Leeds Abbey Dash,

Sunday, 5 November, 2017.

There was something rather eye-catching among the several thousand runners meandering up and down Kirkstall Road for this year’s Abbey Dash; the throng was awash with yellow, red and black, the colours of the Northowram Pumas who had turned out in force for this event. You’d think they were taking over. But don’t think this was any accident. Au contraire; the planning had actually been meticulous in the extreme and, in fact, had taken several months.

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

Strategist Ian Marshall had whipped up his troops into shape. Regular attendees at Monday and Wednesday training nights would see how these ‘Abbey Dashers’ (as they became affectionately known) had grown in number and had risen to the challenge that would ultimately see them complete an organised 10k race, many for the first time. Training runs had lengthened over the weeks, and as the day drew nearer, Ian had managed to authenticate the conditions by throwing in a water station at Wibsey halfway around a six-mile route he’d drawn up. Of course, with the group being as large as it was – sometimes there were more than forty pounding the streets of Northowram and beyond – Ian had to call upon a willing body of helpers to assist, and to that end, Alison Shooter, Paul Hopkinson, Laura Fairbank, Laura Hattersley, Peter Reason and Simon Wilkinson deserve a mention.

Ready to nail the Abbey Dash is Emma James.

On the eve of the run, Ian drafted up a check-list for each and every runner, then ended with the cautionary advice that all runners should prepare for the race itself by keeping away from nightclubs. And to ensure they observed this, Ian thus found himself having to trawl places such as Yates’, the Roxy and the Smokehouse (not necessarily in that order) on Saturday night. Just to be sure.

To transport the runners to Leeds, the club hired a coach and having met up at the club, by 7.45 most of the runners had jumped on board like eager children on a school outing. Pleasantly, the Pumas lot were better behaved. The radio wasn’t working, so there was no pre-race motivational music, and the only song to be heard was the chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ which everyone sang to Sharon Reason. She wasn’t divulging her age, and the six candles on the cake she was later presented with didn’t offer any clues (although Neil Coupe did suggest each candle represented ten years). Of the runners on the bus, a show of hands revealed nineteen were running their first 10k.

In Leeds, the coach party met up with other Pumas who’d gleefully made their own way there, and at the last count, there was a staggering total of sixty-five Pumas shuffling into the respective starting pens, each one buzzing like bees around the honey pot, and looking much the same. It’s a testimony to how far this club has grown, and how everyone just seems to really enjoy it.

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

Of course, there were seasoned Puma runners taking part in the race, some willing to lend a hand (or legs) by acting as pacers to help some of the Abbey Dashers achieve their personal goals. Here, we had Matt Newton (fifty minutes), Peter Reason (55), Neil Coupe (60), Alison Shooter (65), Laura Fairbank (75), Laura Hattersley (85), and, of course, floater Ian Marshall himself, each pacer hoping to adhere to the rule of the old Trumpton clock; steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly. Except Matt Newton.

There was a great deal of hanging around before the runners were unleashed, and it wasn’t as if it was a particularly warm morning, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Still, unlike the boys from the press, at least the runners would get to warm up once they were on their way. The sun did put in an appearance but it was only half-hearted, though that’s something that can’t be labelled at our runners, many of whom, if not running 10k for the first time, managed to slash seconds and minutes off their previous best times.

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

The Abbey Dash is what’s considered a fast route. Starting from Wellington Street, the runners headed straight up the A65, turning around at the 5k point at the entrance to the Abbey House Museum and in the shadows of the ruined Kirkstall Abbey itself. The route then headed back down the A65, veering off left to take up the A58 for the last half mile, and finishing on the Headrow in front of City Hall.

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

The elite and sub-fifty runners were off on time at 9.30am, and when they’d all past through the starting gates, the rest of the field, which had sifted down, were released and in time everyone was on their way. By the time the Abbey Dash was over, 8,890 runners had passed over the finish line.

Many of those at the back of the pack had only just reached the 1k mark, close to fire station, when the leading runners appeared down the other side of the A65 on their final stretch. They were led home by Sam Stabley of Wreake and Soar Valley, and he finished in 29 minutes thirteen seconds. First female home was Eilisha McColgan (daughter of former 10,000m World Champion and Olympic medallist Liz McColgan) who finished in 32:05, a course record for a woman.

