GREAT NORTH RUN,

Sunday, 10 September 2017.

The Great North Run is one of the major events in the athletics calendar, certainly the biggest in Britain, and one that was inspired by the former Gateshead Olympic medallist Brendan Foster. First staged in June 1981, the race evolved out Britain’s first-ever Fun Run which was held on 29 October 1977, an event, incidentally, which I was privy to as I was there that day running for Halifax Harriers as a thirteen-year-old in the Gateshead Road Races.

The first Great North Run was competed for by 12,000 runners. The event has grown considerably in stature since then and over the years has attracted many top athletes and famous names, such as Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie, Kevin Keegan, Paul Gascoigne (who pushed wheelchair-bound Maureen Martin around in 1986), Nell McAndrew, Ricky Wilson, Jon Culshaw, Davina McCall and Andy Haslam.

The iconic 13.1-mile half marathon route starts just outside the centre of Newcastle on the central motorway. Continuing down the A167 the course takes the runners past Jesmond, Haymarket, Monument and Central Station before arriving at the Newcastle side of the Tyne Bridge. Here, as the runners cross the bridge they approach the two-mile mark. At this point, as usual, there is the fly over of the Red Arrows. Having entered Gateshead and being welcomed by the shimming sight of The Sage, runners are directed on the A184 to make their way towards Heworth. On route, they pass the renowned Gateshead Stadium as they approach the three-mile mark. Having entered Gateshead, the route continues on the A184 for the beginning of a six-mile stretch before being taken onto the A194. This takes the runners into South Tyneside, and they pass the eight-mile mark at the A19 interchange. Taking the A1300, participants pass Whiteleas and Centenary Avenue before they change onto the A183 just past Marsden Lane at the twelve-mile mark. Now on the home stretch in South Shields, runners are welcomed by the view of the sea in one of the most scenic and enjoyable parts of the whole course. With just over a mile to go on Prince Edward road, runners are cheered profusely as they make their way to the finishing line.

Claire Ramsbottom supplies the start-line selfie – and gets photobombed.

Yesterday, the 43,127-strong field included sixteen Northowram Pumas, most taking part for the first time. Each had their own reasons for being there, some raising money for charity, others doing it, in the words of George Mallory on why he set out to conquer Everest, “Because it’s there”. Sadly, Mallory never returned from his quest in 1923; happily, all Pumas made it to the finish line, all proud as punch for achieving what they’d set out do. There would have been others there, too, but for a variety of reasons (injury, other commitments) they had to miss out.

One person who’d missed out on seeing the start live over the previous 36 years was instigator Brendan Foster, but now retired from the BBC commentary box, he was there to start off all the runners at Spital Tongues, the elite wheelchair race getting under way first at 10.10am. Five minutes later, the gun sounded for the start of the elite women’s race, and at 10.40 the elite men and mass ranks of thousands behind set off, though for the likes of Mo Farah and his compatriots, he had no problem at all in getting into his stride. Some of the competitors would take over an hour to reach the starting point!

It wasn’t a particularly warm day; there was a definite cold snap in the air, something which gave Katrina Wood a bit of a dilemma; what or what not to wear. In the end, she went with bright pink T-shirt under her Pumas’ top, with neat Karrimor black peaked cap. A pair who had decided weeks in advance of exactly how they were going to dress up for the event were Cathy Farley and Katharine Barnett. Raising money for a Bradford cat rescue centre, they’d already left all those at the Brighouse parkrun open-mouthed eight days earlier when they arrived sitting inside their unicorn – or Pumacorn – outfits; now they were going to show all of Tyneside, too. And didn’t they just? Not only catching the eye of the thousands of spectators, but also those of a roadside BBC reporter who pulled them aside for a quick chat – live on TV in front of a few million viewers.

Carla Roxann watches on while Cathy Farley and Katharine Barnett give a live roadside interview to the BBC and become overnight sensations in their Pumacorn outfits. Their panto fees may rise, however.

Those who lined the route or watched on television from the comfort of their front rooms doubtless had an interest in Olympic champion Mo Farah, to see if he could pull off a record fourth successive Great North Run victory. He successfully managed it by pulling away from New Zealand’s Jake Robertson in the final 200 metres, but while Mo basked in his personal glory (lying prostrate on the tarmac), Robertson duly got down on his knees to propose to partner Magdalyne Masai (who’d finished fourth in the ladies’ race) seconds after he crossed the line.

But what more of our local interest? Well, the honour of being #FPH fell to relative newcomer Andrew Barnes, who finished in a time of 1hour 35:19, some two minutes faster than second Puma Rick Ralph. Rick was back in good time to cheer home wife Anna, who completed the course in 2 hours 14:05.

There were no smiles from Mo Farah as he approached the finish line, but you can always guarantee one from Julie Bowman and Vicky Owen

Paul and Jenny Hopkinson were representing Halifax Harriers once again, and as at Fleetwood three weeks earlier, Paul took the domestic honours (with a personal best to boot). And Vicky Owen would be the first to acknowledge the invaluable help given to her by Julie Bowman (who had selflessly helped Matt Newton prepare for the London Marathon earlier this year). Both Julie and Vicky comfortably managed sub-two hours and seemingly had more trouble finding their way back to the car. Agonisingly, though, Katrina Wood missed beating the two-hour mark by just 29 seconds. Yet she should still feel proud of her achievements; several weeks earlier injury looked to have threatened her participation at all.

