Our fantastic running commentator Johnny Meynell gives us the low down on the first ever (well, first ever for the Pumas) WYWL race!
Football Vs Running
As the start of the new football season brings with it much excitement and anticipation, then so does the opening fixture in the West Yorkshire Winter League. Added to the fact that Northowram Pumas were entering this particular event for the first time, why, it’s likely that some of our runners hardly slept the night before.
But whereas the football season usually kicks off in baking hot sun, the would-be runners on Sunday awoke to a cold and dreary October morn. Still, undeterred, they dragged themselves out of bed and made for the meeting point up at the club. Most of us travelled in relaxed style aboard the minibus kindly loaned to us by Salterlee Primary School, and driven with due care and attention by Neil Coupe, donned in 1920s fashionable flat cap. Our destination was Lower Hopton Cricket Club, Mirfield, the venue chosen by hosts Dewsbury Road Runners, and we arrived in good time. The journey over gave me chance to reflect upon days of yore; I hadn’t really done anything like this since my cross country days running for Todmorden Grammar School, though the two-lapped course of Savile Park and Manor Heath I tackled on my last outing in March 1978 was pretty tame in comparison with the route we were set to endure.
We were met at the course site by our lovely team organiser Tracey, who supplied us all with our race numbers (and safety pins) that we would need for all six races (Lest anyone loses or destroys theirs, the culprit must apply for a new one AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE, we were warned!). There had been several late withdrawals for varying reasons, so our team was twenty-three-strong. Those that had made the trip in cars joined us in the carpark.
Thereafter, we spent much of the waiting time milling around the edge of the cricket field along with runners from the other clubs before making our way further up the road to the start and herded into a field populated by cow pats (the story goes that Neil lost his cap and tried on at least three before giving it up as a bad job).
At the start line
Clustered together, was anyone else slightly startled when the starter, seemingly without any prior warning, simply shouted “Go!”? Before we knew it, we were off:
Up around the field which served not only to spread out the field of runners, but also to indicate how tricky conditions were to be underfoot. Mud, mud, and more mud. One lap of this field
then back down the tarmacked road before being directed right for the first real test, a steep uphill climb through the woods. Little did we know it then, but as bad as this seemed, things were going to get a whole lot harder. We were less than a mile in, but already those around me were having to walk.
I managed to pass Matt Newton (who was seemingly to endure a torrid time) and Johanne Clay, though I was passed in turn by Jenny Hopkinson. I later caught up with her once we’d reached the top of the hill and snaked our way across the top of the woods before descending down through muddy fields. There were several hold-ups at these stiles we kept having to negotiate, but if it meant getting the chance to catch up with others then I wasn’t complaining. Every little helps. Jenny soon enough pulled away and I wouldn’t see any more Pumas until the latter stages of the race. What was going on ahead of me or behind me, I had no idea.
“What goes up must come down,” sang the aptly named Blood Sweat and Tears in 1969, and the downhill stretches were most welcome, even if they were, in parts, quite hazardous. We negotiated our second serious climb, then it was flat and downhill once more. Over vales and hills, with Dewsbury Golf Club apparently to our left. This was the life. We must have looked an impressive sight, too, as we wound our way through the woods. We were directed to a flat section of track, but this was so muddy that I found myself zig-zagging for where the grass looked greener.
We’d run around four miles of the 5.3 mile course, I reckoned, and our descent from here gave us a chance to stretch our legs once more. In the distance I could hear cheering. Blimey, we were almost home, I thought. Soon enough, I could spy the cricket field and the finish, and as we were reacquainted with tarmac I recognised the field in which this ordeal had begun. Any minute now, I reckoned, we’d be directed left towards the finish. Suddenly, there was a spring in my step.
Hills. Hills. HILLS
It proved to be a false dawn.
