Posts Tagged ‘tough’


On Sunday I took part in my first Trigger Race a tough and demanding 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale over the Dark Peaks of the Peak District. This is my Trigger Race.

The day didn’t start great. It felt like I had, had hardly any sleep despite going to bed early on Saturday. I was thinking about the Trigger Race and wondering if I was up to it. If I should pull out and what could go wrong. In the end despite my reservations I got up at 3:30am and began to get ready for the biggest race of my life.

At 5:00am my mate Matt Fielding and me where off, travelling down to Edale to leave one car there before driving up to Marsden where the race started. The journey down the M62 to Edale wasn’t nice. Fog and rain on the roads just added to my already nervous state about what I was getting myself into.

We arrived at Edale in time to see the competitors getting ready to go in the Montane Spine Race http://thespinerace.com/. These runners were going the whole length of the Pennine Way, 268 miles over 7 days and I felt in awe of these amazing athletes who were pushing themselves to the limit mentally and physically in one of the most brutal and challenging races in the world.

On to Marsden and arriving at the cricket club we quickly got our kit checked and registered for the race. To my surprise I had race number 1! I did feel proud to be representing my club, Queensbury and wearing number 1.

Soon we were all outside having a last minute talk from the race organiser and then we were off! I quickly settled into a steady pace and felt good as we passed Butterley Reservoir and began to steadily climb towards our first trig point at Black Hill.

At this point it was terrain I was used to. We were on the Pennine Way and this part of it was one of the easier sections to run on and navigate. Then we turned off, left from memory, and began the first of our big climbs up Black Hill. I was feeling good, felt strong on the climbs and was passing people.

And then suddenly we were in the mist. The temperature dropped and the green grass was replaced by white snow. Now was the time to take care as the paths were wet, icy and dangerous. Care was needed as one slip could spell the end of my race.

And then the mud and bogs appeared. I went from running upright to slipping everywhere and falling into bogs. I’ve been very lucky avoiding most of the bogs where I run and not falling over. Today more than made up for my previous good luck.

It seemed to be my fate to fall into every single bog on the day. I lost count of how many times I ended up to my waist in a bog full of freezing cold mud and water or falling on my hands and knees onto the cold, wet ground. Within minutes I was wet through, wet mud clinging to my hands and legs making it difficult to keep warm.

I was still feeling focused and determined so put any thoughts of feeling cold and wet to one side ploughed on, upping my pace and passing more people as I raced to the summit of Black Hill.

And then I felt something hit my side. To my surprise one of my water bottles had come out from its pocket on my racing rucksack and was banging against my side. I tried to put it in on the move but it just kept popping out so I ended up carrying it in my hand.

This was far from ideal as it upset my rhythm and meant I was maintaining my balance with one hand. Around the same time I felt an ache develop in my right hand side. I wanted to stop and check everything was ok but there was no time. This was a race and I had two timed checkpoints to meet. Any delays could cost me meeting those times so I ploughed on as best as I could.

We made the snow covered checkpoint at Black Hill, the mountain rescue team standing out in their bright red jackets in the mist and began the descent towards Crowden the first timed checkpoint. We had caught up with some other runners and was making good progress. Despite carrying a water bottle in one hand I felt confident on the descent towards Crowden and made good time on it.

We arrived at Crowden in plenty of time but in my haste to sort out my water bottle issue I tripped over the entrance to the checkpoint tent and demolished the table the marshals were using! This was one of the talking points of the day as people where asking who the lunatic was who destroyed the table!

We checked in and carried on but to our dismay we had lost the group of runners in front of us due to me sorting out my water bottle problem. The two ladies we had been running with retired at Crowden and now we were on our own with only a map and a compass to get us to our next checkpoint at the top of Bleaklow.

We arrived at the bottom of our next climb thanks to Nicky Spinks pointing us in the right direction. We looked for an obvious trail to follow to get to the top but couldn’t see one and then I spotted what looked like a reasonable trail to follow to the top. How wrong I was.

We began to climb and everything was fine. Then the climb steepened sharply and I realised I was out of my depth but had no choice but to carry on to the top. Staying focused, looking up and grabbing bits of heather I worked my way up steadily.

Then I put my right leg out and felt my calf muscle go. I was 100ft up the side of a short but steep climb with my right leg at 90 degrees, my right calf cramping up and me holding onto a clump of heather.

I looked down and realised that I had no choice but to go up. The line from the Killers song, ‘All These Things I’ve Done’, ‘when you can’t hold on, hold on’ played in my mind. Matt was now at the top, only 20ft above me but far enough away. I looked for footholds and clumps of heather to grasp onto and got myself to the top. I’m not a climber and I’m scared of heights but I did it. In situations like this before I’ve froze but this time I stayed focused and made the climb.

