The month of May can only mean one thing in every runners race calendar, The Calderdale Way Relay.

Last year, we managed to enter two teams (a male and a female team) and we did well, considering it was the first time we’d entered it.

But in 2017, we went bigger and better, entering 3 teams and totally smashing last years positions out of the park!

Massive thanks go out to Andrew ‘Sarge’ Tudor for organising three teams of injury prone, map-phobic runners!

Find out more about the day, from runners of each leg below!

Leg one

We’re still waiting to hear from our leg one runners….they enjoyed it that much, they obviously can’t put it into words! Either that or they still haven’t managed to navigate their way to a computer!

Leg two – Johnny Vs Stoodley Pike, round 2

The only saving grace about running Leg 2 was that the six ‘designated’ runners didn’t have to rise from our beds before the dawn chorus. Yet, in the back of our minds was the nagging thought of having to scale 1,300 feet and run a course of 8.4 miles. They say runners must be mad, and as singer/songwriter Joe Jackson might have said, there goes your proof!

My own personal journey began when I left home at 7.05 to drive to Todmorden, arriving in good time, well before, it would appear, other club runners. I ran this leg last year – further evidence perhaps that I truly do need certifying – but unlike twelve months previously, there was no parking at Todmorden High School (nor, as it transpired, was there where the finish line was). I managed to park up on Ewood Lane, then watched as cars drove up and around the corner to use the Leisure Centre car park, only then to see the same said cars making a hasty retreat. Apparently, there was a notice at the car park entrance that read something to the effect of ‘Runners not welcome’.

At 7.56, Neil Coupe turned up in his passenger transporter carrying Andy Haslam and Deke Banks, who were running in the Pumas Men’s team (as opposed to me and Neil who were representing the Mixed Team, though with pride, I hasten to add). I duly jumped in and we made our way back to Cragg Vale where registration and kit checks were being made. Last year, we had use of the Hinchliffe Arms, where pre-race coffee was served. A change of hands and it appears a change of attitude, though the new owners were obliging enough to let hosts Halifax Harriers the use of the car park. There, we met Kirsty Edwards and Lucy Oxley, who were running in the Ladies team.

Leg two runners

Kit check and registration duly complete, we were then left with the long wait until the first runners came in. We were joined by Jo Allen, Tiffany Lewis and Carolyn Brearley, and they kept us company whilst taking the obligatory team photos. Our mass start was scheduled for 9.45, and there was the hope that the first leg Men and Ladies teams would be in by then. The first arrivals were Ben Mounsey and Andy Swift, running for the Calder Valley Fell Runners, though Ben didn’t hang around; no sooner had he finished then he was making his way back up the road heading for Blackshaw Head in order to run his team’s third leg (though there’s no suggestion he ran there – he probably took the car).

Luke Cranfield and Tim Brook easily made the cut, finishing their leg in 1hr 25.52 and handing over the baton to Andy and Deke. Of course, we knew we wouldn’t see them again until we’d finished. As other teams arrived, Kirsty and Lucy waited anxiously in the hope that Liz McDonnell and Diane Cooper would appear; alas, it wasn’t to be. Like myself and Neil, they were pulled in for the mass start and without any hesitation, we were off. Liz and Diane may have just arrived to see the dust settle; they missed the cut-off point by an agonising forty seconds. Matt Newton and Alan Sykes of the Mixed Team, were, of course, still out there, and wouldn’t finish their leg until 23 minutes after the mass start.

Meantime, myself, Neil, Kirsty and Lucy had begun the arduous gradual ascent up Rudd Lane heading towards Withens Clough Reservoir, and way beyond that, Stoodley Pike. It might be an age thing, but having run the course twice last year (including the recce) I’d somehow forgotten just how tough the route was. The climb, though not steep, seemed to take an age, and I was soon feeling it in the back of my legs. Having overtaken Kirsty and Lucy early on (although I didn’t think we were particularly racing) they swapped places with us just before the reservoir, and whilst for long enough they remained in our sights, soon enough the gap between us became insurmountable. At some point above the reservoir, a group of us seemingly missed a stile through which we would have picked up a track; instead we ended up ploughing across the adjacent field, not a problem in itself, but the stile further along proved a handicap. Whilst I could easily slip through it, not so my bum-bag. I became wedged in, and it wasn’t until I applied excessive force to free myself that I managed to pass through. But one of the safety pins holding my race number in place had come undone, and Neil had to fasten it for me, and valuable seconds were lost.

Kirsty and Lucy, the female team runners

We turned right, picking up the Pennine Way track, and headed across the moors towards Stoodley Pike. Again, not steep, but treacherous in places and with the odd bog thrown in for good measure, this was no idea of fun. Stoodley Pike, a monument built to commemorate victory in the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, rebuilt in 1856, appeared in view. We reached it but had no time to survey it; on the other side was the steep drop towards Mankinholes, a descent certainly not for the faint-hearted. Throwing caution to the wind, I flew down the precipice in the manner of a Marvel superhero; Neil stepped more gingerly, not so much Superman as Couperman (he hates this kind of thing anyway, don’t you know?), and at the bottom, for the only time, did I find myself having to wait for him to catch me up. We then had the long but gentle run along the bridle path towards Mankinholes, bearing right on the tarmacked road, then taking a left down a track which took us in front of the Top Brink pub.

Ahead of us lay the energy-sapping climb towards another local hostelry, the Shepherd’s Rest. Long and undulating, I recall last year running all of this stretch; this time, my legs must have been feeling heavier as I found myself having to walk. Still, we were spurred on by Kirsty’s husband Mark and daughter Jessica, and further along, Tracey Ann en famile, somehow, just by chance, happening to be out for a stroll.

There’s been many a sporting mishap over the years that have long had folk chewing the cud; Devon Loch’s legs giving way as the horse was about to win the 1956 Grand National, Cambridge sinking in the Boat Race in 1978, and Michael Schumacher taking out Damon Hill in 1994 to prevent him taking the Formula One world championship, to name but just three. I’m not sure where myself and Neil would fit into all this, but getting lost on Long Hey Road, at the beginning of the drop into Todmorden, was as bad as it would get for us. Long Hey Road actually sweeps around to the left; we carried straight forward towards Longfield Equestrian Centre and then bore left. We were joined by Hazel Ives and Angela Donaggin of Skipton B, who tried to put us right by taking the entrance into the equestrian centre itself (strange, as they’d reccied the course recently). Realising we were all wrong, we returned up Long Hey Road and picked up the correct route. In the distance behind us, Paul Corns and Steve Hallam of Stainland Lions F must have breathed a collective sigh of relief as they watched the drama; they now couldn’t make the same mistake. Not only that, they’d made up much ground. I despaired; any hope of making up time on Kirsty and Lucy all now vanished.

The drop into Todmorden, via Honey Hole Road, was a sharp as it could get, asking further questions of the legs. Eventually we hit Rochdale Road, turned left and headed for Dobroyd Road which crosses the railway line. We were then faced with the toughest part of the course; the hellish climb up and beyond Dobroyd Castle. Even the elitist of runners would find this tough, especially after six miles. Speaking to Andy Haslam afterwards, he admitted to having to power-walk much of it. I did what I could, but it was while negotiating this section that Messrs Corns and Hallam passed us, although we stuck close to them for much of the rest of the course. In time (and that depends how fast you were going) we took a farm track, then climbed into a field (still rising), crossing diagonally and over the tops before picking up the tarmacked Parkin Lane. Thankfully, after bearing left, this was the last of the climbing – and not much of it – as we then dropped down towards a farm house, picking up the bridle way, crossing fields and then carefully winding our way through the steep path through the woods towards Ewood Lane. The end was in sight.

Right Said Fred finishing

I’d hoped we could make a race of it with the Stainland Lions pair, but they hit Ewood Lane first and made a dash for the finish. I’d wondered what had happened to Hazel and Angela, never too far behind us following the Long Hey incident. Actually, they’d long since given up the ghost on myself and Neil. We reached the road, turned left and headed for the finishing line which, as opposed to the previous year when we finished at Tod High School itself, was just around the bend above the Leisure Centre. It was perhaps too little too late, but the nearer the finishing line the better, at least for this runner. Greeting us in were Andy and Deke, who’d finished an age before us, having completed the course in 1:11.53 and managing to hand over the baton to Tom O’Reilly and Peter Reason.

Deke and Andy getting the baton to leg three

Kirsty and Lucy, who’d finished in 1:22.58, along with Jo, Tiffany and Carolyn, were also there. Our time of 1:31.13 was disappointing (and slower than the time I clocked with Robert Shirlaw last year), but there were, as you’ve seen above, mitigating circumstances.

As my old Geography teacher might have screamed: “Read your damn map!”

Leg three, Peter Von Reason gives us the low down

  • Open – Peter Reason & Thomas O’Reilly
  • Ladies – Victoria Owen & Alison Pearce
  • Mixed – Nicola Pennington & Melissa Hall

On an overcast morning our 6 Pumas congregated in Todmorden for the start of leg 3. With all kit checked, numbers collected and team photos taken, we were all set for a mid morning run up to Blackshaw Head.

Leg 3 runners raring to go

As the first runners came down the hill with their batons we moved in to position. By 10:30 all 3 Puma teams were on the road ready for the off. I was now clock watching and at 10:36 leg 2 team (Andy H & Deke) came down the hill with baton in hand. By 10:38 the baton was firmly in Tom’s hand and we were off on our leg leaving our fellow Pumas to a mass start at 11am.

At a steady pace we made our way past the Hare & Hounds, with the sun now shining a pint would be very tempting, but a 1,111 ft climb was to be tackled.

With the temperature rising as we progressed up the hill we were getting hotter and we tried to keep to Sgt. Tudors 8 minute pace (unsuccessfully). Tom took pace up the big hill with me following, as that incline became steeper our pace slowed right down to a quick walk. Now at the half way point on the hill, Tom and I started jogging up to the top when we were passed by the team behind us.