Claire Ramsbottom was quick to praise friend Rachael Hawkins (who’d she travelled up with) and fellow Pumas after completing the race in just over 2 hours 16 minutes. “Super proud of myself, what an amazing event and couldn’t have done it without my amazing friend Rachael Hawkins and the fab Pumas,” she exclaimed post-race. Rachael, to her credit, finished in 2 hours 33:08.

Rachael Hawkins and Claire Ramsbottom show off their medals while sporting their commemorative T-shirt (Rachael’s is under there somewhere). Oh, and a glass of Prosseco? It’d be rude not to.
Just outside the two-hour mark, but Katrina Wood has got her medal and that’s all that counts.

Hard on her Yorkshire Lass Sportive thirty-mile bike ride four weeks ago, Sarah Firth donned running shoes to complete the Great North Run in a respectable 2 hours 16|:28, whilst Brett Swiffen and partner Rachel Calvert continued their impressive road to fitness. The vagaries of the system meant that Brett finished two places in front of Rachel, though she managed the course eight seconds faster!

The backdrop suggests the Red Arrows were flying over especially for Brett Swiffen and Rachel Calvert. Perhaps they should have done.

Perhaps the final word should be left to Carla Roxann. After finishing her first half marathon, she paid tribute to the Pumas, and the run leaders in particular. “I just want to say a massive thank you to our run leaders! If it wasn’t for them, especially Ian Marshall, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did today at the Great North Run!” Carla only ran her first parkrun last April and joined the Pumas the following month. She’s put the work in and the long Sunday sessions have certainly paid off. Serving as an inspiration to others, Carla added, “For those who think you can’t do it, you can! I always told myself I couldn’t run, but I did!”

Carla Roxann – an inspiration to others. “If I can do it, so can you!”

Northowram Pumas’ finishing positions and times were;

1,696 Andrew Barnes 1hr 35:19

2,167 Rick Ralph 1hr 37:32

2,213 Paul Hopkinson 1hr 37:44

7,625 Jenny Hopkinson 1hr 52:08

9,460 Julie Bowman 1hr 55:18

10,553 Victoria Owen 1hr 57:08

12,812 Katrina Wood 2hr 00:29

22,026 Claire Ramsbottom 2hr 16:12

22,146 Sarah Firth 2hr 16:28

27,234 Carla Roxann 2hr 25:48

29,714 Anna Ralph 2hr 14:05

30,890 Rachael Hawkins 2hr 33:08

41,282 Brett Swiffen 3hr 21:08

41,284 Rachel Calvert 3hr 21:01

42,756 Katharine Barnett 3hr 56:04

42,757 Cathy Farley 3hr 56:05

VALE OF YORK HALF MARATHON,

Sherburn-in-Elmet, York, Sunday 10 September.

Whilst the Great North Run may have been grabbing all the media attention on Sunday, in an event a little closer to home, and one a little less congested, Alison Shooter, Adam Standeven and Shaun Casey were representing the Northowram Pumas in the must-do, sell-out Vale of York Half Marathon.

Adam Standeven and Shaun Casey appear all cheery under York’s grey, cloudy skies.

This event starts on a race track and ends by a runway and takes in scenic closed roads on the way. Setting off in Sherburn-in-Elmet, the route heads south-west before doubling back, going past the start line then veering off left up Lennerton Lane before turning right and continuing along Bishopdyke Road for almost a mile. The route then swings right into Scalm Lane; this may be the longest section but it’s also the most picturesque, with fields and woodlands to your left and right at any given time. At the crossroads with Broad Lane, the route turns a left then completes a clockwise loop, taking in Broad Lane, Windgate Hill Lane (the halfway point) and Long Lane, which winds its way around to eventually reach the Broad Lane-Scalm Lane crossroads, with just over four miles to go. Then it’s a case of retracing the route back along Scalm Lane and Bishopdyke Road, before completing the last mile by turning left into New Lennerton Lane.

An event such as this wouldn’t be complete without a Pumas’ pre-race selfie, and here Alison Shooter doesn’t disappoint!

The BBC cameras may have been conspicuous by their absence, and conditions slightly overcast, but the field of 1,621 runners soon warmed up after they were set on their way at 9.30am.

The Vale of York Half Marathon is depicted as fast and flat, and therefore reckons to be the perfect course to lower a runner’s personal best. Here, as far as Adam and Shaun were concerned, it didn’t disappoint. A little over an hour and half after setting off, Adam was #FPH, completing the course in 1hr 33:53, his fastest time to date over this distance – just. Two years ago, he completed the Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon six seconds slower! A little further down the field, Shaun Casey must have been satisfied with his new PB, finishing in 1hr 41:44 (at Liverpool in 2015, Shaun finished in 1hr 42:31). It’s hard to imagine that while they were finishing, many runners in the Great North Run in Newcastle wouldn’t even have reached the start line! Adam and Shaun only entered the race on Wednesday, wanting to be part of Strava’s attempt to create a world record (and helped in no small way by those using the app at the Great North Run) for the most half marathons run in a single day.

Adam Standeven finished in time to whip out his camera and capture Shaun Casey crossing the line.

As for Alison Shooter. Well, she didn’t quite manage her own personal best (achieved, incidentally, at the Humber Bridge Half Marathon in June), coming home in 2hr 20:39, but she was, nevertheless, still proud to be a Puma!

Northowram Pumas’ positions, finishing times and category positions;

286 Adam Standeven 1hr 33:53 (M40, 41/175)

482 Shaun Casey 1hr 41:44 (M45, 63/143)

1,490 Alison Shooter 2hr 20:39 (F50, 53/62).

