increasing temperatures. Matt would describe the conditions as “hot, hot, hot”, but despite this, his time this year was a vast improvement on last year’s – almost four minutes quicker. “Sweet, I’m well impressed,” he gleamed when notified.

Carine Baker obliges for the paparazzi.

Simon Wilkinson continues to defy logic. As his parkrun times have begun to dip under the 24-minute mark, similarly his half marathon times have continued to impress. Last year at Manchester: 1:57:32. Such a time is but a distant memory as he managed to run nearly SIX minutes faster. His reaction? “Pretty damn chuffed,” and like other Pumas, acknowledged the help and encouragement he’s been given at the club. He’s certainly reaping the benefits. Simon was out running on Friday and found the pull up through Shibden Park and Kirk Lane something of a breeze. We all knew he’d smash Manchester!

Matt Newton paces Sarah Haigh,but she will beat him by a second.

Julie Bowman was also out running Friday, grimacing at times, and when put on the spot, admitted she was hoping to get under 1:50. We all know she has it in her to do this, but feeling slightly under the weather, she came home in 1:52:01. But she was still pleased with her time, as was Peter Reason, who also completed the course in under two hours, setting his own personal best. Paul Bottomley was keen to snap up a spare place and in the event he did himself justice. Running ten miles at York seven days earlier, he found the extra three miles no real problem, despite the heat. Also ducking under the two-hour mark was Jodie Knowles, a work in progress, but improving with every stride. Two years ago she ran her first half marathon at Leeds, completing the course in 2:20:57. Acknowledging the help the Pumas have played in her development, particular with the long Sunday morning run sessions with Ian Marshall, this time Jodie ran over twenty minutes faster, admitting, “To say there has been a big improvement in my time is an understatement! Goes to show how much my first year as a Puma has helped me with my running!”

Helen Jackson completed the course in 2 hours 7 minutes exactly but despite running slower than twelve months previously, was still upbeat. “I’ll take that, as race prep hasn’t gone quite to plan. Thanks to Pumas as ever for the amazing support,” she said, then praised Andrew Mellor for helping her over the last couple of miles. Andrew’s another runner who’s come on leaps and bounds; he ran his first half marathon at Leeds in May, clocking 2 hours 19 minutes, so you can imagine that having gone around in 2:05:49 here he was very satisfied. Upon finishing, both Andrew and Helen made a pledge that next time they’ll both crack two hours. And who’d bet against it?

Tim Brook approaching the finish line. #FPH

This run at Manchester was the first of two half marathons Sharon Wilson is running in the space of two weeks; her next on 29 October is at Worksop. She’s raising money on behalf of the Yorkshire Cancer Centre. She didn’t set any records here, but maybe will do in a fortnight’s time. Meantime, Carine Baker admitted to being out over the weekend – not running, just out – and seemed happy with the fact that she managed to complete the course at all! While Rachael Hawkins gave it her all in an effort to beat her target of two hours and fifteen minutes. She wasn’t far off, but her initial disappointment was soon set aside when she realised just how far she’s come, and we’re not talking of the coach trip over the Pennines. And then there were the memories of the day which made it all so special. “I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way,” Rachael said – and that was before she took to the wine.

Peter Reason’s almost there. This image will go down in Pumas’ folklore.

Having arrived unnoticed, Paul Pickering slipped into the pack, then ran steady away to finish in just over two hours and eighteen minutes. No one knows if he was happy with his time or not – it was a reasonable one when all’s said and done – as he left in the manner in which he’d arrived; unnoticed!

Philippa Denham, achieving things beyond her wildest dreams.

But the runner who surprised herself more than she surprised her friends who know her best, was Philippa Denham. This was her first half marathon, and running one was something that she wouldn’t have even contemplated several months ago. But urged on by Ian Marshall, she geared herself up for the challenge and on the starting line she was nothing but positive. In the end, Philippa managed to complete the thirteen and a half miles – without stopping I might add – in 2:33:54, and on crossing the finish line, was ecstatic. “I feel amazing,” she cried, and claimed completing this run had been the biggest achievement of her life! And if anyone was going to inspire others, then surely it was Philippa. She added, “One thing I’ve learnt today is; believe and you will achieve.” This could be a slogan which may take off.