Once up top we increased our pace to give Shaun and Adam some extra time for leg 4. As Tom increased his pace, I decided to take a dive just to slow Tom down. Tom’s attempts to alert mountain rescue by blowing his whistle proved futile, I did suggest firing a flare gun might be a better idea, but alas that was missing from the kit list and Tom’s impressive £36 tech back pack. With blood pouring from my knee’s Tom applied what he considered to be excellent first aid a squirt of water and words of comfort. Once back on my feet we set off at Bolt pace, but with those magnificent views across the valley to Stoodley pike we had to slow down and Tom asking me for directions slowed us down further. The run now turned into a nice undulating jaunt across the moors, before we dropped down a Tarmac road and then taking left up towards Todmorden golf course with thoughts of stopping for a round of golf as we were now ahead of schedule.

Over 3/4 of the way round taking a left running past the squealing pigs and the farmer directing the ramblers back on to the Calderdale way, we continued at pace. Through forest, marshy fields and walled paths we made our way back to the road. Taking a slight up hill then down to what Tom called Brimham rocks we ran. At the rocks we took a left past the goats and fellow leg 3 runners running back to Tod. Finally we hit a technical decent down to Hippins bridge, being very careful not to go too fast and end up hanging on the barbed wire. Over the bridge and up the final climb with my kit bag slipping, Tom started to slow so I tightened my belt and took the opportunity to pass Tom and lead him onto the final straight. As we turned the corner with a shout for the Pumas from Paul H we sprinted towards the end of our leg, and just to slow Tom further I threw another water bottle. As Tom picked up the water bottle & I slowed to make sure we handed the baton over at 11:30am together.


Tom getting the baton to the start of leg 4

After mopping up the blood from my knees, we enjoyed a tea and cake, but how we’d have preferred a pint and bag of pork scratchings. I’m sure Tom only volunteered for the run to get out of wedding arrangements.

The morning was completed by watching Alison and Vicky complete a fantastic leg to get Ally and Jane off just before the mass start, only for Jane to go sprinting beyond their first stile crossing to screams of stop you missed the gate. After seeing Ally and Jane off Richard and Conor departed on the mass start and minutes later we cheered Nicola and Melissa into the finish.

Mel and Nicola Finishing leg 3

Leg 3 completed by all 3 Puma teams successfully, happy in the knowledge we’d achieved something big.

As for Tom’s technical back pack, it can now be borrowed for the odd trip to collect alcohol from the Off Licence….


Thanks to everyone who supported us on the day. A real team effort, as always from the Pumas.

Leg four – Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls, Adam gives us the lowdown 

Herbie Rides Again… thoughts of this movie came in to my head as I pinned our team number 53 to the front of my Pumas top at the start of leg 4.

Leg 4 runners….after eating all the cake

This movie sequel featuring the Beetle with racing number 53 was out the year I was born. Now sequels are rarely as good as the original film, with the exception of The Godfather Part 2 and The Bourne Supremacy… oh and of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel!

In my nervous (‘squeakquel’ pants time) pre-race thoughts I pondered this film-based analogy…

Shaun and I were about to do our very own follow-up to this leg of the Calderdale Way Relay – our sequel would be more of a remake of the original episode we made in 2016. This time with a bigger budget (this year we forked out on a taxi to travel to the event and get back) and a bigger cast (three pairs of leading stars instead of two in 2016).

We had to put in a much better performance this time round to keep director Andrew Tarantino-Tudor happy with the final cut!

According to our script, the basic plot was to pass the baton on to our fellow Pumas Men’s team waiting at the start of leg 5. Shaun and I worked out that the running time – in movie speak and literally our time running – would have to be edited down to 1 hour 30 mins from the overlong performance we produced last year.

Enough with the movie metaphors though… this meant we had to be 8 minutes quicker than last year.

We had calculated this was the absolute best time we could feasibly achieve – if the wind was blowing the right way, we didn’t talk to each other so as to reserve all our strength, and under no circumstances attempted to waste any energy using facial muscles to smile for any photographers on route!

It meant we needed our team 53 leg 3 Puma pals to hand the baton to us no later than half past 11, to give us any chance at all to reach the start of leg 5 before the cut-off time of 1pm.

The six of us leg 4 Pumas – Ally, Jane, Richard, Conor, Shaun and me – rapturously kept track of how the rest of the Pumas were performing using the messenger update service Andrew had set up. Seeing the baton being handed over at the earlier legs certainly built up the excitement.

We were gutted for Liz and Diane when they reported they’d missed out by mere seconds in passing on their Women’s team baton. We knew how agonising this must have felt and this spurred us on to pull everything out of the bag. And what a meticulously packed bag it was I must say – containing all the obligatory items from the kit list, from whistle to kitchen sink!

To be on the safe side, Conor has brought along a World Atlas rather than the stipulated OS map of our specific leg!

Peter and Tom managed to make it to us more or less bang on 11:30am with a fantastic performance from them and the two earlier legs gaining valuable minutes. So it was now feasible, but we set off with trepidation knowing it was going to be down to the wire (Mission Impossible comes to mind… sorry I said no more cinematic references!).

This would be less a blockbuster, but more a bonebuster as we stuck to Shaun’s strategy of tearing down the steep slippery slopes where we knew we had a chance to save vital seconds, risking falling head over heels, while making sure we didn’t burn out on those arduous uphill sections.

Ally discovered just how hazardous those rough paths can be, taking a tumble – in her own words ‘a face plant’ – during her race with partner Jane. In summer Blockbuster movie speak perhaps this moment was more Blackshaw Head Down, than Black Hawk Down… Thankfully she was able to get back to her feet and crack on. It’s amazing our inspirational run leader was able to complete the leg at all starting with a pre-race foot injury – never mind in the super time this pair achieved, smashing our club Women’s record to bits.

Ally recalls: “My highlight for the day was thinking that me and Jane would be in the mass start and then hearing our number being called because Alison and Vix were coming in before the cut off time… that and Jane missing the gate and going in the wrong direction within the first 10 seconds!”.

The final hill in leg 4

Getting lost was a constant fear for all of us (except Conor of course with his on-board luggage weighted down with the maps of Great Britain and beyond). Even me and Shaun were not averse to almost taking wrong turns on our 4th bid at this leg!

Our audacious, if may be overly ambitious plan, was to sprint across the couple of miles of level moorland across to Hebden Bridge Golf Course. This is where the previous week on our recce, we had sighted a Fokker in the valley below us on our recce. No I’m not talking disparagingly about a rival team’s runner – there was a huge, low flying military aircraft passing by when we had checked out the route the previous week.

No time for any such distractions today though as we ploughed along, remaining focused on our gargantuan task of maintaining the necessary average pace of 9:34 minute miles. Before the race, my online pace calculator had confirmed this was the required target we must hit.

So my job was to monitor this while Shaun would keep his eye on counting down the time to 1pm. Unfortunately in the nervous excitement to set off when we were handed the baton, I’d neglected to start my Garmin timer, so missed the first third of a mile. I therefore had to do some strategic mental calculations (words ‘finger’ and ‘air’ come to mind) to keep us on track, which basically amounted to our hastily revised strategy – just chuffin’ run as fast as we can without collapsing in a heap!

With the last couple of miles to go as we descended to Jerusalem farm, I could see our overall average pace was 9:14 which seemed ‘pretty, pretty good’ as Larry David would say – but like his TV show, we needed to curb our enthusiasm as we still had to factor in the rather repugnant ramp up to Wainstalls.

As we hobbled up that last incline – that seemed to go on forever – I managed to find enough breath to ask Shaun the time. And the response was like a cross between the speaking clock from the Eighties and a heavy breathing nuisance call as my running buddy panted his response, confirming we had just minutes until our 1pm deadline. We still had about half a mile to run/crawl to where we could see the crowd of runners gathered for the mass start.

Spotting the friendly faces of our Puma pals Luke, Tim and Lisa gave us the boost we needed to keep going, and there was a huge, uplifting cheer as we ran through the pack of runners.

It was now like a slow motion replay in my head as Shaun handed over the baton to Andrew and Richard (watch that momentous highlight here). We watched as they set off across the field – just 10 seconds later the mass start was called and the field was filled with swarming runners chasing down the Pumas pair.

Tim summed up the moment best in his update to the messenger group:

We barely had time to get our breaths back before we spotted Richard and Conor heading up the valley, with Jane and Ally not far behind.

Richard has fond memories of plenty of overtaking fellow runners, once the pair had navigated through the bottlenecks at the early stiles and managed to pull away from the mass start. He does say their egos took a serious battering on the last mile climb to the finish “where several greying pensioner-aged women were getting the better of us hardly out of breath” – and these senior citizens weren’t even runners Richard, they were just out for a Sunday stroll (haha only kidding).

They needn’t feel any disappointment though as they recorded an incredible performance to be proud of, as did each and every Puma this day – so many individual achievements contributing to our overall team success.

It was fantastic to cheer them on and head to the pub to catch up on how our fellow team members were doing and – to quote one final film reference – like Herbie, go bananas about the overall phenomenal Pumas performance that was unveiling as we supped our pints in the sunny beer garden at Wainstalls.

Upon checking our pace after uploading the leg to Strava, we were amazed to find it recorded the exact pace the calculator has forecast we needed – 9:34 minute/miles!

Tudor takes on leg five

When I was asked to organise the Northowram Pumas 2017 Calderdale Way Relay team I had a few mixed feelings but once I got the go ahead to make it public the overwhelming response from the brilliant members set me at ease. We had more than enough volunteers for 4 teams but we felt that entering 3 was the best option following the amount of withdrawals we had in 2016, this proved to be a wise choice. This did however make picking the teams extremely difficult, I tried to apply some logic to the situation, take peoples requests into account and get the pairs matched equally using West Yorkshire Winter League performance where possible. After the initial pass, I leant on Andy Haslam and Ally Canning to bounce some ideas about and discuss which mix of teams would give us the best opportunity of a strong performance. It was a close call between 3 Strong Mixed Teams or Men’s, Women’s and a Mixed Team. When I put the possible teams on paper we decided on the latter so we could also compare to the 2016 performance. The teams were picked everyone was happy with their partners and choice of legs and despite a few injury worries we only had to bring in one replacement (who would have probably have made the team if she wasn’t injured to start with).

