Posts Tagged ‘QRC’


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.

 


Wow what a day, Sunday 13th December was! My very first West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) meeting at Dewsbury and it is a day I will never forget!

The day started with my car covered in ice, not the most encouraging of starts but when it’s cold in December you have to expect anything. Then it was time to have breakfast, get dressed and go and pick my mate up. Always happy to give someone a lift and even more so when they know where they are going. I’m legendary for getting lost even when it’s close to home. So my mate was a welcome addition to the journey.

And so with my mates excellent directions we arrived at Hopton Mills Cricket Club, Mirfield in plenty of time for the start and we were soon enjoying some friendly banter with our team mates from Queensbury Running Club (QRC). The party atmosphere was evident at the club with runners from eleven different running clubs all milling about the place getting ready for the start.

When the call came to start I went to the back and joined some of my team mates there. I do this because I’m not that fast and don’t want to get swamped by the faster runners and there were some seriously fast runners at Dewsbury on Sunday. The field was full of quality runners throughout who, irrespective of finishing position would put their heart and soul into doing their very best for their club and team mates on the day.

The starter gave the order to go and I set off steadily remembering that I have a long, tough race ahead of me and I would need lots of energy to get round the course in one piece. However after a couple of hundred yards this was soon forgotten as I started passing people and moving up the back of the field.

Immediately it was obvious that this was going to be a very muddy race as you couldn’t avoid it so I ploughed on going uphill through the mud and soon I was climbing the first serious hill. I had already decided I would walk up the hills in an effort to save energy for the flat and downhill sections. This would turn out to be a very good move.

The first hill came and went and soon I was keeping pace with the group in front and breaking away from the group behind. We hit some open country and I felt comfortable with my pace and form and then came the first mistake of the day. The woman in front turned right and for some strange reason I thought she was going for a pee! Unable to fully understand the broken English from the marshal I headed for a farm and because the road split in two I turned back to the marshal to ask which way to go.

The marshal pointed towards the field and I muttered something under my breath and set off after the pack I had been following. This pack though was now out of sight and in a field of nearly 300 runners I found myself in the middle of nowhere on my own! So I carried on running through mud and cow shit and even encountering the occasional bit of path.

I just kept going and still felt quite good. Stopping never occurred to me once. My only aim was to finish. I came down a hill and all of a sudden there was road, buildings and lots of runners! I was confused as to where to go but after asking some of my team mates in my usual direct way I was at the bottom of the final hill. I had also noticed that one of my team mates was catching me and fast so I decided I needed to put some pace into the final climb and create a gap for the finish.

At the top of the climb I looked back and could see nobody. I had done it and created the gap I needed on the final climb. I set off on the trail path but again I was lost as there was no marshals or markers to indicate which way to go. So in my usual way I just went straight forward and luckily there was a man with his son who pointed me in the right direction. I had to double back and head down the hill but by now two of my team mates had caught and passed me so I started to chase them.

But I had nothing left in my legs that would enable me to catch and pass them. I did my best and caught one of my team mates up but the other was too far in front. I did my best to sprint and thought I had done enough but then I heard some of the QRC runners who had finished shouting her name and realised she was very, very close behind me.

I thought the finish was two orange posts and I only just beat her here but apparently the finish was round the corner and because I had slowed down she beat me to the finish. I will say though that she is a great little runner who I have a lot of respect for and I couldn’t wish to lose to a better runner.

In the bar afterwards I felt light headed and I knew then I had given everything and some more on the day and I had nothing left at all. This was a good feeling and on reflection I believe that this race has made me a better runner mentally and physically. Added to this feeling was the fact that even the top runners took some wrong turns and found it very tough. When you know it’s not just you it does make you feel better in yourself and a part of the running community.

The next WYWL race is January 3rd at Idle and I feel ready for it and I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping I can do better but it is how it is on the day but I now know I can run and race cross country so I have nothing to fear.

 


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


Opening my big mouth (again)

My running journey continues

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 06 December 2015

 

This Saturday, 5th December saw what is I hope the final piece in the jigsaw of my return to running from an Achilles tendon injury, although it didn’t start out as such.

The Friday night before I decided to go out as I have a race at Dewsbury in the West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) on Sunday, 13th December and I like to stay sober for a couple of days before a race at least! As is usual these days I ended up at the local club although I did start out at a different pub for a change after a friend arranged to meet for a catch up.

At the club the usual suspects were in and what was intended to be a quiet couple of drinks soon turned into a decent session as the beer flowed freely and frequently. Like many runners I am on Strava as are several of the runners from my club, Queensbury Running Club (QRC) and somehow I got into a chat with a couple of other runners from the club about the joys of running off road and challenged them to a run the next day. This might not have been so bad if I wasn’t heavily intoxicated at the time, went for a large Chinese curry afterwards and went to bed late.