What about a post-race selfie? Happy to oblige are Simon Wilkinson with Julie Bowman and Tom Moran.
Andrew Mellor is happy to pose with his new best friend Rachael Hawkins, showing off their newly claimed bling and T-shirt.

Once everyone had crossed the line and the latest T-Shirt and medal neatly adorned, the Pumas made their way back to the bus and relaxed on the journey home. Where, waiting for them at the clubhouse, were drinks and FREE food, kindly organised by the new Mrs Coupe. These Pumas are a pampered lot – but they’ll happily tell you that they deserve to be!

Back at base, the Pumas receive a tumultuous reception. Those smiles disguise the desperate need to get to the bar.

Pumas’ finishing positions and times;

404 Tim Brook 1:29:59

1,196 Tom Moran 1:41:35

2,085 Sarah Haigh 1:49:27

2,088 Matt Newton 1:49:28

2,392 Simon Wilkinson 1:51:45

2,434 Julie Bowman 1:52:01

3,167 Peter Reason 1:57:15

3,262 Paul Bottomley 1:57:57

3,461 Jodie Knowles 1:59:04

4,239 Andrew Mellor 2:05:49

4,382 Helen Jackson 2:07:00

4,568 Sharon Wilson 2:08:26

4,887 Carine Baker 2:11:06

5,490 Rachael Hawkins 2:16:48

5,632 Paul Pickering 2:18:21

6,679 Philippa Denham 2:33:54

If anyone sees this man, please stop and say hello. Goes by the name of Paul Pickering.

Yorkshire Marathon,

York, Sunday 8 October, 2017.

Sunday’s Yorkshire Marathon at York saw a real conglomerate of events which attracted several Pumas. Besides the full marathon – 26 miles and all – there was a ten-mile race, and six club members teamed up to take part in the corporate marathon relay to run on behalf of the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund, with which we are closely associated.

PLUSNET YORKSHIRE MARATHON

The Marathon route is one of the most welcoming around, mainly because of its relatively flat nature, with the only climbs being more of the gentle incline-type. Starting out the University of York’s Heslington campus, the route travels through the historic city centre, passing the medieval walls before taking the runners north eastwards out of the city. The route travels through, or close by, Stockton-on- the-Forest, Grange Wood, Upper Helmsley, Stamford Bridge, Gate Helmsley, Turkers Wood, Murton and Osbaldwick before heading back towards the finish at the Heslington campus.

So it’s only natural that in this round-up, the first shout-out must go to Alison Shooter and Paul Hopkinson who set themselves up ready to tackle the full 26 miles and 385 yards. Alison has much experience at these longer distances; half-marathons, or the full Monty, she’ll happily give them a go. But today, by her own admission, things didn’t go as well as planned. That despite the pair setting off in near perfect conditions at 9.30am. Running well inside her own personal targets, Alison suffered a setback in the latter stages. Twice she felt compelled to drop to her knees by the roadside in order to ‘throw-up’ down the drains, first at 18.5 miles, then again at 24. And that despite the earlier divine intervention of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who was encouraging runners on Stamford Bridge Road at Dunnington. Some might want to draw parallels here with the famous Biblical-inspired story of the footprints in the sand, but any immediate help for Alison came via the way of not only Paul Hopkinson, who ran alongside her, but also Jenny Hopkinson, who urged her on from roadside. After stopping the second time, Alison felt her legs turn to jelly, though she gamely soldiered on. Despite giving up all hope of reaching her target time, and with plenty of encouragement from Paul and Jenny, Alison managed to reach the finish line in what was still a credible 5 hours 10:11, a time that proved not only to be her second fastest in a marathon, but also her course PB, as well as having clocking her fastest half-marathon time run over the first half of the course. Paul was with her all the way and they crossed the line together.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has some words of wisdom for Alison at Dunnington. Not sure what was said, but shortly after this, Alison began to feel unwell!

Positions and finishing times;

3,446 Paul Hopkinson 5hr 10:11 (chip position 3,432)

3,447 Alison Shooter 5hr 10:11 (3,433)

4,139 runners.

Yes, they did it! Paul Hopkinson and Alison Shooter proudly show off their medals.

PLUSNET YORKSHIRE TEN MILE

Not quite a full marathon, but certainly more than a run to the off-license, was the ten-mile event which saw the inclusion of Laura Fairbank, Paul Bottomley and Glenn Ackroyd among the starters. This event set off forty-five minutes after the Marathon and covered the same route for the first five miles before turning off right, picking up the marathon route once more near Turkers Wood for the last four-and half miles.