Leg 5 runners at the start line

On Race day, I was still up early despite not leaving for the start until 11:00, I was straight onto Facebook to track the early runners and see the pictures being posted by our wonderful Puma spectators. This was clearly helping all the other runners build up to their Legs and one by one each Leg were adding pictures of the 3 pairs waiting at the start of each race. After taking my car to the finish and having a quick run back to test my own injury it was time to start getting ready for the taxi picking Gabby Kenny, Paula Snee and I up at 11:00, then on to pick Richard Ogden, Helen Jackson and Carine Baker up and onto the Delvers Pub at Wainstalls. A steady walk to the registration point and a quick catch up on the other runners we realised the ladies team had got into the end of Leg 2 at 11:08 only 8 minutes after the cut off and we knew the Men were already on their way setting off around 10:45. Once registered and following the very informal kit inspection we posed for the Leg 5 Team photo and heard that Leg 4 Men’s team were off at around 11:30, this give them the 1:30 minutes they were aiming for to try and get the baton to the start of Leg 5, we were a bit behind where we had hoped but it was still a brilliant effort seeing as though we didn’t get it past Leg 1 in 2016. Richard and I decided to have a bit of a warm up and set off on the reverse of Leg 4, we didn’t do much warming up as we started seeing the 1st of the Leg 4 finishers. We were joined at the start by Luke, Tim, and Lisa to cheer us off and welcome the Leg 4 finishers. We were all watching the runners in the distance and every top looked yellow and we were hopeful one of the pairs would be the men.

Richard puffing up the hill

The whistle sounded for the Mass start so we all made our way over the stile onto the moor, I was edging to the front of the pack while keeping an eye out and keeping hopeful that we would still see Adam and Shaun appearing over the horizon. Then the unbelievable happened 2 yellow shirts appeared, I shouted it was them and to our delight the marshals shouted out number 53 and told us to go but we wanted that Baton and we shouted them onto the fence (sorry you had to do an extra few yards) and took the baton. The excitement of that moment and everyone cheering us, spurred us on and we set off too quick, we passed a couple of spectators who were heading onto the moor shouted you’re at the front but they’re after you, how long can you stay there? This was also a question we were asking ourselves, I could hear Richard breathing heavily behind me and he was saying he needed to slow down. I was still running on adrenalin at that point from the high of the baton and couldn’t slow down. We went across the moor over a few bridges, over a wall and then turned through a farm and some more muddy areas with narrow passages and gates, this made it difficult for the chasing pack to overtake us. We managed to hold all the other teams off until we entered the field below the climb to Withens Road, this is where Richard overtook me for the 1st time having gained his breath back and my eager start catching up on me. Somehow, I managed to go past Richard again on the 1st of the tough climbs but not for long he went passed me again as we crossed Withens Road and into the best descent of the leg, the final bit of which finishes with Hunter Hill descent, I passed Richard again at this point but once again exhausted myself with the fast pace. Richard passed me again in the next field crossing over towards Lane Head Lane along with a few of the other teams, I could still see Richard and was waving him to push on. Richard was flying up Lane Head Lane climb and I was passed by a couple more teams. Richard stopped a couple of times and I kept telling him to push on as it was keeping me going and I didn’t want to slow down and there were no other teams passing me.

We continued through Bradshaw through fields, roads and even a rather large back garden with its own lake all the time Richard was in the distance just in sight. As I came through some snickets and houses Richard was out of sight but I knew he wouldn’t be far as we were turning left onto the Overgate course on Holdsworth Road just up from the school, as I turned the corner I saw Richard waiting, I once again waved him on and he set off running but I could tell something was wrong. I asked if he was OK but he had popped his calf and was unable to put any pressure on it. We stopped a minute and tried stretching but it wasn’t helping, I asked him if he wanted to stop but he was not going to be beat and we carried on. The climb up Brow Lane to Crooked Lane was difficult for both of us and we had to walk in parts as the pain was too much, we were beating ourselves up at this point as we had blown the chance of getting the baton before the mass start which was still possible up until the injury struck. We were passed again by some people who were still able to run but we carried pushing on running for a bit walking a bit and managed to take over a few of the teams that had passed us.

At the top, we crossed over into home territory and a couple of spectators who had been driving to different parts of the course gave us some words of encouragement as they realised we were both not at our best. We dropped down from Swales Moor Road down towards Simm Carr Lane, this is one of Richard’s favourite segments and he commented he had never ran it as slow, we were passed here for the final time by a couple of vets from Stainland who congratulated us on having the baton and commented it was the 1st one they had seen. Heading down towards Simm Carr Lane and we were telling the gentlemen to be careful on the slippery stones and then, crash! Both feet from under me straight onto my backside.

The girls in action

Once up onto Simm Carr Lane we overtook the pair from Stainland and were cheered on by a group of walkers coming the opposite way, we passed another pair and turned left up a field towards Fall Lane and overtook another couple of pairs including an all-female pair who had were the penultimate baton carriers on Leg 5 around 10-15 minutes before us. We passed up Fall Lane and onto Addersgate Lane and onto Paddock Road, about half way down here I noticed it is 13:00 and the Mass start would be under way and we still had over a mile to go. I realised that we could still beat 2016 Leg 5 time if we could run around 9 minute miles. We climbed up the field at the bottom of Cowling Lane and up onto Teal Lane and out onto Tan House Lane where we crossed the Farmers Fields towards Score Hill. At the end of Score Hill was Jude, Orlagh and Mr Kenny cheering us on with some other spectators. We crossed down Hud Hill and onto the A644, there was a car coming towards me but I waved it to stop and to my surprise it did along with cars coming the other direction. Richard had fallen behind me again at this stage having led from Simm Carr to Tan House and the last push up Shelf Hall Lane I told him we had 2 minutes to beat 2016 time, we pushed on once more and saw Amelie, Freddie and Mr Baker cheering us on, we turned the corner down the footpath and shouted our number as we reached the end, I handed the baton over and stopped at my watch at somewhere around 1:14:30 (actual time 1:14:08) so we had beaten the previous club record. We were welcomed by Jenny Hopkinson, Kelly Smith, Chris Crabtree and Simon Wilkinson along with many other spectators.

I updated the chat to let people know we had finished and to my surprise Carine commented they were at Robinsons Farm Shop (talk about multi-tasking). We didn’t have that long to wait to cheer on Gabby Kenny and Paula Snee in 1:26:00 again breaking the previous year’s record (which was their own) again we didn’t have to wait long for Carine Baker and Helen Jackson (who didn’t know the route) to finish in 1:32:00. We all posed together again for a finishing photo before heading home to soak our aching bodies.

Bring on 2018 and more record breaking performances from all our teams….

Leg six

coming soon to a blog post near you….

Name: Neil Coupe.

Age: 46.

Occupation: Managing Director.

Neil not in Lycra

Group you frequently run with? Run leader so any group.

How did you get involved with the Pumas? I was there in the early days when there were approximately 20 members. I got involved by searching the Internet at that time under local running clubs.

I run because… It makes me feel alive when a run is completed. I also run to socialise.

By joining the Pumas, what were/are you hoping to get out of it? I joined the Pumas to improve my fitness and lose some of my belly, but I mainly joined the Pumas for the social aspect as I’m originally from the other side of Bradford and all my friends live over there. I love to socialise and I think I’m pretty good at it but that’s my opinion, probably no one else’s.

Do you have any personal goals and running aims for 2017? I’ve already achieved my personal goal which was to run a sub 45 minute 10k, which I did in the Bradford 10k (this year) in 43:38 and I just want maintain my decent level of fitness.

Do you remember your first session? Yes, there were 5 runners in my group, 2 women and 3 guys, only 3 are still members.

Did you run before you joined the club, or is it totally new to you? Do you or did you do any other sports? I’m a Senior County football referee and I used to be more into cycling than running but I find that running is an aerobic exercise and for me nothing comes close.

What’s your favourite part of being involved with the Pumas? I love now that I’m leading groups and seeing people on their personal journeys. And, of course, the social side, as there’s always something going on.

Have you got any favourite routes? Anything on the road. I hate caveman running (off-roading) but my favourite is the route from the end of Green Lane to Brow Lane.

What do you find the biggest drag in running? The dark nights, wearing LED lights and the unpredictable English weather.

Neil in action

How do you feel you have benefitted from joining the Pumas? For me, the the social side has brought me so many new people into my life who I now consider friends as well as running buddies.

Have you taken part in any organised events? Several events, probably too many to mention, but my first ever event was cycling from London to Paris, which I have to say no other event has come close.

If so, what was your most memorable run? My best running event was the Leeds Half Marathon in 2016 in which I didn’t time myself and just enjoyed it, high-fiving several people en route.

What most people don’t know about you is… That I used to be quite introvert and shy and used to weigh 18 stone.

If you were stuck on a desert island what would your luxury item be? My iPhone, of course, so I could banter on the Pumas group.

If you were stuck on a desert island who would you like to be there with? Apart from the obvious family members I would like to spend time with David Jason (Del Boy) as I’d hope he would keep me entertained over and over again just like when I watch Open All Hours and Only Fools and Horses on TV over and over again.

If you were stuck on a desert island name your three favourite songs (at least one should be your favourite song to run to)? Celine Dion – ‘I’m Alive’, Take That – ‘Never Forget’, and Queen – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ (fave running song).


Hot on the heels of the Leeds Half Marathon, Simon tells us more…

Some had it booked for over a year (on the back of last year), some only signed up this week, some entered for their first half marathon challenge and one even had it bought as a Christmas present by fellow Pumas! 

Race Day

To start the day, there were some rain showers so there were a few bin liner fashion statements out from the early birds but the sun soon came out and it turned into a lovely sunny and hot day. We travelled over to Leeds in a few cars – Gabriella, Paula and Carine in one and Andrea, Tiff, Andrew and me with Andrea’s Simon in another. Simon (Warrington) had the most important (and maybe hardest?) job of the day – getting us to Leeds safely (parking in the secret underground car park), taking the official publicity photos, holding the hoodies, seeing us all out and then checking us all back in again plus the most challenging chore, inspecting the local Leeds hostelries for some breakfast and a coffee. 

We all congregated outside the Town Hall for the obligatory toilets and Pumas photo shoot before making our way to the starting areas. We all separated into our respective colours and then after a quick sneaky dive under some rope, moved into the same pen for the start. 

