West Yorkshire Winter League, Race Two,

Middleton Park, Leeds, Sunday, 7 January, 2018.

Judging by the reactions of almost every runner who crossed the finish line at the end of the second West Yorkshire Winter League race on Sunday, that was some tough run. But South Leeds Lakers, who staged the race for the first time – and pulled it off in style – clearly needed to put everyone to the test, and the course they eventually mapped out certainly did that.

The sunlight casts itself over Middleton Park on a glorious crisp winter’s morning, as Jude Roberts and Robert Shirlaw lead the charge.

The Northowram Pumas were out in force again, with Cpt Coupe de-icing the tour bus in time to take a contingent of the team to Middleton Park. It was another great turn-out; all told, there were thirty-one Pumas on show. The cold snap wasn’t going to deter this lot, although it did play havoc with the original route that had been designed by the hosts. The race organisers were out by first sunlight on the Sunday morning to check that the course passed health and safety legislation, and ever the careful planners, when a section of the course was deemed too hazardous due to ice, they reverted to their cunning Plan B, and arrangements to put this in place meant there was a twenty-minute hold up for the start of the race.

That’s Andy. Messrs Haslam and Barnes in deep thought.
Winter League debutant Chris Crabtree finds that this is a slightly more different proposition than running up Westercroft.

Put simply, what the competitors now faced was a two-lapped course around Middleton Park, the first loop slightly longer than the second. But that’s not saying much, when the challenge before the near four hundred runners asked much of limbs and lungs. The start was straightforward enough, a single anti-clockwise loop of the field the runners started in, before the route took them out into the sticks, dropping down a steep hill, left up a long incline of rubble and old tarmac, up a muddy hill then up into the park. Lined by leave-less trees, this track is obviously more picturesque in summer, but most of the runners wouldn’t have had time to admire the scenery anyway as the route winded around the perimeter of the park, climbing to its zenith at 474 feet around the halfway mark on the first loop. A long stretch of downhill on the tarmac was most welcome, then there was a climb of a mud hill, followed by a left turn onto a grass path which eventually led the runners back to the field where they’d started. Only to do it all again! When the runners had reached this point a second time, there was the flat run to the finish line ahead, a total of, depending on whose Strava app you want to believe, of around 5.5 miles.

Sarah Haigh, Paula Snee and Julie Bowman crowd out a Stainland Lion (Michelle Rogerson).
Captain Caveman himself. Neil Coupe clearly enjoying the experience.

Inevitably, some runners found the going easier than others, though that’s not to say that anyone found it easy. In fact, the finish line videos showed most, if not all, on the point of exhaustion. But however hard Tim Brook pushed himself, and he was among the front runners from the start, he still summoned up enough energy for one last surge to pip Tom Langdon (Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club) to finish eleventh, roaring like a real Puma as he crossed the line. Luke Cranfield was six places behind him, and making up the scoring in the Male team were Rick Ralph, Jude Roberts, Robert Shirlaw (the first Super Vet Puma home), Andy Barnes and Andy Haslam to give them a seventh place finish on the day from the thirteen competing clubs. The first female Puma home was Veteran Diane Cooper in 162nd pace, and she was backed up for the team points by Ally Canning, Kirsty Edwards and Paula Snee, and the Pumas’ Female team finished on the day in sixth place.

It’s often been said that dogs are a man’s best friend. But there’s a time and a place.
Claire Ramsbottom is followed by Katrina Wood as they attempt to nullify the threat of Queensbury’s Zoe Hipwell.
Making her Winter League bow was Kathryn Cleaver, seen here trying to negotiate unfamiliar terrain.

The Veterans’ scorers of Tim Brook, Rick Ralph and Diane Cooper helped the team to an impressive fifth place finish, whilst the Supervets’ scorers Robert Shirlaw, Jon Ding and Katrina Wood saw them finish on the day in ninth position. With a combined Male and Female total of 2,801 points, Pumas finished overall in sixth position.

Let me hear you roar. Tim Brook duly obliges as he pips Tom Langdon on the line to finish eleventh.

Elsewhere down the line there were stories to be told. Chris Crabtree completed his first-ever Winter League race, finishing 115th, whilst Simon Wilkinson, 242nd, felt the course was a tough one, but anyone who’d filled up over the Yuletide period on cheese and chocolate was Bounty. The aforementioned Paula Snee, who was initially listed as a second Neil Coupe, excelled herself to finish just three places behind Simon. There’s no real reason why she should have been confused with Neil, other than the fact that she dislikes this sort of event as much as he does (but doesn’t tell us). Neil, on the other hand, likens all this Winter League stuff to caveman-running, and we’re still awaiting the day when he runs with a club in one hand whilst beating his bare chest with the other as he darts through the forest.

Diane Cooper was first female Puma home, but snaps of her in action proved quite elusive. She was going so fast, obviously. But she appears here about to leave Skipton’s Michael Fothergill in her wake.

Rachael Hawkins’ appearance as she crossed the finishing line also confused the organisers, probably because she didn’t have her friends with her. When she identified herself, she then asked if she’d won, almost as if she had been dreaming and suddenly awoken from her slumber by a South Leeds Laker. I wonder who had the heart to tell her she’d just missed out? Rachael was, in fact, 326th, one place ahead of Kathryn Cleaver, who was running her first Winter League race. Jo Coupe finished in time to cheer home Carolyn Brearley and deafen the video man in the process, whilst just beating Carolyn was Helen Jackson, now getting back into the swing of things after injury. Emma James, also making her Winter League debut, was the last – but certainly not the least – Puma home and by the look on her face, she clearly enjoyed the experience (not).

“So, did you enjoy your first experience of the West Yorkshire Winter League?” Emma James tries to find a suitable answer.

Northowram Pumas’ positions;

11 Tim Brook MV

17 Luke Cranfield M

46 Rick Ralph MV

63 Jude Roberts MV

92 Robert Shirlaw MSV

95 Andy Barnes MV

103 Andy Haslam MV

114 Shaun Casey MV

115 Chris Crabtree M*

121 Andrew Tudor MV

153 Richard Ogden MV

162 Diane Cooper FV

169 Matt Newton M

176 Ally Canning F

195 Kirsty Edwards FV

211 Jon Ding MSV

219 Tom O’Reilly MV

222 Neil Coupe MV

242 Simon Wilkinson M

245 Paula Snee FV

240 Julie Bowman FV

253 Sarah Haigh FV

261 Victoria Owen F

292 Ian Evans M

296 Andrew Mellor MV

304 Claire Ramsbottom F

308 Mark Kirkby MSV

326 Rachel Hawkins F

327 Kathryn Cleaver FV

328 Katrina Wood FSV

331 Jodie Knowles F

349 Gabriella Kenny FV

353 Tiffany Lewis FV

372 Jo Coupe FV

379 Helen Jackson FV

380 Carolyn Brearley FV

381 Emma John-Baptiste FV

397 runners.


With thanks to Smith Photography, Lisa Aspinall and Robert Samuels for use of photos.