At the top we worked out which we to go and began the ascent to Bleaklow and it was here that the weather here took a turn for the worse. From a pleasant winters day at Crowden we were enveloped by cold mist, deep snow and the only visible trails had ice cold water running down them. We had no choice but to follow these water trails and soon I had lost all feeling in my feet as they went numb from the cold water running over them.

We made steady progress and found the waterfall that meant we were on the right route. But somewhere between starting the climb and getting to the head of the waterfall I started to feel the onset of hypothermia. My hands and feet were numb with cold and had no feeling in them. My shoulders and chest were starting to go the same way, the cold cutting right through my body. I was sweating but it was cold and clammy and my clothing felt heavy because it was saturated in sweat and water.
I had no choice but to carry on. I could feel the onset of fatigue and each footstep was getting harder to make, both my legs cramping up as I moved through deep mud and cold water. Making Snake Pass was going to be very tough.

Then we heard voices behind us and saw the mountain rescue guys who were acting as sweepers for the runners. I felt relived knowing that if I got worse I was with the right people to help me. I was carrying an emergency sleeping bag but in these conditions with poor visibility it would make finding someone difficult and time is of the essence if you’re in trouble on the moors.

We carried on with the mountain rescue guys guiding us to our next checkpoint at Shelf Moor at the top of Bleaklow. The conditions were so poor that they had problems navigating and finding the right route but they got us to the checkpoint. Everything looked the same. Mounds of snow covered earth with streams flowing through them. It really was as if we were in a whole different world.

At Shelf Moor my condition had worsened. I could feel my body and mind slowing down, moving was difficult, thinking even more so as fatigue set in. I was beginning to feel punch drunk but without the pleasure of having had a couple of beers. I knew I had reached my physical limit and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep but that would make things much worse. My only option was to carry on to Snake Pass.

The mountain rescue guys knew what was happening too. There was no point in asking what was happening. It was obvious to everyone.

I didn’t have the energy to unclip my racing rucksack and get some food so the guys gave me a cookie and some hot Ribena. It seemed to take forever for me to eat the cookie but I needed immediate energy and eventually I finished it.

I knew I had to carry on and get to warmth. There was around 3 miles to go to Snake Pass and I focused on getting there and put thoughts of coldness, fatigue and hypothermia out of my mind. My only focus was to keep moving, keep talking and keep making progress.

We had some more minor navigational issues but eventually we found ourselves on the Pennine Way footpath and the gate to Snake Pass appeared out of the mist. Matt and the mountain rescue guys let me lead and dictate the pace but I felt myself get a little bit faster towards the end and the feeling was returning to my hands.

At Snake Pass I retired. I had made this decision at Shelf Moor and I knew it was the right one. This was not the time or place for being a hero and I do not regret retiring at that point. It was the right decision.

Matt carried on and finished in around 8 hours 10 minutes. I got a lift back to Edale village hall and warmth. After a couple of hours I began to feel warm and I could reflect on my performance.

I felt very proud of what I had achieved. I had done things I never thought I would do when I began my running journey two years ago and I had pushed myself beyond my limits and achieved more than I thought I ever would. Talking to other runners they said this was the worse conditions the race had been run in and this made me feel better knowing I had run in such brutal conditions and given it everything I had on the day.

My experience has not put me off the Trigger Race either. On the contrary it has strengthened my resolve to come back better and stronger in 2018 and finish the race.

Big thanks to the guys at Woodhead Mountain Rescue. Without them the day could have been much worse.

http://www.marsdentoedale.co.uk/
http://woodheadmrt.org/


Monday, 21 November 2016

Last Thursday I went for my longest run since the Yorkshireman Half a 14-mile run over Haworth and Stanbury Moors. I’ve decided to up my mileage now so that I have plenty of rest days and time to taper nearer the race.

I set off from Penistone Country Park on a typical November day, wet, cold, and windy perfect weather for training in! Setting off on the Withens Skyline route it was business as usual, mud, mud, and more mud! It’s a steep climb up to the top of the moors but you are rewarded with some stunning views before setting down the Pennine Way towards Walshaw Dean reservoirs.

The sky was dark grey and the atmosphere around the reservoirs bleak and foreboding. I felt as if I was the only person alive around here if not in the whole world! Places like this can be very scary sometimes! After finding a new hill to run up and down and then running around the reservoirs I saw a path splitting the hills at the top of the reservoirs and decided to take a chance and see where it went.

After about half a mile I found out. Going left I knew it would send me off course so I took a chance, went right and up a steep hill with no path and a lot of long grass to get through! At this point I wasn’t too sure where I was but sensed I was heading in the right direction to get home.

After ten minutes or so I began to see get near the top of the hill and saw some familiar views which was reassuring. As I crested the hill the Top Withens house came into view and while I still had a way to go to get to the Pennine Way I knew I wasn’t far away now.

