Let’s keep this short and sweet!
Penistone Footpath Runners, all my races this month have a focus. They’re club races and team events, that’s it. I need to calm down with racing, need to iron out a few niggles. And just simply run. I find myself at the minute, recovering from one race and straight away running myself into another race. It’s thick and fast, but never truly means I can give it my all in an event. I’m racing heavy, I’m running fatigued and I’ll never really chase a complete improvement whilst I’m tired! So my sole focus this month is the club races, the relays, the track and pulling on a Penistone vest.
Running is a solitary sport, it’s you, the road, tarmac, grass, trail, mud, fell, clouds or sand. It could be a lonely and a secret sport, completed in silence away from all the drama of everything else that life brings. In truth at times, it can be, it can be great for that. Although running can also bring, all you have to do is look, a team ethos, a spirit, a background and a motivational environment created by a team. It can truly help you thrive, sharing stories, sharing experiences, running together, training together for the cause of the team. Pulling on your club vest, toeing the line with all your teammates, aiming to run your heart out and legs off to achieve the best you can, as a team. The time, the training, that’s down to you, it’s a pure representation of everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve come from, to whatever you can churn out when the time comes. But your time, matters. It matters to everyone around you, everyone surrounding the team.
At Penistone at the minute, we’ve had a bit of a boom. We’ve had a few new runners, spurred on to join the club, possibly through the dam wall training sessions, possibly from others joining the club, possibly because they want to be a part of it. Existing runners, runners who have been members a while, they’ve also had a boom. They’ve trained, they’ve put the time and effort in, the dug in. Just to hold their place and represent their club, the best they possibly can. They’ve done it for personal fitness, health and goals. But they’re doing it for the team. The boundary at the weekend was the perfect example of that, The Joe Percy is to be another example. It’s a mass team event, invite only, typically for West Yorkshire clubs. However Penistone gets an invite, possibly because we’re on the border. We ran their last year, eventually ended up with the 3rd place team trophy. Shaun vowed that we’d enter a much stronger team this year. It’s about depth the team you enter, it’s about your first 10 men or women across the line to qualify for the team prize. Then they add up your positions to give you a team score. The lowest score, wins. Pretty simple. So you need as many runners as high up the field as possible. Last year a score of 285 won it and we achieved 329. It’s easy to judge on the line, your 10th runner back as it in the bag for you really. With it also being a club championship event for Penistone, plenty of runners were ready to pull on the vest. As well as the attraction of being involved in the team.
The race itself kicks off at 7:30, I got to Storthes Hall around 6.30 ish. Quickly got my big coat on, went to get my number from the well organised Simon Pike! Then back to the car to get it pinned on my vest, strange method of timing chips. A big bulky thing that is usually on an ankle strap to attach, but it was fastened on with wire instead to the laces. May pose some issues in the race! Back to the clubhouse anyway, quick warm up with Andy Heppenstall and Gary Briscoe. Spotted Scott whilst we was out as he was going to collect his number. Out and back on the first mile ish of the course, to trot back down the last mile ish of the course. Lovely! Back to the car for me, got my vest on, Vaselined my nips and jogged to the start. Intermittent downpours, foggy and generally crap weather. Hanging back at the front of Storthes Hall Hospital before making our way to the line. If anyone hasn’t ever heard of Storthes Hall Hospital, have a google! Looking around predicting who would be where for the Penistone Team, estimating our running order and ‘top 10.’ Potentially placing 12 runners in the top 10 selection, that’s also discounting plenty of runners who aren’t present that are capable of a sub 40 10k. Proud moment to see how far people have come.
