What a bunch of skinny belinks are on the start line of this race. Steve Swarbrick and Chris Arthur are blessed with size zero’s and then there’s a bunch of GandOs who must have shed a couple of stone each since I saw them last; Paul Neild, Mark Midgely, and Dominic were the obvious ones. That’s nearly a whole Ann Holden right there.
Anyway , the chat is about whether or not the 12 year old record set by Lloyd Taggart will go today or not. The scintillating form of Chris A and the conditions make it a possibility. Steve S is no slouch either and the mercurial Sean Bolland is here too.
The ladies who organise us all and who must be obeyed are doing the club proud; I find that a woman’s touch at these events adds so much to the spirit of a race, it gives it a completeness; that’s probably me being silly.
But the boss for today is our very own Leigh W. If he’s in charge then it’s going to be fine. And it only goes so well because of all the preparation he puts into it. His charm is that he’s the last to consider himself good at it. Leigh, you’re a natch.
And being such a natch we all doing his bidding without question.
As I’m not running I’ve been posted to the checkpoint above that 300 year old farmstead. Ruth is there too and muses at all the goings on over the centuries. Well, I don’t think a lot has actually happened but I stand to be corrected by any local historian. It’s just that out here on the remote flanks of Parlick Hill there doesn’t seem a right lot to inspire any real mischief. Many centuries before though the Druids who assembled in the woods of Bleasdale Circle may have been up to human sacrifice or dancing naked or drinking mead or stranger still, running over Parlick Hill (which translates as Hill Hill Hill, saxon, norse and English so Duncan tells me). The solstice alignments made it a special place for them.
Before a brief resume of the race itself and to focus on a true GandO; did you know that Wynn the Mancunian is a right mishmash of various nationhoods. An English grandmother (a general’s daughter no less) who married an Indian – unheard of at the time – and also Irish and Spanish from not so long back either. Its no wonder she’s difficult, err, feisty. A more generous and giving person you’d travel a long way to find. And she introduces me to her granddaughter whose name I can’t remember, who is moving to Stoke to look after 480,000 chickens. Richard D, please confirm that this is possible for I can be quite gullible.
Anyway to the race; Leigh sets them off and within 50 yards Chris has already opened a gap; they then disappear from view. I dawdle for a while in the village hall and leisurely make my way up to my checkpoint – only just in time as Chris hoves into view and descends like a rocket. He shouts Hi Dec like he’s not really trying but he tells me after that he was pushing himself; he’s four minutes ahead of second placed Steve in this field of 94. And he takes the record by 30 seconds. Its just a great piece of solo running.
Other notable things:
- Sean Bolland is looking quick; is this the long awaited comeback
- Kieran Carr falls over on a descent witnessed only by myself; its okay Kieran I won’t tell anyone
- Paul Walsh has a deceptive lack of speed going downhill; it took forever
- The very last runner was a young athletic looking man doing his first and very last fell race. He didn’t know what hit him
- Colin W’s weird fatboy bike. A thing of beauty in its way.
- Quentin Harding appearing on that TV programme on the Lakes last Friday evening. Fair put me off my beer it did.
- Some great veteran performances: Graham Schofield again v60, Kieran Carr and birthday boy Dave Tait – both v70s and Karin Goss fv65
- This Saturday is our annual Do; with a ceilidh and some grub. be there or be square.
Click here to download results.
Race winner Chris Arthur receiving his prize from Terry Houston and Leigh Warby
Look who I found, happy new year Darren.
It’s my first race of the year and it’s another visit to the Calder Valley – Hebden Bridge itself. The steep and narrow roads require caution and care so it’s not surprising to see people are driving so many small cars to negotiate them.
Limbering up before the race, the decision to wear shorts does not seem the wisest one, although not to wear any would cause more of a stir. The wind chill makes it feel like zero degrees and though there’s no rain, getting wet is certain.
I speak with Calder Valley runner, Gavin Mulholland, about the best way of getting to Belfast for the Slieve Donnard race and he gives me a few suggestions. And then this guy, who will finish fourth today, tells me oddly how he hates racing, fullstop, with a passion. He just puts too much pressure on himself.
Nineteen miles of hillocky bog lie in wait on the moors between here and Haworth; with moor trudging overload, cramp is almost certain. A few three hour sessions on benign Pendle in the preceding months are not going to be enough but you’ve got to wade in somewhere – so here I am. Start slow, get to the midpoint like I’ve not done anything, enjoy the second half; fat chance.
The field is stretched at a very early stage; led and won by the evergreen Rob Jebb.
I find myself running alongside the likeable Neil Hardiman of Clayton-le Moors Harriers. He tells me that two years ago on this one he felt the worst he’s ever felt after a race, even collapsing at the finish. The combination of cold, damp, navigation and knee deep difficult terrain make it particularly challenging. All that, and for a lot of us the first Long after a lay off, give it a little spice.