Once on the Pennine way it was the well-trodden path back to Penistone Park. Arriving back at the park my Garmin told me I had done 12.5 miles so I decided to go the long way back to my car to make it up to 13.1 and get a nice half marathon distance in the bag for the day. I ended up doing 14 miles in the end so managed to get another mile in due to my ability to miscalculate distance!

It was a very good day training out on the moors. Some decent mileage in, plenty of running through mud and bogs and nice climbs too. Not every run will be like this, most will be a lot tougher but it’s always a good feeling to get a good training run under your belt.


Monday, 14 November 2016

The day after the final YVAA vets race at Spenborough and I have the usual aches but nothing I haven’t had before. I want to rest but I know I have to get out and run however short it may be. I choose a new route, short just 2.9 miles but hilly with 512ft of climbing. I want to see how hard I can push myself over a short distance as I need to increase my speed.

This will help with my training for the Trigger Race too, a tough 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale in the middle of January. Strangely I’m not worried about the distance although that may change when I start doing some serious long runs! However I feel that doing some short runs and going as hard as possible on them will increase my endurance and give me an edge. This edge is not to do with beating anyone but toughening me mentally in preparation for my biggest running challenge to date.

After the run I feel good and ache in different places. This is what I wanted. Getting my body used to different demands so that I’m more of an all-round runner and not just an endurance athlete. Running fast on road again will hopefully give me an extra something and improve my trail and fell running too!


It’s been an interesting week for me especially with my running.

I ended last week having run further than I have ever run before, 41.5 miles. This was done deliberately as this past Thursday I had decided to enter the Rydal Round fell race at Ambleside and I believe in overtraining the week or so before a big race, having a rest the week before and then I am ready for the big day.

So the first three days of this week were a living hell for me as I rested my legs so that they would be fresh and strong on the day. Seeing all your running friends posting their runs on Strava makes it harder but I had never done a proper fell race before so I knew I was doing the right thing.

Come Thursday and after a drive of a couple of hours I was at the Ambleside Sports Day and getting ready for the race by getting changed at the boot of my car! Luckily it was cold and wet so I wasn’t hanging around and neither was anybody else which spared embarrassed blushes for everybody.

Then a massive disappointment. The race had been shortened from a 9 mile horseshoe loop to a 4 mile out and back to the first summit Nab Scar. This was due to horrendous weather conditions on the highest summit Fairfield which the marshal had decided too dangerous to race under. No-one could do anything about this as the organisers are responsible for the safety of the runners and no-one wants to put anyone in a dangerous situation if they can avoid it.

So under a sky of mist and rain around 100 mad runners set off to run up to a summit that they couldn’t even see at that point. The first mile was fine. Nice and steady uphill trail, nothing I hadn’t run on before and I was keeping a decent pace with some of the other runners at the back of the pack.

And then we saw the last house and turned right up the fell and the real race began. Immediately I went from running comfortably on trial to scrambling up the side of a cliff! This was rocky, steep and wet, a combination of surfaces I had not run on before and none of my training on the hills where I live had prepared me for this.

This was a brutal and intense introduction to feel running and nobody was messing around. Everybody was doing their utmost to beat everybody else, even more so it seemed than in the road races I had competed in. I felt strong going up and whilst I was never going to be the fastest I was catching and passing people. All my training and rest had paid off. I was moving with ease up the side of the fell and making good, if steady progress.

Then I got to the top and my problems started. What goes up must come down and coming down was far more difficult than going up had been. I was wearing was wearing my fell shoes and still struggling for grip. I seem to find going up a steep climb easier than going down and today was no exception. All the runners I had passed on the way up passed me back on the way down and my progress seemed to slower and slower.

Eventually I reached the bottom and found I couldn’t remember which trail I should take to get me back to the finish. I started going up one and then decided it was the wrong route, turned back and ended up on the main road. Whilst I knew this was also the wrong way I had now been running for nearly an hour and was cold and wet so headed back to the fair and relative comfort.

My next run wasn’t till Saturday after the local parkrun at Shroggs park and it hurt. My legs had not fully recovered from Thursday and I was aching in places I didn’t know I even had! It was obvious to me I had giving it everything and more on Thursday and put my legs in extreme positons that normally I would not even think of attempting. My thighs in particular were burning with pain but I knew a steady run would be the best thing for them to get rid of the stiffness and soreness I was experiencing.

After my run I ended up going to two parties and instead of driving home in my car from the last one ended up leaving it in a field the other side of Halifax! So I woke up today in the knowledge that I would be running to get my car and wondering what shape I would be in. Surprisingly I felt really good. Yes, I still ached but nothing I wouldn’t expect. I soon get into a steady, comfortable rhythm and was at the field within an hour. But I carried on past my car and extended my run from what would have been around 5 miles to nearly 9. Even then I felt I could have run further but decided to stop there and give my legs the rest they need.