Any event like this wouldn’t be complete without the pre-race selfie. Here, Paul Bottomley and Glenn Ackroyd happily oblige.

All three of our runners enjoyed the run immensely. Laura, in fact, was so excited before she’d even reached the start line that she left her headphone adapter for her phone back at the Yorkshire Air Museum ‘park and run’ at Elvington!

Laura Fairbank clearly has regained her mojo.

It was good to see Laura enjoying herself once more; by her own admission, several months ago she’d really lost the running bug. But with the encouragement from fellow Pumas, not least the aforementioned Alison Shooter, she’s got back into the swing of things. Taking in the sites of the city centre, Laura found the course really enjoyable, and even after they’d gone out beyond the walls she found the support from the crowds a great help. Seeing Lizzie Jones’ smile at her relay changeover point at seven miles gave Laura a lift, and she found the toughest part being the gradual climb just before the downhill stretch to the finish. Having crossed the line and composed herself, Laura said of the race, “An enjoyable route and friendly atmosphere makes it a good middle ground for 10k runners looking to build on their distance, maybe to a half?” then added, “But yeah, it were [sic] really good!”

Sentiments no doubt echoed by both Paul Bottomley and Glenn Ackroyd, who found themselves running ahead of Alison, but as a pair, with Paul helping Glenn complete the course at a steady pace. “I’ve never done this distance and I just wanted to finish,” gasped Glenn, whilst trying to enjoy his complimentary bottle of Erdinger Alkoholfrei alcohol-free beer, the official recovery drink of the Yorkshire Marathon. Glenn and Paul could become something of a double-act. “I couldn’t run for a minute a couple of years ago. Now I can run to Leeds from Bradford,” Glenn said. Paul, in turn, praised Glenn’s achievement, saying, “You did great today, pal,” before adding whimsically, “Although I’m not sure why you’d want to run to Leeds!”

Paul and Glenn are all smiles as they find a nice pink tractor to pose with. Nice.
Laura meets up with Alison Shooter to compare Yorkshire bling.

Positions and finishing times;

1,762 Glenn Ackroyd 1hr 35:43 (chip position 1,683)

1,765 Paul Bottomley 1hr 35:43 (1,686)

2,797 Laura Fairbank 1hr 54:43 (2,795)

3,172 runners.

YORKSHIRE MARATHON CORPORATE RELAY

One way to experience the atmosphere of the Yorkshire Marathon without actually having to run the whole thing is to take part in the corporate relay. Open to business professionals, sports clubs, groups of friends or associations, the contest is a great way of boosting morale, promoting teamwork, networking, or just rewarding yourselves, and with relay distances varying, the run is both accessible and – they say – fun for runners of all abilities.

Six Pumas made up the team running on behalf of the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund; Claire Ramsbottom, Johnny Meynell, Rachael Hawkins, Matt Newton, Neil Coupe and Lizzie Jones, who was entrusted with the baton for the last leg.

Two of the relay runners, Lizzie Jones and her friend Rachael Hawkins

Setting off at the same time as the marathon itself, Claire ran the first leg which covered the 4.8 miles and had the thrill of the sight-seeing. After crossing over the bridge over the A64, she handed over to Johnny who then ran the longest leg of 6.1 miles, passing through the picturesque village of Stockton on the Forest and continuing along Common Lane, into Northgate Lane, and then through the suburbs of York to Sand Hutton, where he handed over to Rachael.

Rachael had the shortest leg of 3.2 miles, but she went at a fair pace, enjoying the rural run through Buttercrambe Moor Wood before heading left towards Stamford Bridge, where Matt was waiting to take over. Matt’s leg was 4.1 miles, and he headed towards Murton along the A166, through Gate Helmsley and beyond Dunnington, where he handed over to Neil for the penultimate leg of five miles.

Neil hands over the baton to Lizzie and the last leg is under way.