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

For any race, there was to be #FPH, and here – as if anyone was surprised – it was Tim Brook. He’d gone sub-forty minutes at the Kirkwood Hospice two months earlier and was heard to say before the race that he was hoping to go below thirty-nine minutes. He not only managed this with consummate ease, but literally smashed this target by finishing in under 38 minutes – just for good measure. And so a trend was set as personal bests literally tumbled.

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

Paul and Jenny Hopkinson – in that order – were running under the Halifax Harriers banner once more, but Paul has given much to the Abbey Dashers over the past few months he could easily qualify as a Puma. They were next past the post – six seconds apart if the chip times are to be believed. Then came Kirsty Edwards, first female Puma, in a ground-breaking time of 47:18. Tom O’Reilly managed to beat the 48-minute barrier, then came Matt Newton with his charges. Matt was meant to be pacing at fifty minutes, but swayed along by the runners around him and the support from the side-lines, he not only went around in 47:44, he also managed to help Jane Cole and Paul Bottomley to times they could hitherto only have dreamed of. Jane crossed the line with Matt, whilst Paul, on the brink of exhaustion, was just seven seconds behind. They both paid tribute to Matt and his pacing, with Jane saying, “It was absolutely fantastic! A massive thank you to all the pacers who forfeited their own time to help the rest of us out! You all rock!” Glenn Ackroyd had much to owe Matt as well. He’d kept him in sight for much of the time on the way to PB of 49:45. He was cock-a-hoop, and had he been allowed to shout it from the City Hall rooftop, he doubtless would have done. His reaction was to rant in the manner of Norwegian commentator Bjørge Lillelien following his side’s World Cup qualifier victory over England in 1981: “Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher…are you watching?!” Glenn stopped short of saying, “Your boys took a hell of a beating” but his previous time over 10k of 53:05 certainly did.

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

Finishing over four hundred places behind Glenn was Jon Ding. But don’t be fooled by this; evidently, Jon had started much further back in the pens and had therefore taken some time to cross the start line which activated his chip. Once he’d got going, he waltzed around the course and was fourth fastest Puma in a time of 46:29, easily his best-ever. Similarly, Andrew Mellor finished in 51:14, a whole five minutes faster than last year’s effort. Andrew has been continually chipping seconds off his 10k times, but his time here was clearly a personal best for him. Pity that his lengthy grey socks that almost reached his knees became such a talking point; one wonders if he’d got them for another occasion, but then again Andrew is doing the Amsterdam trip next February.

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

Jo Clay and Dawn Higgins were both very satisfied with their runs. Jo’s been out of action for quite some time and had done so very little training of late, so she was more than happy with her time of 52:10. And Dawn, running in her first-ever race at this distance, was delighted to have run 52:36 and put it down to the training she’s been doing with the Pumas. “I’m so glad I joined,” she smiled, and praised everyone for all their help and encouragement.

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

Pacer Peter Reason helped guide Claire Ramsbottom and Jodie Knowles to sub 53-minute times. Claire was “over the moon” with her time, and Jodie claimed she would never have kept that sort of pace running on her own. Peter helped both Claire and Jodie to personal bests – of course. Afterwards, Jodie said, “Brilliant outing today, thank you to everyone who made it happen. This is what being part of Pumas is all about.” Also dipping below 53 minutes was Gina Farley, running this distance for only the second time. She ran a superb race and was “well happy” with her time which was a new record for her.

And what of Mark Brook? He’s setting new records every time he goes out, which at the moment appears to be every week. Having set a PB at the Bradford City Runs just seven days earlier, who’d have thought he would have gone even faster so soon? Don’t underestimate this kid; anyone who saw him charging past other runners in the dash for the line would think he does this for a living (actually, he almost does). His image was but a blur on film, and he knocked nearly half a minute off his Bradford time.

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

And like Mark, Tiffany Lewis also ran at Bradford, albeit in the half marathon. No doubt she found the Abbey Dash a tad easier, and her ever-improving standards saw her clock 57:14, her fastest over this distance. Also cracking the 58-minute barrier was Bryonie King. She’d taken part in her first-ever race at Bradford the previous week, so this was her second. When asked how she felt upon completing the Dash, she replied, “Exhausted,” but was still all smiles. Not too far behind her was Sarah Firth, who had started the race with her friends Sunny Kanda and Mel Rainford. They both beat her to the finish line, but Sarah claims they’ll never beat her to the bar. Charlotte Reason was the youngest Puma in the race and she ran her fastest time over this distance to finish in 57:50. Also just managing to finish under 58 minutes was Nichola Mathieson, helped in no small way by Neil Coupe, who paced her round. She was quick to praise him, and added, “An amazing day with a fantastic club who all support each other. Well done everyone.” Carolyn Brearley, too, also set a PB over 10k, clocking 57:31, a time that she was clearly pleased with.