 

On Thursday (7 September), whilst enjoying a quiet drink with fellow Pumas, Simon Wilkinson was shocked when club chairman Andy Haslam gave him the news that not only had he been nominated for the England Athletics Yorkshire & Humberside Volunteer of the Year Award, but that he’d actually gone on to win the darn thing itself. Simon was initially gobsmacked but he did take time out later to read a carefully prepared statement: “I’ve won!!”

The consummate professional, Simon clearly takes his volunteering role very seriously and likes to get there before anyone else to check things over. After taking a selfie, of course.

Simon will be presented with his award at the Kingscroft Hotel, Pontefract, on Monday 2 October, and rest assured, full coverage of the event will be given here.

Congratulations!

Third Anniversary, Wednesday 6 September, 2017.

On Wednesday, Northowram Pumas celebrated their third anniversary of the formation of the club. Yes, it was in September 2014 that a team of four hardy leaders turned up and awaited the arrival of other willing participating runners. Around seventy turned up via word-of-mouth that first evening, and the club has never looked back. Today, we have a membership of over 150, and hold regular training runs three, sometimes four, days a week.

The first training run, September 2014. The little acorns are, from left; Ian Marshall, Liz McDonnell, Katie Phillips and Andy Haslam.

The four willing run leaders three years ago were Ian Marshall, Andy Haslam, Liz McDonnell and Katie Phillips. They were all in attendance on Wednesday, with Katie Phillips, who now runs for Bingley Harriers, making a welcome guest appearance. Invited to join us, as they were twelve months ago, were our friends form Sowerby Bridge Snails, with a nice array of distances from which they had to choose.

Laura Hattersley and Paul Hopkinson with the run/walking group.

Leading the run/walking group were Laura Hattersley and Paul Hopkinson. For those wanted to run a little further, Julie Bowman, Wendy Hewitt and Laura Fairbank worked in tandem with the 3½ mile group, whilst Ian Marshall, Liz McDonnell (making a welcome return to the fold after several weeks away) and Katie Phillips reunited to lead the four-mile group. There were two groups running 4½ miles; Neil Coupe led his group down to Shibden, whilst Ally Canning took a scenic route through Coley and Norwood Green. Luke Cranfield and Peter Reason led out their group for a 5.7 miler which typically threw in a fair bit of off-road, whilst Adam Standeven plotted a nice loop of a route taking in Coley, Norwood Green, Lightcliffe and Hipperholme for those turbo-type runners.

Who’s the thorn among the roses in the popular 3.5 mile group?
Liz McDonnell, Ian Marshall and Katie Phillips re-unite before setting out with their four-mile group.
The 4.5 milers, before splitting into caveman or roadrunner groups.
Things are getting more serious now as runners join up with Andy Haslam and Peter Reason for a scheduled 5.5 miler.
Charged up and ready to burn, Adam Standeven with his turbo 6.5 mile group.

Around thirty Snails joined us for the evening, and depending on capabilities, chose a running group to suit, though none were, it seemed, keen on Ally’s off-road route across fields and through woods (it was a pity because it was a nice night for such a stroll). Each group set off at 6.45pm, and everyone was back within the hour.

Katie Phillips may run for Bingley Harriers but she still knows how to take a Puma-style group selfie.

Afterwards, Pumas and Snails mixed in the bar, and many enjoyed the chilli rice/chips combo served up by Jacky Midgley and her small team of helpers. Later, we watched a short slide-show, the montage put together by Matt Newton, that showed how the Pumas have grown.

A pleasant evening all round; here’s what some of our guests said about it;

Jodie Smith: “Thank you Pumas for inviting us to celebrate your 3rd birthday! You’re a running club we look up to and we congratulate you on your success! We’ve had a lovely evening and the chilli was spot on.”

Laura Armstrong: “Thanks for a lovely run Pumas, really enjoyed it!”

Abi Clark: “I really enjoyed running through the fields and the chilli was a nice bonus.”

Nelle Page: “I enjoyed running thru fields and dodging cow pat strangely!”

Joanne Pollard: “Fantastic evening helping the Pumas celebrate their birthday. Worked my socks off tonight, although just over 6k it wasn’t the distance, just the pace, and the running through fields and woods, that’s hard work – and uphill for the last 1k. Loved talking to the horse and chatting with the Pumas, they made us all feel welcome. Thanks everyone. PS good delicious food.”

With thanks as always to Lisa Aspinall for use of most of the photos on here.

KIRKWOOD HOSPICE 10K,

Leeds Road Sports Complex, Sunday, 3 September, 2017.

The latest event in the Northowram Pumas’ club championship calendar was held at Leeds Road Sports Complex, Huddersfield, the annual Kirkwood Hospice 10k, now in its tenth year. Last year, only four Pumas took part; this year the number had increased to ten, with Matt Newton being the only survivor. The Pumas’ team was split fifty-fifty, though not by design, with Tim Brook, Peter Reason, Simon Wilkinson and Johnny Meynell joining Matt making up the men’s team, while the women were represented by Helen Jackson, Shana Emmerson, Jodie Knowles, Charlotte Reason and Tracey March.

They all gathered in the car park a good hour before set-off time; with race numbers being collected by those who had pre-booked their places on-line in the club HQ, the others registered themselves, whilst Shana Emmerson went to swap the name of the unfortunate Jane Cole (injured) to her own, and almost completely managed it (they spelt it wrong).