Neil headed back towards Dunnington on the A166 before turning into Holtby, then continued onto Holtby Lane and left down Bad Bargain Lane and onto Murton Lane. Waiting there was Lizzie, chomping at the bit and ready to run the last three miles and bring the baton home, although this wasn’t your conventional stick, more a pink armband. Neil elected to carry on his run and encourage Lizzie to the finish, and together they bore west towards the city and followed the road along the beck through Osbaldwick Village. They turned left on Tang Hall Lane and re-joined the Hull Road before making the climb back towards campus. Reaching the top of the ridge, the finish line was in sight, and Lizzie charged towards it while the crowds cheered her, Neil and all the other runners home. What an atmosphere! What a finish! What a day!

The relay team; Lizzie Jones, Neil Coupe, Matt Newton, Rachael Hawkins, Johnny Meynell and Claire Ramsbottom. The only indication that this photo was taken after the event are the medals. I mean, the runners looks so fresh.

The running leg times were;

Claire Ramsbottom 40:30

Johnny Meynell 01:32:17

Rachael Hawkins 01:57:32

Matt Newton 02:26:08

Neil Coupe 03:06:18

Lizzie Jones 03:32:01

There were 83 teams taking part in the relay; the four Pumas making up Team Danny Jones could be rightly proud of their efforts. Claire Ramsbottom is never one to contain her excitement and she was quick to let everyone know. “Fab day today doing the Yorkshire Marathon Relay for the Danny Jones Fund with a great bunch,” she said. But where did the team finish, I can hear you ask? “We only went and came 10th out of 83. Whooppppp!!” Claire exclaimed.

A really well organised event, from the ‘park and run’ scheme where the competitors were bussed into the campus – and out again once they’d finished – the friendly and helpful marshals, and, as far as the relay was concerned, where the runners were taken out to the changeover spots, then ferried back to base, everyone was really looked after. It truly was a fantastic experience.

Withins Skyline Fell Race,

Penistone Hill, Haworth, Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

“Autumn and the great weather it brings will soon be on its way and that means the challenge of Haworth Moor will be calling you, after all you know you love Penistone Hill and the ‘pleasure’ it brings.”

So said the Woodentops in the build up to the staging of their 26th Withins Skyline Fell Race. This is a somewhat daunting event, held high on the moors of Penistone Hill, above Haworth, but nevertheless, one that continues to attract many runners. This year, 358 runners congregated in a quarry close to Penistone Hill Country Park, among them Northowram Pumas’ very own Robert Shirlaw.

The runners enjoy this descent, and Robert Shirlaw is in there somewhere. But this is just after the start, and there’s a long way to go.

The course set out in front of the runners asks much, with tough climbs – not for nothing does the race call itself ‘Skyline’ – and ankle deep mud pushing them to the limit over 12k. Rising up from the quarry, the runners descend to take up Moorside Lane before swinging left and beginning a clockwise tour of Haworth Moor. The route at one point picks up a section of the Pennine Way, passing Top Withens which, as literary buffs might like to acknowledge, is a ruined farmhouse is said to have been the inspiration for the location of the Earnshaw family house in Emily Bronte’s novel ‘Wuthering Heights’. The course leaves the Pennine Way, veering off to the right to take up Enfield Side Road. This track eventually drops down to cross Bronte Bridge, and the route swings sharp left to pass the Bronte Waterfalls. The runners continue along Enfield Side Road before crossing the moors on the way to rejoining Moorside Lane and the climb up to the finish.

Robert digging in as the runners cross the moors.

With Hallowe’en coming up, the organisers invited the runners to dress up in appropriate costumes, but most didn’t bother, feeling perhaps that the course was scary enough. The set off time was 11.30am, so an unusually late start compared to most, and off they went.

The end is nigh, as Robert reaches the finish line.

The weather was kind – blimey, just imagine what it must have been like had it been pouring down – and Robert, without his trademark cap for once, had a decent run, and finished 195th in 64:10. The winner was Harry Holmes, who finished in 42:40.

 

Photos courtesy of Woodentops and Linda Grundy.

Brighouse Running Festival,

Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

Slipping out of his house at dusk was Northowram Puma Mark Brook to chance his luck at the inaugural Cannonball-organised Brighouse Running Festival. Many of us knew about this event, but with several runners away on duty in York and elsewhere, others not inspired by the route, or some feeling it was just too late in the day, Mark was the club’s sole representative at the event. Mind, he didn’t go alone. His pal Simon Hardaker may have been planning a relaxing Sunday evening watching ‘X-Factor’ until Mark knocked on his door, but Mark is, if nothing else, quite persuasive.

