The Barnsley Boundary Relay

Also known as the annual nettle fest.

The Barnsley Boundary Relay, a race and a route I known and love all too well. I’ve run it in the dark, in the winter, a part of long training runs. Appreciating everything the route has to offer. The views and sights when you’re dragging your backside up the snow road usually with some gale force wind, glancing back over towards the town from Brierley in the dead of night seeing nothing but lights, or standing on the top of Wharncliffe Crags at sunrise having the view straight up the valley. I’ve experienced it, I know it, I’ve trodden it.

2017. That was the year, that was the Barnsley Boundary. I’d set myself the challenge of running it all, all of it, in one day. 24 hours to do it all, I’d hoped to be much faster than that. Of course! I put it out there, set the date. A date now, that I’ll never forget. The 4th of June 2017. It started though, way before that. The dead of winter, the dark nights and the short days. In preparation for running the boundary and a bit of a club together with a few of the people I run with and know. I’d set a bit of a calendar up, running each leg. At least twice, with the headtorches on. Memories were made and friendships formed. Dragging Mark Yates most Tuesdays around the sights, as we slipped and slid around the town. Whether it was the thousand cow eyes at Bretton, the massive dogs that bit us on the legs, getting lost in some woods and Mark screaming because his bum bag was tickling him. Tripping and falling on the Langsett Track, or Mark ripping his leggings at the beginning of ‘leg 3.’ Getting lost somewhere in the woods around The Dell, heckled by teenagers in Thurnscoe, ourselves killing Bryan in the middle of a Sunday long run where I clocked 30 mile. Those are that, all memories, fond memories of the boundary. June the 4th came around, the magnitude of what we was about to do hasn’t really sunk in. Not until the 5.45 wake up on the Sunday morning. Naturally myself being a tad late and arriving at the start of Leg 5 for 6.35. Not bad!

Lovely crisp morning, shaping up to be a nice day! Phil Hinchliffe and Robin Clough, said from the outset that they were going to try and conquer it all. Everyone else was along for the ride, with their own particular goals. Looking to conquer it all, if they could. No pressure, just enjoying the day. We were off, starting on the flat leg 5. With the thinking that we get all climb done in the first half, with the final major hill done around leg 2. The sun was out, the legs were great. Conservatively Running Leg 5 in a steady pace, the pace that was just enough to keep us going. Being mindful that we had plenty of running left to do. Getting into a rhythm and banter flying. Managing to reach the end right on time, then the part began. The end of leg 5 and the beginning of 6. A vision of how the day was going to end up, arriving to a crowd of people. Willing people, people ready to go. Still early, still crisp. Ready to take on the crags. Steady away, walking the climbs, conservative enough. Chatting, enjoying, running our way, staying as a pack, stronger together. Focussed determined. Getting chased by cows up the long field, having the view up the valley from the top, flying on the trail. Enjoying it our way. Arriving at Wortley cantering in alongside a horse, Phil eventually jumping on the back as we had our snack.

On our way, got stuck in a rut a bit on the langsett trail path, going a little too quick, losing sight of everything we’ve got left to do. Single file, banter had began to pause and we’d gone a bit silly. Quickly rained back in and calmed ourselves down. Reaching Langsett eventually. Car boot full of food, everyone who had joined in, gave us some stuff, people had donated stuff during the week when they saw me. We were stuff, the most fed people in town! Got lost a bit as we left Langsett, managing to catch up to Robin and Phil somewhere on the snow road.

Enjoying ourselves, the peak of our run, the highest point. On the Woodhead. Topless, a light drizzle, taking it all in our stride. Looping out and around, navigating the fells. Everyone in, in it together. Back towards Winscar and then the main bit of climbing was to come. With tired legs and reaching the half way point.

Comfortable and running confidently, we lost a couple of people but gained a couple of people along the way. We still had Mark, Lee, Robin and Phil. Who had been with me from the beginning, Jonathan and Bryan called it a day after running way more than they ever expected! Leg 9, we began to toe towards the end, the climbs had hit us, Phil came into his element, draining his phone battery as he came up with ‘entertainment’ aiding us up the Hepworth ascent. Snail jokes and Robin’s sheep story came to the front. Damien joined in and helped us with navigation along the route.

Keeping our morale high and energy buzzing, we was anticipating a big turn out at The George, we definitely wasn’t wrong! The pull of a pint got people there, got people ready to go. The best gooey brownies met us as well!