Everyone raring to go

The Route

Carine ‘I can go out partying the night before my first half marathon’ set the pace off at the start and a brisk one it was too! I tried to keep up with her and we stormed out of Leeds city centre (clearly running away from the assembled crowds basking in the sun) before approaching Meanwood Road. Knowing Leeds from a previous life (and with warnings before we started from the announcer to take it steady) we embraced ourselves for the ascent. Ironically, Ascension (sung by Holly Johnson) came on my phone at that point. We were joined by Paula and Gabriella (#sistersledge) and Andrea ‘I can’t run this far’ and after exchanging frivolities saved our energy for the hill. ‘If you’re talking, you’re not running hard enough’ as Coach Canning says (yes Tracey!)

Looking VERY excited for a Sunday morning

Once up Meanwood Road and the dog leg corner (part of my patch when I looked after a section of the route and a number of marshals in the earlier referred to previous life), we kept ascending up Stonegate Road to meet the ring road. As we approached the top of Stonegate Road and the roundabout, it reminded me of scenes from the recent Tour de Yorkshire as crowds lined both sides of the road, several people deep, angling themselves off the pavement to get a view of the top of the climb as we peaked the hill. 

Jelly Babies!!!

The quiet couple of miles on the ring road eventually passed by and we were soon seeing spectators and hearing the familiar sound of cheering again. Once in the leafy suburbs of West Park we were met by oranges galore and more jelly babies by the bucket load! 

As we went round the route we passed partner charities and their volunteers and running clubs with their branded gazebos and flags all keeping us going. 

Obligatory start line selfie

We soon dropped on to Abbey Road (the top of Kirkstall Road) and for those of you familiar with the Abbey Dash route, then joined the familiar trek back to the city centre for the last and probably most gruelling four miles. As we ended the end of Kirkstall Road the feared slip road towards the Headrow became a reality before turning towards the finishing straight. 

Those who’d run this race before warned me that the finish wasn’t where the start was (as is often the case) and the start gantry had now been rebranded to say ‘almost there’. Not a good sight when you’re so close but also so far, but I was glad someone had warned me where the finish actually was! I turned the corner and attempted a sprint finish (not much happened) only to be overtaken by a very speedy sprint finisher. Even though my trusty Strava app has been chatting away in my ears all the way around and knowing, I spotted the (gun time) clock approaching 2hrs (it was 1:59:50) and so bust my fat gut to get in just under it (think it was 1:59:59!) to be met by a smiley #firstpumahome Gabriella and pocket rocket Paula. Andrea soon appeared while we were collecting our medals, goody bags and non-alcoholic beer (but it tasted pretty good after 13 miles) and then we spotted half marathon first timer Carine. We congregated with our Puma support crew (Junior Pumas Jude and Orlagh and Mark Kirkby) along with friends and families before Tiff and Andrew soon joined us.

The gang post 13.1 miles

Throughout the route, the Leeds crowds were fantastic. We were fortunate that the weather brought people out – from people who took their morning coffee and a chair and sat outside their house to the spectators that had bowls of jelly babies (I could have eaten my weight in jelly babies that morning – yes that’s how many there were!), hose pipes to keep the runners refreshed and even orange segments (a new sight for me!).

Simon and his finishers grin

There was plenty of encouragement, cheering and clapping as we trucked around including plenty of opportunities for high fives (Andrea tried to do most of these!). Here’s to the next one (and yes, there is already talk of signing up again!) and thanks to the wonderful Puma family who kept everyone going in training and on the day! 

Scores on the Doors

Full times below:

Gabriella Kenny 1:54:56

Paula Snee 1:55:53

Simon Wilkinson 1:56:45

Andrea Warrington 1:58:47

Carine Baker 1:59:55*

Tiffany Lewis 2:11:10*

Andrew Mellor 2:19:18*

Paul Pickering 2:20:03

Alison Shooter 2:22:34

*denotes first half marathon 

The finishers’ medal

Sunday 7 May 2017 saw 7 Pumas take on the Lions Bluebell course…Peter gives us the lowdown on what was actually just an uphill race. for 10 miles. up hills. 


Ally Canning, Luke Cranfield, Helen Jackson, Tiffany Lewis, Liz McDonnell, Richard Ogden and Peter Reason (AKA The Magnificent 7).

Sunday 7th May saw 7 of the Pumas take on the Stainland Lions organised Bluebell 10, incorporating the infamous climb up Trooper lane and River Crossing.


All smiles before the hills

With registration out of the way & numbers pinned to tops, the magnificent 7 made their way across to Clay House for a 10am start.

Ally was first into the starting area took her position surprisingly near the front, so the rest of us joined her there, the Magnificent 7 now in the starting pen ready for the off. A few moments later we were all off on our 10 mile tour around the picturesque outskirts of Halifax. Richard was off at a good pace followed by Luke, myself, Liz and the rest of the Pumas a little behind.

The route

The route took us from Clay House on to Stainland road and then left on to a loop through the woods at which point Luke slowed a little to play Pacemaker for Ally, allowing Liz and myself to pass, with Helen and Tiffany keeping a steady pace just behind. Once through the woods it was back on to Stainland road and then up to Salterhebble basin and onto the canal towpath.

With the sun now out and the temperature on the up, we came off the Canal towpath and started making our way up the cobbles and started climbing our way round towards Siddal. As we turned onto Siddal New road we caught our last glimpse of Richard disappearing into the distance, always destined to be first Puma home. (I believe a journey to Middle Earth to collect a pair of rings beckoned that afternoon). So a quick run for Richard it would be.

We were now approaching Trooper at a steady pace. Turning onto Swan Bank lane, with Nestle in the background you’d be expecting a handful of Smarties to be handed out, but instead we were greeted by a Marshall handing out Jelly Babies (the first of many). Up Swan Bank lane past the Cemetery on the right and on to the Trooper Lane climb and it didn’t take long for the run to turn from run to jog to walk, with our pace dropping as low as 19 minutes per mile. 0.7 Miles later we were at the top and in desperate need for water.

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Refreshment out of the way and then up to Beacon Hill we went and a little cooling breeze and stunning views across to the Pumas home.

Round to Norcliffe we went where we got our first sight of the Bluebells (Feeling Young at Heart as we glided through them) and onto Southowram, where Water & Jelly Babies were served by the Friendly Marshall’s to keep our energy levels up.

Liz…caught red handed enjoying herself

Then onto Elland with plenty of ups ,downs, single file paths, fields, dirt tracks, a lovely run through the Elland Park woods and then a long red brick road that took us all the way down to Elland where we meet with Steve B at the crossing point on Park road with a smile as he waved us across the road.

Helen enjoying the brief downhill

With the end almost upon us it was a quick run past the now Closed Barge & Barrel and down on to the canal towpath. With the foot temperature rising that river crossing was looking more and more enticing. So it was as quick as the legs would go to get to the bridge crossing the canal and a short dash to the river crossing. Onto the River bank we stepped and then down the walk way into the river Calder we went. With water knee deep we crossed the river, and how that river cooled those hot feet. Clambering up the other side to the last 100 metres with cooled feet gave you that extra zip for the last 100 metres and everyone ran home with a beaming face.

Tiff’s sprint finish after the river crossing

Within 2 hours the Pumas Magnificent 7 were all back cooled wet feet, Happy faces and ready for a pint.


Magnificent 7, missing the 7th member who had important wedding business to attend to

 The final results

Congrats to all on completing the Bluebell 10

Finish Time      Position

Richard Ogden          1.26.24                72 #FMPH

Peter Reason              1.35.54                155

Liz McDonnell           1.36.11                 158 #FFPH

Ally Canning              1.45.41                 241

Luke Canning            1.45.43                 242

Helen Jackson           1.57.010               341

Tiffany Lewis             1.58.40                 355

#ProudTobeAPuma #wetroopedthetrooper

Thanks again to Peter Reason for a fab write up of a glorious mornings racing, and also to our friends at Stainland Lions RC for hosting a lovely race with a spectacular (read horrifyingly hard, uphill nightmare) route and super friendly and encouraging marshals all the way round. Kudos Lions!

PNR (08/05/2017)

In a change to usual blogging procedures Johnny has been usurped by an up and coming blogging superstar, thanks very much to Harriet Cameron (age 13) for giving us the low down and last weekend’s Scarecrow Fun Run
The 2017 5k Scarecrow fun run/walk was full of hills and challenging terrains, including a long run up Tan House lane. At the starting line there were 88 runners and 47 were under 16 years old, many were Junior Pumas. I was able start the race and when I blew the whistle the front runners dashed off and everybody else followed.
They’re Off
The race began with a steady incline up the main road and then quickly turned off through a path filled with nettles. Unfortunately for the people with shorts on they had to be careful not to get stung! The Marshals were very helpful and told us where to go whilst giving us encouragement before we tackled Tan house lane.
It was a long hill but when we got to the top we had some downhill through a track,which had overhanging trees above us. After we turned out of the trees we were happy to see a long downhill that led up along Upper lane.
The Cameron 3 sprinting to the finish line
We got to see a few scarecrows along the way too! At this point we were almost back,we only needed to run down towards 22 the square and along a narrow path that led into a field near the finish. The last bit was across one of the Cricket fields and then we were at the finish.
Willow all smiles at the finish


Mum & daughter finishing together
It was an exciting run and thank you to the marshals, registration team and the scarecrow committee, especially Ian for organising the 3rd scarecrow fun run/walk.
Elizabeth & Elise sprinting for the finish
They raised £176 that will go towards funding for community projects e.g the defibrillator sited at the library.
Rosette presentation to u16’s

In our first year of WYWL, we were asked to host the PECO Vs WYWL relays. Here’s our awesome blogger Johnny with a low down of the adult races, and Junior Pumas Jude and Orlagh Kenny with all the details from the Junior races…

The Adult Relays

On Sunday 12 March, 2017, Northowram Pumas were privileged to host the annual relay race between the best of the West Yorkshire Winter League and their Leeds and district counterparts PECO. Having previously hosted the Burner and Coley Canter, the Pumas were well versed in how to pull things off, and once Andy Haslam and his team had been given the green light, they set to planning a 5k route that would give the plucky runners the chance to experience the best of what the Northowram suburbs had to offer. Wickedly, the lofted terrain was utilised to the full.