This week I have come across two people who have similar reasons to me for running. One of them is a lad from Halifax known as the ‘Pink Running Machine’ and it was interesting learning about his reasons for running and what he gets from it.

The other was a lass I hadn’t heard of but again I could empathise with her as to why she run.

To see these two people out running it would be easy to make a judgement about the ‘Pink Running Machine’ as he runs topless and dyes his hair pink and think of him as an attention seeking poser. I can guarantee you he is not. The lass you wouldn’t notice out running, she would just be another runner you pass on the road yet they both have much in common as to why they run.

Maybe if we get to know someone properly before we make a judgement on them we might find we have much in common with them as to why they do certain thing and that the façade they put on is there to hide years of pain and to seek attention. Next time you see that person whether it is a runner or not get to know them first before making a snap judgement about them and maybe you might find out you have much more in common with them then you first thought.

 


Last night I took part in the Helen Windsor 10k race, a local road race round Greetland in Halifax. The race is tough on an undulating course and if I’m being honest was one race too much for me coming after setting a Personal Best (PB) at the Halifax Half Marathon only three days earlier.

However, I choose to run the race and turned up feeling good. Not brilliant but good enough to run the course and enjoy it. My thighs where still aching and it was clear to me I hadn’t fully recovered yet, but I decided to run and see how things went. The last thing on my mind was setting another PB, tonight I would be happy just to finish.

This of course all changed as soon as I started mixing with the other runners and the competitive switch in my mind went on and I began to think about setting a 10k PB. Could I set another PB so soon after setting one at the Halifax Half?

I chose to wear my new running shoes initially but as soon as I started to warm up I felt pain in both my Achilles tendons and decided to change them for an older pair I had brought with me that I knew would be more comfortable on the night and allow me to run in with less pain.

As we made our way to the start I could feel my Achilles pulling and reminding me that they thought I shouldn’t run. Instead I chose to block out the pain and just do my best on the night. I’ve got used to running in pain and now accept that being a runner means I will be carrying some sort of injury whenever I run.

The course itself is deceptively hilly and a lot more demanding than it appears. You start by doing a small loop before heading back up the main road and beginning the long climb to the high point before descending back to the finish. The climbs are a mixture of long steady inclines with some short, sharp ones thrown in for good measure.

At the start I set off far too fast, a habit I am trying to curb. As soon as I became aware of this I reduced my pace and settled down into a steady rhythm. My Achilles and thighs were aching but nothing I couldn’t cope with and I started to get into a pace I felt comfortable with.

After the small loop I was back onto the main road and the start of the larger loop. I found myself passing people which surprised me considering how I felt, but I decided to keep pushing and see what time I could get. Looking at my watch I was on course for a PB, by how much I didn’t know bit my pace was good and I felt fine.

As the course went on so did the incline. Nice and steady at first and then I could see the short but steep climb to the summit. By now I was beginning to feel the aftereffects of running so much this year and especially the Halifax Half in my legs. I could keep going at this pace but it was hurting, my thighs especially were feeling sore and I realised I was running out of energy. My mind took over and I asked myself how much I wanted this, was it worth putting myself through all this pain just to get PB tonight when I could get a PB at another, easier course some other time? The reply came back that I could do this and it was worth it.

I was already in pain so what would more matter? I was still passing people and I had now crested the summit of the hill although it felt like I was running up hill instead of down and the km markers were getting further and further apart. This was the part of the race where everything seemed to take longer to run, every mile or kilometre seemed to have been stretched as far as it could and this 10k race felt more like a 20k.

I was getting desperate now for the final turn and the knowledge that the finish was just around the corner. I was running on autopilot and concentrating on finishing. I could slow down and still get a PB but that’s not me, not when I’m racing. The desire to push myself to my maximum and see what I am capable of once again took over and so I dug deep yet again and carried on pushing myself.

At last the corner was there and I rounded it knowing that the finish wasn’t far away. Except it wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had further to run than I thought I had so onwards I went doing my best to maintain my pace. This was hard work now and I was finding it tough. All of my body was aching and all I wanted to do was finish and collapse in a heap but right now that wasn’t a choice for me. The only choice I had was to finish as strongly as I could.

And there was the finishing line in front of me at last. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do a sprint finish and the woman who had been on my shoulder for much of the race was now in front of me and I had nothing left. But with the support of the other Queensbury runners who were there and shouting for me I manged a sprint and beat her to the line.

All in all it was a good race. The route is tougher than I expected but so am I. Once again I pushed myself harder than I thought I could and I got my 10k PB in a time of 55:40 knocking 2 minutes off my previous time on a much tougher course. This bodes well for seeing how close I can go to 50 minutes with plenty of rest and a flatter, faster course. I’m on the lookout for a race like this already.


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.

 


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


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.

 


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.