For those runners whose goal was to beat the one-hour mark, nine must have been particularly pleased. Emma James is beginning to look the part; why, she even painted her nails in the colours of the Pumas (but not the yellow!) especially for the occasion. She’s been adding Friday night runs to the Monday sessions and this paid off with a satisfying time of 58:05. Lisa Bennett completed her first ever 10k, and thanked partner Ian Evans for encouraging her and Ian Marshall for persevering with her. “I did what I set out to do – finish in under an hour,” she said afterwards. She came close to 58 minutes, actually, whilst also beating the hour mark with time to spare were other debutants Louise Smith and Katherine Scargill.  Katherine felt “chuffed” with her time and gave credit once more to the Pumas for getting her back into running. “It has done me the world of good both mentally and physically,” she said.

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

Alison Wilkinson ran the Abbey Dash last year, but despite not being as fast this time around was still pleased to maintain the form that kept her under sixty minutes. And Jo Coupe was running a landmark event; her first under her newly married name! She ran faster last year, but still managed a sub-sixty minute this time. As did Shana Emmerson; she went under 54 minutes a year ago and went around here in 58:46. However, she was still upbeat: “Not my best time, but happy to finish in under an hour,” she admitted, before adding “It’s the furthest I’ve run in a while!” She’s also recently been holidaying in Portugal, so perhaps hadn’t re-acclimatised! Adele Speight was the last of the Pumas to dip under the hour-mark, and she had a word or two for her running colleagues, saying “Thanks again Ian for your support and to everybody for making me feel welcome. I love running with the Pumas!” But spare a thought for Christine Baines and what might have been; just another foot quicker and she too would have just gone under that magic hour. Instead, she finished dead on sixty minutes. It’s still a great time, though, and if she’d been looking to get close to the hour, it could at least be said that she timed it to perfection!

There were several Pumas whose next aim is surely to run under that mark, for they came pretty close here. Once his partner Lisa Bennett had left him en route, Ian Evans encouraged Cathy Heptinstall, and she finished just eight seconds over the hour. She was full of praise, though, for all the help she’s had since joining the Pumas, saying, “Thank you Pumas, had a great day, couldn’t have done it without all the training and commitment from all the leaders.” Kelly Smith, who’s been coming on steadily, helped herself to a personal best over this distance and was quick to praise everyone for the whole day, saying, “The day was super organised, thank you to all the run leaders as they all provide encouragement and support. I’m proud to be a Puma.” Meanwhile, Simone Brook and Louise Heath kept each other company throughout as they both completed their first-ever 10k races. Both were delighted with their times, and had no ill-effects. Said Louise, “Well, I’ve done my first 10k and surprisingly I feel ok!”

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

Injury had prevented Helen Doyle from taking part in last year’s Abbey Dash, but back fighting fit, she completed it in 1:01:16 whilst raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research. “Better late than never!” she quipped before adding, “I absolutely loved it.” Joanne Shaw wasn’t too far behind. When she first joined the Pumas, she wasn’t convinced she could run even half this distance, so to knock off a time of 1:01:30 was quite a performance, even if she did describe the experience as “painful”! And let’s not forget Stuart Thornton, who was running with the Pumas for the first time. He looked a figure totally focussed on the way out; and just as determined on the run for home.

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

Three Pumas finished exactly on or came close to one hour three minutes. Sara Britton, Carly Dunnachie and Jess Wilson were separated by ninety-one places – but only three seconds apart! Whilst Richard Kennedy, a Puma for only a couple of months, completed the course in 1:03:55. “Thanks Ian et al. As a relative newbie it’s been great to progress from 5k Parkruns to 10k in a relatively short space of time. Definitely inspired to go for the next challenge,” said Richard after he finished.