Sure enough, there isn’t a moment in the race when my legs feel light or right; three and a half hours of it. After half an hour I dally at a checkpoint and let Neil go on; he’s just taking me a little faster than I want to go and I’ve been there before – it makes the last five miles quite painful.
A patchy sun emerges and the wind drops to a breeze but I keep my cag on all the same. Among the half dozen running alongside are a trio from Bingley sticking together; these guys will be my pacers and guides all the way to the finish. Its always a relief when you realise that today you don’t have to rely on your own sketchy nav skills; especially on that final interminable third over Wadsworth Moor where the path runs out; several runners overshoot the slight jink you need to make and I can see them up on the horizon a few hundred yards away. On spotting us they make the traverse around but its taken a lot out of their legs and they never catch back up.
Its heather and bracken and up and down and bog and knee deep cow sludge and finally, finally the end comes long after you expect it. The end to a punishing, leg mincing course – its got to have done me some good. Not many partake of the cold shower on this cold day but I brave it out to remove some but not all the caked on mud; stern stuff you see.
In the pavilion the organisers and tea ladies are just brilliant; people are sitting around outside which can’t happen very often at this time of year at this elevation. An Aussie couple are here with their very young son; she has done the run and compares it to trail races in Perth – well there is no comparison. Every step she took was into the deepest part of the puddle, this terrain being so unfamiliar. Anyway, she picks up 5th Lady so well done that Sheila.
On the plus side for me, I think I got around unscathed insofar as no pulls, no strains, no obvious joint aches; that’s massive that is. Probably tempting fate by even mentioning it but there you are.
Next race up is our own Short – Bleasdale Circle.
Don’t panic you can put your dictionaries to one side, this race report is from a less able reporter. Hope you don’t mind but this is more of a tabloid read than the usual standard we’re accustomed to from the bard. As Dec wasn’t at the race thought I ought to say a few words as I’m pretty sure the man making Bowland fell running history will be far too modest to give his account of events.
Nine Standards is a long way off being a classic fell race, way too much tarmac and with a gradual gradient that forces you to run on the ascent, barely steep enough for much if any walking, it’s an out and back so the descent not steep enough to let gravity take over, it’s a hard slog all the way. My mate Allan Miller accurately described it as a race that if it was at any other time of year you’d give it a wide birth. For many it’s become a bit of a tradition, the first meeting of the year with old and not so old fell running friends and of course opportunity to make new friends. It’s a return to competition in a new year and hoping to maybe, somehow, miraculously run stronger and faster than previous years. There’s a good turnout this year 150 we’re told, probably the superb weather that’s greeting us today. I meet an old friend, Paul Tuson, we chat about the good old days, Paul was the winner of the first Nine Standards race “back in the day”. Paul hasn’t run for some years and talks about his new passion, cycling sportives. He’s here today to marshal but confesses he is really here to enjoy the atmosphere of his local fell race. I introduce Paul to Chris, letting slip that I think Chris could be today’s winner, naturally this raises eyebrows amongst the locals particularly as previous multiple race winner and record holder Carl Bell is here. Carl’s a firm favourite in the area having run for Howgill before joining Keswick.
As we assemble on the start line there’s the usual buzz of runners chatting, New Year greetings are being exchanged. I head over to Chris to eagerly report what I think is a gem of information, a few minutes earlier I’d overheard someone asking Carl if he might break the record today, Carl laughed the suggestion off and said it was more likely to go to the in form Chris Arthur, I dutifully relay this information to Chris. Carl comes over to greet Chris, I’m an onlooker privileged to witness this meeting that is so typical of our sport, mutual respect and friendship, such is their humility I imagine the two of them arriving at the finish line together saying to each other “you go first”. It is though a sharp contrast to the contest to follow where both will give their all and win or lose it doesn’t really matter, there are no big egos here, it’s a sport where everyone’s a winner with each runner giving it their best.
As the race organiser gives final instructions he beckons towards Victoria Wilkinson and Carl reminding them that there’s £50 on offer if either of the records are broken,” the conditions will never be as good” he says, Carl looks uncomfortable and nods towards Chris, the organiser seems to almost begrudgingly acknowledge Chris as “the little feller”. Chris doesn’t appear to be fazed by this, though does comment on not feeling great, I wonder if the weight of expectation is having an effect. I apologise for piling on the pressure and suggest he just goes out and enjoys his run, I’d hate to inadvertently put the mockers on his race before the off, that is of course a technique I usually stoop to delivering intentionally to my number one rival. Chris is made of sterner stuff, I needn’t have worried.