One of the many things that alcohol does to me is to make me incredibly brave and stupid at the same time. Bravery in this case making me believe I was fitter, faster and a capable runner than I am, stupidity in challenging faster and more able runners to my challenge. The full realisation of this hit me at 3am the next morning when I woke up and had a vague recollection of the events from the night before and checked my phone to discover they were true and at around 10:45am would become very, very real for me.

So I laid in bed desperately trying to think of a way out of the run and still save face. After an hour I decided that there was no way I could worm my way out of it aside from a major disaster happening. Man flu wouldn’t work especially as one of the runners was female and she would never let me forget it again. Being drunk wouldn’t work nor would getting to bed late so I came to the only sensible conclusion I could that I would have to man up and do the challenge. It was my route after all and I had laid down the challenge.

Secretly I was looking forward to it as it would be a good test of my running abilities since my comeback from injury and the route was tough and good preparation for the forthcoming race. So at 10:45am I arrived at my local Co-op carpark to meet my fellow runners. We had been joined by another club runner so there was now four of us ready to go. Surprisingly considering the session I had the night before I was feeling good although I wouldn’t recommend going for 5 mile mainly off road run on a stomach full of beer and Chinese curry!

The weather was wet and windy as storm Desmond was passing by. This made the route more interesting as much of it would be muddy and wet grass which would make it more difficult and challenging. The first part of the route was a steady downhill to a pub just out of Queensbury. My three fellow runners set off at pace as I expected and although I couldn’t keep up with them I soon found my own steady pace and kept them in sight. At the pub we met up and went through the carpark to a row of houses behind. Passing between two houses we were soon into a wet and muddy field, heading down to a stream and then back up the other side and to the main road.

At the main road my companions set off at a decent pace again and I did my best to maintain my own decent pace. Luckily for me one of the other runners was familiar with the area so I wasn’t holding them back too much. The road goes downhill and then turns left going into a short but steep ascent. About three quarters of the way is a stone stile which was the next part of the route. Passing through this stile leads you into a farmers field. At the bottom of the field is a dirt track that leads you past the farm and back onto the road. The field is a sprint even in wet conditions and is a good test of speed and stamina.

When we had reached the road we went over it heading towards the village of Clayton. However we only went along this road a short distance before turning right and up a steep and long hill. This hill is quite a challenge as it is grass and the wet conditions made it slippy underfoot. I really struggled on here because of the pace being set by the other runners. This was my fault setting a challenge when I was drunk! However despite struggling it is still a very satisfying feeling when you reach the top of the hill and you look down and can see how far you have come.

The next part of the route took us round the top of the hill before we got to a small quarry and made our way down a short but steep embankment and onto a road called Brow Lane. This is well known locally as it is steep on both sides leading you down to the bottom of a valley and back out again. Whichever way you approach it you have a steep incline to get up and it is a good test of your climbing ability.

We headed down here and up the other side under an old railway bridge. Again I struggled and I was starting to feel the effects of the climbing and pace due to my lack of fitness and pace compared with the others. However I knew that I would benefit from the run because my fitness and pace would improve and if my Achilles held up then mentally it would be a massive step forward for me and give me confidence to go faster and further.

After the bridge there is a row of houses and a track called Bridle Stile Lane. This starts off road and is rough terrain with plenty of loose rocks to keep you focused on where you put your next step. At the top of the first incline the lane turns to tarmac and flattens out for a short distance before rising steeply back up the main road. The flatter bit gave me some respite but I was breathing heavy now and walking, determined to do my best and not give up. When I made the challenge I had said I had a killer to finish off with. At this point in the middle of Bridle Stile Lane I was considering changing my mind and heading back to the car park which wasn’t far now.

Instead at the top of the lane the others decided that they wanted to continue and do the full route. I felt mixed about this as I felt totally exhausted and ready to go home but also looking forward to the final part of my challenge. We then ran down a short distance before heading off road again up a short but steep track known as Harp Lane. This was very wet and muddy and even the others struggled a bit on this. At the top we met up and headed back down the main road to the carpark where we had a quick chat. The others congratulated me on a tough, challenging route, just over 5 miles and 800ft of climbing that takes in pretty much everything you could imagine.

I got home and felt relived but proud too. I had pushed myself to my limits and done the very best I could on the day. My Achilles had more than held up and I feel that my injury worries are behind me. A massive thanks to my fellow QRC runners who came with me for supporting me and waiting for me. They helped me push myself harder and further than I would have done on my own. I did say to them that I felt bad for holding them up and that if they wanted to drop me from the group I would understand. However they wouldn’t have any of it and said I was welcome to come along again. I’m really looking forward to the next run as they will help me push myself more and get out of my comfort zone. Well done everyone who came on the run.

And hopefully I will think twice before I open my big mouth again!

 


Here’s a blog article  about my running journey up to the Queensbury Running Club Awards night 2015

Last Friday 27th, November 2015 was Queensbury Running Club (QRC) very first award night and in some ways a welcome reminder of just how far QRC have come in such a short space of time. QRC have been around for some time now but it was a small club of dedicated runners who had been running for many years who were at a high level of ability for club runners and as a result people such as myself never gave running or QRC a second thought because we simply didn’t believe we could run or attain any worthwhile standard.

