DERWENTWATER 10 - 5th NOVEMBER 2023
The Derwentwater 10-mile race, a cherished event on the RRR calendar, finished our club championship season for the 14th year. Keswick Athletics Club have been organising this race for an impressive 65 years.
Commencing in Keswick the race embarks on a journey around Derwentwater, beginning with a relatively flat 4 miles. The course poses a formidable challenge with a taxing 3-mile climb up the notorious Catbells, succeeded by a steep descent covering a mile & concluding with 2 miles of undulating road.
The journey to Keswick commenced in Royton, with the majority of club members opting for a convenient coach ride to the event. After a pit stop at Tebay Services they arrived in Keswick approximately an hour before the race, affording club members ample time to collect their race numbers & engage in a light warm-up, either through a jog or a leisurely walk to the start line. There 56 RRRs assembled, sharing insights & last-minute race tips. A quick exchange about running shoes with Mark Baxendale & Dave Peart marked the prelude to the race for me, which commenced promptly after the starter's orders.
The race unfolded in a familiar pattern for me, with Bernard Goodwin & Adrian Brown swiftly establishing themselves as distant figures in the landscape. From mile 2, Janey Jobey's consistent presence on my shoulder provided the necessary push, persisting until the race's culmination. Janet was fresh from completing the Snowdonia Marathon, a testament to her endurance.
While ascending Catbells, a section of the course renowned for its breathtaking views of Derwentwater, some runners including Dawn Speed, Natali Brown, Claire Timms, Judith Bradley & Sharon Dracup took a moment to capture the scenic beauty.
All 56 RRR finishers: Alison Cresswell (2:14:41), June Allingan (2:14:40), Annalea Wilson (2:13:49), Samantha Tattersall (2:06:05), Kay England (2:05:54), Amanda Welby (2:05:53), Bernadette Ball (1:59:36), Nicky Hall (1:56:43), Karen Rush (1:56:40), Howard Mills (1:56:39), Angela Rogowskyj (1:56:02), Hasna Budsworth (1:55:25), Elaine Brown (1:55:24), Neil Bradley (1:52:12), Joanne Lawton (1:51:46), Dawn Speed (1:50:15), Natali Brown (1:48:39), Claire Timms (1:48:39), Gareth McCaffery (1:48:13), Sharon Dracup (1:47:54), Judith Bradley (1:47:33), Sam Wright (1:43:07), Stephen Rogowskyj (1:41:48), James Holdaway (1:36:48), Amanda Richardson (1:36:48), James Wright (1:33:42), Tracey Hall (1:30:37), Kevin Hutchings (1:30:34), Ray Williams (1:29:30), Andrew Ingham (1:26:50), Simon Howard (1:26:13), Oliver Pozegic (1:24:38), Sarah Tomassi (1:24:36), Mark Heaney (1:24:30), Gary Smith (1:23:38), Rochelle Evans (1:21:33), Mark Duncan (1:21:24), Lee Earnshaw (1:20:40), Trish Callan (1:20:30), Andy Hall (1:20:17), Bryan Lawton (1:19:56), Mark Baxendale (1:18:37), Carl O'Callaghan (1:17:37), Mark Phelan (1:17:32), Adrian Brown (1:16:42), Dave Peart (1:15:32), Janet Jobey (1:15:21), John Fay (1:14:55), Bernard Goodwin (1:12:10), Maisie Wainwright (1:11:05), Chris Tattersall (1:07:59), Andrew Rogers (1:05:43), Shane Reading (1:02:08), Paul Timms (1:01:41), James Henderson (1:00:12) & Luke Lawson-Healey (59:54).
The race bore special significance for 3 individuals - Andy Hall, Mark Duncan & Hasna Budworth - who completed all 17 club races this year. Hasna, in particular, celebrated her achievement with a lollipop along the way. Andy stated that a major race highlight for him was running alongside Trish Callan, Lee Earnshaw & Rochelle Evans for the majority of the race.
Shane Reading claimed 1st position in the MV50 category, while June Allingan secured top spot in the FV80s. Milestones were celebrated by Amanda Richardson, completing her 75th race in Royton colours, with James Henderson & Sarah Tomassi marking their 25th club race. Luke Lawson-Healey left an indelible mark on the race, beating James Henderson (1st MV40) by an impressive 18 seconds, setting the stage for an exciting battle between them in 2024.
As every club member approached the finish line the RRR cheerleading squad, stationed 400 meters from the end, provided an uplifting welcome, injecting renewed energy for the final stretch.