Smiling Pumas pre-race – before the realisation that they weren’t there for fun.

By 10.10am, all the runners were out on the field trying to look as if they were actually enjoying a mass-group warm-up routine. Then they were directed to the starting line, all 269 runners, and at half past ten they were on their merry way.

The course, as in previous years, began with two laps of the playing fields (taking in about half a mile) before venturing out onto the A62 Leeds Road and after several hundred yards being directed left onto the canal. Heading back down from the direction in which they’d just come, with the playing fields on the left, the route carried for around a quarter of a mile before turning right, crossing the canal bridge then heading under the railway and veering left to take up the tarmacked path, the only ‘serious’ bit of climbing the route asked of the runners. The path continued for half a mile or so before (sub)merging into Aquamarine Drive. A left turn onto the more earthily named Red Doles Road, back under the railway line, the runners then swung a left to take up the return journey back towards the playing fields along the canal.

With the industrial estate on the runners’ right, and just prior to reaching the fields, the runners took a ninety-degree turn onto a tarmacked road that brought them back onto Leeds Road – the first lap completed. Required to negotiate the course twice, upon reaching this point the second time around, the runners then headed back into the sports complex, finishing by running three-quarters of the adjacent athletics track. Simple.

The Pumas’ start-line selfies are proving so popular, everyone else seemingly wants to be on one.

Right from the off, Tim Brook made a bolt for it, and was among the leaders throughout the race. By the time he’d done the two laps of the field he was lying sixth; passed by two, he overtook one and eventually finished seventh, a position which, in anyone’s book, was brilliant. Not only that, he went sub forty minutes for the first time over this distance; make no wonder this Puma was grinning for the rest of the day.

Keeping her eye on her Strava, that’s Charlotte Reason.

The positions of the Puma men went, in fact, to form, with Matt Newton, fuelled by Kopparberg and Sambuca shots from Demelza Bottomley’s fortieth party the night before, clocked an incredible 42:43 to finish nineteenth. His reaction of “I don’t know where that came from,” wasn’t entirely original, as he was saying the exact same thing just over twenty-four hours earlier when he ran a personal best 20:59 at Brighouse parkrun. Peter Reason was third home with a time which showed steadying improvement, whilst Simon Wilkinson, who overtook Johnny Meynell just around halfway, ran a consistent race to grab his own personal best over 10k.

Tim Brook charges to the line, seventh, sub forty minutes, #FPH and all that.

The Puma ladies were led home by Tracey March, and how good it was to see her back on the circuit. Jodie Knowles showed how far she’s come; her time of 57:13 was a marked improvement on her last 10k at the Helen Windsor event in July. In fact, she was nearly a minute and a half faster. Helen Jackson was relieved to keep her glute in one piece whilst Shana Emmerson managed to keep smiling all the way around, as she always does. Last for the Pumas, but certainly not least, was Charlotte Reason, who ensured all ten runners managed to finish inside the hour. She reckoned to have set her own personal best by one second, then bemoaned that her Strava – a gadget that is considered by those who use it to be as reliable as night follows day – had clocked the course longer than it should have been! A shout out, too, for the Hopkinsons, once again wearing the colours of Halifax Harriers. Paul Hopkinson finished 33rd in 45:18, while wife Jenny was just one place behind in 45:42.

Don’t you just love these before and after shots?

Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;

7 Tim Brook 39:52
19 Matt Newton 42:43
42 Peter Reason 46:56
71 Simon Wilkinson 50:21
85 Johnny Meynell 51:36
132 Tracey March 56:41
139 Jodie Knowles 57:13
146 Helen Jackson 57:30
166 Shana Emmerson 58:49
172 Charlotte Reason 59:26

269 runners.

LITTLEBOROUGH 5K ROAD RACE,

Tuesday, 29 August 2017.

As a promise to myself to cover any event that a Northowram Puma may take part in, and for consistency purposes, you understand, do I run the risk of appearing self-indulgent. Not that I’ve much to be self-indulgent about, although I did happen to be the only Puma who took part in Tuesday evening’s Littleborough 5k Road Race, organised by the Littleborough Lions.

Back in June, I ran a similar course over the same distance with Alan Sykes, finishing in 24:14 in what was the last of the Littleborough 5k Road Race Series. This time the route differed somewhat as we headed down Peel Street (instead of up it), turned right at the bottom into Winton Street, then picked up the main road A58 Church Street up to the junction with Smithy Bridge Road. There was then the arduous climb up through Smithy Bridge itself, crossing the railway line and pulling ourselves up to Hollingworth Lake. We then had something of decent flattish – even downhill – run over the last mile or so, finishing by passing under the subway near the railway station.

The starter set us all off at 7pm prompt, a relatively small number of 66 runners which included a couple of Sowerby Bridge Snails in Jonathan Moon and Kieran Heaton. The field had thinned out by the time we reached Church Street, but this busy main road proved deceptive, a gentle climb of nearly a mile up to the traffic lights. By the time we’d reached this point we’d covered about a third of the race, but my legs were already feeling tired. We got brief respite on a nice downhill stretch towards the railway line, only to find the level crossing gates closed and a marshal directing us down the steps under the subway, and therefore the climb of the steps up the other side. This was a first, and though it was the same for everyone, for me it did break my stride somewhat. Then there was the climb up Smithy Bridge Road, never too steep but enough to sap even more energy from your legs. With the junction reached and the left turn along Lake Bank, there was just a mile to go. Hollingworth Lake cut a scenic picture on my right but I had too many other things on my mind to enjoy it.