Then there was the small gang that Alison Shooter paced around. Alison’s last outing was the Worksop Half Marathon two weeks earlier, so a distance such as this would pose no problem for her. I’m not sure if Tamara Gibson and Melanie Meleschko felt the same, but they were, nevertheless, grateful to Alison. Actually, Melanie’s major concerns about the Abbey Dash weren’t so much whether she’d manage to complete it or not, more the practical arrangements, such as the availability of toilets, losing everyone, forgetting where the bus was, missing the bus or even being sick on it on the way back! She was even concerned about smelling all sweaty and that. Well, Melanie, nobody noticed – or said anything, at least! – and just to make sure she didn’t get lost, Alison and Tamara got hold of her and they all crossed the line hand-in-hand.

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

It was nice to see Gill Holmes up and about ready to represent the Pumas once more; she has one Winter League race to her name. She finished in 1:04:44, exactly the same time that Lorna Ludlum recorded.  And it was a bit of a turn up for the books for Claire Crossley, who had been adamant that despite training with the Pumas, she wasn’t going to participate in any races. That is, until Caroline Malone realised that her holiday in New York clashed. What to do, eh? Get someone else to do it for you, which is how Claire found herself in the starting pens, and, to her credit, she completed the Dash in just over one hour and five minutes.


Rebecca Stanley and Philippa Denham ran round together, Rebecca knocking two minutes off the time she ran at Sheffield in September, whilst Philippa went slightly betterm, beating her own previous best by almost three minutes. She clearly enjoyed it all. “What a great day. I love being a Puma and all you run leaders are the best,” she exclaimed. Lisa Harrison admitted to feeling “nervous” pre-race, but cast any doubts aside to finish in 1 hour and six minutes, whilst for Sharon Reason, she was given a real birthday treat, being guided home by none other than Ian Marshall himself. It was indeed an honour for Sharon, as Ian’s blue shorts are rarely seen this side of Westercroft. And another of our run leaders, Laura Fairbank, acted as chaperone to young Katie Healey, who excelled herself to finish in 1:13:03. Katharine Barnett has completed the Great North Run dressed as a unicorn, so without drawing the attention to herself and being dragged over for a live BBC interview, she ran the full course without stopping, something of which impressed herself. She was another to praise those run leaders at the club, saying, “All credit to you and your amazing team. It’s you guys who draw us in, keep us motivated and make it worthwhile. You’re all fantastic.”

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

Bringing the Pumas’ team home were those from the Beginners/Walking group, often led on a Monday evening by Laura Hattersley. Becky Jackson finished 1:10:36, whilst some ten minutes further back was the distinctive sight of Kathy Towers. Brett Swiffen and partner Rachel Calvert, with one eye on next year’s London Marathon, used the Abbey Dash to help get some mileage in, whilst Laura, herself, perhaps felt obliged to make sure all of her charges arrived back safely, and brought up the rear.

It really was an exceptional effort by everyone, and along those lines, a clearly proud Ian Marshall said, “Today has been a momentous day in the club’s history. When we set up the club [three years ago] never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be represented by approximately eighty runners across the junior and adult races. I am confident that this is the Pumas’ biggest turnout.” Ian went on to give thanks to several people who had helped out, including those race leaders who had perhaps sacrificed their own personal bests to help others achieve theirs. One of whom was Peter Reason, who spoke volumes, “Amazing day, amazing club. If anybody would have said what this year would bring, I wouldn’t have believed it. Had so much fun and met so many new friends at the club. Seeing you all finishing and getting PBs today was better than myself getting a PB. Here’s to the next achievement.” Hear, hear!

The morning didn’t end there, either. For those that were inclined, there was the retreat back to the club where butties were served up – huggins of them – by Jacky Midgley, Simon Wilkinson and their team – bacon, sausage, fried egg butties. Laura Fairbank considered it a result when she held out for one of everything. Tea and coffee went down well, as did the post-race banter. What other club looks after its runners like this?

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

And to those Pumas who ‘accidentally’ found themselves in more exotic or exciting climes such as New York and Milan, you don’t know what you were missing. Still, there’s always next year….