In the world of Royton Road Runners, victory can take various forms - a top-10 finish, a mid-race lollipop or a 6-mile selfie. Post-race, members indulged in recovery drinks & sports nutrition (provided by JD Wetherspoon), sealing the day's triumphs & camaraderie. [John Fay]
OLDHAM HALLOWEEN HALF MARATHON - 29th OCTOBER 2023
The Halloween Half was back with a bite! With a series of frightening climbs adding up to over 1300 feet of elevation, it is one of the toughest half marathons in the country.
After a 4-year break & a maximum capacity of 500 there was a last minute flurry of entries as the deadline approached. The extreme stormy weather in the build-up to the race left me feeling spooked & I was considering giving it a miss.
Needless to say I checked the weather forecast & it seemed that the running gods had left a window open for no rain around Oldham on the morning of the race. I knew deep down that if I didn't run I would have to face some running demons in the future, so in typical fashion I got my kit ready the afternoon before & checked I had plenty of energy gels.
Like many people I had run the route many times before & knew that the race incorporated climbs from Oldham town centre to Grains Bar, Ladcastle to Lydgate, Salem Brew & a final stretch up Waterloo Street. I knew the race would be all tricks & no treats. However the enchanting views of Saddleworth somehow got me under their spell & as soon as the race was back on the calendar I knew I had to sign up.
This 13.1 mile race is certainly big enough to blow away the cobwebs & although it was a cold autumn morning, once we set off I soon warmed up. After half a mile Bernard Goodwin advised me to slow down a bit, but I didn’t listen to his advice. At the top of Grains Bar, Dave Emanuel & Adam Stirling were nearby. As I took on water & began the hellish descent down Grains Road I struggled to regulate my breathing. I watched Adam accelerate down the hill towards Delph Village. Once I passed through Delph & reached flat ground on Delph New Road I focused on my technique, trying to make every stride count. As I reached the end of the road I saw that a malevolent force had caused Dave Peart to pull up with cramp - luckily Dave had some magic spells up his running sleeves & managed to continue with the race. I began the climb up Ladcastle past the golf course, where some fiendish impatient drivers driving in the opposite direction caused some mayhem. A few cyclists who were following the route became quite irate.
On that climb up Ladcastle I thought of ghosts of recces past. I felt my energy levels sapping & got 'deja boo' as my legs began to fatigue. I recovered slightly as I ran into Lees but saw the race had claimed another RRR victim as Tony Morris pulled up with a tight hamstring. For most of the race I had zoned out but as I ran through Clarksfield I sought inspiration from marshalling Mark Baxendale, who was accompanied by Brett Spivey at New Earth Street.
My body felt like I was in hell on earth, my legs on fire as I passed through Glodwick Road & ran down then up Waterloo Street. I turned back onto Yorkshire Street, my body aching as I screamed towards the pumpkin-shaped finish line. I felt like a zombie on autopilot as I tried to drive my legs forward. I grimaced with pain as Neil Brock glided past me & left me for dead at the line.
Once I had recovered I heard that the route had played a trick on Rob James, with an absent marshal resulting in him going the wrong way. Despite this he finished 7th overall. James Henderson, Paul Timms & Martin Thompson gave other running clubs pumpkin to talk about as they were awarded the men's team prize.
I listened with delight as our very own race MC Warren Siddall commentated on people completing the race. There was a thriller photo-finish as Andy Hall sprinted through the line past Andrew Ingham. There were also some supernatural performances from Luke Lawson-Healey, Oliver Pozegic, Richard Dowd & Howard Mayers, all completing their 1st races in RRR colours. The ever-magical Trish Callan, Sarah Tomassi & Gail Shaw were the 1st 3 Royton women to cross the line.
As I watched from outside Wetherspoons on the High Street I saw some scarily good Halloween running costumes worn by Dawn Speed, June Allingan & Alison Cresswell.
All the RRR finishing times: Alison Cresswell (3:15:21), June Allingan (3:15:21), Samantha Tattersall (2:58:37), Kay England (2:47:08), Nicky Hall (2:47:08), Angela Rogowskyj (2:46:05), Elaine Brown (2:42:28), Hasna Budsworth (2:41:36), Karen Rush (2:39:55), Dawn Speed (2:32:46), Stephen Rogowskyj (2:15:26), Howard Mayers (2:04:28), Kirsty Agnew (2:02:39), Ray Williams (2:00:12), Gail Shaw (1:59:51), Richard Dowd (1:59:46), Sarah Tomassi (1:56:38), Oliver Pozegic (1:54:49), Lee Earnshaw (1:54:09), Bernard Cassidy (1:52:39), Mark Duncan (1:52:18), Andrew Ingham (1:51:10), Andy Hall (1:50:38), Trish Callan (1:48:57), Mark Phelan (1:47:34), Dave Peart (1:47:04), David Emanuel (1:44:11), John Fay (1:42:54), Neil Brock (1:42:42), Adam Stirling (1:41:39), Adrian Brown (1:40:55), Bernard Goodwin (1:39:28), Martin Thompson (1:29:18), Luke Lawson-Healey (1:23:50), Rob James (1:23:23), Paul Timms (1:22:57) & James Henderson (1:20:31).
