West Yorkshire Winter League, Race Three,

Shelf Park, Sunday, 21 January 2018.

The ‘lucky’ Pumas who were taking part in the race. At least they could keep moving, unlike the marshals.

It’s fair to say that Northowram Pumas delivered what it said on the tin; a league race set in winter. What would you expect? Hosting one of these unique events for the first time, if the feedback is anything to go by, they pulled it off in style. One visiting runner remarked, “Absolutely a credit to you guys for putting on the show. Doesn’t get any more XC than that!” But that wouldn’t even be telling half the tale!

Tim Brook checks his watch, the starter confirms it, and they’re off!

The planning into what was the third race in the Winter League schedule, the course, the marshals, car-parking, you name it, was meticulous, and the visiting clubs were full of praise for everyone who worked behind the scenes. But as at South Leeds in the preceding race, the overnight frost caused some problems and necessitated a slight re-route, although the course itself was no less challenging for it.

A whole host of Pumas are among those forming an orderly queue on the steps you could call the stairway to heaven…but only because they’re going downhill.
Julie Bowman enters Judy Woods and is greeted by an appropriate polar-dog.

To say the weather was cold would be – pardon the ironic pun – putting it mildly. It could have been described in one or two words, but let’s just say it was fit for brass monkeys. And that was just for the runners. The marshals, too, had to brave the elements, some for almost two hours, and the thought must have crossed their minds that there could have been better ways to spend a Sunday morning. So hats off to all of them.

Sticking to the task in hand…that’s our Luke.
There’s never a bad time to pose for a happy shot, as proved by Charlotte Reason, Gabby Kenny and Jo Coupe, who are, nevertheless, photobombed.

The mass of runners gathered at Shelf Park, a venue that probably hasn’t had as many visitors at this time of year since – ever. Set for a 10.00am start, the race got under way just as the first flurry of snow landed on the heads. The course took the runners around the football pitch then had them descend into the woods, many treading gingerly in the manner of the secret lemonade drinker. Those at the front had a clear run, the main body of runners forced to form an orderly queue as they negotiated the steps. Once they’d hit the bottom there was the arduous climb up the other side before they entered the tarmacked Green Lane and heading right to the top corner. The long stretch down the track which was a continuation of Green Lane was welcome enough as it headed down towards Norwood Green, and once Village Street had been reached the runners followed the track that took them to the fun that is known as Judy Woods. Climbing up the infamous steps, the runners followed the path, emerging at a farm track, swinging around to the right, crossing fields and tracks before re-entering the woods and heading back up towards the top of Green Lane. By the time the runners reached this point, they were contending with a mini-blizzard, but at least they had a downhill canter towards Brow Lane before they entered the woods at the kissing gate. They were now on the homeward stretch, but Shelf Woods still has the knack of asking questions of each and every competitor. Slushy mud, steps, water, a brook, and if the sharp descent wasn’t hazardous enough, the climb up the other side and back into Shelf Park pushed the runners to almost breaking point. Many had already had the energy sapped out of their legs, but once they’d climbed out of the trees the finishing line was in sight, with many, if not most, reaching it in the manner of someone who had found the crock of gold at the foot of the rainbow.

It’s snow joke, but Andy Barnes can afford a smile as he drags himself up the Judy Woods steps.
Tim Brook glides through the field and the blizzard on the way to an eleventh place finish.

The race was won by Crossgate Harriers’ Adrian Holliday – his wife Lindsay was second female home in 38th – whilst for the Pumas, Tim Brook was not only first home, but as at South Leeds two weeks earlier, he finished eleventh overall. Luke Cranfield was next, finishing eight places behind, though it must be added here that he and Tim between them had clocked up more than twenty miles, having checked the course early in the morning to make sure it hadn’t fallen foul of would-be saboteurs.  The Pumas’ male team’s scoring was completed by Rick Ralph (34th), Jude Roberts (37th), Deke Banks (64th|), Andy Barnes (74th) and Shaun Casey (95th.  They finished the day in sixth place of the fourteen competing clubs.

There’s nobody else in sight as Diane Cooper charges through the woods on the way to being first female Puma home.

Tim Brook and Rick Ralph also scored for the Veterans’ team, and they were joined by Diane Cooper, now running back to her best, who was first female Puma home in 121st. They amassed 844 points. And the Super Vets, once again, managed a full quota of finishers, with Jon Ding (179th), Mark Kirkby (265th) and Katrina Wood (282nd) all scoring. But the real talking point, especially among the girls, was of the girls, who exceeded all expectations – or perhaps that’s doing them a disservice – by finishing an amazing third, as Diane was followed home by Ally Canning (135th), Kirsty Edwards (143rd) and Jane Cole, who came home in 173rd to give the team 1,127 points.

Super Vet Mark Kirkby enjoying the respite the downhill stretch of Green Lane can offer. But who ordered all this white stuff, he wonders. It plays havoc with his traction.

There had been Winter League debuts for Lindsay Grix, Karen Matos, William Bonfield and Carla Sharp, who elected to act as a tail-runner with Shana Emmerson, just to make sure nobody got lost. And despite the elements, there’s no doubting that the Pumas had pulled off a great event, well organised, cheery marshals, and the snow was, when all’s said and done, a fantastic bonus! The plaudits were led by Dewsbury’s Laura Pearmain, who said, “Thanks for a great run today, especially the marshals for standing out in those conditions. Think Northowram gets the prize for muddiest course so far this season!” But she was more grateful than most, in fact – her car needed to be given a shove by several runners to get her out of the car park!

Paula Snee is suitably attired but relieved to be finishing.

Pumas finishing positions;

11 Tim Brook MV

19 Luke Cranfield M

34 Rick Ralph MV

37 Jude Roberts MV

64 Deke Banks M

74 Andy Barnes MV

95 Shaun Casey MV

115 Chris Crabtree M

121 Diane Cooper FV

128 Andrew Tudor MV

135 Ally Canning F

143 Kirsty Edwards FV

173 Jane Cole FV

179 Jon Ding MSV

185 Tom O’Reilly MV

188 Peter Reason MV

209 Victoria Owen F

210 Julie Bowman FV

218 Simon Wilkinson M

222 Ian Evans M

236 Paula Snee FV

237 Sarah Haigh FV

238 Matt Newton M

251 Andrew Mellor MV

253 Claire Ramsbottom F

255 Kathryn Cleaver FV

257 Dawn Higgins FV

265 Mark Kirkby MSV

268 William Bonfield M*

272 Lindsay Grix F*

282 Katrina Wood FSV

287 Anna Ralph FV

288 Jodie Knowles F

303 Tiffany Lewis FV

306 Neil Coupe MV

309 Gabriella Kenny FV

318 Charlotte Reason F

322 Jo Coupe FV

335 Karen Matos FV*

348 Carla Sharp F*

349 Shana Emmerson FV

349 runners.

The race may have been over, but for some there were still challenges ahead. Like getting this car out of the car park.

With thanks for the use of photographs to Lisa Aspinall, Smith Photography and Steve Boyer.