WYWL team manager Steve Boyer had an array of talent to choose from, but sadly, he would have to make do without Ben Mounsey, winner of the four Winter League races he’d entered. Still hopeful of retaining their title, he could still count on Matt Livesey, Isaac Yasin and Mark Pottinger for the Open Age team, with Andrew Croft, Gav Mulholland and Quentin Lewis making up a strong Men’s Over 40s team.

Of course, many other clubs entered their own teams in various categories, and in total, there were forty-one registered by various clubs. Northowram Pumas elected to send out just the one, all hopes being pinned on Richard ‘Oggy’ Ogden, Liz ‘Supershorts’ McDonnell and Tim ‘I’m At My Best When Hungover’ Brook.

The Pumas Team…Richard
The Pumas Team…Liz
The Pumas Team…Tim

It was a mild Spring morning to which everyone awoke, and many volunteers arrived at the clubhouse early to help set up the markers for both junior and senior relays. The junior race was due for a 10.00am start; by the time that had got underway, the marshals for the senior race were being drilled by Andy Haslam. We were then split into two groups; I went with the group led by Tracey, and she walked us all to our designated marshalling points. Mine would prove to be towards the latter end of the course, at the top of a field just below the A6036 Bradford Road. There I remained for the best part of two hours, though I was fortunate to have a couple of newly acquired friends for company; two horses on the other side of the electric fence who came a-noseying.

The senior relay was set for an 11.00am start; deep in the forest, the marshals were awaiting any signs of movement through the trees; it was really exciting! On Northowram Fields Cricket Club, the first leg runners assembled, listened to their brief, then they were off. Those who had recced the course would know just how difficult a route it was; those who went into it ‘blind’ were in for something of a shock.

Once the runners had done two sides of the Fields cricket pitch – this would help thin out the pack before they went out yonder – and run across the top of neighbouring Hedge Top CC, they descended Hedge Top Lane, the start of a welcoming early downhill section, but this would prove to serve only as the proverbial calm before the storm. Once the bottom of Hedge Top Lane had been reached, the course then continued across the quarry and on to a track through the woods until it joined Wood Lane.

Stormy skies over the quarry

There then followed the arduous climb towards the wooded section, already questions being asked of the resilience of the runners. Gradually the road climbed until it veered off into the woodland section. Runners bore left across the top of the woods; from my standpoint, they flitted about like phantoms in the mist as they dashed through the trees. Here, runners would gain some respite from the climb, and in time they would head downwards to link up with a track which ran across the bottom of the woods; the course then took a swift right turn downwards through a field, rejoining Wood Lane, but happily – for the time being – turning right and downhill until it reached the basin. The course then veered off left for the most demanding section; the tough climb up through the woods and grassy pathways which in time would bring the runners out on the main Bradford Road.

Liz, enjoying the hills more than most

It was here that I would greet each runner in turn, and point them in the direction of the lamp posts that were peeking out on the horizon. The runners would reach the main road but have little time to recover as they were asked to turn right uphill once more until being directed right onto another track which continued for quite a while until it joined up with the familiar Hedge Top Lane. As they reached the top there, the runners would turn right into a track which runs parallel with the bottom of Hedge Top Cricket Field, where they would hand over to the next runner. As Bruce Forsyth might have said, “That’s all there is to it.”

It would be fair to say that the PECO contingent established themselves very soon into the race. By the time the leading runners reached my marshalling point on the first leg, Lee Athersmith of the PECO Men’s Open team held a short lead from fellow PECO runner Will Kerr of the Men’s Veteran Over 40 team. Leading the charge for WYWL Men’s Open team was Matt Livesey, and he would pass Kerr somewhere between myself and the handing-over point, giving Isaac Yasin an eight-second advantage. Athersmith meantime handed over to Alec Francis, and he maintained PECO’S lead. Leading the charge for the club runners on the first leg was Abbey Runners’ Ross Armstrong, who handed over to Clare Barratt-Mold in fourth. For the Pumas, Richard Ogden gave a really good account of himself, and he handed over to Liz McDonnell with Pumas lying fifteenth.

On the second leg, WYWL’s Men’s Over 40 runner Gav Mulholland ran the quickest leg of the day, clocking an impressive 18:55 and helping his side from seventh to fourth. But whilst PECO’s Alec Francis was handing over to last-leg runner Ali Burns, team mate Paul Millgate of the PECO Men’s Veteran team had overhauled WYWL’s Yasin to hand over to his last-leg runner Will Kerr, who, as you’ve probably gathered, had also run his team’s first leg! Liz McDonnell overtook more runners than overtook her, and helped the Pumas rise to fourteenth by the time she handed over to Tim Brook.

On the last leg, Tim quickly made up ground, though by now the leaders were well in front and unassailable. Ali Burns brought the PECO Men’s Open team home in a time of 59:49, the only team to complete the course in under an hour. Some 46 seconds later, Kerr came in second, whilst Quentin Lewis of WYWL Men’s Veterans, by clocking 19:58, overtook team mate Mark Pottinger (WYWL Men’s Open) to claim third place.

Of the women, PECO Ladies Open team, thanks in no small part to second leg runner Crystal Goeker, who ran the fastest female time (22:49), finished seventh to claim the Ladies’ prize, with the WYWL Ladies Open team finishing twelfth. They had been beaten by one place by the Northowram Pumas, with Tim Brook making up ground and stealing four places. Of the other club runners, Abbey Runners Club were the first home, making up two places at changeover to finish sixth.

At the other end, Pumas’ Andrew Tudor guided Kirkstall Ad-Hocs’ Randolph Haggerty home as they finished fortieth, whilst Liz McDonnell regained her fitness, if not her sanity, to go around once more to accompany Wendy Murgatroyd of the South Leeds Lakers ‘E’ team, who brought up the rear.

Tudor helping out…

All-in-all, it has to be said, Northowram Pumas’s staging of the event was hailed a success; there had been no glitches that I was aware of, at least. And with the bar in the clubhouse being made full use of, the awards were handed out whilst servings of hot pie and peas were being dished out. A result all round, I think you’ll agree!

Northowram Pumas’ runners, positions and times;

  • Richard Ogden (15th) 26:09
  • Liz McDonnell (14th) 26:35
  • Tim Brook (11th) 22:10.

Overall time: 1:14.54.

The Junior Relays

We awoke to a beautiful crisp spring morning for the day of the cross-country relay race. It had been raining for the days running up to the race so the ground was still really muddy – Yeah!! Just like an off road run with Luke Cranfield!!

We arrived at the Northowram Cricket club the venue for the days race nice and early so that we could help set up and warm up. After we had helped mark out the course it was time to get the team together to start warming up. We had a walk round part of the course, then did some warm ups. Next we had a Puma photo with the girls team in the shot first and the boys photo was taken second. We had all spotted a very tall boy who looked about 17 so we asked the adults if he was the pacer, but NO was the answer, he was actually one of the kids taking part?? We were all very worried then, but my mum told us just to try our hardest!

In the Pumas relay for the girls team was Jessica Cameron, Carris Lightowler and Scarlet Garland.

Scarlet, Carris and Jess – The Junior Girls Team

For the boys team it was Jude Kenny, Sam Bell and Reuben Bartkiw.

Sam, Reuben and Jude…The boys team

At the start of the race Ruben set off as the first boy and Carris set off as the first girl, they were all running so fast and we were screaming for them to come on!! Jessicas mum ran for a bit with Carris to help spur her on this very tough course. After Carris and Ruben had finished their first lap Sam and Scarlet set off to do their lap as the second girl and boy. Sam and Scarlet had to catch some people up now as Pumas were not in the lead after their lap it was the turn of Jude and Jessica to do the last lap.

As Jude and Jessica had almost finished their last lap almost every body was cheering them on. At the end of the race everybody was tired out from all the hard work of running the Relay Race but the Pumas did really well.

Then we saw the top three teams in each race get announced and they each got a chocolate egg and the glory of coming in the top three. Finally everyone went home with the feel of running in the air, everybody’s trainers were muddy as it was a boggy course and lots of people fell over including one of our team members (Jessica Cameron). Luckily, she wasn’t hurt!

Everybody enjoyed the race a lot.

Crazy Junior Pumas

By Jude Kenny and Orlagh Kenny

Everyone tried really hard on the day and I just wanted to mention the fantastic teamwork both our teams showed. Jessica was our last athlete running in so when she was in sight, the other members of the team ran over to her and ran back in with her!! It was so brilliant and made me feel so proud of our juniors and their fantastic attitude to running, they might not have crossed the finishing line first, but I thought they were all winners! Gabriella Kenny – Proud to be a Puma!!





For the final time this WYWL season, Johnny Meynell gives us the race day low down…

On Sunday (19 February), Stainland Lions were our hosts for the final West Yorkshire Winter League race, staged at West Vale, up and around North Dean Woods. Having already sampled the previous five meetings, it wasn’t as if we didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for, but like the punch-drunk boxer who keeps coming back for more, the runners turned out for the finale, some more eager than others. The Pumas once again excelled, with thirty dragging themselves out of bed and making their way to West Vale. Some had even entrusted Neil Coupe to get them there; the Pumas On Tour Express rounded up several back at base so they needn’t have had to worry about much else. Just the course they had to face.

The team turn out for the final race

We congregated initially at Heath Rugby Union Club, and after the obligatory photo-call, made our way over the main road and into the woods. The sight of so many runners congregating here was quite spectacular – one wonders what the local squirrels made of it all. Yet of all the starting points for the races over the course of the season, this one perhaps cut the most comical, with the runners tightly crammed on the cobbled pathway that led you into or out of Clay Park (depending on which direction you’re going). It was stone’s thrown from the impressive four-gabled house which was built by the Clay family between 1650 and 1661, and which is purported to be haunted. But we were not here for a history lesson; nor were we about to go on a nature trail, though the route that was mapped out for us took us very close to the epicentre of nature itself.

Andrew was on hand to make sure we were all starting in the right place

As one might have expected, Stainland Lions like to put the runners to the test; ask anyone who ran the Stainland Trail back in September, organised by the same mob who were about to prove they still had a wicked sense of humour. We were briefed by Steve Boyer of what we could expect, and sure enough, the usual mix of hills, mud, trail and fields were all there in abundance.