As we made our way along the road, the next thing we knew, we were directed right and began climbing once more. How deflating was that? “We’re not going round again?” I joked with a few spectators, but believe me, this was no joke. I’ve no idea if this particular section has a name, but I could certainly give it a few choice ones. Behind me, Neil Coupe and Paul Hopkinson were closing, but this was in some strange way quite heartening for me, as I’d assumed they were well ahead of me by this stage. Perhaps I was running better than I thought. But there’s irony here, for by now, nobody was running up this hill. We were almost at breaking point, and this path seemed to have no end. Neil and Paul in turn passed me with their faster and in some cases, longer legs (Paul’s, obviously) but I kept them in sight. The happiest sight, however, was that of the top of the ‘mountain’. There was a sense of relief as we turned left and began the charge down the track which, as it happened, was the first hill we’d climbed. It was a whole lot easier going back down, that’s for sure, and I even managed to gain a couple of places. I also found myself making up ground on Neil and Paul, and there was hope of joining them on the run-in.
That soon disappeared as we returned to the road and headed for the finish. Tired legs found it hard to push themselves up this gentle incline and the gap between me and the runners in front steadily grew. We were directed off the road onto a path which led to the bottom side of the cricket field, and then there it was, in the distance, the finish line.
As I turned into the home straight, someone shouted, “Don’t let him catch you,” and I gave it one last push, only to discover that there had been no one there at all! I could hear fellow Pumas shouting me in, and I crossed the line in a near state of collapse. Did anyone else feel the same?
In total there were 337 finishers from the thirteen participating clubs, so Luke Cranfield’s position of 29th was noteworthy. Tim Brook’s 54th-place finish was also commendable, and the third top scorer for the Pumas was Adam Standeven, who came in 85th. Our first female Puma home was Jenny Hopkinson, who finished 192nd, beating husband and Super Vet Paul by twenty-eight places. Paul, in fact, had beaten Neil Coupe in a sprint finish. I recovered sufficiently to see other Pumas finishing, and as we waited, many took up the opportunity to grab a drink in the adjacent hut. We were on our way back by 12.50, after Jo had redeemed her winning ticket in the raffle – a pair of yellow football socks, obviously not first prize. Back in our home village, many of us congregated in the Yew Tree, where we could relax and contemplate the race. The general feeling was just how much they’d enjoyed the day, so much so, in fact, that club secretary Johanne Clay has it on record that she didn’t want to go home!
As the Winter League suggests, we are in competition with other clubs, but I won’t go into the vagaries of the scoring system. It does seem quite complex, but all we need to know is that, as Neil Coupe put it, “We ain’t bottom.” And there’s a long way to go. We’re officially ninth at the moment, but with many other runners to join up with us, we could climb higher. And that’s the point; it’s not necessarily about the top competitors. The more runners a club enters, the more points they stand to get. I would encourage anyone at Northowram Pumas to give one or more of these races a go. Just ask any of those who took part last Sunday. They’ll tell you just how much fun it is (those pained expressions as they crossed the finishing line were just for show anyway).
Full list of Pumas who were on duty, with finishing places;
- 29 Luke Cranfield (M)
- 54 Tim Brook (MV)
- 85 Adam Standeven (MV)
- 149 Richard Ogden (MV)
- 166 Tom Moran (M)
- 177 Richard Baker (MV)
- 192 Jenny Hopkinson (FV)
- 220 Paul Hopkinson (MSV)
- 221 Neil Coupe (MV)
- 229 Jonathan Meynell (MSV)
- 239 Jane Cole (FV)
- 250 Simon Wilkinson (M)
- 251 Johanne Clay (FSV)
- 255 Ally Canning (F)
- 265 Matt Newton (M)
- 268 Shana Emmerson (FV)
- 271 Carine Baker (F)
- 285 Mike Hartley (MV)
- 294 Nicola Pennington (FV)
- 297 Vicky Owen (F)
- 298 Jo Allen (FV)
- 308 Jennifer Lees (FV)
- 328 Tiffany Lewis (FV)
The results for the league place pumas in the following positions out of the 13 clubs taking part:
- Overall club position: 9 / 13
- Mens team: 10/13
- Ladies team: 8/13
- Vets team: 10/13
- Super vets team: 9/13