I drove myself along Lake Bank with the sound of footsteps behind me; someone was closing me down. We veered off left down Hollingworth Road, a pleasant descent, the footsteps behind me still a bit too close for comfort. I pushed on, got into my stride and soon enough I could see the entrance to the subway by the station ahead. A quick glance over my shoulder reassured me that I’d pulled away from the runner chasing me, and having turned under the subway, the finish line was but yards ahead, but only reached after we’d had to negotiate a cycle barrier. A quick body swerve and I was through, and in the blinking of an eye, I was careering across the finish line, almost in a state of near exhaustion, but home all the same.

The only pictorial evidence showing that I competed in the race.

My finishing time was 24:22, eight seconds slower than my previous outing to Littleborough, but as I said, on a slightly harder course. The next runner home (Andy O’Sullivan of Rochdale Harriers) was eleven seconds behind and I finished 24th, no great achievement there, but happy to have taken part. The Snails’ Jonathan Moon came an impressive fourth, but later, over a drink back at HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, he was rewarded with a bottle of lambrini for his efforts! The race winner was Darren Shackleton of Todmorden Harriers and he received a cup on which the European Champions’ League Trophy looks to have been modelled.

All the runners were presented with participation certificates (another first) and I clutched mine with pride. Something to show the grandchildren in future years, eh? “Have I told you about the time I ran in the Littleborough 5k Road Race….?”

TOUR OF NORLAND TRAIL

Copley, Sunday, 27 August 2017.

The club championship races come thick and fast. Only seven days on from the Fleetwood Half Marathon, the next event was the Tour of Norland Trail Race, hosted by Halifax Harriers, an event in stark contrast to the flat roads that were pounded on the Lancashire coast. However, despite the talk of panoramic views over Sowerby Bridge, many Pumas were doubtless put off by the thought of raking it over the 7.4-mile route, though as at Fleetwood, a handful showed up to claim their appearance points, although here it was a different cast. This time around, four were enticed by the mouth-watering thought of ascending the 800-feet climb up onto the Norland Moors; Kirsty Edwards, Matt Newton and myself had already verbally committed (to each other) to tackling it; Andrew Tudor arrived after an eleventh hour fitness test to which he gave himself a big thumbs up.

Underneath the arches…are the Pumas who took part. From the left; Johnny Meynell, Kirsty Edwards, Matt Newton and Andrew Tudor.

Part of the appeal of the race was that you could enrol on the day of the event, therefore no need to commit in advance. The £5 entry fee was also pleasing on the purse strings, and in total, there was a field of 140 runners taking advantage of this cut-price deal. Registration was at Copley Cricket Club, as was the finish to the race itself, on the far side of the cricket pitch. To get there, the runners had to negotiate whatever the Norland Moors threw at them, and the competitors gathered just below the canal at the entrance of Hollas Lane for the 10.30am start.

The route took the runners along Hollas Lane, under the railway arch and up the fields, familiar to those who ran the final West Yorkshire Winter League race, hosted by Stainland Lions, back in February. Once North Dean Road had been reached, the runners were directed up the hill (obviously), then they veered a sharp left to continue the climb up Pickwood Lane before taking a bridle path, a gentle incline which ran for about half a mile and eventually came out at Turbury Lane. The route turned right along here until a marshal directed the runners left to begin the 2.9-mile clockwise loop of Norland Moor. Having circumnavigated this section, the runners exited Norland Moor at the same point as they’d entered it, and after a short run back up Turbury Lane, entered the fields and the welcome descent back to base. The route continued through the woods, eventually picking up Pickwood Lane and North Dean Road and returning along the route we’d started out on, continuing past the start, along the path through the woods before entering the final straight which was Copley Cricket Club and the finish line ahead. It was never intended to be easy, and the Tour of Norland Trail didn’t disappoint.

We were set on our merry way to the instruction of “On your marks,” and then there was no turning back. We followed Hollas Lane then began climbing the fields, the pack becoming bunched in the early stages as it negotiated the stiles. The last of these took us onto North Dean Road and there was the arduous pull up for what seemed an eternity. Needless to say, I soon found myself having to walk; it looked so disheartening, even at this early stage. Matt and Kirsty had started to pull away, and Andrew, taking his time, passed me shortly before we turned up the bridle path. He had once advised me to concentrate on my effort, and I chose to do this once I’d taken a quick glance up ahead as the track stretched way into the distance. It turned at right angles at one point; Matt, who had made an early bid to become #FPH had slowed down somewhat and Kirsty had soon caught him up; in turn, Andrew then took the pair of them and I wouldn’t see him again until I finished. The tour of the moor still maintained an incline for quite a way, and I found it really tough on my legs, particularly having sampled the Lancaster parkrun the day before (I dare you – have a go).

The starter’s counting down the seconds, but there’s still time for a quick selfie. It’s tradition, you know.

In time we descended towards Butterworth End Lane but just before reaching it, the trail took a swift right turn, and guess what? We were climbing once more. Though by this time I had the fillip of seeing Matt and Kirsty almost within reach, so clearly I had made up some ground. As the trail flattened out across the moor we were about to experience the domino effect, and I’m not talking about pizzas. I was perhaps fifteen yards adrift when I saw Matt suddenly take a tumble. Kirsty stopped to help him back on his feet, and suddenly the three of us were all together, and may I say, it was nice to be among friends! Less than two minutes later, Kirsty was the next casualty, missing her footing (it seemed) and like Matt, taking what seemed a nasty fall. But she saw the funny side, regained her composure, and we were on our way again. Until that is, I took my turn. My mother always went on about me dragging my feet, and I should have heeded her advice. Down I went, banging my left ankle in the process. Matt and Kirsty stopped while I recovered, got to my feet, then we carried along. But soon enough the pair of them were striding away, and I lost more ground whilst I had to retie one of my laces.