We’re off and typically I’m passed by too many runners in the first few hundred yards, but hold back and remind myself of the hour plus of hard running ahead. Mark Irvine is soon out of site, Doug Love comes past me like I’m stood still and steadily moves away. As the race settles down I feel like I’m holding my own, one or two overtake me and I ease past one or two. As we climb towards the summit Chris returns looking great, we both greet each other with words of encouragement. Chris has a huge lead over Carl, a win looks certain it’s all about the record now. Mark bounds by as does Doug not far behind, why is it they look so fresh? As I make the turn round I see Dominic not far behind and looking good. The descent as expected is relentless hard running, as we hit the tarmac I no longer need to have my eyes fixed to the ground, there’s an opportunity to view the panorama, what a view, distant snow capped Lakeland fells, Cross Fell, Wild Boar all looking at their best lit up by the low winter sun and brilliant blue sky above, I feel almost tempted to stop or slow down and enjoy the stunning view and then a little guilty as I resume race mode, I must come back to this area for a training run and take time to enjoy the fantastic views.
I arrive back in the village a minute or so quicker than a couple of years ago, I feel I’ve put in a decent shift that must count as a great bit of winter training and hopefully pay off in the season to come.
Meanwhile it’s the usual chatter with rivals and exchange of similar race experiences, I meet Dominic and we both wonder how Chris went on, we think we catch sight of him and then see a cloud of smoke blowing in the wind confirming his approach, having a quick vape, I think it’s called. I excitedly ask how he did, “record broken by 50 seconds” he quietly and calmly replies, I’m not sure I hear him right, probably since his calmness doesn’t match the significance of his words, he goes on to say how he went out hard and built up around a two minute lead on the climb knowing that Carl’s outstanding descending could win him the race, in the end Chris won comfortably.
So Chris picks up the 1st prize, the organiser hesitates as he calls Chris to collect his prize, no doubt still shocked that the local hero has been beaten. Chris is £50 better off, I try to find him afterwards and let him know that it’s a Bowland tradition that anyone breaking a race record buys the drinks, I’m too late he’s gone and no chance of me catching Bowland’s record breaker.
Mark and Doug both have great races, marvellous to see. Dominic’s not far behind me and has a bit of luck, he was the first to be called for a spot prize, on hearing the organiser call his name Dominic looks puzzlingly and says “what have I done?” With a bit of encouragement and once he realised he wasn’t going to get a bollocking Dominic went up and collected his £20 voucher. Well done Dominic, rounded off a great day, one that I’m sure I will look back on in years to come when I reminisce about the good old days.
For the record Victoria Wilkinson comfortably broke the Women’s record too.
Thanks to the organiser Paul Brittleton and to all his team of helpers that made the brilliant day happen as always you’re the real stars.
Is there ever an easy race; well I suppose there is if you don’t race in the race you’re in. So, beaten by a Santa Vamp before the halfway mark, I suppose I do ease off a little; but I do make sure that Tweedledum and Tweedledee are put right in their place – cheeky beggars.
Its just not what I expect when I turn up – Batwoman, St Trinians pupils, sperm lookalikes, elves, Cinderella, etcetera and etcetera. Paul Walsh has made an effort, but not much of one; a baggy t-shirt does not count as fancy dress Paul.
Me, well, I’ve come as a Bowland Fellrunner. It took me ages to think of it.
And so has Chris Arthur. Now, there are three top drawer runners here today for this spectacle of a 5 mile trail race; Chris Farrell of Horwich (sub 30mins for a 10k), Tom Adams of Ilkley and our Chris – see I wasn’t kidding; Farrell and Adams both have an English vest in their lockers. And if our own Mr Arthur had bothered to take this sport seriously a lot sooner, then so would he. What a delicious head to head to head in prospect.
So, to the more important head to head of the aforementioned Vamp versus my good self; and the sinister presence next to me of Alice in Wonderland and both Tweedles; Tweedledee’s just won the Parkrun in Leigh earlier says Alice in a deep baritone. Nonetheless I wager to buy each a drink if they finish in front of me.
The Vamp behind me, aka Leigh Warby, clutches the hem of his rather beguiling Santa frock; you know, the one that looks good accompanied with sheer net stockings and stilettos. He gives me a wink but his studded shoes mark him out as odd.
How to summarise the race quickly; the front three disappear up the road in the blink of an eye. Santa Vamp goes past me at speed and leaves me treading water; so much for that hex on short, quick runnables. Its because he wasn’t weighed down by his masculinity, my daughter says.
Alice is struggling though and Tweedledum and Tweedledee don’t know whether to stay with their chum or keep tabs on me. They choose the latter but the first deep and muddy patch saturates their fancy pants and slows them down significantly; they give up the battle. My pennies are safe.
Its an entertaining second half of the race; crazily made up runners run past me chatting merrily away. One of them includes ex-Bowlander Warren who’s dead chuffed with himself; I can’t wait to tell Andy Knowles he says.