In addition to these 37 RRRs there were plenty of other club members either volunteering or cheering us on from various places around the course. A great race was had by all - for those who made it a special day, fangs for the memories...
ROCHDALE 10K - 8th OCTOBER 2023
The Rochdale 10K race brought together a total of 41 Royton Road Runners on a suprisingly warm autumn morning. The race showcased strong performances & some notable achievements.
Despite an issue with marshalling, leading to some of the runners taking a slight detour, Shane Reading led the Royton pack, crossing the finish line in an impressive 41:01. Shane secured 6th place overall & was the 1st RRR finisher. Additionally, he triumphed as the 1st finisher in his new MV50 age category. Shane was followed closely by Adrian Brown, who completed the race in 41:43, whilst Chris Tattersall & Martin Thompson were the next to cross the finishing line in RRR vests.
Rochelle Evans shone brightly as the 1st female RRR finisher, completing the 10K in 48:05. In the women's age categories, Sarah Tomassi impressed with 3rd out of 31 women in the FV40s. Mark Heaney's performance was exceptional, as he secured 1st place in the men's MV65 category, whilst the ever-consistent Bernard Cassidy completed his 175th run in club colours.
The Rochdale 10K was a race of detours, twists & turns but for Andrew Ingham it is a day he will remember for a long time, setting a new personal best of 44.39. With runners of all ages & abilities pushing their limits - the advent of the cross-country season saw some RRRs racing 2 days in a row - it was a day of celebration & sharing of racing stories in Rochdale's cafes & bars after the race.
All the RRR finishing times: Alison Cresswell (1:16:23), Nicky Hall (1:11:50), Kay England (1:11:06), Dave Bardsley (1:11:05), Samantha Tattersall (1:09:55), Hasna Budsworth (1:09:23), Karen Rush (1:09:19), Howard Mills (1:09:01), Joanne Lawton (1:08:49), Bernadette Ball (1:08:02), Gill Bardsley (1:05:40), Paul Cooke (1:02:51), Helen Parry (1:02:20), Claire Timms (1:02:07), Natali Brown (1:02:07), Neil Bradley (1:00:18), David Smith (59:28), Amanda Richardson (56:34), Tracey Hall (53:34), Gail Shaw (52:30), Kevin Hutchings (51:37), Gary Smith (51:29), Bernard Cassidy (50:07), Mark Duncan (49:40), Sarah Tomassi (49:36), Mark Heaney (49:25), Lee Earnshaw (48:34), Rochelle Evans (48:05), Adam Stirling (46:52), Andy Hall (46:44), Bryan Lawton (45:47), Dave Peart (45:34), John Fay (45:09), Mark Phelan (45:09), Andrew Ingham (44:39), Andrew Rogers (42:08), Bernard Goodwin (42:02), Martin Thompson (42:01), Chris Tattersall (41:58), Adrian Brown (41:43) & Shane Reading (41:01).
Congratulations to everyone who participated in this deceptively tough event, making it a memorable day for the club & the running community in Rochdale & surrounding areas. [John Fay]
RRR TRACK 5K - 20th SEPTEMBER 2023
Sadly your regular Press Officer John Fay was absent from this event, isolating with Covid (yes, it hasn't gone away!), so afraid you're stuck with me again for this report.
I had a look back at John's report on our previous visit to Radclyffe Sports Centre in May, when he provided a particularly evocative description of how he felt during his 12.5 laps of the track. I don't think I can match that - all I can really say is that I went off too quickly & got progressively slower on each lap - so I'm going to bombard you with fascinating statistics instead...
This was the 3rd time we've included a chip-timed Track 5K in the club championship & the number of participants has increased each time - from 49 (in the wind) in October 2022, to 52 back in May & 56 this time. We've actually had 75 different RRRs taking part across the 3 events, but only 22 have been ever-present as injuries & other commitments have got in the way. The 22 ever-presents include Andy Hall & Mark Duncan, who (along with Hasna Budsworth) are still on course for the rare achievement of completing all 17 club races in a calendar year. Just 3 more to go!