The tour of the moor seemed to take an age, but eventually we came out in the same place as we went in, joining Norland Road and turning immediately into Turbury Lane, then crossing the fields that took us into the woods. As we entered this part of the course, I was at the back of a four-man convoy, but feeling happier, safe in the knowledge that all the climbing had now been done. Of course, we ran down through the woods quicker than we’d come up them, and as we came out of the other side, there was a marshal directing us back down Pickwood Lane and North Dean Road. I made good my run for home, passing the other three runners, and as I entered the stile which took us into the fields we’d climbed at the start, I noticed Matt and Kirsty leaving it at the other end. I charged down the field with a Stainland Lion for company, and as we crossed the bottom veering left, we were closing with every step. Suddenly I had visions of the three of us – myself, Matt and Kirsty – finishing together, but there was a twist in the tale, or should I say, my ankle. The field took us down what we called as kids the ‘catsteps’, here muddied and uneven. Travelling at speed, tucked in behind the Stainland runner, my left foot hit the ditch and for a second time I was lying on my back. I suffered no life-threatening injuries, but the fall did knock the stuffing out of me, and any chance I had of catching up my fellow team mates all but disappeared. I rejoined the tarmacked road which led us back under the railway arch and the flat run over the last half mile or so. But by now I was gone; the runners who I’d overtaken coming out of the woods now passed me with ease, though as I reached the part where we started the race over an hour earlier, a quick glance over my shoulder told me there was no more imminent threat. Tired, battered and bruised, I pulled myself along through the woods with the River Calder to my right and the rugby pitches on my left and entered the cricket field with the fantastic sight that was the finish line. Andrew, Matt and Kirsty cheered me in, and the ordeal was over.

Andrew Tudor enters Copley Cricket Club on his way to being #FPH.

From being less than thirty seconds behind Matt and Kirsty with half a mile to go, they’d managed to put nearly two minutes between me; they ran in together and were given the same times. Andrew took the honour of being #FPH, though having managed to run unscathed for most of the race, suffered a calf strain after pushing himself too fast down the final fields and he saw out the final stages in a slow canter. The race itself had been won by Jonathan Melia of Rossendale Harriers in 51:11.

Kirsty and Matt cross the line together.
Giving it my all for the camera. I drag myself over the line.

The race recovery included free tea and biscuits, and Kirsty, Matt and myself sat and watched other runners finish across the field. I admired how the Halifax Harriers had organised the event, and from where I was, there hadn’t appeared to have been any glitches. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. Stories unfolded of one lady who’d taken exception to part of the course going over ‘her’ dog-walking patch; she’d taken it upon herself to remove or change the direction of some of the flags on the moor, with some of these later found in a bin. It seems it was the leading runners who suffered; quick thinking by some of the marshals up there soon put most of the runners on the right track, but it does make you wonder what goes through people’s minds at times. The experience at Oakwell Hall in the West Yorkshire Winter League was obviously not a one-off incident.

Every picture tells a story.

Northowram Pumas’ positions and times;

71 Andrew Tudor 69:36

85 Kirsty Edwards 72:44

86 Matt Newton 72:44

93 Johnny Meynell 74:39

YORKSHIRE LASS CYCLE CLUB CHARITY SPORTIVE,

Carlton Lodge Outdoor Centre, Thirsk, Sunday 20 August, 2017.

Being a member of Northowram Pumas is not all about running. There are one or two off-shoots, not least the many socials evenings most of them enjoy. Some of the tales from these are legendary and I’ve heard next time out Carine Baker is going for a personal best. Thursday evenings has seen a relatively small bunch take to cycling. Anyone can join, though for this you’ll need a bicycle, a helmet and the willingness to put in some serious mileage, often involving steady and arduous climbs over the moors. These guys are proper hardcore. Oh, and some lyrca wouldn’t go amiss, though here word has it that organiser Neil Coupe has a drawer full in different colours and sizes. He likes to cycle in pink in homage to his hero that is the Mushy Cade Running Machine.

Carolyn Brearley, Jo Allen and Melissa Hall all set and ready to roll.

So whilst the Fleetwood Half Marathon was being run, four other Pumas were taking part in the second Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club Charity Sportive which set off from Carlton Lodge Outdoor Centre, Thirsk. Carolyn Brearley, Jo Allen and Melissa Hall elected to undertake the 60-mile route, whilst Sarah Firth decided to take the slightly less challenging 30-mile event. All four were up at the crack of dawn to be ready in time for the start.

The 60-miler was entitled a “Rite gud ride” for those ladies “who are ready to go that bit further with a couple of hills thrown in,” and takes the same route as the 30-mile and 100-mile routes before splitting at Knayton. En route, the riders take in several villages with quaint sounding names such as Kirby Wiske, Ainderby Steeple, Yafforth, Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe and Felixkirk, and there are individually-timed climbs named Sandy Bank Climb, Kirby Knowle, Coxwold Grind Out and Knayton ‘Upsall Climb. Sarah’s 30-mile route was temptingly called “Cup o tea and a piece of cake”, and was promised “flattish on mainly quiet roads,” with “a few undulations”.

