West Yorkshire Winter League 2017-18,

Clay House Park, West Vale, Sunday, 25 February, 2018.

The Pumas all ready for action.

Sunday saw what was the penultimate fixture in this season’s West Yorkshire Winter League. As last year, it was intended that the event that took a tour of Clay Park Woods in West Vale and hosted by our good friends the Stainland Lions, would have concluded the race calendar, but with the Queensbury race having been postponed back in December, it means there’s another round of fun and hilarity still to go.

After negotiating the first steep climb up North Dean Road, the runners get some respite as they are directed through a stile and down the fields. For once, Ally Canning wishes the queue was bigger (therefore more time to recover).
Caught in the act. Jo Coupe is spied running up North Dean Road. Guilty as charged.

As in the last race, the Pumas were missing a few runners, notably Tim Brook, but the team was still strong and comprised thirty runners. They made up a field of 305 competitors, all of whom squeezed onto the cobbled path behind Clay House for the 10.00am start. The sight looked surreal last year and was no different this.

Luke Cranfield leading the Pumas’ charge. He’s making it look so easy, he can do it with his eyes shut. BUT WATCH OUT FOR THAT WALL, LUKE.

They began with the familiar loop of the woods, coming back along Dean End, down Lindley Road, then approaching the start line once more before they journeyed out into the sticks. There were several changes from the course of last year, helped in many ways by the reopening of Copley Bridge, therefore making the run for home slightly easier. But there were still challenges to face, not least the climb up North Dean Road at Copley, which thankfully was shorter than last year as the marshals sent the runners through a stile and down the fields.

Gina Farley, teetering on the brink.

At the bottom of here, however, the runners had to negotiate the stream before following pleasant treks along man-made paths and farmhouse tracks towards and beyond Binn Royd Cottage Farm before entering a section of woodland and the part of the course which has been labelled ‘Log Flume’, which involved a steep climb. The route then descended across fields before picking up Hollas Lane at the far end of the Copley village and there was a routine run through the woods, with the River Calder on the runners’ right hand side for company. Eventually, they reached Copley Bridge, crossed it, then re-entered Clay Woods for the retreat of less than two miles. But there was still some climbing to do. The route took the path which made its way to the top of Clay Woods, and the affectionately-named section Muddy Bank (can’t think why). This was a test of character and, judging by the accompanying video, reduced many of the runners to walking as they reached the top. There was one more climb then the stretch towards the finish line, the runners emerging into sunlight at the back of Clay House. Roughly 5.6 miles.

Birthday girl Julie Bowman. There may have been worse ways of celebrating your birthday, but only if it had have been raining.

There were no surprises when Luke Canfield crossed the line as #FPH, finishing twelfth, and in the Men’s team, he was backed up by 31st placed Deke Banks, Robert Shirlaw (99th) and Jon Ding (147th), with the quota of Veterans scoring made up by Jude Roberts, Rick Ralph and Andy Barnes. They finished with a total of 1,694 points and finished on the day in eighth position.

Showing a steely resolve, that’s Robert Shirlaw as he negotiates this tricky bend.

Leading in the Pumas Ladies was (Veteran) Diane Cooper, an impressive 108th, and she was supported by the ever-improving Jane Cole, Ally Canning and Kirsty Edwards. They totalled 1,146 points to finish third, the team proving to be a consistent threat.

“Whatever we do, wherever we go…” Try as they might, each photographer failed to capture one without the other. Claire Ramsbottom and Jodie Knowles ran the course in tandem, for like the song says, “…we’re gonna get through this together.”

The Veterans’ scorers were thus Diane Cooper, Jude Roberts and Rick Ralph; their combined points total was 812 to place them sixth. The Supervets’ scorers were Robert Shirlaw, Jon Ding, and, without Jenny Hopkinson, who with husband Paul, had flown out to the Far East for a local marathon, Katrina Wood, the female scorer. The team totalled 2,839 points and finished eighth.

Tom O’Reilly, showing that when it mattered, he could put in the effort.

There were, as always, stories to tell. The finish-line videos made for some gripping viewing, if we except Tom O’Neill, who casually walked over the line as if it was just another day at the office. Deke Banks proved to be the filling in a Queensbury sandwich, Jane Cole held off the challenge of Pudsey Pacers’ Tracey Wilman, whilst Kirsty Edwards’ last-gasp dart to the line had the officials retiring to a consultation room to decide whether or not she did in fact pip Dewsbury’s Flo Skidmore on the line. After much discussion, they requested a final opinion, and in the end the man from Del Monte said Yes. Ally Canning dipped early to ensure she beat a posse of runners, among which was Supervet Jon Ding, and further back there was a quick-fire Pumas’ 1-2-3 when sixteen seconds separated Sarah Haigh, Julie Bowman and Andrew Mellor. In years to come, Julie will recall how she spent her nth birthday trailing woods whilst negotiating tree roots, thick mud and severe hills, all the while having a whale of a time. Peter Reason already has a reputation for falling when least expected, and he didn’t disappoint here, although he left it late (just before the last climb). He did at least get up and finish the race, which is more than can be said for one unfortunate Puma, who took a nasty tumble and was forced to retire early on (said runner did manage to complete the initial loop, though) with injuries that later required medical attention. But what goes on in the woods, stays in the woods. You know who you are.

Starting the run for home, Deke Banks checks that North Dean Woods are still as he left them earlier.
First female Puma was Diane Cooper. Here, she’s just crossed Copley Bridge, looking as if she’s all the time in the world.


All-in-all, another splendid effort by the Pumas, and they can now go into the last race at Queensbury this Sunday full of confidence. More confident, perhaps, than the weather forecasters who will have their doubts about the race going ahead as the Beast from the East is set to take a firm ice grip. This race has already been cancelled once, what chance another? Check local press for details.

We would like to set the record straight and refute suggestions that Sarah Haigh ran the full length of the riverbank posing like this, thus scaring off the kids. She was, in fact, just waving at the camera here.
Kirsty Edwards gives it one last push with this dart for the line…then sends the IT equipment into meltdown.

Pumas’ finishing positions;

12 Luke Cranfield (M)

31 Deke Banks (M)

39 Jude Roberts (MV)

45 Rick Ralph (MV)

80 Andy Barnes (MV)

99 Robert Shirlaw (MSV)

108 Diane Cooper (FV)

122 Jane Cole (FV)

131 Kirsty Edwards (FV)

141 Ally Canning (F)

147 Jon Ding (MSV)

156 Andrew Tudor (MV)

163 Peter Reason (MV)

173 Tom O’Reilly (MV)

175 Matt Newton (M)

193 Simon Wilkinson (M)

195 Sarah Haigh (FV)

196 Julie Bowman (FV)

197 Andrew Mellor (MV)

233 Katrina Wood (FSV)

235 Claire Ramsbottom (F)

236 Jodie Knowles (F)

243 Mark Kirkby (MSV)

270 Helen Jackson (FV)

277 Jo Coupe (FV)

279 Tiffany Lewis (FV)

288 Charlotte Reason (F)

290 Carolyn Brearley (FV)

293 Gina Farley (FSV)

304 finishers.

Thanks to Steve Boyer, Wendy Paulson and Andrew Falkingbridge for the use of photos. But not for the one above.