Posts Tagged ‘challenging’


This Sunday, 12th June saw the first running of the Northowram Burner hosted by the Northowram Pumas. Previously the race was known as the Bolton Brow Burner and had been my very first 10k race in 2015.

For 2016 it was a change and of venue and running club for the Burner and I was a little apprehensive about this. Nothing to do with the Pumas who I knew would organise and hold a great 10k, but more to do with how many people would turn up? As well as the 10k there was a 2.5k a fun run and a fair so plenty of people needed to attend to make sure the day was a success. Another reason for my apprehension was that the Pumas are a relatively new club so would runners turn up or go to the more established races of which there are many to choose from?

My fears were allayed as soon as I entered Northowram looking for a place to park and avoiding the kids and parents who were enjoying the 2.5k run. There was plenty of people around and this gave me a warm, happy feeling inside knowing that all the hard work that the Pumas had put into the event had paid off. I know some of the Pumas personally and they are a great club, always friendly and smiling and they have some very good runners too so don’t underestimate them because they are new.

Having managed to avoid knocking anyone over and being called ‘The Kiddy Killer of Queensbury’ by the local press I made my way to Northowram Primary School to register for the race and meet up with my runners from my club Queensbury RC. As I approached the school it became apparent that plenty of people of all ages and abilities had turned out for the day and Northowram was rocking and running to a party atmosphere.

The day itself was quite warm and humid, not always the best conditions to run in but you can only run in what the weather is on the day and cope the best you can. I wasn’t feeling 100% either. I’ve done more running this year than any other and if I’m being honest I shouldn’t have really run the Burner. My right calve was very tight and my left hip was aching and I felt physically drained from a tough off road run the day before, but I wanted to run the Burner and show my support for the Pumas and my friends there. I had decided to use the race as a recovery run and not race anyone or go for glory. Just take it nice and steady and enjoy running. 

At the start I thought someone had turned their TV on too loudly as for a split second I could hear the Zumba woman from the Specsavers advert screaming at me to move. I then realised that someone had actually got her in to warm us all up for the race! I manged to shuffle my feet as I wanted to save what little energy I had for the race and left it to the more energetic runners to pretend to dance like John Travolta and shake parts of their bodies that clearly had not been shaken in a while!

And we were off! For some reason I started at the front but within 30 seconds I had been swamped by a pride of Stainland Lions and was at my customary place near the back of the pack. Today I was happy with this as I have previously said I was nowhere near full fitness so I slowly began my race and settled into a pace I was comfortable with.

The route and area are both familiar to me having run and walked around here for many years and been on a recce of the route, so while it held no surprises I also knew I would be in for a tough run because of the hilly terrain and muddy conditions I would encounter later on. Personally I thought the route was very good and well thought out, with plenty of different and challenging terrain for everyone to enjoy and only Long Lane where you were able to relax and gather your breath before you descended into the muddy woods.

At the first trial I started to come alive and enjoy running. Although I do a lot of road and track running I prefer off road to anything else. The feeling of being at one with nature as you fly over grass and rocks is one of the best in the world and never gets boring. For the Burner although around a third of the route was off road and muddy I had decided to wear my fast road shoes as I felt I would be able to make up any time I lost off road on the road and I was confident in my ability to run in them in the conditions.

I knew I had made the right choice on the first bit of trial as I upped my pace and started to pass people who were struggling to get grip. I was enjoying slipping and sliding and looking for the best path through the mud and water avoiding making a fool of myself by falling over in a dramatic heap!

Back onto the road and apart from one small bit of downhill it was steady climbing all the way up to Queensbury. This part of the route which leads onto Green Lane and Deanstones Lane, is more challenging than people might realise as you are climbing for a good mile or more and maintaining a good pace is important to get up to Queensbury and have plenty of energy left. For once I was running at a decent pace to do this rather than going off like a man possessed and dying ungracefully in the middle of the road after half a mile.

So I arrived on Long Lane feeling better than I expected I would. My pace began to pick up a bit and I was enjoying running. Around the bottom of Long Lane and then the descent into the woods. This was the part of the race where I had to be mentally alert as the trail was muddy and strewn with tree roots and rocks. One wrong step and my race could well have been over. I used all my off road experience to get to the bottom, sliding where I could, holding onto trees and being careful where I put my next step.