Bouncing on the line, chatting with Scott trying to tell him about the course in some way. Whilst waiting to be shot by the starter. Counting us down whilst looking at his watch. Off we went, out on the rough path and straight into the climb. I quickly settled into 4th Place, with Scott out in front looking comfortable alongside Luc Burnip. I had Matthew Pierson from Stainland Lions in front of me. Never checked to see who was behind. Into the climb and heading towards Farnley Tyas, it’s a 2 lap course. Roughly uphill for 2/3’s of a lap and downhill for the last 1/3 before you go again. They’re rolling hills, not too steep but you definitely know they’re there! The rain had stalled for a moment, running on the standing water on the roads as it splashed up, felt refreshing for now. Settling into 4th, running for the moment quite comfortable. Through Farnley Tyas, beginning the sharpest bit of the climb. Up and around, before it levels out onto the flat. Didn’t glance at the watch, didn’t know my splits. I felt comfortable tonight, but I felt slow, didn’t feel too sharp or quick. Need to go quicker, downhill coming up, let the legs off and started to fly. Well maybe, one day! Scott was still battling it out with Luc out in front and I was some way off of Matt at this point. I saw him check his shoulder, I took it as a sign. Either a sign that he felt he was fading, or he felt that I was gaining on him. Maybe it wasn’t and maybe he just checked. Running on through, going past the junction we earlier emerged from to begin lap 2. Nice Strava segment got my first lap at 14:59, nearly a minute better than last year! I was adamant that I didn’t want pace to drop, I didn’t want to show fatigue. I maintained my pace the best I could onto the next lap. Found it a struggle after the downhill, feeling my body slouch and stumble momentarily to keep me going. Off I went, pursuing Matt, aiming to catch him by the end of Farnley Tyas. I began to make some ground, then he’d pull away some more. Both of us hugging the ‘racing line.’ Probably wasn’t. Ran through Farnley Tyas, wasn’t on his should he was about 10-15 metres out in front. I’d gained, but not enough. Then we began to climb, I kicked at the bottom the best I could. To grasp 3rd position, I couldn’t quite figure out if I had Scott or Luc in front of me. Onto the rolling flat now, digging in before having it all to do on the long downhill finish. Not quite as downhill as Meltham though! Glancing ahead, head held high. Timing chip began to feel loose, looking down, red shoes, red timing tag. Check again and again, to see if it’s still fully attached, I’d reinforced it with safety pins, just in case! Down hill now, banked around the bend. Long down hill. Kicking, driving, not a particular strong point of mine, running downhill. Working for it. Glanced at my watch now. Predicting myself to be mid 34’s. I only have time on the screen when racing, find it more useful, so I have to do the distance calculation myself or just guess. It is you against the clock after all. Splitting away from the lap, 15:03 for my 2nd lap. Only dropped by 4 seconds, not bad! On the steeper downhill, back towards the hospital, could see the marshals for the turn ahead. Took it and onto the finish line, crossing in:
Not a bad effort, and now we stop, we turn. We count. Counting the Penistone Runners over the line, Scott had taken 2nd. Next to cross was the 2nd best Briscoe, Gary; in 7th Place 34:58, a PB for him! Next up was the improving Andrew Heppenstall, followed by Shaun Dimelow and closely followed by Lee Nash. We had 6 runners home, Stadium and Stainland quickly had 5. Now we was predicting who would be next for us, we needed 4 more. Clock watching anticipating 4 more under 40 minutes. Lee Storey was the 7th, with the vet 55 following him, Andrew Pearson. Damien Briscoe jogged home to be our 9th runner, we had it all on the last man. Stadium now had 8, we was on 9. Counting shirts, counting bodies. People throwing up, people swaying, collapsing, leaving everything out there! Bryan appeared on the road as we began to shout him home, sub 40 on the cards. We had run a relatively similar course on Monday, probably less challenging though on Monday. 39:46, Bryan was home, our 10th man. We managed 212 points tonight. A bit of an improvement on our 329 from the year before.
Off for a cool down I went, jogging back to the car, getting dry, nips didn’t bleed, bonus! Got dry and changed, then made my way to the clubhouse, starving with a protein drink in hand. Had a packet of crisps, from the food that was laid on for us, stomach is not a fan of bread so didn’t eat the sandwich. Then stood chatting with all the Penistone Runners and other runners from other clubs, recognisable faces, including ‘Pork Pie Guy’ from the Boundary or his formal name, Tom Shelton.
Posed for a team photo with the remaining folk, taken by the legend that is Bridget Coomber (who by the way is a vet 55, and ran a 40:51, outstanding). Anyway, apparently Hepp had to leave because of Love Island and Nasher had to leave because of work, Andy Pearson got a lift with Nasher. Scott comes, he races (and races well) and he goes, like a ghost!
We hung around some more until the presentation, as the women were called first. Our women’s team had also pulled it out of the bag, exceptionally, to collect the 3rd place trophy. We ended up with that last year, so it could be their turn in a years time as well.
Then we waited with the famous Jordan Henderson, aka Gary Briscoe to collect ours. The organisers referring to Shaun’s vow, to bring a stronger team. Next year, we’ll be even stronger!
That we did. Hopefully we’ll be back here again, quality event, quality field. And well organised.
Reflection on the race makes you realise how far the team has come, how far we’ve got to go, none of us are at our absolute best right now. We’ve more to give, we’re using each other to get there, stronger together and all that. We’re motivating, competing, pushing and driving each other forwards, hoping and dreaming of reaching the next goal. Continuously developing, improving and moving forwards, putting one step in front of the other, together. We’ve more runners, a lot more than the 10, there is the rest who ran exceptional performances outside the 10, there is the countless number of runners who weren’t present on the night, all capable of posting fast times and capable of being a part of the top 10. It’s a fantastic place to be, and great to be a part of it. It can only get better.
Running can be a solitary sport, yes you’re right. But are you?
That’s all folks, was that short and sweet?
Just Keep Running…