It's been great to see how many of our runners have demonstrated their progress throughout these events. Almost half of those who have completed all 3 Track 5Ks ran their fastest time on this most recent occasion, with significant improvements from Rochelle Evans (43 seconds quicker than her 1st run), James Henderson (46 seconds better), Andy Hall (gaining 1min 39secs), Joanne Lawton (improving by 1min 43secs) & Trish Callan (a remarkable improvement of 2mins 49secs). James will I'm sure have benefited this time from having someone to chase, with Rob James smashing his 5K PB (16:19 at Littleborough in 2016, according to Power of 10) with a very speedy 15:53. I lost count of how many times he lapped me, but it was a lot.
However these events aren't just about fast times & PBs. Good to see Ronnie Quinn & Jason Keast, continuing their return to fitness, while Lee Earnshaw had a very gentle workout following the injury he sustained at the recent Heights Ultra. It was also great to have the support of a number of RRRs who came along despite not being able to run, which really added to the atmosphere.
All the RRR finishing times: June Allingan (39:31), Alison Cresswell (32:51), Angela Rogowskyj (32:47), Dave Bardsley (32:40), Samantha Tattersall (32:30), Nicky Hall (32:05), Gill Bardsley (31:45), Bernadette Ball (31:39), Annalea Wilson (31:25), Karen Stuttard (30:54), Elaine Brown (30:47), Dawn Speed (29:59), Paul Cooke (29:36), Lee Earnshaw (29:35), Hasna Budsworth (29:30), Ronnie Quinn (29:14), Joanne Lawton (29:14), Nikki Mills (28:14), Gary Smith (27:14), Neil Bradley (26:45), Lynda Brookes (26:30), Stephen Rogowskyj (26:28), Amanda Richardson (26:19), Jason Keast (26:15), Tracey Hall (25:23), Owen Flage (24:57), Gail Shaw (24:49), Kevin Hutchings (24:31), Kirsty Agnew (23:43), Mark Duncan (23:26), Sarah Tomassi (23:17), Trish Callan (22:45), Rochelle Evans (22:24), Simon Howard (22:13), David Emanuel (22:05), Bryan Lawton (21:59), Andrew Ingham (20:59), Andy Hall (20:57), Adam Stirling (20:48), Barry Greaves (20:30), Maisie Wainwright (20:20), Chris Tattersall (19:57), Adrian Brown (19:37), Paul Timms (18:19), Martin Thompson (18:04), Shane Reading (17:33), James Henderson (17:03) & Rob James (15:53).
A number of our runners reached significant milestones at this event, with Bernadette Ball running her 75th club race, Dave Bardsley & Martin Thompson both reaching 25 races, Elaine Brown & Lynda Brookes joining the '10 Club'. Meanwhile Annalea Wilson began her RRR journey with an impressive 1st appearance in club colours.
With the steady increase in numbers for these events I'm sure that they'll feature again in the club championship next year. Don't forget that OCL training sessions are available on the same track every week, with many RRRs attending regularly on Tuesday evenings. If you're looking to go quicker in our next Track 5K - or races at any distance - these sessions will definitely help! [David Emanuel]
CHESHIRE HALF MARATHON - 10th SEPTEMBER 2023
A rare opportunity for me to write a race report, with Press Officer John Fay otherwise engaged (with Mo Farah) at the Great North Run...as luck would have it, that means I get to write about a very special moment in RRR history. Maisie Wainwright recorded 1:35:58 in her very 1st half marathon just a week after completing the 50K Heights Ultra. However the more noteworthy achievement is that Maisie finished in front of serial champion Janet Jobey (1:37:48). I don't think any of us realised at the time how significant this was, but it brings to an end a truly remarkable sequence - according to my calculations Maisie is the 1st female RRR to beat Janet in a club championship race since the Tatton Park 10K in 2017! An incredible six year unbeaten run; I'm sure there are going to be plenty of great battles between the 2 of them in the coming years.
It's a shame that, for many of the rest of us, the abiding memory of this year's Cheshire Half Marathon will be the parking. The fact that the number of runners was close to double the field that took part in 2021, when we last included this event in our club championship, probably had something to do with it. I was right on schedule for the recommended 8am arrival time until I joined the traffic queue less than half a mile from race HQ, but it was almost half an hour later that I finally parked & raced to the registration tent to collect my number. I was one of the lucky ones though - Ian Dale & Bernie Goodwin had a 1.5 mile run to the start after abandoning their car at a local petrol station.
That 'warm-up' run seemed to work out pretty well for Ian in particular, as he was 2nd in his MV60 age category & 2nd RRR finisher of 20 in an impressive 1:32:31, his best half marathon since running 1:28:37 on the same course in 2021. He was beaten only by a flying Shane Reading (1:22:26) - you have to go back to the Wilmslow Half in 2019 for a faster time from Shane.
