Posts Tagged ‘trail’


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.

 


Last night, Tuesday 24th May saw the second round of the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association Grand Prix competition at West Park, Leeds. This is my first time competing in the Grand Prix and all of the courses are new and unfamiliar to me so this is not only a test of my running ability but also my ability to run fast on unfamiliar territory.

We arrived in plenty of time and met up with some of the other runners from Queensbury Running Club. After a brief chat we made our way up to the course, around half a mile from the pub that was the race base for the night. Once at the course we went for a warmup and to familiarise ourselves with the course which is held in a public park.

Time soon went and on a cool, spring evening in Leeds it was time to get the race under way. The race director spent what seemed forever explaining the route and emphasising how our trail and road running shoes would do considerably more damage to the football pitches than twenty four pairs of football boots with longer studs! This amused many of us as we tried to work out how we could cause more damage but the threat of immediate disqualification meant we took it seriously and were more concerned with stepping on the football pitches than the race itself!

The starter set us off and set off at a reasonable pace. I have learnt that pacing yourself and running your race is essential. Getting caught up in a race with others especially at the start can cause you problems especially later on in the race when you need strength for a good finish.

The course meandered round a field in order to split the runners up and I get into a comfortable rhythm, concentrating on pacing myself and not worrying about some other runners I recognised getting away from me. It was far too early in the race to chase people down. That was for later if we were near each other.

After the field we entered the woods and one of my favourite surfaces trail. With trail you still have to concentrate on where you are going but you can also get plenty of speed on as well which isn’t always possible on the moors and fells. The trail snaked its way through the woods and began a gentle uphill climb round the other side of the park.

By now I established my position in the race and was beginning to keep up a good pace and pass people. Running over the moors and fells teaches you to look for spots where you can put your feet down safely, but keep moving swiftly. This experience becomes invaluable when racing on trials where the passing places can be small and you have to be quick.

Rounding the far side of the park I saw the familiar shape of one of competitors. She is very good and a tough, determined runner who never gives up. I knew I would have to be at my best and more to catch her never mind pass her!

I kept plugging away but the gap between us seemed to widen if anything. I felt a bit disheartened but kept going. I was maintaining a good pace and enjoying myself. So what if I didn’t pass her? It was not the end of the world.

We went through the final bit of woodland and then through the other side I was right behind her to my surprise! I wasn’t sure if she had made a mistake or had simply started to run out of steam but she heard me coming up behind and graciously told me to go past her and go for it!

By now I had found some serious pace. I’ve no idea where it came from but my stats on Strava confirmed it too. My final mile was my fastest by a long way but it very nearly wasn’t. At the start I had been warned about the finish being deceiving. You come out of the woods up the field and you think you’re on the finish straight but you’re not.

As I came fast up the field expecting to sprint to the finish I suddenly realised I had to make a right turn and go back down and around the field! I had passed a younger competitor on the corner and now I was fearing that he would be right behind me and go pass me at any time now.

But my fears were unfounded. I was flying now and not only did I make the pass stick but I also passed another runner on the finish straight and nearly caught another on the line!

All in all I am very happy with my performance. A time of 44:37 for five miles of trial was a lot better than I was hoping for at the start of the race and is well below my 10k PB pace. I was pleased with myself as I kept pushing all the way and even when I felt I couldn’t catch my fellow runner I still kept going and never gave up.

I’m really looking forward to the next race at Kirkstall next Tuesday and hoping that my legs are still feeling good as I need to do a long run in preparation for the Huddersfield half marathon on Sunday 6th June.

 


Yesterday, Sunday 31st May I went for my first long training run, the first of many. To be honest I don’t know many places where I can go on a long run off-road despite living in a semi-rural part of the country. This is as much to do with my knack of just getting out there and running or walking but not taking any notice of where I’m going as anything else!

However I do know Haworth, the world famous home of the Bronte’s and the moors are said to have provided the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. I have walked these moors many times myself and so they are an ideal place for me to start my off-road training as I know the paths and trails and can vary my route every time.

So off to Penistone Hill Country Park in my car I went and soon I was sat there in the car park looking towards Top Withens on a wet and windy Sunday morning. The scene could have come straight from Wuthering Heights and I would not have been surprised to have seen Cathy or Heathcliff come walking by, hand in hand, two lovers forever trapped on the moors…

This is the view that greeted me as I parked up

Haworth Moor 310515 Wet and Windy

But I didn’t have time to sit there daydreaming; I had a training run to do! So off I set on a familiar path to the Bronte waterfalls, Top Withens, then the Trig point on top of the moors and finally Alcomden Stones. This is around 3 ½ miles but always seems a lot further. The route starts off on trail before turning to rock and mud and then finally open moorland above Top Withens and on the way to the Trig point and Alcomden Stones.

Today though extra care was needed as the route was slippy and muddy because of the rain but I still made good progress up to the Stones getting there in around 45 minutes. Alcomden Stones are an outcrop of ancient stones allegedly where prehistoric men worshipped. I think it is a spectacular place simply because it is one of the few places where you can go and experience freedom from all the stresses of modern day life. There is nothing around for miles and you can feel free here.

But when you get here you also have a problem. You can go back to Top Withens on the trail that is easy to navigate or you can try and get down to Ponden Kirk. The problem here is that the trail runs out and you are left on open marshland and bog with no clear path. I of course took this option and followed the stream as closely as I could. If you follow a stream you will eventually come out at a point where you will be able to make a more informed choice of route.

I knew though where this stream came out but this did not make the run any easier. My feet got soaking wet standing in water and covered in thick mud as I made my way as quickly as possible across the marshland. But I enjoyed this, far more than I enjoy running on roads. This for me is true, pure running, in the wilds with the elements against you and you need all your wits about you to avoid coming a cropper and taking a wet and muddy fall!

But I managed to avoid falling and after a lot of jumping around over embankments and avoiding muddy bog I made it to the end of the route and Ponden Kirk. Most normal people at this point take the path over the top of the Kirk down towards the reservoir. Me however being a bit mad go down the side of the Kirk, a steep and narrow path just so I can go back up it. Yesterday it was very slippy so I had to be careful or I might fall and if you fall here that could be it…

Back up to the top path and having avoided falling I ploughed on down towards Ponden Reservoir and on to the path that would take me back up to the waterfalls and the path back towards my car. Apart from getting a bit lost the rest of the run was uneventful but satisfying as I was building up my distance training now.

That was apart from on the path from the waterfalls back to Penistone Hill. The path is narrow in parts and strewn with rocks, but I had a group of older hikers in front of me that were slowing my pace. To get round them I took some risks and jumped over and off rocks with a pace and agility that surprised me! The best moment came when one of them said ‘there’s a fell runner, bloody idiot!’ I took this as a compliment! Nobody had ever called me a fell runner before!

And 9.3 miles later I was back at my car. Feet soaking, dripping wet, muscles already aching, tired but having an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement deep inside me from having achieved so much more in my first proper training session than I thought I could. I already have a route in mind for next week. But that’s another story.