Pretty much all downhill from here, ish! We had the major bit out of the way, and knew we hadn’t too long to go. It was a countdown, my training buddy, Mark, began to fade towards the end of leg 10. As he expected, I personally knew he could go all the way. If he wanted to. But at this point he was close to home. Lee also dropped out at Cannon Hall, he had work! Plenty of people were ready and waiting, peak of the day, and loads of people out recce’ing their own legs ready for the relay the following week.

Just bodies and runners everywhere, ready to join in and carry us! A small climb followed as we steadied our bodies, marching to the top. In and out of the woods, not chased by cows this time. We knew the route, we knew it well. I myself began to struggle at the end of leg 1, a momentary lapse. Had a quiet word with myself in the toilet at the sculpture park, reminding myself why I was doing this. Ready to tackle legs 2, 3 and 4. Jill Carlton and Andy Hepp came along to aid with guidance, Craig Allen joined in, having just arrived back from holiday. He probably ran a lot more than he expected! We was on our way home. Only the truly flat legs left, ish. The magic of the boundary got us around.

Having a laugh and sticking to our plans, pace about right. Regular food breaks and banter at an all time high.

Leg 3 was out last leg as a group, we stopped at the end near pheonix park, had some food. Eager and our eyes set on the task at hand. Team Barnsley at it absolutely finest throughout the whole day. Leg 4 came, I was keen to set off.

So didn’t stop for food and carried on through, eyes set on the goal. I’d regret doing that later! Marking the way with rocks and making tracks in the mud, just in case Robin and Phil would get lost later. They weren’t too far behind and had people who knew the way. I took a belly slide on the path going through old moor, tripping on a tree stump and bruising my toe! Ouch. Then turning, 400 metres left of the challenge. Nursed home but the last few miles were 8 minute miles, so not too shabby, given the miles that had come before. Then I crossed the line, or the toilet roll tape!

Just as the sun began to set on what had been an unbelievable day. Full of memories and full of running. Full of Team Barnsley.

Then I was nursed back to the car and focusing on running another day.

That was the day, that was the memory. That was Team Barnsley at its finest, everyone running, joining in. Everyone supporting, that was the Barnsley Boundary. That was the love of boundary.

Would I do it all again?

In a heart beat!

Anyway, onto the relay. One aim this weekend, run and don’t get lost! I’d opted for leg 9, a personal favourite and a leg I’ve run every year I’ve been a member of Penistone. A beastly climb, front ended by some off-road trail and backended largely by rolling downhill/uphill road. A 10.5 mile leg, one of the long ones. As a team this year, we had a target. The target was to get around in 7:54 or quicker. That’s 7 hours and 54 minutes, a course record set by Barnsley AC, some years ago. On a dry day and the conditions in our favour, beating the course record would seem like it was in our control. With all the Penistone runners improving massively over the last year or so, along with some new athletes that have joined the club. The boundary always brings a bit of drama on the day, with people following and tracking the progress of the runners. Gaining information from how people have gotten on, on their own leg. First up for our team was the ever improving Gary Briscoe, who managed to win his leg. His first ever race win, should I say. To say where he has come from in the past year and to witness it, has been great! From struggling to keep up on a leg 9 recce last year, to now targeting a sub 2:45 marathon. Which is completely in his hands. Then next for us was the race horse, Scott Hinchcliffe, on leg 2, again managing to win his leg by 6 minutes or so! Astonishing. Andy Heppenstall was on leg 3, a leg he has run for a good few years. Another runner who has improved massively in the last few months, he pulled it out of the bag on the day and won his leg as well. I believe the first time he has done so. Kieron Reed was on 4, tough 4, racing Darren Middleton, possibly one of the most natural athletes in the area. So Kieron had massive competition. He held his own and held out for 2nd place, not losing time on Darren and performing exactly as expected! Lee Nash was on 5, racing Michael Grain from the harriers and Hugh Mackie who was running for another Penistone team. Lee has finally taken the plunge and joined the club, so it was his first experience of racing the boundary. A tough task! He managed 3rd place, and competed on a strong leg, against strong runners! Leg 6, possibly the toughest natural leg of them all. Joe Sweetnam-Powell another new club addition, who has joined to compete for us on the track and some road stuff. A strong runner off-road and comfortable. Managing to pip Brendan Moody to the post and taking 1st place. Leg 7, Kai Sunman was up. A particularly fast leg I think, Kai should be strong on there. That he was, again clocking another 1st for Team Penistone. All the action followed before I made the journey up for my leg. Leg 8 followed, up and out onto Woodhead. Possibly the worst leg of the day. Jon Waller was running for us, a quality fell runner and should suit him to a tee! Windy, rainy, blustery. Crap. Kimberworth led home, that’s all I saw. But Jon would follow in 2nd place! We was waiting at our leg, cold and freezing. Hiding in cars and the back of a van.