Answers on a postcard…

Our Fab Four duly completed their respective rides, though it has to be said, not without incident. Jo suffered two punctures and necessitated a tyre change (to her bike, of course) and in need of assistance, was forced to strike that rather helpless pose until some knight in shining armour came to the rescue (not unlike when waiting for Neil at the bar).

All smiles as Sarah proudly shows off her medal after completing her 30-mile bike ride.

Jo, Carolyn and Melissa finished together and met up with Sarah, where medals were collected, cake scoffed and doubtless copious amounts of tea or some other type of liquid consumed. Jo reckons that next year they will be out in force in bigger numbers and will camp overnight. Like I said, proper hardcore.

 

FLEETWOOD HALF MARATHON,

Sunday, 20 August 2017.

Over the course of the season, the Northowram Pumas’ Club Championship has and will take in many of the best – and handiest – local races on the circuit, varying in mileage. Sunday saw the latest round where points were up for grabs, a merry jaunt of 13.1 miles around that near and familiar seaport town that is…Fleetwood!

Yes, you’ve read that right – Fleetwood, just above Blackpool, some seventy miles away on the west coast. Which probably explains why only three Pumas set their alarms for an unearthly hour to be ready to leave at 6.30am (on a Sunday!) so that they could prep themselves well for the 10.00am start. Personally, I’d give the three amigos Tim Brook, Jane Cole and Helen Jackson maximum points each for making the effort – and that’s before they’ve even started running the half marathon.

Suited and booted and ready to run…Jane Cole, Helen Jackson and Tim Brook.

Organised by Fylde Coast Runners, the runners set off from the registration point at Beach Road Car Park, Rossall Point on the outer seawall walkway.  The route promises grand views over Morecambe Bay as it winds its way along the sea coast along Fleetwood’s Outer Promenade and Esplanade. Initially sending the runners up the coast, the route passes the Model Yacht Pond and Marine Hall before veering right and doubling back to take the long stretch of The Esplanade. This turns onto Laidler’s Way, which then runs into Princes Way with the Irish Sea on the runners’ right. As the competitors pick up Marine Parade, they begin the first of two four-mile loops which comprise the promenade, left up Westbourne Road, then along the A587 Broadway passing Rossall School, then left at the seven-pronged roundabout down Chatsworth Avenue to pick up the promenade once more. Upon completion of the second loop, the runners then head back in a north-easterly direction along Princes Way with Fleetwood Golf Course on the left. Rejoining Laidler’s Way, they take a left to circumnavigate the Model Yacht Pond before finally turning for the finish in the field behind where they started.

Tim Brook may have run longer distances, but this was his first proper half marathon event, and he seemingly breezed it, being #FPH in 1hr 27:29.3, and finishing 21st out of a field of 548 finishers. Impressive, eh? There’s no truth in the rumour that Tim, who drove the team over, when asked how he found the course, replied, “I took junction three off the M55,” though he did go on record as describing the route as “dull”!

Tim making it look all so easy. The Royston Road Runner behind might beg to differ.

Jane Cole, who ran 1hr 56:28 at the Manchester Half Marathon last October, pushed herself all the way to run a super-duper sub 1hr fifty, officially recorded as 1hr 49:07.4. Her reaction was understandable: “Absolutely over the moon!” She had until this point kept quiet about a niggling Achilles problem which caused her some grief, so her time was even more remarkable.

Jane forces her way through the field…on the way to her first sub 1 hour fifty.

And what of Helen Jackson, a runner whose availability was in doubt until the eve of the race? She’s been suffering with a ‘glute’ problem (look it up) but having being strapped up, dared to finish the race. She started well enough and was comfortably running sub-ten-minute mile pace over the first eight only for her injury to reoccur and slow her down considerably. Her eleventh mile was run in 11 mins 21. But she picked up the pace over the last mile to finish (in some considerable pain) in 2hrs 11:42.0.

Helen approaching the finishing line, clearly in some discomfort (though nothing that a bottle of Rekorderlig won’t put right).

A word for other runners familiar to us; husband and wife team Paul and Jenny Hopkinson were running in the colours of Halifax Harriers, with Paul taking the domestic honours, finishing in 1hr 39:16.2 with Jenny home in 1hr 43:12.8.

There were problems with some of the chip times, but this eagle-eyed reporter had noted them as they came in; later, the results showed just the finishing times, and these are shown below, alongside the positions;

21 Tim Brook 1hr 27:29.3

90 Paul Hopkinson 1hr 39:27.1

118 Jenny Hopkinson 1hr 43:12.8

181 Jane Cole 1hr 49:18.3

390 Helen Jackson 2hr 11:52.9.

Our Pumas stop to show off their medals and swap stories with Paul and Jenny Hopkinson, who were running in the colours of Halifax Harriers.

NORTHOWRAM PUMAS V SOWERBY BRIDGE SNAILS NETBALL TOURNAMENT,

North Bridge Leisure Centre, Sunday, 13 August 2017.

In what is hoped will be the first of many encounters, the Northowram Pumas and Sowerby Bridge Snails found themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory when they took each other on in this netball competition at North Bridge Leisure Centre. It was all for a good cause, you understand, with monies raised going towards the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund.

All smiles. Mind, this was before the contest!