Apart from a mile or so on trails through the grounds of Capesthorne Hall at the beginning & end, this race is run on flat, closed roads - normally perfect PB territory, but the humidity made it more challenging even if it was a little more overcast than expected. That didn't stop Andrew Ingham setting a new personal best of 1:42:02 for the distance, another to add to his great recent run of PBs.
All the other RRR finishers: Hasna Budsworth (2:39:54), Natali Brown (2:15:25), Mark Duncan (2:14:12), David Smith (2:13:57), Neil Brock (1:55:15), Gail Shaw (1:54:20), Andy Hall (1:52:36), Trish Callan (1:45:09), Rochelle Evans (1:44:22), David Emanuel (1:41:42), Mark Phelan (1:38:30), Dave Peart (1:38:26), Bernard Goodwin (1:36:38), Adrian Brown (1:34:01) & Brett Spivey (1:33:42).
Inevitably, getting out of the car park after the race was just as tortuous as getting in had been - Ian & Bernie will have made much quicker progress getting to their car on foot. It's an impressive venue, but definitely something to bear in mind when considering whether we select this race again next year. [David Emanuel]
CITY OF PRESTON 10 MILE - 13th AUGUST 2023
The City of Preston 10 mile race, our 12th club championship event of the season, was held over a 2-lap course with some little switchbacks & a loop of a nature reserve. Depending on what your watch said, the course was 9.99 miles or bang on 10. It was a very flat route which was run predominantly on pavements & was congested at the start, with little opportunity to overtake in the 1st mile & a half.
Compared to usual RRR standards there was a low turnout of 26 runners. This could be due to a combination of holidays, training for other events or work commitments.
Those RRR finishers in full: Dave Bardsley (2:00:34), Nicky Hall (1:54:17), Bernadette Ball (1:51:50), Hasna Budsworth (1:46:40), Neil Bradley (1:40:45), David Smith (1:37:32), Mark Duncan (1:35:04), Amanda Richardson (1:33:15), Ray Williams (1:26:21), Gail Shaw (1:25:30), Gary Smith (1:25:15), Kirsty Agnew (1:24:52), Trish Callan (1:19:27), Lee Earnshaw (1:18:58), Rochelle Evans (1:18:49), Andy Hall (1:18:47), Andrew Ingham (1:17:25), Carl O'Callaghan (1:16:20), John Fay (1:15:37), Adam Stirling (1:15:12), Maisie Wainwright (1:13:08), Bernard Goodwin (1:11:14), Tony Morris (1:10:16), Dave Peart (1:09:38), Andrew Rogers (1:05:10) & Shane Reading (1:00:17).
The race was very competitive with the overall race winner, James Kevan of Horwich, crossing the line in a staggering 53 minutes & 38 seconds. With the RRR club championship tables taking shape, the relatively low turnout presented an opportunity to gather valuable championship points & heightened the intensity of the competition. As with every club event there were lots of 'races within races' & a few surprises & outstanding performances along the way. Here is a breakdown of how individual races unfolded in each group.
In the Premiership there was a head-to-head between Andy Rodgers & Shane Reading. The fast, flat course worked in Shane's favour as he completed the course in a phenomenal time of just over an hour, breaking away from a super-strong & consistent Andy to beat him by a significant margin.
In the Championship Bernard Goodwin, who was looking forward to his holiday in Kos, was on fire. Running in fine form he came 3rd in this group behind Dave Peart, who secured 1st place as he held off Tony Morris by just 38 seconds.
The stakes were high in Group 1- in the absence of Elliot Stone it was an opportunity for another member of the group to secure 25 points. Carl O'Callaghan – still adapting to running shorter distances at speed after recently completing the Lakeland 50 ultra - came in 3rd place whilst Adam Stirling had the honour of securing 1st place in the group, beating John Fay by 25 seconds. The results suggest that Adam was on average 2.5 seconds per mile quicker than John, which demonstrates how what seems a small margin in pace can have a significant cumulative effect overall.
In Group 2 Mark Duncan, who is working towards a goal of completing all of the club races this year, had a strong injury-free race but was blown away by an outstanding performance from Maisie Wainwright. Maisie crossed the line in 1:13:08, the 1st woman in RRR colours to cross the line, 6th club finisher & 58th overall. Definitely one of the best performances of the day & ahead of all the Group 1 finishers.
Andrew Ingham in Group 3 was an equal contender for performance of the day. He set of like a rocket & gave it his all to cross the line in 1:17:25 & come 1st in his group. Andy Hall & Rochelle Evans came 2nd and 3rd respectively with a 2-second gap between them. The ever-consistent Kirsty Agnew continued to add to her run streak & was 4th in the group.