At the bottom, over the stream and up the muddy embankment. Only a short climb but difficult in my road shoes. Pulling myself up with the help of some tree roots I made it to the top and was off again to the next short descent. This again was thick with mud so rather than risk falling over I slide down on my hands and feet and was soon over the other side climbing up yet another muddy trail! 

I was in my element here running through the mud and water keeping my balance and looking for the best possible path. At the top of the climb you turn left and descend gently on hard trail to the next road section. On the road I picked up my pace a bit more although once again I underestimated the length of this road and thought it was shorter than it was!

At the bottom you turn sharp left for the last major climb, Whiskers Lane. This climb is a tough one raising steeply up a valley before turning left and continuing to raise across the valley before a steep, short road section brings you out at the top. What increases the difficulty is the loose stones that form the path of Whiskers Lane making it difficult to get and maintain grip. Today though I felt good on here, strong, powerful and moving with decent speed, I enjoyed the run up Whiskers Lane and was soon at the top being applauded for my efforts by some children.

And then the last mile or so and the last bit of climbing to Northowram. My pace had dropped now and I was happy to plod along knowing I had done my best on the day. I was caught by a Puma and although I tried to race her it was in vain as I didn’t have enough left to race anyone or anything, so off she went and carried on at my own pace.

At the finish my team mates from Queensbury were waiting for me and cheered me over the line. I did my now customary sprint finish for them and it was over. My first Northowram Burner had finished and I had a time of 1:12:45 which is my second worse time for a 10k but as much as I could do on the day.

The fun carried on though as the fair was now in full swing with adults emptying their pockets so the kids could have fun. Every runner got a goodie bag with socks, water and fruit in, a lot better than some other clubs have done and afterwards there was pasties on sale, a raffle and a prize giving for the runners who won their category with very good prizes including £50 for the winner.

All in all, the Northowram Burner was a great success. Well organised and marshalled, a tough, varied and challenging route followed by a fair. There was plenty for everyone to do and around 152 runners took part in the 10k which is a very good turnout and made for a competitive but friendly race.

The Northowram Pumas can be very proud of themselves for organising the event and making it the success it was. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event and will use the route as part of my training too from now on.

 


On Sunday 21st June I ran my second 10k race the Pudsey 10k. As a child I grew up near Pudsey and always remember it as being flat. However in the intervening years not only is my memory failing me but someone has been and trampled over Pudsey and given it hills, quite a few challenging hills at that! A good friend of mine from the running community Nic, did warn me about the hills and not to underestimate the course, so I approached the race with an open mind and ready for some steep climbs!

Training had been going well, a nice 7.7 miles over the moors in the rain and a good club run around some of the local trails had prepared me nicely for Sunday. I didn’t do my normal parkrun on the Saturday deciding instead to save my legs for the race. I’m learning quickly that recovery is important and this proved to be a good plan.

On the Saturday I volunteered at the Lister Park, parkrun in Bradford as a marshal. I believe in giving something back if you use and enjoy a sport or pastime. I’m sure that when I have run there have been others in my position helping out and giving me the opportunity to run so it’s only fair to support them too.

In the afternoon I went to my village’s 1940s day and met one of the elite runners from my club Martin. We had a good chat about the 1940s day and running and he gave me some very good advice, don’t go out and drink the night before a race. I have done it in the past and I’ve managed to get round but this time I took the advice on-board and didn’t have a beer that night.

On the day of the race I woke up feeling a bit rough, probably due to lack of beer the night before and actually felt like giving it a miss. But I managed to drag my lazy backside out of my pit and was soon on my way to Pudsey. Luckily for me I know where Pudsey is and so this time I managed to not get lost and even got a really good parking spot next to the park where the event was being held.

I saw a couple of other runners from my club there and some others had come to support us which was nice of them. I spotted some other runners I know but as is often the case before a race everybody is getting themselves psyched up for the big event and we just nodded and mumbled a ‘hello’ to each other under our breath.

And then it was time to go. It had started to rain but I don’t mind the rain so it didn’t bother me. We did a loop of the square in Pudsey and then we were off on the roads heading for the trails. As is becoming the norm for me I felt like stopping and going home, but I just told my legs to shut up and get on with it and as soon as we hit the trails I was feeling ready to race.

The course was very tough and challenging with some tricky downhills to negotiate and some steep climbs to conquer. The first climb was a long, long drag out of some woods. This climb seemed to go on forever and then we hit a bit of flat where we could catch our breath before the next climb.

