No more than 2 miles into this 19.3 mile race and I’d fallen flat on my face three times on the very first steep and muddy descent to the first reservoir. The omens weren’t looking good as I knew there would be many treacherous descents to come. My feet were being sucked into the waterlogged peat and the tough heather scraped and scuffed at shins and running shoes. Roger and myself were the only Harriers doing this race and were now, slopping and stumbling about, trying to keep some sort of momentum going on the next section into a brutal headwind with driving rain. I wonder why I’d waited 18 years to return to the Trog since my first attempt in 2004, my only memory was the 5 mile second smaller loop with energy-sapping tussocks. It’s a pretty bleak and featureless landscape on a nice Summer’s day, but today was something else. I’m so glad I opted for thicker running gear, longer leggings and my extra warm mountain cap; only the top runners (or foolhardy) were wearing shorts on a day like today!

I must say the local cricket team clubhouse above Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, hadn’t had much money spent on it in the last eighteen years and was basic but functional. The weather forecast on the whiteboard didn’t help to lighten my spirits: rain, wind then becoming heavy rain and strong wind later. However, the fresh vegetables being prepared for the home-made soup afterwards was something worth looking forward to in our special 30th anniversary mugs. I ended up thinking of this soup most of the way round the course.

Today was a matter of getting your head down and surviving, getting the job done; this is good Haworth Hobble training; some of the route covered part of the Hobble course. I had no expectations for today’s race but was happy to treat it as a training run. The remote farmsteads with their solid and blackened gritstone walls were looking just as grim as the weather and featureless countryside, each with a collection of farmyard junk lying about. God who would choose to live out here? The friendly and rosy-cheeked face of Colin Valentine suddenly appeared to lighten the mood and shout encouragement. Some of you may know Colin, out walking his scruffy farm collie.

It felt like the weather was improving for a moment with the wind at my back, only for hopes to be dashed when turning into the wind again and into the relentless driving rain; my mountain cap was a wise choice and was working well with the little peak helping to keep the driving race off my face. Next familiar landmark was the remote ruins of Withins farmhouse high up on the moor.  We were on the Haworth Hobble route now and ten miles in. Then came a series of nasty, narrow step sections, typical of the area and made up of twisted miss-placed and eroded gritstone cobbles, thankfully this section was steeply uphill and could only be walked. Bang! What the hell……I’d headbutted a big low branch over the narrow ginnel. No damage done but bet I’m not the only one to hit this! I was waiting for a horrible descent and didn’t have to wait long but gingerly made my way to the bottom okay.

The second road crossing wasn’t far now and marked the end of the first 14 mile large lap but was the start of the second 5 mile small loop section I’d remembered from last time. This was really brutal now and battling into the head-wind and driving rain, Roger had caught me up. We were both surprised to see each other. Roger was moving fluently and I couldn’t be bothered to try to stick with him. Well done Roger, vet 60 record holders but wouldn’t beat his time on a day like today! A small flock of Golden plover flew past; hardy little birds, and they live up here, this weather is nothing to them. The thought of those already finished enjoying the lovely homemade soup kept me going; I would be enjoying the soup too very soon.

I wondered why a group of runners weren’t moving in the distance. It soon became clear as they were struggling to help one poor runner who was clearly suffering from hypothermia. I stopped to help him zip his jacket up and offer my foil survival bag; I noticed he was only wearing shorts and hadn’t managed to get his gloves on. There was no reaction from this poor soul, but I was relieved to see him later at the finish, having been helped off the moor to a marshal’s car. He was well wrapped up and being looked after at the clubhouse.

At last the little path started to drop away and off this evil place, and I was glad to be descending to humanity and the view of buildings, knowing that it couldn’t be too far to go, surely.  Another horrible descent down a very narrow ginnel with broken and miss-placed cobbles ready to trip the unwary followed, but was negotiated carefully. However, I knew that there would be a long uphill finish and this was a struggle, just hanging onto a small group of runners which seemed to take ages. I was glad I’d taken some salt tablets earlier, as the series of stiles near the end wouldn’t have helped if that horrible feeling of cramp was nagging at my calves.

I wasn’t going to sprint round the cricket pitch to catch the runner in front, and I was done. That lovely soup tasted so good in my shiny new mug! The top runners were all dressed and chatting away, just a stroll for them.

For the record, Roger finished in 3:43, and I finished in 3:50, but times didn’t matter on a day like today.

Would I do it again? Maybe just maybe……on a nice day.

Next race, the Hobble, only 13 miles further!

John Osborne

Birkrigg Common KWL #4 Race Report
 
We had our fingers crossed for a better day weather-wise than back in 2020 (I’m told it was extremely wet, wild & windy!) and thankfully we got it. Conditions were pretty good underfoot on Sunday on Birkrigg Common.
 
An impressive 18 juniors ran on Sunday, the majority of them taking part in the first race of the day. It was wonderful to see a sea of 13 green vests within the running pack of 68 racers!
The U11/13 race started with a stampede across the common followed by a runnable climb up to the turn at the trig point, then a long sloping descent before turning back down a steep incline on to the common for a sprint finish. The U15 race was similar but longer and had an additional loop once the trig point was reached.
 
Results
U11 Girls
Lucy – 12th
Edie H – 14th
Amelie – 15th
Edie A – 16th
This group are always full of smiles! It’s so great to see young athletes really enjoying their chosen sport! Lucy lead the way looking thoroughly focused, Edie H, Amelie & Edie A ran together throughout, supporting and challenging one another as they ran confidently back to the finish line.
 
U11 Boys
James – 7th
Stanley – 15th
William – 18th
This group were all on fine form with James confidently leading the way followed by Stanley & William who looked determined and strong as they ran down the hill towards the finish.
 
U13 Girls
Francesca – 9th
Francesca looked superb as she raced around the course running alongside the U13 boys and showing the younger runners a great example of drive and determination!
 
U13 Boys
Ewan – 8th
Carl –
Thomas – 14th
Ethan –
Harry – 20th
This group look stronger and more focused every time I see them run! Ewan led the way confidently and determinedly, followed by Carl & Thomas who looked to be on excellent form. Super effort from Ethan & Harry who both finished well.
 
U15 Girls
Lucy – 3rd
Lucy had an amazing run yet again this week, she looked powerful as she raced up the hill and had lots of energy left to zoom down again and sprint back to the finish.
 
U15 Boys
Jack – 1st
Robbie – 9th
Mack – 19th
Charlie – 23rd
Jack looked focused and strong as he approached the trig point, then gained a good lead as he returned down the course to finish with another impressive win. Robbie had an excellent run looking confident and determined throughout. Mack’s sprint finishes are awesome to watch, he easily overtook an Ambleside runner on the last stretch (there had been quite a significant gap between the two of them coming down the hill) and looked really strong as he crossed the line. Charlie looked to be enjoying his race as he confidently ran back down the slope towards the finish.
 
Well done to everyone who took part on Sunday, you gave it your all and the way in which you supported and encouraged your fellow athletes was heartening to watch! 💚🏃🏃‍♀️
The next KWL race is Barbon on 13th February. Looking at the course description, this is a steep one!