Steve Boyer, taking pre-race guidelines to a new level…PA system and everything

By now, of course, for the three-hundred or so runners assembled on the start line, there was little turning back, and any of those squeezed sardine-like in the middle of the throng now having second thoughts would soon find themselves being swept along like driftwood on an outgoing tide.

A lot of runners, some looking more serious than others

Before we knew it, we were off, slowly and carefully at first so as to avoid the obvious hazards such as cobbles, loose stones and a central bollard, which was guarded by a marshal for safe-keeping. The first mile or so of the route was a loop of a section of North Dean Woods; this in itself was non-too tasking, though having meandered through the trees, we had a steep climb and a high wall to negotiate before we turned sharp left and headed back towards Dean End. Then it was a double left onto Lindwell Avenue and the charge towards Clay Park once more, passing the start line and continuing onwards until we reached the high wall once more. This time we turned right into what many of us might loosely term uncharted waters.

Puma front runners, Luke and Tim, after the first loop
Little did Chris know he still had 4 miles to go…..

The loop we’d just run did at least give us chance to sample the mud that would hamper us throughout; at times there was no other option but to stick your feet straight in the middle of it. But isn’t that what we enjoy most, anyway? Well, perhaps not, but either way, it was unavoidable. We snaked our way along the trail path through North Dean Woods in the direction of Copley, and while this seemed pretty straightforward, it did throw up the odd casualty. Take yours truly; on an uneven stretch of pathway I lost my poise and took a tumble in much the same manner as I had done at Queensbury (though there, tired legs might have been my excuse; here we were less than two miles in). There were many witnesses; club mate Robert Shirlaw was, to my surprise, still behind me, as were Ally Canning and Neil Coupe, who both caught sight of me lying prostate on the deck. Neil, as was his wont, found the episode so amusing, he never really recovered.

Ally looking mightly pleased to have overtaken Johnny….even if he did win in the end

I wouldn’t be the only casualty, and my fall disrupted what had been up to then a somewhat comfortable outing. What I didn’t need at that point was a massive hill to climb. But as if by magic, one appeared. We came out of the woods and suddenly there was this almighty climb of tarmac going by the name of North Dean Road. Ahead of me, many competitors were already walking, but this was reassuring, if only because it didn’t mean my own efforts were any more conspicuous. And in any case, why conserve so much energy when you don’t know for how long you’ll be climbing, or what you’ll find when you get there?

Adam concentrating really hard on not falling over

Thankfully, what we did find at the summit was an immediate descent before we made our way into more woodland section and the treacherous part of the course which dropped sharply down to the stream. I heard there was more than one casualty here; even our Neil felt his ankle twist. Marshalling at the bottom was my old friend Tim Neville, who offered a helping hand to anyone in desperate need as they crossed the water. Our eyes were fixed firmly on the slope as we descended, then, as we strode over the steps in the water we took a glance upwards and gasped in horror. We now had the arduous task of scaling the banking on the other side. Stooping, gasping for energy and with hands on thighs, I reached the top where another marshal was there directing us right through woodland which thankfully had a downward look about it.

The infamous injury zone

We continued on our merry way for quite some distance before any further major climbs. I had by this point been passed by young Conor Lynch, but I would steadily make up ground on him as we made our way down a section of the course affectionately known, so I’ve been told, as the ‘Log Flume’ because it used to be something of a water carrier (in layman’s terms, a stream). I was happy to let myself fly down here, though others trod more gingerly. I caught up Conor, but not before passing another Puma, who turned out to be Chris Ellis, in some distress I later learned (at the time, I thought he was retying his laces and didn’t feel he needed me to make a loop for him). Chris had gone over on his ankle, the injury so severe that it later showed up on social media.

As we turned into Hollas Lane, Conor looked over his shoulder, didn’t like what he saw (me) and kicked off. I too managed to stride out, and ahead of me I could see Kirsty Edwards and Matt Newton. This flat section gave everyone chance get their breath, but any comfort was soon short-lived. Suddenly I looked up to see runners staggering up a field. Sure, this course wasn’t for the faint-hearted. I managed as best I could, catching up Matt, who was clearly struggling. The field steepened at the top, we climbed through a stile and headed for the summit, rejoining the aforementioned North Dean Road but happier in the knowledge we were now having to head downhill.

3 down, 2 to go

At this point, I could console myself with the thought that I was now homeward bound, but there were still two miles to go, depending on which marshal you cared to believe. But running down North Dean was a lot easier than running up it, and soon we were directed into the woods, taking the higher path which proceeded to ask further questions of our ability. Here, we had more climbs, one which forced myself to stop and take a breather and wonder just how many more we had to face. Because, quite frankly, I’d had enough of them for one day. There was one more effort required, a big climb with steps, at the top of which was marshal Andy Smith, loaned from Queensbury, offering encouraging of words saying we still had two more miles to go! As a marshal a mile further back had also told me.

Fortunately, the course evened itself out after that, I gained my strength and got my head down, and eventually, in the distance down below, was the sight of the rugby posts at Heath RU. Though not a great lover of the fifteen-man code, these goalposts did have a heartening effect, the fact that I knew we were on the finishing straight. Through the trees we skipped and eventually, just up yonder, there was a marshal hanging about on a bend. We reached him and there, thirty yards further up, was the thick white line, visible from space I believe, that signalled the end of the race. I crossed it to the sound of Andrew Tudor shouting that I was ‘second [Super Vet] home’, which I couldn’t quite believe, for though I knew Robert Shirlaw had been ahead of me since my fall, I had literally no idea that Paul Hopkinson was still out there.

Simon, looking to be enjoying himself a lot on this one

As were many others. I began my recovery then joined the rest of the Pumas who’d already finished, and we watched the other runners come home. Then it was time to dissect the race, and there were many stories of derring-do to be heard.

Lucy coming in for a determined finish

First Puma home, it comes as no surprise, was Luke Cranfield, finishing fourteenth, a position he must have been delighted with as it was his highest of the season. Next was Tim Brook in 28th, whilst there was quite a wait for the third Puma home, Adam Standeven finishing a still excellent 68th. Richard Ogden found a second wind to outstrip Andrew Tudor to the line, whilst further down the field, the ever-smiling Liz McDonnell did her utmost to catch Shaun Casey on the line, but failing by inches at least sought consolation by being the first female Puma home in 137th. She scored as a Veteran, whilst making up the scores for the impressive Ladies’ team were Lucy Oxley, Kirsty Edwards and Alison Pearce. Once again, the Ladies had outdone the chaps and finished fifth in their category on the day. By finishing 125th Tom O’Reilly completed the scoring in the Men’s team, thus helping them to a ninth place finish. The Supervets fielded only two runners (of which I was one); Robert Shirlaw, 158th, held off the challenge of Conor Lynch, who’d worked his way steadily through the field.

Just over a minute behind me, Matt Newton was involved in another dramatic finish. Remember how he’d formed the Skipton triumvirate with Jane Cole and Alan Sykes? Here, he proper raced home John Tayler (Stadium Runners) and Wayne Ryan (Dewsbury), but his dip over the line was extended somewhat and he fell nastily on the deck. His finish was in sharp contrast to Alison Pearce who casually strode home seconds later.

Matt trying to claw back a few extra places

Ally Canning, who was in the running for most-improved female at the start of play, came home in 205th, whilst behind her, Chris Ellis had gamely soldiered on to complete the course in 214th. Neil Coupe, having started under the weather, had a laughing fit then twisted his ankle, followed in Carine Baker (presumably to make sure she didn’t sneak off), whilst Debbie Fox embraced Shelley Ferneyhough (Queensbury) immediately on crossing the line, the latter winning the dual, though each had kept the other going throughout.

Tiffany Lewis, who may have reckoned she’d be last Puma home, finished before Jo Allen in 297th, but perhaps this was due mainly to a recurrence of a knee injury suffered by Jo playing netball several weeks ago route; Jo would have expected to be much higher up the field. But talking of injuries, Gabby Kenny proved to be our very own Florence Nightingale when she was first to tend to Susan Coates (Baildon), who fell heavily. Gabby summoned a marshal but in doing so, jeopardised her own chances of winning the race, her pre-race spirits lifted by the non-appearance of Ben Mounsey!

Gabriella Kenny, a stylish finish! after being a good race samaritan!

Once all the results had been collated, it turned out that Northowram Pumas had finished the campaign a commendable eighth, a satisfactory position in what was our inaugural Winter League experience. Later in the day, many of us reconvened in Sowerby Bridge for curry and drinks at Syhiba, discussing at length not only the day’s events, but now more importantly whether to go for a masala, dopiaza or bhuna. We were well looked after, and I’d recommend this place any time*. Later we retired to the William over the road before ending up, some the worse for wear, at the Hog’s Head. The drinks flowed, for some longer into the night than others, the topic of conversation descending into farce when it was suggested an impending autobiographical ‘Fifty Shades of parkrun’ might be a misleading title or not. But if it sells, who cares?!

I’ll recommend the idea to the House.

* No money changed hands for this small piece of advertising, nor was I offered a complimentary free meal.

Full list of Pumas who were on duty, with finishing places;

  • 14 Luke Cranfield (M)
  • 28 Tim Brook (MV)
  • 68 Adam Standeven (MV)
  • 77 Richard Ogden (MV)
  • 78 Andrew Tudor (MV)
  • 136 Shaun Casey (MV)
  • 137 Liz McDonnell (FV)
  • 146 Lucy Oxley (F)
  • 148 Tom O’Reilly (MV)
  • 158 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)
  • 159 Conor Lynch (M)
  • 167 Kirsty Edwards (FV)
  • 179 Jonathan Meynell (MSV)
  • 190 Matt Newton (M)
  • 193 Alison Pearce (FV)
  • 197 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)
  • 205 Ally Canning (F)
  • 214 Chris Ellis (MV)
  • 224 Paula Snee (FV)
  • 241 Simon Wilkinson (M)
  • 248 Carine Baker (F)
  • 249 Neil Coupe (MV)
  • 251 Julie Bowman (FV)
  • 265 Debbie Fox (FV)
  • 274 Nicola Pennington (FV)
  • 278 Jodie Knowles (F)
  • 280 Gabriella Kenny (FV)
  • 283 Helen Jackson (FV)
  • 297 Tiffany Lewis (FV)
  • 300 Jo Allen (FV)





January is the most boring month of the year, so on Saturday 28th January 2017 to help get through this long, cold and miserable month Northowram Pumas Running Club held their 2nd Comedy Night!