Good job there was street lighting, otherwise Mark and Simon Hardaker might never have found their way. Here they are posing before the race.

There were races held over 1k, 2k and 4k, but Mark proved he was no shirker by pitching himself into the 10k race which set off at 7.15pm, surely the latest start time of an organised run any Puma has taken part in. Setting off at the Calder Pub opposite Sainsbury’s in Brighouse, the route was a straightforward three sets of Wakefield Road to the motorway and back. The event boasted a course that was “fast, straight and very few turns,” with the “opportunity to race on a weekend evening on fully closed, well-lit roads.” So this was a new experience. But as someone pointed out, it looked like the middle of the night when he finished. Mark retorted: “It felt like the middle of the night when we set off!”

Mark’s been putting in the time in training and has come on leaps and bounds. He’s been running in groups and often found himself at the front, but he hasn’t left it there. Pleasing Ian Marshall no end, Mark’s become honed in the art of looping, something that is not only encouraging for the slightly slower runners, but also gets him to up his own mileage. And this is paying dividends.

It was in March that Mark competed in his last race at this distance, the Epilepsy Action Bradford 10k, when he finished in 1 hour 2:32. At Brighouse, he knocked over a whopping seven-a-half minutes off this time to finish in 54:52, coming home 112th out of 184 runners.

Mark proudly shows off his commemorative medal. This doesn’t reveal that he was #FPH but he’ll gladly tell you himself that he was.

And here’s a man whose glass is clearly half-full. Feeling proud as punch with his performance, and as the Pumas’ sole runner, Mark was quick to point out that this, in fact, made him #FPH. Who would beg to differ? After all, there was no other Puma there to offer another viewpoint.

Bramley 10k,

Sunday, 8 October, 2017.

Competing in what was only her second 10k race on Sunday was Eileen O’Brien, who teamed up with her friend Anne Molloy of Sowerby Bridge Snails at Bramley, the race organised by It’s Grim Up North Running. Myself and Eileen – together with Gill Holmes – have something in common; we joined Northowram Pumas on the same evening, just over two years ago. Several years earlier Eileen had been a member of Stainland Harriers, but since retiring from work, had lapsed somewhat. In fact, it might be fair to say she’d given up. Her only (loose) association with any sort of sporting activity was lying on the settee reading ‘Runner’s World’. Eventually, Eileen decided to get involved once more and pitched up at Northowram Pumas where we bumped into each other. I remember the occasion well, as we were the first people to show up, and we wondered whether we’d got the right night or, indeed, the right venue.

Putting themselves in the frame are Eileen and her friend Anne Molly.

Eileen has been regularly taking part in our local parkruns, either as a runner or as a volunteer. She joined the Pumas as an improving athlete; at the time she was in the middle of achieving a total of TEN consecutive personal bests at Halifax parkrun, setting her fastest time there at 34:01 on 14 November 2015. But she went into this Bramley 10k having run even faster a week last Saturday when the Pumas made an excursion to Pontefract parkrun, where Eileen clocked 33:42.

The course at Bramley was two laps of 5k, therefore 10k in total, taking the runners around the historic town first mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It begins and finishes in Bramley Park, starting by running clockwise around one of the inside paths, then takes the runners out through the main gates and left onto the A657 Upper Town Street. At the junction with Broad Lane, the runners turn left and follow it for some distance before the road eventually meets Swinnow Lane. Swinging left, the route then runs into Stanningley Road and takes the runners back up to rejoin the A657 Upper Town Street and the long drive towards Bramley Park. The runners re-enter the park to continue their second lap. Having completed the circuit once more, the runners then enter Bramley Park for the finish.

Having set a parkrun personal best only eight days earlier, you could say Eileen went into this Bramley 10k on a bit of a high. So there was every chance that she might improve on her time of 1hr 14:24 set at the Kirklees 10k Challenge back in May. Eileen duly did, despite admitting that she felt ‘scared’ beforehand. There was no need to be; in conditions suited to this sort of distance, she smashed the Bramley course in 1hr 11:31, finishing 133rd out of 140 runners. For her part, Anne Molloy finished 115th in 1hr 02:11. The winner was Tim Davies of Leeds City in 34:44.

