Run Bolton Abbey,
Sunday, 12 November, 2017.
“Do you fancy running this new event, it’s around Bolton Abbey?” was a question put to me. I reckoned I was up for that; after all, Bolton Abbey may be big, but it’s not that big. I duly signed up. Only later did I realise just what it was, in fact, that I’d registered for.
This Run Bolton Abbey event was being staged for the first time, raising money for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. There were four different races on offer; a 2k, 10k, ten-miler, and half-marathon. I’d signed up for the 10k, as had several other Pumas. Enough of us, in fact, for it being worthwhile Neil Coupe digging out the minibus once more to get us there.
A smooth drive up into North Yorkshire was halted once we’d reached the Bolton Abbey estate, and the first of many hitches encountered on the day. The 10k race was due for an 11.00am start, but clearly, with a massive queue of cars from the roundabout, the subsequent set-off times were put back. With our race numbers still to be collected, we didn’t need anything else to hamper us pre-race. And then the bus got stuck in the mud.
We were told beforehand that we would experience a mixture of paths, tracks, woodland trails and open land, taking in a run through Strid Wood, over Dicken Dike, a climb of the Valley of Desolation and the Launde Plantation and a stretch of Barden Fell. This was, to all intents and purposes, a “diverse range of surfaces and stunning landscapes all crammed into one challenging run.”
All races were preceded by the bugle-sounding of ‘The Last Post’, and a two minutes’ silence impeccably observed for Remembrance Sunday. Then the 10k runners were called to order, and packed in tightly on the tarmac in front of the Pavilion Café – where each race would eventually finish – we were sent on our way, ever slowly, negotiating the bridge over the River Wharfe, then winding our way single file up through the woods like school children on a nature trail. Yes, it was slow going, though hardly what you would call easy, as it was something of a climb. After a mile, one female runner was in trouble; struggling to breath, she was pulled out of the race by a marshal as we turned left onto a flat section of the course.
One female Puma showing no signs of trouble was Diane Cooper, who got away from the main pack of runners almost immediately, and benefitted from not having to queue for any length of time. I followed her for a while up through the first set of woods, and Neil Coupe was soon up alongside me. The course had punishing sections; while much of the 856-feet rise was a gentle incline, there were steep sections which tested the runners to the limits. We also had to negotiate a bridge, several stiles that, like the bridge, had runners queueing for ages and ages (twenty minutes in some cases), and a gate that one farmer, who, it would imagine, had agreed with the organisers beforehand to keep open, decided at the last minute to keep shut, necessitating a scramble. Just after this, the runners around me were taken on a sojourn we needn’t have taken, a loop around the moors amounting to an extra 1k. Just who was at fault, no one was sure, but speaking with runners later on, not everyone took this unnecessary route.
One person who clearly hadn’t was Gina Farley, for as we started the long descent to civilisation, she was there in front of me. I’d passed her at the start so I couldn’t work out at the time just how she’d managed to be in front of not only myself but Neil as well. Not that I cared too much; by this time, my race was over. Careering down from the top of the hillside, something ‘gave’ in my left knee, a sharp pain which caused me to stop immediately as I realised something was seriously wrong. I attempted to carry on, and even scaled the five-feet high wall at which I’d seen Gina climb over ahead of me. Neil waited his turn to use the part of the wall with foot rests, whereas I, in my haste, climbed it too, only to find myself plonked on top of barbed wire before levering myself down. I soldiered on, but the pain in my knee told me it was pointless exercise, and I ended up walking much of the remaining three miles back.
Which was a pity, for that section was the most enjoyable, not least because it was, in the main, flat. Having reached the bottom of the hill, the runners took a gravel path then over a field before taking the bridge into the woods and making the run for home along the trail that ran parallel to the river. Neil, who had passed me twice already in the race, overtook me a third time on the field and would be second Puma home, Diane by this time well ahead of him. For Diane, someone who’s been out of action for quite some time, the race was a triumph of sorts, not only #FPH by finishing 85th in 1:03:29, but also first home in her category Female 45, which comprised 62 runners. That seems quite impressive.