A weird and beguiling race, its a great laugh. A big welcome to newcomer Peter Llewellyn, another Clitheroe man and potential running buddy; you’ve joined a great club Peter.
Well how did it finish; Chris Farrell followed by Tom Adams followed by Chris Arthur. Speaking to Chris Arthur afterwards he gives me an inkling of his plans for next season; target the English counters, seventy miles a week and speed training. That’s some commitment. Luck and remaining injury free could make it a very interesting championship for him and Bowland.
I have to rush off to collect my son from Manchester airport. I needn’t have hurried; the long haul flight from South Korea to Heathrow has gone to schedule but fog and then a baggage handlers strike at Manchester delay him by a staggering seven hours…welcome back to Blighty, Luke.
If you’re racing in the Calder Valley then you’ll know what to expect; this dank, high-sided valley has slopes that are mostly runnable, there’s plenty of slippy mud, open moorland, ankle turning ruts and gunnels, sharp-leaved heather, kissing gates and turnstliles – you may better know them as queues. Just before the start I see a runner sifting the leaf strewn descent to the finish; looking for hidden slabs that’ll put you on your ass, he says in his American accent. You ain’t seen nothing yet, I’m thinking, wondering how he’ll get on today.
179 runners gather for this late season 6 miler; the steep climb at the start funnels into a kissing gate at the top and a queue develops, forbearance is tested – and not found wanting. Upwards onto the moor and traction on the mud is difficult; my worn studs are also going to find the return on this course a little interesting, lets hope I don’t have an adversary on my heels, eh; but I did and nearly take that kissing gate out.
Up onto a road for a bit then back out onto the higher, steeper moorland; and now a turnstile with a dozen runners waiting; ho hum; losing ground all the while you just have to bide, but there’s still a way to go yet. Shortly you can see the panorama of the moorland horizon and, depressingly distant, the tiny outline of front runners disappearing over it.
Once crested there’s a properly mazy, awkward descent through bracken requiring my utmost attention; these are opportunities to close up on the runners in front. Road again for a while; and who’s that there; its John from Preston. He must be ailing; this year I can’t touch him. And in front of him is Ronnie, that doughty Rossendale runner I can’t get near usually. And ahead of him is Crabby from Keighley who can trounce me no problemo. One by one I nip past them; on the heels of Crabby I sneak a glance at my watch; its two beats off of my max HR; splendido. It hurts but – me mucho gusto. Fearful of being picked off and with two miles still to go, I definitely overdo it but hang on in there, slipping and a-sliding as I go. Its John who gets right on my tail for the steep finish but this guy is so polite, it would not surprise me if he felt it too rude to overtake me in this final furlong.
So, now I’m convinced I’ve had a great race; albeit right at the end of the year in a race that matters not a whit. And then I’m told that John is nursing a sore calf, and Ronnie says he’s been feeling off since the Tour of Pendle and Crabby thinks his bike ride here took it out of him. Meh; a hollow victory after all.
Calder Valley Fellrunners base themselves at Mytholmroyd Community Centre; its a stark contrast to Bowland’s gathering point at Fell Foot. A modern building with plenty of facilities and a beautiful shower room; only you ever get a trickle from the three shower heads if all are being used; a source of frustration to Karl Grey – elite runner and top banana and who also does the pre-race registrations; he still holds the record for this course, and he is third today. He tells me that CVFR was formed as a breakaway from Halifax Harriers when politics impeded the growth in interest of fell running; now look at it – its massive and successful.
Again, its run by people with humility and understatement and humour. Leftover traits from an area that was central to the industrial revolution that changed the world; where brooding cotton mills clothed the empire and the first canals were dug and flooded. It must have been a hive of industrial activity, teeming with black smoke trapped in its high slopes and workers worked to the bone. Now look at it; Hebden Bridge and its pink pound prettification; Heptonstall with its Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath legacy; and I always remark on the number of cyclists I see, and all those sports fields. It’s just very interesting; and so is this brass band quartet I’m listening to in Hebden.Its always a pleasure to visit.
Thanks for the race CVFR; its definitely a tester, something for everyone who runs off-road. Brilliantly organised as ever.
It passed me by until I chanced to look at the English Fell Championship results for this year; did you know that we have not one but two champions.
Women’s v50 – Rowena ‘how did that happen’ Browne
Men’s v55 – Mike ‘never without pain’ Johnson
Eulogy to Rowena
(couldn’t find a photo of you Rowena – can anybody add one in?)
– Fear failing sight and failing knees
Her chaser’s toolkit palls
Now bitten lip and mettled core
will overcome them all
So wear your crown, Rowena Browne
And for god’s sake, tell a soul –
Mike, trying to remember what I said last time:
– From near and far they took the field
their hearts were filled with pride
They fell before Mike Johnson’s feet
like grass before the scythe –
Dave Nuttall and Leigh Warby also came close in their categories.