Having completed the race in a new PB, Eileen proudly shows off the fruits of her labour. Oh, and she also got a medal, see.

So Eileen knocks off over three minutes off her previous best 10k race. You can run a long way in three minutes, so her performance should not be understated. Well done!

Committee member Simon Wilkinson invariably pops up at events all over the place, usually to run, but regularly to act as a volunteer. He’s often seen marshalling at the parkruns at Halifax and Brighouse, and when I took part in the Jane Tomlinson Run For All 10K in Leeds last July, there he was again in his designer high-viz jacket. It’s actions such as these that saw him invited on Monday evening to the Kingscroft Hotel in Pontefract – ironically, just two days after he’d run the parkrun around the racecourse there – for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Awards. Accompanying him was fellow committee member Ally Canning, but she, like Simon, wasn’t there for fun, nor just to be well fed. No, Ally was there to see Simon collect his well-deserved regional Volunteer of the Year Award, and how mighty happy he looked at receiving it, too, as you can see.

Ally Canning accompanied Simon at the awards ceremony and together they posed for what appears to be a pre-event selfie.

Simon’s journey doesn’t end there. Being the Yorkshire and Humberside winner sees him go forward to attend the national awards ceremony event at the Ricoh Arena on 14 October. There, his winning entry will be placed alongside the other regional winners from around the country for the ultimate Volunteer of the Year award. Impressive, eh?

Simon proudly shows off his award and certificate. Next stop, Coventry.

We all wish Simon well and thank him for all he does for Northowram Pumas and everything else. There is, however, no truth in the rumour that he stayed behind in Pontefract to help wash up.

Littleborough 10K,

Sunday, 1 October, 2017.

Hollingworth Lake is a popular tourist resort for locals and incumbents alike. It’s an ideal spot for picnics in summer, and with several hostelries dotted around the lake’s edge, what’s not to like? The sight of sailing boats drifting slowly by emanates an air of tranquillity. Asked to run around it twice at moderate pace, and suddenly the place doesn’t seem so appealing.

But that was the size of the task facing me when I signed up for this 10K race several weeks ago. Happily, I didn’t make the journey over the Pennines on my own. Matt Newton, with or without ankles, claimed he would always be ok to run it, and Tracey Ann was an eleventh hour addition to the entourage. If she was eleventh hour, then her significant other Jason Boults must have been close to throwing out time when he was coaxed into taking part.

The runners are gathering in the distance for the start of the race but they won’t go without us; Matt Newton, Tracey March and Johnny Meynell.

We were joined at race HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, by many familiar faces, as the Sowerby Bridge Snails were using this event as one of their club championship races. There were also a good few Halifax Harriers in attendance as well as a sprinkling of Stainland Harriers and Queensbury Running Club runners, so we weren’t completely overshadowed by our Lancastrian neighbours.

I’d run a couple of 5K races around here earlier this year but never over 10K, and the course, apparently, was much changed from last year. Starting opposite the train station at the bottom of Hollingworth Road, the route rose ever so gently – but for quite some way, I might add – before joining Lake Bank with Hollingworth Lake on our left. Keeping to the road, we ran parallel to the lake before making a swift left-hand turn immediately after The Beach public house to follow the path which circumnavigates the lake, following it anti-clockwise. All fairly flat and scenic, but perpetuated with puddles, dog walkers and horse riders. Eventually the path joins Rakewood Road, but before continuing along the lake side, the route diverted sharply to the right along Syke Road to do an out-and-back (swinging around a marshal, if you get my gist) before rejoining Rakewood Road. The route rejoins Lake Bank before beginning the second full circuit. Upon completion, and having made the swift detour up Syke Road and back, the route swings right to take the return journey along Hollingworth Road, and the welcome downhill stretch to the finish.

Myself, Matt, Tracey and Jason joined the runners at the start, although there was a sense that none of us should really have been there at all. I was suffering with stiff thighs after yesterday’s efforts at Pontefract parkrun, Matt was troubled with his dodgy ankles, Tracey has succumbed to, among other things, glutes (now recognised in these parts as the top sports injury, having overtaken the metatarsal that no one had ever heard of until David Beckham suffered broken one), whilst Jason had never attempted to run this sort of distance before, and but for Tracey’s insistence, would otherwise never have dreamt of it.

Pumas on tour, Hollingworth Lake and surrounding fields providing a scenic backdrop.

