Sunday, 1 October, 2017.
Hollingworth Lake is a popular tourist resort for locals and incumbents alike. It’s an ideal spot for picnics in summer, and with several hostelries dotted around the lake’s edge, what’s not to like? The sight of sailing boats drifting slowly by emanates an air of tranquillity. Asked to run around it twice at moderate pace, and suddenly the place doesn’t seem so appealing.
But that was the size of the task facing me when I signed up for this 10K race several weeks ago. Happily, I didn’t make the journey over the Pennines on my own. Matt Newton, with or without ankles, claimed he would always be ok to run it, and Tracey Ann was an eleventh hour addition to the entourage. If she was eleventh hour, then her significant other Jason Boults must have been close to throwing out time when he was coaxed into taking part.
We were joined at race HQ, the Littleborough Conservative Club, by many familiar faces, as the Sowerby Bridge Snails were using this event as one of their club championship races. There were also a good few Halifax Harriers in attendance as well as a sprinkling of Stainland Harriers and Queensbury Running Club runners, so we weren’t completely overshadowed by our Lancastrian neighbours.
I’d run a couple of 5K races around here earlier this year but never over 10K, and the course, apparently, was much changed from last year. Starting opposite the train station at the bottom of Hollingworth Road, the route rose ever so gently – but for quite some way, I might add – before joining Lake Bank with Hollingworth Lake on our left. Keeping to the road, we ran parallel to the lake before making a swift left-hand turn immediately after The Beach public house to follow the path which circumnavigates the lake, following it anti-clockwise. All fairly flat and scenic, but perpetuated with puddles, dog walkers and horse riders. Eventually the path joins Rakewood Road, but before continuing along the lake side, the route diverted sharply to the right along Syke Road to do an out-and-back (swinging around a marshal, if you get my gist) before rejoining Rakewood Road. The route rejoins Lake Bank before beginning the second full circuit. Upon completion, and having made the swift detour up Syke Road and back, the route swings right to take the return journey along Hollingworth Road, and the welcome downhill stretch to the finish.
Myself, Matt, Tracey and Jason joined the runners at the start, although there was a sense that none of us should really have been there at all. I was suffering with stiff thighs after yesterday’s efforts at Pontefract parkrun, Matt was troubled with his dodgy ankles, Tracey has succumbed to, among other things, glutes (now recognised in these parts as the top sports injury, having overtaken the metatarsal that no one had ever heard of until David Beckham suffered broken one), whilst Jason had never attempted to run this sort of distance before, and but for Tracey’s insistence, would otherwise never have dreamt of it.
But there we were, making up a field of 249 runners, and at 10.00am, we were off. We swung immediately into Hollingworth Road and began the gentle ascent. There was never a question of me bombing off – I’m too long in the game for that lark – and soon, up alongside me, was Matt Newton, and I’d share more than half the race in his company. Matt had joked he’d be more likely be bringing up the rear, clearly this wasn’t going to happen. I did half expect him to kick on as normal, but perhaps his ankle really was hampering him.
We ran around Hollingworth Lake in each other’s company, though I’m pretty sure I had to put in the most effort. So much concentration did I put into my running that I hardly noticed Matt exchanging pleasantries with a marshal at the Pavilion Café where we veered a sharp right turn. Had I been more attentive I would have noticed the marshal was our friend Paul Hopkinson. I hope he didn’t think I was being rude! We meandered along the path before hitting Rakewood Road and shooting up Syke Road. We did a quick shifty around the marshal (presumably they’d run of cones) then rejoined Rakewood Road, just as Tracey appeared to start her out-and-back.
As we continued along Lake Bank and turned onto the path around the lake for the second time we were joined – and overtaken – by a woman I recognised as one we’d spoken to at the Conservative Club when we collected our race numbers. She turned out to be Lisa Kempster, and she certainly upped the pace. Before I knew it, her and Matt were pulling away from me, though never too far away. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I kept them within my sights as we toured the lake on this second lap, once again omitting to acknowledge our friendly and supportive marshal at the café. We continued along Rakewood Road, took the down-and-back on Syke Lane, then shortly after passing the watering station (where, incidentally, Jenny Hopkinson was handing out refreshments) we were ushered right to take up Hollingworth Road on the return home. Familiar with this section, I had prepared myself for a grand downhill finish, and this is what I gave myself!
I got into my stride and before I knew it I was making up good ground on Matt and his companion Lisa, soon on their heels and then passing them as I sped up. Matt offered encouraging words, as did the runner I passed further along. “Go on lad,” he said, typifying the kind of spirit which regularly shows itself among athletes. I burst passed him, then had this horrible feeling that I’d gone too early; there was at least another quarter of a mile to go. This runner, who I later learned went by the name of Paul Gandy, a Meltham runner, was soon on my shoulders, but instead of racing me, was offering more encouraging words which I’ll never forget. “Go get that train, go get that train, don’t miss that train,” he urged me, and once again I lengthened my stride to pull away. “Good response,” I heard him say, but I still had some way to go. I kept it up for as long as I could but felt I couldn’t sustain it. Paul closed in on me again just as the finish line came into view. “Go on,” he shouted, and with that I gave one last kick for home. I finished exhausted and carried on walking to regain my breath, thus not having the chance to thank Paul for his encouragement.
Behind me, Lisa Kempster must have shrugged off Matt in the sprint for the line, for she finished three seconds in front of him. But she was grateful to Matt because, not for the first time (I didn’t realise they’d encountered each other before) he’d helped her to a personal best at this distance (as he’d helped her to a PB several weeks ago at Halifax parkrun). Having regained my composure, I joined Matt then we walked back up the road to await Tracey coming in.
Now from what I can gather, Jason had been quite some way in front of Tracey for much of the race; as they both appeared, she had now stolen a march (no pun intended) to lead him in. She finished in 55:10, a time which pleased her no end; at the beginning of the month Tracey had run the Kirkwood Hospice 10K (a slightly easier course, I’d say) in 56:41. One might say she’s putting herself back in the game.
The winner of the race was Ian Livesy of Barlick Fell Runners in 33:52.
Pumas’ (and Jason’s) finishing positions and times were;
136 Johnny Meynell 51:28
139 Matt Newton 51:36
165 Tracey March 55:10
168 Jason Boults 55:15
Action photos supplied by Jonathan Moon (Sowerby Bridge Snails).