Neil Coupe was next home, his frustrations at this self-christened ‘caveman running’ extending beyond the finish line. The published results not only had him down as representing Marsh Harriers, his time was recorded at 1:09:11, nearly six minutes after Diane, even though he saw her finishing in the distance. Neil’s Strava time was deemed a truer reflection, but subsequent correspondence with the race organisers have yet to iron out this discrepancy.
Katrina Wood ran well to finish third Puma home, whilst Gina Farley, who ran in the colours of her first claim club Bradford & Airedale, finished in 1:11:10. Further down the list, I walked over the line having being passed by five other Pumas in the woods, obviously disappointed in the way things had panned out, but heartened by the concern I’d been shown by not only my fellow Pumas, but also runners I’m never likely to recognise ever again. I must have sounded like a well-worn record, though, trying to explain that my knee had gone rather than just being tired, although the young lady, with the right intentions, didn’t quite believe me when she grabbed hold of my hand whilst inviting me to run over the line with her.
Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;
85 Diane Cooper 1:03:29
175 Neil Coupe 1:09:11 (Strava 1:04:21)
200 Katrina Wood 1:09:39
201 Gina Farley 1:11:10
287 Shana Emmerson 1:17:41
381 Jo Coupe 1:25:03
463 Carolyn Brearley 1:32:02
484 Sara Britton 1:33:50
502 Johnny Meynell 1:36:36
551 Carla Sharp 1:42:54
577 Eileen O’Brien 1:46:18
It had been a testing run, the lengthy and frustrating hold-ups at the stiles not helped by the bitterness of the cold. No, it wasn’t a warm morning by any stretch of the imagination. So, to that end, each Puma was no doubt delighted to have reached the finish line and happy that they didn’t have to go any further. I mean, who would? Oh wait…
TEN MILE RACE
The field of 307 runners who lined up for the start of the ten-mile event included two Pumas, Jane Cole and Matt Newton, although, if the stories are to be believed, both not too sure as to how they ended up being there. Jane had contemplated running this event but not entered, only to take the place of the unfortunate Helen Jackson, who’d had to withdraw through injury. Jane thought Helen had put her name down for the 10k race, so must have been delighted in the end to find out that she was now running the race of her choice. As for Matt, nobody’s certain, but his tale of pressing the wrong event button when applying online is quite believable. Only him…
Their race started after the 10k runners were on their merry way, and once they’d set off, they did at least manage to get a decent view of the Abbey in all its splendour, as their route headed out in that direction – a nice flat section, too – before crossing the river and making the arduous ascent of the fields in the direction of Stead Dike. These runners, too, had their ‘stile breaks’, Jane claiming she had to wait “half an hour” at 7.3 miles. Still, as they climbed higher – the summit was reached at 1,034 feet – they got a better view, and, having started the decent, and at around half way, they picked up the route of the 10k race, so they still had the pleasure of the shut gate and the five-feet high wall and queues.
Matt Newton was the first of the pair home, finishing 33rd, whilst Jane was some fourteen minutes behind.
Pumas’ finishing positions and chip times;
33 Matt Newton 1:40:38
72 Jane Cole 1:54:21
After everyone had picked up their goody bag and novelty medal (one that Mark Brook could only look at in envy), we all reconvened in the Pavilion Café to warm ourselves through. Later, the organisers, while pleased with the fact that they managed to set off a total of 1,370 runners in four different events within eight minutes, later admitted there were faults, particularly with the 10k race. They also gave credit to all the marshals, some of whom had found themselves shivering in the cold for up to five hours. This, however, cut no ice with one or two of our runners. Neil Coupe, having been given a finishing time some five minutes slower than he’d run, demands a refund, whilst Sara Britton claims she’d gladly go back – but only to walk the dogs.
Who’d be a race organiser, eh? (The Coley Canter is on Saturday, 30 December, btw).