But there we were, making up a field of 249 runners, and at 10.00am, we were off. We swung immediately into Hollingworth Road and began the gentle ascent. There was never a question of me bombing off – I’m too long in the game for that lark – and soon, up alongside me, was Matt Newton, and I’d share more than half the race in his company. Matt had joked he’d be more likely be bringing up the rear, clearly this wasn’t going to happen. I did half expect him to kick on as normal, but perhaps his ankle really was hampering him.

We ran around Hollingworth Lake in each other’s company, though I’m pretty sure I had to put in the most effort. So much concentration did I put into my running that I hardly noticed Matt exchanging pleasantries with a marshal at the Pavilion Café where we veered a sharp right turn. Had I been more attentive I would have noticed the marshal was our friend Paul Hopkinson. I hope he didn’t think I was being rude! We meandered along the path before hitting Rakewood Road and shooting up Syke Road. We did a quick shifty around the marshal (presumably they’d run of cones) then rejoined Rakewood Road, just as Tracey appeared to start her out-and-back.

Tracey about to show a clean pair of heels.

As we continued along Lake Bank and turned onto the path around the lake for the second time we were joined – and overtaken – by a woman I recognised as one we’d spoken to at the Conservative Club when we collected our race numbers. She turned out to be Lisa Kempster, and she certainly upped the pace. Before I knew it, her and Matt were pulling away from me, though never too far away. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I kept them within my sights as we toured the lake on this second lap, once again omitting to acknowledge our friendly and supportive marshal at the café. We continued along Rakewood Road, took the down-and-back on Syke Lane, then shortly after passing the watering station (where, incidentally, Jenny Hopkinson was handing out refreshments) we were ushered right to take up Hollingworth Road on the return home. Familiar with this section, I had prepared myself for a grand downhill finish, and this is what I gave myself!

I got into my stride and before I knew it I was making up good ground on Matt and his companion Lisa, soon on their heels and then passing them as I sped up. Matt offered encouraging words, as did the runner I passed further along. “Go on lad,” he said, typifying the kind of spirit which regularly shows itself among athletes. I burst passed him, then had this horrible feeling that I’d gone too early; there was at least another quarter of a mile to go. This runner, who I later learned went by the name of Paul Gandy, a Meltham runner, was soon on my shoulders, but instead of racing me, was offering more encouraging words which I’ll never forget. “Go get that train, go get that train, don’t miss that train,” he urged me, and once again I lengthened my stride to pull away. “Good response,” I heard him say, but I still had some way to go. I kept it up for as long as I could but felt I couldn’t sustain it. Paul closed in on me again just as the finish line came into view. “Go on,” he shouted, and with that I gave one last kick for home. I finished exhausted and carried on walking to regain my breath, thus not having the chance to thank Paul for his encouragement.

The sprint for home. Not only was I not going to miss my train, at the rate I was going by then, I had a good chance of catching the previous one.

Behind me, Lisa Kempster must have shrugged off Matt in the sprint for the line, for she finished three seconds in front of him. But she was grateful to Matt because, not for the first time (I didn’t realise they’d encountered each other before) he’d helped her to a personal best at this distance (as he’d helped her to a PB several weeks ago at Halifax parkrun). Having regained my composure, I joined Matt then we walked back up the road to await Tracey coming in.

The finishing line’s in sight and Matt Newton is helping Lisa Kempster to a 10k personal best. She repays him by kicking away and beating him by three seconds!

Now from what I can gather, Jason had been quite some way in front of Tracey for much of the race; as they both appeared, she had now stolen a march (no pun intended) to lead him in. She finished in 55:10, a time which pleased her no end; at the beginning of the month Tracey had run the Kirkwood Hospice 10K (a slightly easier course, I’d say) in 56:41. One might say she’s putting herself back in the game.

Tracey gains the upper hand, overtaking Jason and winning their own personal dual. She doesn’t care, and not only that, Jason can pay for dinner.

The winner of the race was Ian Livesy of Barlick Fell Runners in 33:52.

Pumas’ (and Jason’s) finishing positions and times were;

136 Johnny Meynell 51:28

139 Matt Newton 51:36

165 Tracey March 55:10

168 Jason Boults 55:15

 

Action photos supplied by Jonathan Moon (Sowerby Bridge Snails).