Group 4 was one of the most keenly contested of the day, with 5 RRRs competing. The ever-improving Lee Earnshaw was overjoyed with his performance, a personal best for the 10 mile distance in 1:18:58 to top the table. Next was Trish Callan followed by Gary Smith, Gail Shaw & Ray Williams.
In Group 5 Amanda Richardson - who has only missed the Aintree 10K this year - galloped ahead to beat David Smith by a clear 4 minutes, securing a 10 mile PB of 1:33:15. According to the Power of 10 website this was the first 10 mile race that David has raced in since 2013.
Group 6 also had 5 runners competing. In 1st place in the group was Neil Bradley, followed by Hasna Budworth, another who has completed all 12 club races so far. Bernadette Ball came in 3rd place, followed by Nicky Hall - who was well-hydrated due to her pre-race ritual of eating a cucumber. Naturally I've saved the best to last - Dave Bardsley tackled this course with determination & completed his 6th consecutive club race, his 24th in RRR colours. [John Fay]
HOPWOOD TROT - 2nd AUGUST 2023
The 2-lap Hopwood Trot is a regular fixture on the RRR race calendar. A recent club away night reminded me of the route & what the event would entail.
The race starts on the football pitches next to Hopwood Hall College Sports Arena & leads onto a tarmacked road which runs through the woods. Participants run upwards for about a mile & then turn right at St Anne's Academy. The route then takes you through a new housing estate that runs parallel with Hollins Road heading towards Heywood. This path takes you past some farm buildings & a field with deer. At the top of the road the course takes you onto some rougher ground before a muddy descent past the stables & the back of the original Hopwood Hall. This part of the course is on uneven, rocky ground with plenty of puddles. Eventually you're brought back out to the main entrance road to the college & the start of lap 2.
In the build-up to the race I looked at the event webpage & saw images of former RRR member & international athlete Sophie Wood running in full flow with both feet of the ground. The page also featured lots of nostalgic photos of club members including Janet Jobey, Rob James & Jarrod Gritt collecting prizes. The winning times were listed & I wondered if any course records would be set at the 2023 race. I reflected on some recent records that club members had set, some recorded offically on websites such as Power of 10 & England Athletics, whilst others recorded less formally may go down in club legend. An example of this comes from Owen Flage, who I believe has travelled the furthest distance in the UK to complete a parkrun, at Bressey in the Shetland Islands.
Another club legend, Brett Spivey, had recently set a record for arriving at 2 races in a row – the Black Knight Charge & Millbrook Monster - less than 30 seconds before the start, while Chris Tattersall recently achieved legendary status for leading a group through the widest puddle ever encountered on a club training night.
It had been the wettest July on record & August was starting no better. As I arrived at Race HQ to collect my race number, I sat quietly in my car watching the rain come down & trying to psyche myself up for the race. I thought about our previous visit to the course a week earlier & considered which shoes to wear. As the majority of the course was either tarmac or a gravel/rocky firm surface, I opted for an old pair of road shoes that I had brought that I didn’t mind getting muddy. About 10 minutes before the race began the rain stopped. Slightly relieved, I walked over to the start line.
The race set off. I started in an advanced position & moved as quickly as I could from the grassed area onto the tarmac. As I got to the woods the race pack began to take shape & I could see the usual RRR club vests in front of me & was mindful of who might be coming up behind me. As I climbed up the 1st hill I saw a runner from Middleton Harriers hobble past me in the opposite direction, limping & withdrawing from the race. I reflected that I had been very lucky never to pick up a major injury & wondered if I would be lucky tonight & manage to gain a few places on my club championship rivals. I set myself running at a steady pace, but near to the point where we passed the deer I found myself boxed in with 3 or 4 other runners & had no option but to run through some puddles & over some uneven ground, which left me feeling a bit unsettled. I was relieved as we turned the corner onto a wider road & I was able to move more freely in the direction of the hill. I passed a race marshal, cantered over a motorbike barrier & moved into my 1st descent into the woods.
Lap 2 came & as I crossed the road I tried to look who was behind me. I was unsure how close Carl O’Callaghan & Maise Wainwright were. I could not see anyone, but as marshals & spectators gave encouragement I tried to listen & work out who was in close proximity to me. I looked ahead & saw Elliot Stone in the distance. I looked at a landmark as he passed it & counted the number of seconds it took me to get to the same point - I estimated around 12 seconds. This gap seemed to remain constant as I pushed on as quickly as I could towards the 2nd descent through the woods. I felt strong & thought I was gaining on Elliot as we ran on the final stretch of road towards the finish line. As the marshal directed us through the bushes onto the final path, Elliot looked back at me before accelerating to the finish line.