The event was held at the home of NPRC, the Northowram Community Sports and Activity Club. The doors opened at 7pm and the DJ was already in position. The room was full of Pumas and friends by 8pm eagerly awaiting the annual comedy performance.

The comedian and his captive audience

The comedian providing the entertainment this year was Barry York, a local and very experienced comedian. His jokes and banter with the audience kept everyone amused throughout the whole performance.

Then it was time for food, a change to the usual unhealthy pie and peas… this year it was hot dogs and nachos!

Elite runners fuel

Neil hosted our very own Pie Face Showdown Competition for those that were brave enough to take part.

Sarah taking the competition very seriously

Following on from the food and games it was then disco time, and time for the serious fun to begin. The club lights were dimmed and the DJ turned on the disco lights and turned up the music.

Dancing the night away

The evening continued into the early hours as the group that were not yet ready to go home moved on to the new 22 Bar and Smoke House for cocktails, Gin and more fun and banter.

Thank you to everyone that came to the Comedy Night and helped out to make it another successful Pumas social event.

Contact details for Mark, the amazing DJ are:

MG Entertainments
4 Hazel Mount Shipley BD18 2LH 07891081920

Who: A selection of awesome Pumas

Where: Dewsbury

When: 5 February 2017

How far: 10k (plus a bit extra for good measure)

Over to Johnny…..who manages to be at every Puma appearance at every race. Dedication!

One of the most eagerly awaited races on the running calendar is the Dewsbury 10k. It’s a particular favourite of most who run it, and it’s hard to see why. A smooth out and back, none too testing, and great for upping your PBs. I’d never done it before, so I was eager to put all these theories to the test.

Race morning

T’was another cold morning when we awoke, but then again, we’re only just into February, so what would you expect? I left my house a 7.33am and made my way to Matt Newton’s, where we were collected by Debbie Fox in a roomy Audi. Simon Wilkinson conveniently dropped off Matt’s running gear (which he’d had since Friday) before making his way around to the club to cadge a lift off Neil Coupe. Just for good measure, Rachael Hawkins jumped in too. En route to Dewsbury, we stopped off to pick up Shana Emmerson. Of the four of us in the car, only Matt had done this race before and we relied on his navigational skills to get us there. These were, however, suspect, and Debbie was flicking on the sat-nav before we’d even hit Brighouse roundabout.

We arrived in Dewsbury town centre and looked around the obvious parking spots. Debbie cheekily snuck into Sainsbury’s parking lot, and evidently got away with it. Seven of us trooped across to the Sports Centre for the obligatory loo visit before making our way to the start, where we had our pre-race photo shoot taken by Queensbury’s Andy Smith, who wasn’t running due to injury. We met up with Alison Pearce and spied Melissa Hall and Sarah Firth on the starting blocks. Typically, we were situated somewhere near the rear, an obvious Pumas’ trait, but with our race numbers coming with accompanying chips (no fries) nobody was going to fool us with false finishing times. Also running on behalf of the Pumas was Paul Pickering, although it must also be pointed out that Carine Baker was a late withdrawal, whilst Neil Coupe himself was running in place of the unwell Vicky Owen, doubtless faster but less glam.

Pre-race, running in all the glam locations

Assuming everyone finished the race, there were 1,081 competitors, so as one would imagine, once the gun had started, it took us some time to reach the start line. We could see the elite bombing off, and in time it would be our turn (though ‘bombing’ in our case is a term loosely used). Off we set, around six miles ahead of us. At least we would start to feel warmer once we were under way.

Of the course itself, there’s little to make it sound really exciting. It was a straight run down the A652 Bradford Road towards Batley, passing such crowd-drawing attractions as Dewsbury Auto Salvage, Beds Direct, Skopos Retail Furnishings, Lala’s Kashmiri Cuisine and Tesco Batley Express. Further along the route on the way out was Batley Grammar School (where my cousin Paul is Assistant Head, just saying) and a little further along, the entrance to the impressive Wilton Park, though we had little time to survey its beauty.

Mid race low down

I was soon into my rhythm, though the chances of me keeping pace with Neil and Matt was a forlorn one. I did so for the first half mile, but after that I just had to let them get on with it. Paul Hopkinson, running for Halifax Harriers, also passed me early on, but this run was about what I could achieve for myself, with the notion that the course was pretty flat and my personal best at such a distance standing at 49:54 (set at the Epilepsy Action event in Bradford last March) there to be broken. Ahead of me was Alison Pearce, who’d managed to get away from the start a while before I did, and she seemed to be flowing.

I kept Alison in my sights for most of the outward journey, offered encouraging words when she briefly stopped around two and a half miles in, then watched her pass me a minute later! The sight of Neil and Matt (or should that be the other way around?) on the other side of the road making the return trip was encouraging; they’d never been miles in front of me and this told me the turning point wasn’t too far away. When we reached it, I took Alison on the inside and got my head down.

I can’t speak for everyone, but the road back in seemed easier than the road out, in that we were now, initially, running ever so slightly downhill. I tried to take in all the landmarks, but that was a hopeless task in itself, because I simply couldn’t remember where or when I’d passed them earlier! Best just carry on regardless. Knowing the turning point had been around halfway, I knew that we had the equivalent of a parkrun to do, though the watering station about half a mile after that did throw me somewhat.

Whilst on my way back in, I spied in turn Simon, Melissa, Rachael and Sarah still making the outward journey, though I must have been deep in concentration to miss Debbie and Shana. On we plodded, each step closer to home. With about a mile to go, I overtook Diane Waite, something I’ve never done before, and in time I noticed several runners now walking in my direction; they’d already finished and were making their way home or to their cars, or to just anywhere. It wasn’t important, although it did give me a sense that the finishing line couldn’t have been too far away. Then the crowds increased in number and their applause grew louder. The end was near, if you know what I mean.

Johnny nearing the finish line


Rachael gliding over the finish line

To confirm this, a female runner, whom I later discovered went by the name of Marie Lees, told me that the finishing line was just beyond the approaching archway. I quickened up and passed her, and sure enough as we went under the railway arch, the finishing line was there ahead of us. Suddenly, she made a bolt for it but I was having none of it and kicked with her. Our sprint took us away from runners behind us, and before we knew it, we were gobbling up two chaps who were casually approaching the line. We caught both of them and I think my own kick had just brought me in ahead of her. It was a satisfying end to what I felt had been a comfortable run. An old friend of mine, Dave Waite (husband of Diane) greeted me over the line and remarked that my sprint finish had just got me under fifty minutes. But that was the gun-time. My chip time would be better than that.

I went off to start my recovery, taking the bottled water, then going to pick up my dishy and illuminating pink souvenir T-shirt. Mushy Cade the Running Machine has nothing on these, I thought whimsically. I joined Matt and Neil, and soon Simon joined us. The other runners came in thick and face, with Sarah Firth being #LPH. Then the chip time results started coming through, and bizarrely, and quite randomly, I was informed by Debbie that my result had just showed up on her phone: 48 minutes 42 seconds. To coin a phrase often uttered by Matt Newton: I’m happy with that. Matt, for his part, had been first Puma home in 44:56 (a personal best, to boot), with Neil Coupe not far behind in 45:15, though here we felt there were some sour grapes. “I was robbed,” he later exclaimed (though what of, no one was entirely sure). He felt that the course was longer than 10k, but no one else seemed to have been mithered.

Once we’d posed for Andy Smith once more in our bright pink T-shirts we made the trek back to our cars.

Everyone looking super stylish in their finishers t-shirts

Then it was time to head home, though not before six of us had pulled up at the Enchanted Wood at Kershaw Garden Centre. It was like a scene from The Sweeney. But we were only here for brekky, and a full English seemed to be the order of the day. Debbie was evidently happier with her 10k finishing time (though not a PB) than she was with her fried egg, and returned it with the accompanying words of something along the lines of “Make sure the egg yolk is hard, OK?” She’s sometimes a tough one to please. But we got there in the end.

Enjoying a proper athletes re-fuelling the correct way

Finishing positions and times of the Pumas:

  • 413 Matt Newton 44:56
  • 428 Neil Coupe 45:15
  • 559 Johnny Meynell 48:22
  • 589 Alison Pearce 49:28
  • 698 Debbie Fox 52:13
  • 709 Simon Wilkinson 52:37
  • 813 Shana Emmerson 55:04
  • 831 Melissa Hall 55:59
  • 915 Paul Pickering 59:40
  • 916 Rachael Hawkins 59:43
  • 950 Sarah Firth 01:01:12

Johnny, Our Winter League correspondent and his coverage of the penultimate race of the 2016/17 series…. 

Following the shenanigans at Oakwell Hall a fortnight earlier, order was restored when Queensbury Running Club hosted the fifth round of the West Yorkshire Winter League at Foster Park** on Sunday. Queensbury, the village that surveys all before it; yet our hosts managed to find us all a course that had hills upon a hill.

A chilly start

As the day broke the runners stirred early, a quick glance outside telling us all that it was brass monkey weather. Along with the regular tops and trainers, people took to wearing thermals, bobble hats, mittens and anything else that might keep the body warm. Put mildly, it was a cold ‘un.

Mind, the cold snap did have its advantages; anyone who recced the course the previous Sunday would testify just how saturated the fields were, particularly Foster Park itself. The weather during the week had helped dry out certain sections to some degree, but along the paths in the fields, we were still greeted with that commodity every cross country course needs to make it worthwhile; mud. Loads of it. Squelchy, slurpy mud. The kind of thing you used to enjoy stomping about in when you were five.

Undeterred by the crispness of the morn, thirty-seven Northowram Pumas turned out in force to face whatever Queensbury RC and the route threw at them.

Pumas at the start line
Pumas at the start line

They made up a total of 321 runners, who, once summoned, assembled at the start to listen to some cautionary advice from the race director Dave Hepworth. “It’s harder than it looks,” he yelled, and by the time we’d all finished, we realised he hadn’t been joking.

Ready, set, RUN

The countdown commenced, and the shout of “Go,” was the cue for a mass stampede, everyone heading down towards the bottom of the field, jostling for positions and keen to avoid trouble.