In most cases, the finishing positions of each Puma didn’t correspond with the times recorded; it all depended on where each runner started from and when each crossed the start line to activate their chip. But for the record, in order of how each crossed the finishing line, this is the complete list of Pumas’ positions and times;


520 Tim Brook 37:57

1465 Paul Hopkinson 44:21

1472 Jenny Hopkinson 44:26

1905 Kirsty Edwards 47:18

2022 Tom O’Reilly 47:54

2076 Matt Newton 47:44

2078 Jane Cole 47:44

2089 Paul Bottomley 47:51

2381 Glenn Ackroyd 49:45

2675 Johanne Clay 52:10

2708 Dawn Higgins 52:36

2815 Jon Ding 46:29

3280 Tiffany Lewis 57:14

3440 Andrew Mellor 51:14

3571 Gina Farley 52:54

4092 Peter Reason 52:20

4128 Claire Ramsbottom 52:29

4159 Jodie Knowles 52:38

4889 Joanne Coupe 59:06

4899 Bryonie King 57:25

5223 Sarah Firth 57:44

5290 Charlotte Reason 57:50

5541 Louise Smith 58:28

5625 Katherine Scargill 58:26

5651 Mark Brook 53:47

5770 Adele Speight 59:24

5897 Emma John-Baptiste 58:05

5976 Alison Wilkinson 58:48

6023 Helen Doyle 1:01:16

6103 Joanne Shaw 1:01:30

6249 Christine Baines 1:00:00

6294 Carolyn Brearley 57:31

6312 Sara Britton 1:03:01

6317 Neil Coupe 57:47

6328 Nichola Mathieson 57:49

6351 Carly Dunnachie 1:03:02

6390 Lisa Bennett 58:23

6403 Jess Wilson 1:03:00

6438 Shana Emmerson 58:46

6054 Stuart Thornton 1:01:11

6510 Tamara Gibson 1:04:19

6511 Alison Shooter 1:04:19

6512 Melanie Meleschko 1:04:19

6582 Gill Holmes 1:04:44

6674 Claire Crossley 1:05:05

6675 Ian Evans 1:00:12

6700 Cathy Heptinstall 1:00:08

6836 Louise Heath 1:00:49

6837 Simone Brook 1:00:48

6868 Richard Kennedy 1:03:55

6775 Kelly Smith 1:00:35

6981 Lorna Ludlam 1:04:44

7068 Rebecca Stanley 1:05:24

7072 Philippa Denham 1:05:26

7313 Sharon Reason 1:09:29

7316 Ian Marshall 1:09:30

7551 Lisa Harrison 1:06:01

7590 Katherine Barnett 1:09:13

7961 Laura Fairbank 1:10:25

7962 Katie Healey 1:13:03

8106 Rebecca Jackson 1:10:36

8653 Kathy Towers 1:20:46

8709 Rachel Calvert 1:23:31

8711 Brett Swiffen 1:23:32

8864 Laura Hattersley 1:36:05


Junior Abbey Dash

The 10k Abbey Dash was preceded by the Juniors’ 2k race, which took the runners up the A65 as far as the fire station, then back up to the finish on the Headrow. Northowram Pumas were represented by fifteen runners, one of whom, eight-year-old Elizabeth Lyons, was willing to give us her take on the experience:

“On a cold November morning, fifteen Pumas set off to do the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash.  We did the warm-up and then all of us set off.  It was great fun racing against all of my friends and seeing if I could beat my time. We did a lap and then everyone finished at the Town Hall, collected their chocolate bar, medal, Abbey Dash T-shirt and then lined up to go home.  I beat my target and did the Dash in 10 minutes. I was very happy. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

Tim Brook and partner Lisa Aspinall kept Mei-Lyn’s entry to the race a secret until the night before, so how thrilled she must have felt! It must have felt almost like Christmas, and I bet she hardly slept with the excitement of it all. Jude Kenny and Reuben Bartkiw, though finishing separately, recorded identical times and were the first two Pumas home.

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

Finishing positions and times;

40 Jude Kenny 7:32

49 Reuben Bartkiw 7:32

81 Freddie Baker 8:07

104 Olivia Bolton 8:39

106 Jessica Hughes 8:32

108 Amelie Baker 8:33

109 Thomas Horn 8:43

138 Amelia Jackson 9:06

147 Mei-Lyn Brook 9:15

150 Jeremy Bartkiw 9:17

151 Orlagh Kenny 9:25

175 Lana Brook 9:52

190 Elizabeth Lyons 10:04

200 Stanley Zlotowski 10:22

257 Sophie Hughes 13:09