After crossing the line & getting my breath back I checked my watch. The gospel according to Strava said that I was nearly 2 minutes slower than last year. This may have been down to the weather conditions & not tapering for the race, but I think it could also be due to me consuming too many Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments & not enough Strava segments. I was a little disappointed with my performance, but as a club there was a lot to celebrate.
Amanda Richardson was celebrating being the luckiest person on the course, as her car key fell out of her back pocket in the woods. Someone who was running nearby had seen the key fall, picked it up & gave it back to Amanda. The 2nd most fortunate person (little known to him) was Kevin Hutchings, who Amanda informed me was car-sharing with her. She said that he would have been sent on another lap of the course to retrieve the lost car key if it had remained lost on the route!
Sarah Tomassi & Simon Howard were also celebrating as they had both smashed their course records, shaving off 4 minutes & 2 minutes respectively. A remarkable performance from Simon, who with Carl O'Callaghan & Janet Jobey was back racing just a few days after completing the gruelling Lakeland 50.
All the RRR finishers: June Allingan (1:06:49), Angela Rogowskyj (1:05:32), Alison Cresswell (1:03:02), Karen Stuttard (1:01:45), Elaine Brown (1:01:30), Samantha Tattersall (1:01:29), Gillian Bardsley (1:00:59), Bernadette Ball (1:00:31), Kay England (1:00:05), Dave Bardsley (59:17), Nicky Hall (58:24), Dave Watt (57:43), Natali Brown (56:40), Elizabeth Phillips (56:20), Dawn Speed (56:10), Hasna Budsworth (55:47), Nikki Mills (54:58), Joanne Lawton (54:41), David Phillips (54:32), Paul Cooke (54:22), David Smith (54:06), Lynda Brookes (52:51), Sam Wright (52:44), Ronnie Quinn (51:24), Kevin Hutchings (50:49), Mark Duncan (50:31), Neil Bradley (50:12), Stephen Rogowskyj (49:53), Amanda Richardson (49:17), James Wright (48:31), Jason Keast (47:51), Ray Williams (47:43), Owen Flage (46:55), Mark Heaney (46:35), Tracey Hall (46:15), Gary Smith (44:57), Sarah Tomassi (44:15), Kirsty Agnew (43:39), Rochelle Evans (43:23), Bernard Cassidy (42:55), Simon Howard (42:42), Maisie Wainwright (41:12), Andy Hall (41:08), Janet Jobey (40:42), Lee Earnshaw (40:18), Dave Peart (40:09), Andrew Ingham (39:57), Neil Brock (39:34), Mark Phelan (39:29), Carl O'Callaghan (39:07), John Fay (38:59), Elliot Stone (38:46), Adrian Brown (37:36), Ian Dale (36:57), Bernard Goodwin (36:53), Chris Tattersall (36:46), Brett Spivey (35:20), Martin Thompson (33:52), Andrew Rogers (33:36) & Shane Reading (33:35).
As I watched the post-race presentation there were lots of smiles as RRRs were very well-represented in the prizes awarded. Shane Reading was the first club finisher & 3rd overall, while Andy Rogers (MV50), Martin Thompson (MV40) Bernard Goodwin (MV55) & Ian Dale (MV60) all came 1st in their age groups. Female members of the club did similarly well with Janet Jobey (FV50), Kirsty Agnew (V35), Bernadette Ball (FV65) & June Allingan (FV75) also finishing top in their respective age categories.
It was great to see so many RRRs at this event, with 60 finishers (just short of our record 63 in 2019). It was great to see Lynda Brookes, David Phillips & Elizabeth Phillips each racing for the 1st time in a club race in 2023. Angela Rogowskyj completed her 75th club race, while it was a very 1st race appearance for Sam Wright. Hopefully the 1st of many! [John Fay]
JAMES BLAKELY FELL RACE - 24th JUNE 2023
A nice day out in the country,
A warm roast hog.
What could be better then one man and his dog?
The James Blakely Fell Race is organised by Holmfirth Harriers & is an annual event that is part of the Harden Moss Sheepdog Trials. Harden Moss has a proud tradition of providing this competition which generally falls on the 3rd weekend in June. More senior RRR members may remember One Man and his Dog when it was shown on BBC2. There are dozens of entries in the sheepdog trials competing in the Saturday Open, nursery, local, double dogs & young handlers' classes. There is family entertainment provided by the Holme & Colne Valley Beagles, a tractor rally as well as a sheep & goat show.
It is tradition that the judges enjoy a well-earned afternoon break for the James Blakely Fell Race in the middle of the Saturday afternoon. Entry to the fell race is inclusive in the show price of £5 - it is always entry on the day, but who knows if after this report entries could balloon for next year’s event? It is always good to relax & watch some sheepdog events before & after the race to relax. The race itself is 3.1 miles with 180 metres (590 feet) of climbing.