So QRC continued for many years with this dedicated and hardcore bunch of runners turning up week in and week out for training and races. But all that changed last year when they decided to create a Beginners Club and see what happened. As far as I remember the Beginners Club was to run for 10 weeks and the aim was just to get people interested and see if anyone wanted to join the club.

However such was the amount of interest in joining the Beginners Club that it carried on for months afterwards and was only dissolved when it was decided to just have one club QRC that catered for all runners of all abilities. The membership of the club has gone from 18 to around 107 and continues to grow. All of this in around 18 months.

I joined the Beginners Club on the second week and was the first male to join. There I was one lonely male surrounded by 30 females! I soon learnt my place! And there I was lumbering around the roads and trails that lie around me and just having fun. I weighed 19st 10lbs then and I didn’t want to get any heavier. I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe! I ran through the spring, summer and early part of autumn and then stopped because I didn’t want to run in the wind and rain.

This was a big mistake as I learnt to my cost. Come spring 2015 and with new reasons to lose weight and improve my fitness I returned to QRC and I hardly knew anyone. There was a few familiar faces but most people were strangers to me although by now some more males had joined so I didn’t feel quite as outnumbered as before!

But something had changed at QRC during my time away. It wasn’t just a club anymore it was a family with a special family feeling surrounding it. Within a few weeks I was back going off at a pace that would frighten Usain Bolt only to be out of breath and shattered within ½ mile! However this time I stuck at it and steadily I began to improve. I can still remember the times I ran my first mile, my first Old Guy Road, my first 5k and discovered I could run uphill non stop.

What a difference this made to me physically and mentally. My confidence began to build, the weight dropped off (I’m down to 15st 7lbs now) and most important for me my running ability just went up and up and up. I entered races and ran parkruns and saw improvements week after week after week. I was proud to wear the vest of QRC and represent my club and my home village.

And then September 2015 I got my first and hopefully last major injury the dreaded pulled Achilles tendon. At first I tried to run it off and carried on even running a race the Kirkstall 7 with it and finishing in 1hr 12 minutes. Not bad when you consider that I felt like stopping after 2 ½ miles but then remembered who I was representing and soldiered on. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea looking back but I’m proud to run for QRC and I wasn’t going to quit just yet.

But the next day I could hardly walk so I knew it was time to take some time away from running and rest and recuperate my Achilles or it would never get better and I may never run again. So I rested it but it didn’t get better. Some mornings it was so sore I could barely walk down the stairs, trips to the local supermarket where made in pain and walking to and from places had to be planned because they took so long. In the end I made the decision to go and have physio knowing that if that didn’t work nothing would.

At first the physio was more painful than walking, one time I went I couldn’t bear for it to be touched but my physio identified that I had a muscle imbalance in my ankles and gave me some exercises to do. My left ankle was considerably stronger than my right one and this was causing me all sorts of problems. I started doing my exercises and slowly the strength in my legs began to return. I went down the gym to maintain a level of fitness and looked at other ways I could improve my fitness.

In the meantime I stayed on touch with my fellow runners from QRC. I went and supported them at races cheering and taking photos. I went and volunteered at parkruns and this helped me keep in touch with the running community in general too. This helped me maintain the feeling that I was part of a family, a family that understands how painful and crushing having an injury can be but are there to help you through the dark days of injury and give you very good advice as many of them have been injured too and gone through what you are going through.

And around 3 weeks ago I got the all clear to resume running. I’m taking it steady and building up my distance and pace slowly. But I’m getting better with every run, I can feel it in my body and mentally I feel a lot stronger too. In fact I went out today in the wind and rain. No more am I a fair weather runner. I’m enjoying running again and taking care of my legs. I need them more than they need me!

And so to the awards night. I was asked if I would take some photos of the night which I felt both honoured and privileged to do. I enjoy taking photos but I’m no professional so the result will be interesting to say the least! But at least QRC and all the runners who attended have something to remember the evening by.

And I won Most Improved Male Runner 2015! I was shocked and surprised at winning this. There are so many very good runners there now that it is hard to single out one individual as being better than another individual. Every week runners of all abilities are putting in better and better performances, coming back from injury and showing they haven’t lost anything that for people to recognise my running journey truly means a lot to me. To vote for me as the most improved male runner is very special and something I will never forget. I’m still in shock now and have to check that it’s my name on the trophy and I haven’t picked up someone else’s trophy by mistake!

But it just goes to show what a great running family QRC are. They understand the frustration of injury and how difficult it can be to maintain belief in yourself that you will get over the injury and comeback, that you are a member of the QRC family and being a member means more than just running to you and that you have achieved far more than you ever thought you could and not only are you a better runner than before but a better person too.

So thank you to all the people at QRC and in the wider running community who have helped me on my running journey and been there for me. Thanks also to all the ones who have put up with my moods, bad jokes and general weirdness from time to time! Without any of you I wouldn’t be the person I am today and my life would be all the poorer for it.