Spot the Pumas at the start
Spot the Pumas at the start

As the course wound its way towards the bottom corner, the field of runners was already spreading out, and soon we were facing our first serious climb. We turned a sharp left to begin the steady climb, the route getting steeper towards the top, then we had some respite as the course headed back down, following the perimeter of the park. It was but brief, however. We climbed once more, tackling what looked like a massive step in the hillside, runners conquering it as best they could. Legs were still obviously fresh at this point; by the time we would face it again plenty of runners would be on their knees.

Richard, looking fairly knakered on his first time up the step
Richard, looking fairly knackered on his first time up the step

Once at the summit, we veered left and back down towards the start, enjoying another canter downfield, this time taking a right at the bottom and returning back towards the main entrance of the park via a woodland section. By the time we’d reached the top of this, we had – so we were reliably informed during the recce – covered the first mile. The meant there was only around 3.7 miles left to cover. The hardest bit was already over, right? As if.

We swung right and entered the woods once more, following the trail until it came out at the top of the grass banking we’d earlier run up. Careering down the hillside – oh what fun – we reached a stile at the bottom, waited our turn to pass through, then lo and behold, we were out in the open countryside. On such a morning, what could be nicer?

We had to include this awesome series of photos....
We had to include this awesome series of photos….
Sneaky Kirsty....very sneaky
Sneaky Kirsty….very sneaky
Johnny, non the wiser as Kirsty takes him on the inside
Johnny, non the wiser as Kirsty takes him on the inside

Drier fields, actually. The pathway we followed was now churned up mud following heavy rain, sleet and (probably up here, snow) the previous week. And trying to run at speed whilst planting your feet on the cobbles isn’t necessarily easy, either.

Having already run the course, up to press I couldn’t actually tell if my own race was going to plan. It’s not as if I didn’t know what was lying ahead of me. But I’d already been passed by Kirsty Edwards (twice, in fact), Tom O’Reilly and young Conor Lynch. As we trekked across the fields, Matt Newton put in an appearance, and then he was gone, too. Then Neil Coupe was on my shoulders. I actually had the chance for a brief conversation with him as we formed an orderly queue at one of the stiles. If there was one thing that hampered the runners, then these stiles in the first half of the course were them. Where you might have built up a healthy lead on any rivals you may have had, suddenly they were within touching distance as the runners concertinaed while awaiting their turn to pass through. No sooner had Neil Coupe skipped through, then Alison Pearce was the lone voice in the immediate pack behind me shouting for me to get a move on – or words to that effect.

On route

Having negotiated the fields, we then had a climb along a farm track, somewhere in the vicinity of Brightwater Farm, before emerging onto Stocks Lane. We turned right down this pleasant trail section before turning our attentions to the next section, a stile, on the other side of which was a heavy mud pool, though it wasn’t as bad as when we did the trial run the week before. We rounded the field, then headed upwards into the next. On and on we cantered or staggered, towards a farm, keeping left of the cattle grid, after letting a couple of oncoming dog walkers through, of course.

As we turned onto the short tarmacked section, I’d been caught by Alison. This was the top of Stanage Lane, a section I’ve encountered many times but which suddenly looked strangely unfamiliar. Alison passed me here but I kept close to her as we descended a steep clay banking which led us to a ‘water crossing’ (as some would term it, a stream to you and me). Taking advice from the marshal, we successfully passed through, then clambered our way up the other side, into more fields which seemed to keep rising. By now, my legs were feeling heavy, and I was pretty much running out of any steam. Alison, too, appeared to be feeling it, but she evidently had more energy than I did, and pulled away.

We swung left around the farm, then entered the final field before closing back in on Foster Park. That was the good news. The bad, which came in a package, was that my legs could hardly move, and there was thought of the two climbs in the park before the finish. Then there was the hazardous trail section which ran parallel to the park itself. Full of loose branches, stumps, fallen leaves and mud. It certainly kept you on your toes; everyone’s except mine, seemingly, as I tried to dodge a moving tree. How else could you explain myself landing on my back up against the wall after falling quite dramatically? Other runners bore witness to this, though none stopped to pick me up – we were, after all, still racing – though happily all I suffered was a bruised ego. But as I picked myself up, over the wall I could see Ally Canning and Paul Bottomley gaining ground. I attempted to get back into my stride, which by this point was a pretty slow one, and dragged myself to the top of the pathway through the trees before turning immediately right down the other side. It was here that Ally passed me, but with no energy to keep pace, I watched her pull away from me. Thankfully, this trail section was downhill; the section we’d run up just after looping the park at the start. But as we reached the bottom and turned left, we had the climb up the side of the field once more. Paul caught me and passed me but both of us found the terrain a real struggle, as did others around us. Some, myself included, resorted to walking, but once we’d reached the top we had the downhill section which gave us chance to set ourselves for the final assault. We swung around to face the final curtain – well, the end was near – and pulled and clawed our way up the giant’s step. Photographic evidence later showed at least one competitor tackling it on his hands and knees, but that wasn’t me.

Sarah, going for a mountaineering approach to the step
Sarah, going for a mountaineering approach to the step

Through the short woodland section we trundled, then back down into the field where we could see runners finishing, almost within touching distance. A short run downfield, a swift turnaround, then the short sprint to the line was all that was now asked of us. Or so I had it in my head. There was a catch; there always is. Despite having done the recce the week before, and told on the day by a prominent member of the organisers that there had been no last minute changes to the course, perhaps he or she had forgotten that the run down field had been extended to a mound which looked miles away. Paul had maybe ten yards on me by now; Ally was further ahead. We trooped down towards the mound, catching sight of the runners on the opposite side making their run for home. It was a long way, but once we’d looped around it, the finishing line was in the distance. Way, way in the distance. I summoned every last fibre to make a dash for it, passing Paul and possibly one or two others. I’ve usually something left in the tank for the final push, but this really was a massive ask. I finally reached the line in a state of total exhaustion, practically walking through with Paul but a few seconds behind me.

Of course, whilst all this was going on, I was oblivious to anything that had gone on ahead. Fortunately, the results and accompanying video gave us a clear picture. The race was won yet again by Stainland’s Ben Mounsey, but as far as we’re concerned, the honour of first Puma home went once more to Luke Cranfield, who finished 23rd. Tim Brook was involved in his own particular dual with Pudsey Pacers’ Ryan Noon, but mounted one last almighty effort to see him off in a sprint finish to become second Puma home in 40th.

Tim, being the bigger man and not gloating about his sprint finish
Tim, being the bigger man and not gloating about his sprint finish

He scored as a veteran, as did Andy Haslam (76th) and Andrew Tudor (95th), whilst also scoring for the Men’s team were Deke Banks, Richard Ogden and evergreen Robert Shirlaw, a Super Vet, too, sixth Puma home in 104th, to give them 1,640 points and ninth place. Shaun Casey, Adam Standeven and Conor Lynch, who obviously had worked his way through the field, gave us a quick-fire 141-142-143, whilst several places behind them was the first female Puma, Diane Cooper, a creditable 148th. The Northowram Pumas Ladies, in fact, outshone the men yet again and will no doubt want to remind us frequently. Backed up by Kirsty Edwards (177th), Alison Pearce (192nd) and Ally Canning (195th) they finished an impressive fifth with 1,095 points.

Diane, #FFPH, and looking pretty happy about it
Diane, #FFPH, and looking pretty happy about it

Further down the field, Alan Sykes, sixty-four years young, had enough for an impressive final kick towards the line, Paula Snee looked unruffled as she finished, Andrea Warrington swayed from side to side as she approached the end but managed to guide herself through the posts, whilst Carine Baker crossed with the now-familiar beaming smile across her face, one belying the gruelling course she’d just encountered. Last home for the Pumas were Jennifer Lees and Sarah Firth, who arrived in tandem to the loudest cheer.

Awesome effort by Sarah and Jennifer, it just shows you don't have to be Ben Mounsey to enjoy WYWL races!
Awesome effort by Sarah and Jennifer, it just shows you don’t have to be Ben Mounsey to enjoy WYWL races!

With all points totted up, Northowram were left with 2,735 points to finish on the day in eight place out of the thirteen teams taking part.

Queensbury Racers did a sterling job in hosting the event, leaving many with the feeling that they’d left a tough act to follow. “A proper cross country course,” was what one or two runners described it as, and everyone was really impressed with the cheerful and plentiful marshals who made sure everything ran – geddit? – smoothly. The final round sees us all heading the other side of Halifax to Stainland. It’ll be a toughie – expect nothing less.

* Also known locally as Littlemoor Park.

The results

Full list of participating Pumas and finishing positions;

  • 23 Luke Cranfield (M)
  • 40 Tim Brook (MV)
  • 68 Deke Banks (M)
  • 76 Andy Haslam (MV)
  • 95 Andrew Tudor (MV)
  • 104 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)
  • 105 Richard Ogden (MV)
  • 141 Shaun Casey (MV)
  • 142 Adam Standeven (MV)
  • 143 Conor Lynch (M)*
  • 148 Diane Cooper (FV)
  • 165 Matt Newton (M)
  • 171 Thomas O’Reilly (MV)
  • 177 Kirsty Edwards (FV)
  • 180 Neil Coupe (MV)
  • 192 Alison Pearce (FV)
  • 195 Ally Canning (F)
  • 199 Jonathan Meynell (MSV)
  • 200 Paul Bottomley (MV)
  • 206 Lynsey Clarke (F)*
  • 209 Rachael Helliwell (F)
  • 211 Alan Sykes (MSV)
  • 219 Paula Snee (FV)
  • 233 Tracey March (F)
  • 241 Simon Wilkinson (M)
  • 244 Andrea Warrington (FV)
  • 254 Gabriella Kenny (FV)
  • 262 Carine Baker (F)
  • 276 Shana Emmerson (FV)
  • 280 Melissa Hall (FV)
  • 284 Jodie Knowles (F)
  • 286 Philippa Briggs (F)
  • 293 Victoria Owen (F)
  • 300 Jo Allen (FV)
  • 307 Tiffany Lewis (FV)
  • 316 Jennifer Lees (FV)
  • 317 Sarah Firth (FV)*

* Denotes first Winter League race.