It is a scorching Saturday. I catch the 184 bus from Oldham bus station. At Slaithwaite I change buses for another to Meltham, where I stock up on sandwiches for the day. From Meltham it is a 2-mile uphill walk to Harden Moss.
I have competed in this race many times & have always been the only RRR to enter in a relatively small field. In 2022 Robert Bolton of Oldham & Royton Harriers also ran, so I was able to get a lift home. This year I have a quad injury that has forced me off the road for weeks. We have all been in the position where we've have said we have no intention of racing but in the end go out & do it anyway.
I arrive at the showground & am greeted by Harden Moss committee member & announcer Sarah Nobles. Conversation starts & a cunning plan comes into place. How about if I was to try to follow my rehab programme as part of the race - running for a set amount of minutes & walking for a set amount of minutes - to promote the event? Sarah's husband Robert & daughter Katie have cause for a celebration. It was Katie’s 'hen do' last night - she tells me she is not running, so that is 1 less person to think about. I look out on the panoramic views of Castle Hill & Black Moss towards the rolling hills of Saddleworth & consider what have I let myself in for. There is an upbeat atmosphere around the entry stand. Runners are talking about the 'triple' - the James Blakely, School Run & Huddersfield parkrun can all be completed on the same day.
After my traditional unorthodox warm-up I am led into the showground & given a briefing on the course. There is quality in the field including Mike Fanning, a multiple winner of the event. He used to run for Holmfirth Harriers but now runs for Borrowdale due to the club having a strong masters team. There is a large contingent from Penistone Footpath Runners & AC - the race is part of their Fell League & they provide 17 of the 40-strong field.
The gun is sounded & it is a lap of the infield to begin with. Before you head out of the showground you must run over the handler's crock where the sheepdog handlers stand. One of my best results was to lead around the infield only to fall over the dip where the crock is placed. Not this year; not only do I avoid the fall, but I’m determined not to lead. I get talking to 2 members of Holmfirth Harriers as we complete our lap. They tell me this is their 3rd race today. Everybody climbs over a gate to lead out of the showground & as we disappear down a country track it is time for my 1st walk break. We turn off the track into a wood & by this stage I can count the number of runners behind me. The woodland is full of tree roots & can be muddy, but not this year as the sun shines down. Again, I remember once having a soft fall on this part of the course. At the end of the woodland it is just me & the sweeper together. The Holmfirth Harrier who is doing the sweep tells me he has won a race & back in the day used to feature in races. Then all of sudden 'bang', he falls down. I say, "Look at me, I’m being careful & I haven’t fallen. Maybe I should be helping you in carrying some of those flags."
The next part of the course is wider & I run along open fields with ferns growing to one side. The sweeper says to me, "If you continue at this speed there is no way you will be last, we are catching a few in front already." The catching-up was short lived as the rough came back & it was time for my walk break. It was a nice day to run. I was at a pace where I could wave to people in neighbouring houses & people out for a walk.
It was now time for the ascent. A hard road climb, I feel it could be time to control my breathing if I was to stand any chance of running up it. I have another walk break at the top of the hill. The sweeper says, "Think of the glory as you are running back into the field with the crowd watching." That is exactly what I did - for the last couple of minutes I managed to power along into the finish & climb back over the gate where the lads were tending to sheep at the bottom of the field. Apart from the sweeper I was 40th out of 40 in 43:31. Look at the clean sweep from Penistone with Tom Fryers, Richard Cottam and James Fryers the top 3. Former winner Mike Fanning finished 4th & 1st MV40.
The next day is a rest day. I decide to repeat my trip to Harden Moss to see the last day of sheepdog trialling. It is so warm. Walking back up from Meltham I join the track of the fell race into the showground that looks so parched & dry, resembling more the bush in Africa. The family entertainment doesn’t disappoint. Sunday morning is time for the tractor race & the sheep show. It is also supreme class on Sunday afternoon to decide who will be the Harden Moss sheepdog trials champion 2023. The final had me on the edge of my seat. The crowd soon came to learn of 2 local rivals, the competition between Alexander Wilkinson & Robert (Bobby) Thackeray. The crowd are hot but they are really enjoying the competition. There are 7 finalists & a few of the dogs run off the course so they are disqualified. It was Alex to come out on top over Bobby. Alex’s dog Grace was 1st, followed by Pip in 2nd. Bobby’s dog Molly was 3rd. Molly had been a big family favourite in winning the best-looking dog category on the Saturday. A brass band & a singer from Brighouse played to the crowd to round off the afternoon.
For all those who like something different I would really recommend the Harden Moss sheepdog trials & the James Blakely Fell Race. It will be back again in June 2024. [Owen Flage]