Photographer- Jerry Fischer

Ready to go! Alan Ford has run the leg a few times for the harriers, Daren Nockels another Penistone runner has also run the leg a few times for us. Josh Bird was also toeing the line, along with Stuart Wilson who was running the leg for the council. Dan Hayward from Kingstone and Johnny Ridge was also running from Denby Dale, all who are class runners that I know about locally. Lee Storey who has recently come to the front and began to improve rapidly was also running the leg another Penistone team.

Soon we found ourselves on the line and being told to ‘GO!’ That we did, straight out and climbing up towards Flight Hill. Cutting the field and over on to the top. You can only get wet, once. We was soaked! I had kicked out the blocks, using the road sections to my advantage, I opted for road shoes. I’d regret the decision off-road but in the second half of the race, should hopefully be an advantage!

Flew down rubble lane, holding a lead, but now hitting the off-road. Was alright until we hit the field, slowed. As I slipped and slid my way down, not great but it’s just about getting through it. Up and around the edges of the field, as Daren Nockels flew past. He knew he’d made a better shoe choice for this stuff. We hit the road going into Hepworth again, then I went on by him. Only to be passed again on the off-road. I knew the climb was coming up though and I knew I’d come into my element above and beyond the climb. I was biding my time until then. We hit the waterlogged trail at the bottom, Daren out in front. Confidently smashing the trail. I was making ground on him and passed at the bottom of the climb. I told him well done, hopefully I’ve got it from here. Working my way up, steadily and surely. Proper steep! Crossing the road, entering the field and getting out of it as quick as the hill would allow. Now I’m into my race, onto the road. Destination somewhere around Ingbirchworth, I knew the racing lane on the grass just off of Hey Slack Lane, so that wasn’t a worry! I got myself into a rhythm and stuck to it, coasting and feeling like I was flying. Going for it, and using my shoe choice to my advantage now. Cars passing by and telling me information or the distance between me and the runners behind. Phil Hinchliffe holding a bottle of water out of his truck. Down towards Ingbirchworth, small tough climb out, made tougher by the fact we’d been going downhill for so long. Into the fields again, feeling better on this field though. Towards the road, met by some cows as I raced towards the gate. Crossed the field and made my way to the post, only to be met by cows in the following field. Who was stood at the gate. I’m experienced a bit better with cows now, so started clapping and shouting bang at the top of my voice. They soon mooooooved. Sludgey field is no good in road shoes though. 3/4 of a mile to go, through the hogweed and covering myself in all the petals and leaves!

Photographer- David Needham

Out onto the main road and down towards The George Pub. No brownies this time, a crowd of people though. A crowd ready to go, ready to start their own story and advantage on leg 10. Tagging them and off they went! Shaun Dimelow was the runner for us, Captain Shaun, Agent Shaun, Coach Shaun. A man with a passion and that passion is to run, leading us home to a win himself. Showing us how it is done. We had managed the best performance for Team Penistone in the Barnsley Boundary. However we hadn’t managed to break the record, we was 1 minute shy. Clocking 7:55, in awful conditions! Not bad, but it definitely is one of those… what if?

Barnsley Boundary Results

Went home, finally, got a shower, legs were stinging, nettles. Got a bath, scrubbed my legs some more. Probably got all the skin off! Still itching though. Went for food and then up to the presentation to see everyone, talk about the days adventure. Find out information from all the people running and talk about training! Then we waited for the results, Steve Dickinson, got up and presented the teams with their trophies. Our team collecting the 1st senior men’s trophy, announcing here that we was a minute shy of the record! But it’s not about that. All you have to do is look around and see how far each individual runner has come in the past year, since last year’s boundary. It’s astonishing, whether it’s Gary Briscoe’s Fat to Fast, Scotts journey to even Faster, Andy’s win on leg 3, Kieron’s consistent performances and improvement through injury, Lee’s joining a club and running through injury to clock a marathon PB, Joe’s transfer to the light side, Kai’s exceptional performances and welcoming to the Penistone group, Jon Wallers battles on the fells and Shaun’s motivation and determination driving us all, proving it to himself that it can still be done.

It is the Barnsley Boundary and each club, each team and each individual will have their own story. Their own triumphs and successes that we’ve all been a part of, that is Team Barnsley, that is running. All of us can only get stronger, all of us can only get better. It is so great to see! All made possible and underpinned by the beating heart of volunteers, marshals and organisers who many go unnoticed and unrecognised in the background. Thank you!

Just Keep Running!

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