The next climb came again after a similar route to the first climb, downhill and then there it is and it was a steep one no question about that! I decided to walk up this as there were still a couple of miles to go after and I wanted to leave some energy in the tank so I had enough to get home with.

After this climb we entered roads and housing and were soon weaving our way round Pudsey. From the last climb though I had picked up a couple of runners who seemed content to sit on my tail and use me as a pacer. I wasn’t too happy about this but there wasn’t a lot I could about it either. I could slow down and let them pass me or just get on with. I decided to just get on with it and see what happened at the end.

On one of the roads however my race nearly came to an end. A woman was getting in a van and she waved one runner through with a smile and then opened her car door on me! I thought at one point she was only going to open it half-way but she opened it fully just as I was going past. Luckily I hit it with my thigh which left a nice red mark but if it had hit my knee it would have been a lot worse.

After uttering something under my breath I carried on and soon the 1km mark was upon me. And then the 400m and 200m mark. These seemed to make it harder and drag the race out so I envisaged in my mind what distance I had left and this got me round. And soon we were back in the park and on the home straight. It was at this point that one of the runners who had been tailing me shouted ‘come on you t**t’. I wasn’t sure if it was aimed at me or not but I took it personally and sprinted off away from him and the other runner who had been tailing me. I don’t know who was more shocked, them or me. I was surprised I had this amount of pace left in me!

One of my friends who had come to support me filmed my sprint and whilst it is definitely not the most elegant running style by a long way it is effective and it did the job which is what mattered most.

And my time? 1:05:21 a new Personal Best knocking 9:25 off my previous PB! It would have been nice to have gone under 1:05 but I couldn’t complain getting a new PB on a very tough course. Overall it had been a very good experience. The course is wider than Bolton Brow which gives you a margin for error but not much. This extra width makes it faster and you have to have your wits about you or you will come a cropper.

It was really nice to get some lovely comments when I got home too from a couple of very nice runners who I think are very talented, telling me how proud they were of me showing the guts and determination I did in giving it everything I had and a bit more on a challenging course. All in all a very good day and now I feel more prepared for the Eccup 10 than did before.


Today was quite a special day with the inaugural Horton Park, parkrun. I have many memories of Horton Park living near it in my youth from around the age of 14 to 24. Like anybody else I have good and bad memories, but most of my memories from Horton Park are good. It was interesting going back to the park. It’s in a lot better condition than I remember it, although some of the buildings like the bandstand have now gone. But all in all the park was just as I remember it, fond memories.

And it makes a great place for a parkrun. The course is challenging with half of it being uphill and the other half downhill. The start is uphill too before turning to the right and downhill back towards the finish before going uphill right to the top. You have to make sure you have enough energy left to get up the uphill, you do 3 ½ laps of the course although on the last downhill you can afford to give it a little bit more. I managed 30:43 which for the type of course is very good for me. This included my sprint finish which I am going to have to do every time I run this course now!

I was wearing some new shoes too, Brooks Ghost 7. I have been having deep muscle massage on my legs and the guy who’s doing it, Peter May, told me I was wearing the wrong type of shoes. Many years ago I went to a shop called Sportshoes Unlimited and had gait analysis done. I was told I needed to wear support shoes for running and have done so everysince. However Peter took one look at my legs and told me that I should be wearing neutral, cushioned shoes not support ones.

And the problem I thought was my Achilles wasn’t that, but a very tight right calf possibly caused by wearing the wrong shoes! Peter has sorted my calf out and I am running freer and better than ever. But I had already bought some new support shoes from a shop called Up and Running in Huddersfield. I took them back yesterday and they did a gait analysis on me and I am indeed a neutral runner. So I came away with a pair of Brooks Ghost 7’s and they performed superbly today. I felt so comfortable and at ease running in them, that I didn’t even notice I was wearing them. I’m quite sure the work Peter has done on my legs and my new Brooks have helped me to such a good time.

But what I was most happy about today was the fact that I could run after Thursdays club run. This was tough for me and took a lot out of me, but my recovery time is improving all the time and today was proof of that. And after the parkrun I still feel as good as before. This is boosting my confidence no end and my legs are feeling stronger than ever. This will be tested tomorrow when I go out on a training run over moorland. I’ve got a route in mind that will really test my abilities and allow me to see where I am in relation to the races I’ve entered.