Amongst both sets of ladies, there are some nifty netball players; they play in a league on a regular basis. But both the ladies’ teams were made up of non-netball players, gladly giving up their time, if not their reputations, to take part. As for the men? Many, like me, have only played once before – earlier this year, in fact, when the Pumas held an in-house boys v girls match, with the male species getting a right pasting. To give them a fighting chance, a coaching session was held two nights before, then again an hour before the main competition, with the Pumas men taking on the women under the tutelage of umpire Jess Brearley. Here, in the absence of Paul Bottomley, Glenn Ackroyd proved himself to be a mean goal shooter, whilst Peter Reason showed he wasn’t afraid to put himself about. But that was the Pumas. What about the male Snails? Clearly they were taking this event seriously, and if the rumours are to be believed, their coaching sessions lasted several weeks and many more hours. On the day, it paid off.

A bird’s eye view of the action.

Once the Pumas’ practice session had finished, it was time for the real action, the first game starting at 3.00pm on the dot. These matches consisted of two equal halves of six minutes, therefore twelve minutes of playing time. First up were the Pumas Ladies against their Snails counterparts.

In all fairness, the Pumas had more ‘natural’ netball players (four to two) than the Snails, and pretty early on it was clear that there was only going to be one winner. With Julie Bowman using her height to good effect, the Pumas ran up a three-goal lead before the Snails pulled one back before the break. In the second period, it was more of the same, and the Pumas moved into the final courtesy of a 6-2 victory.

Apparently this defensive manouevre is a legit move. But Pumas’ Julie Bowman is undeterred.

The second ‘semi-final’ was this intriguing clash of the two men’s teams; just how much had each side learnt in the time they’d had practising? It wasn’t long before the Pumas realised they were up against a mean machine, with lanky Jonathan Moon and ex-basketball star Dave Collins causing early damage. The Snails led 4-0 at the break, and went on to win the match 7-1, with Glenn Ackroyd finally getting the Pumas on the scoresheet with the outcome by then somewhat of a formality.

While the Snails Men and the Pumas Ladies readied themselves for the final, the third-place play-off match saw Pumas Men taking on the Snail Ladies. The early stages were bereft of chances, but finally the Pumas broke the deadlock and led 2-0 at half-time. In the second period, they ran up a 5-0 lead before the Snails Ladies pulled one back, but it was the Pumas who had the last word as they ran out 6-1 winners.

Pumas’ Matt Newton receives some umph from Jodie Smith.

And so to the final; Pumas Ladies v Snails Men. A mouth-watering clash if ever there was one. Could the Ladies gain the upper hand and stop the Snails in the tracks, or would the Snails continue to be as clinical as they were in the match against the Pumas Men? It was a tough call, but clearly man-for-woman the Snails had a massive advantage; height, to which they used to devastating effect. Collins got the Snails off to a great start and by half-time they had raced into a 3-0 lead. They continued in the much the same vein in the second period, and though Julie Bowman put the Pumas on the scoresheet, it was the Snails who romped to victory, the final score being 7-1 in the favour. There was no doubting it, the best side on the day had won.

Dave Collins nets the first goal in the final and the Snails are on their way.

The final hour saw a full Pumas side take on the Snails in a mixed team contest. This was divided into four quarters of fifteen minutes, with only three men allowed on each side at any one time. Substitutes were made at the end of each quarter. But the match went the way of the Snails from the outset, once Collins had scored the first goal from the edge of the area. At the end of the first quarter, the Snails led 5-1. Most of the damage was done in the second quarter as the Snails scored seemingly at will; there was no reply from the Pumas, and at half-time the Snails led 12-1.

With this simple miss, Pumas’ chances disappear in the mixed contest and player-manager Neil Coupe contemplates his future!

The Pumas made a fist of it in the third quarter, actually winning that segment 2-1, and going into the last period the deficit was now ‘just’ ten goals, 13-3. However, the last quarter was virtually one-way traffic. The slick Snails powered forward and scored at regular intervals. Pumas managed two goals but upon the final whistle, the result proved something of a white-wash; Snails 21 Pumas 5.

The umpire’s whistle signalled not only the end of the netball action, but also the stampede for the bar, where the Pumas showed a clean pair of heels to be first in the queue. In due course, once everyone had been served, the umpires Jess Brearley and Sophie Boothroyd (who had given up their time free of charge) handed out their awards. Mark Brook was given a wooden spoon as the biggest ‘Lobber’, whilst Pumas’ most impressive player was named as Peter Reason. He gleefully collected a giant bar of Cadbury’s, but this award should come as no surprise because Peter is something of a chocolate magnate. The corresponding award for the Snails went to Goal Keeper Ben Trafford. Our Jo made a short speech and revealed that £100 had been raised for the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund, so it was hats off to everyone who made it such a fun and exciting event.

We were all winners!

For prosperity, the Pumas were represented by the following;

Ladies – Jo Allen, Julie Bowman, Carolyn Brearley, Kirsty Edwards, Shana Emmerson, Tiffany Lewis, Charlotte Reason, Patricia Taylor.

Men – Glenn Ackroyd, Mark Brook, Neil Coupe, Andy Haslam, Mark Kirkby, Andrew Mellor, Johnny Meynell, Matt Newton, Peter Reason.

Amid the often exciting and clever netball on show over the course of the three hours, there was one moment which perhaps went unrecognised. Of the player thrust into a most unaccustomed forward role, yet who, despite being starved of the ball for much of the time, with his only attempt on goal nevertheless managed to score. Many would find this hard to believe, but friends, I know this is true; I was that shooter.