Ilkley Moor Fell Race

Sunday 18th February

A surprisingly pleasant February morning saw me rock up in Ilkley for the race.

My race diary (yes, sad I know!) tells me this is the 13th time since 1998 I have entered it. Nothing much changes, an absolute mud-bath of a course. The first mile up to the Cow and Calf rocks is the usual bottleneck with gnarly runners with their sharpened elbows trying to manoeuvre past slower runners (like me, I guess).

Despite running the course many times, the steep, rocky descent down to the bridge at Backstone Beck fills me with dread, one slip or trip either here or in Rocky Valley which is a bit further on and you will undoubtedly end up a bruised and bloodied mess. We received a buff with the race map printed on it for our efforts and it told me that the Crocodile Rock is situated in the aforementioned Rocky Valley, can’t say I had ever noticed it before but I have heard Elton John singing about it many times.

The section from Keighley gate back to the finish was a struggle to stay on your feet with the muddy, steep descent and those pesky bramble bushes conveniently placed just for you to fall into. For comedy value I lost my shoe in the mud 100 metres from the finish line and finished carrying it over the line!

As is tradition on Ilkley race day we enjoyed an afternoon pub crawl and I am pleased to report, many fine pubs now exist in the town, where as in days gone by the place was a bit of a desert for decent boozers.

John F had a good run, whilst we can gloss over what kind of run I had.

Lots of pics on the Woodentops site.

— Dave Beston

Windy Hill

A very wet and windy affair at Windy Hill Fell Race

I decided to cross the border into the Greater Manchester/Lancashire area to do this category B Medium fell race 9 miles/1281 ft. I fancied a change from the Dales and the Lakes and I didn’t encounter any traffic problems during the 50 minute drive on the M62.

The registration was at Littleborough Rugby Club down the road from the pretty setting of Hollingworth Lake and country park, near Rochdale. There was a strict kit check which revealed that my trusty but hardly ever used Montane trousers were only windproof and not taped at the seams which meant no run unless I could borrow a pair. It was frustrating because they were only going to stay in my kit bag but I understood organisers’ concerns about runners’ safety and potential hypothermia. Panicking, I spent about 20 minutes wandering around the rugby club trying to borrow trousers from other runners, then an angel in the form of John McDonald from Trawden A.C. lent me his spare pair which saved me a wasted trip back to Leeds. Next running purchase will be a pair of taped seamed waterproof trousers!

There was a healthy turnout of runners despite the atrocious weather and lots of comments on the start line about what else would we be doing on a Saturday morning, from watching cooking programmes on TV to lazy lie-ins. The latter being my preference. Even trudging round the White Rose Centre felt appealing as we stood in the mud-sodden field with the rain lashing down. These conditions more or less stayed the same throughout the race.

The front runners dashed off whilst I went out steady, unsure of my fitness for the distance and climbs. I expected a hilly start as you do in fell races but after leaving Littleborough rugby field we ran along a runnable track until we went over the first bridge crossing of the M62. We would later cross over and under several motorway bridges during the race which felt strange for a fell race. Fortunately I like a race with variety! I didn’t have much of an idea where I was running and followed the pack as usual. I thought I was in Lancashire but another runner commented that the race was mainly in Greater Manchester and that Saddleworth used to be in Yorkshire before the boundary changes in the 1970s. I couldn’t see too far ahead of me because of the clag and you couldn’t on avoid getting soaked to the skin, with a cutting wind in your face. At one point I couldn’t blink and thought I might have lost one of my contact lenses. In a masochistic way I settled into being uncomfortably comfortable. I know what I mean.

I was surprised how runnable the route was as we ran along some of the Pennine Way, a climb up the old Roman Road up to Blackstone Edge, another motorway bridge, a hard muddy and boggy slog up to Windy Hill mast, then an undulating path and along the Rochdale Way, then the usual scattering of runners running around or through crater like puddles, icy rocks before the descent, along more muddy filled tracks, under another motorway bridge, a fast runnable rocky path and back into the rugby field to the finish.

The race was well marshalled and flagged so it would have been difficult to go wrong en route, although I’ve learnt anything can happen in a fell race when the wind and rain are blurring your vision and you have got your head down! It was very runnable and the climbing manageable which suited me as I have been doing a few Park runs for speed work and hadn’t been running long distances or doing much hill work. I think a bit of cycling, gym work and swimming helped me tackle the tricky icy, wet, muddy underfoot conditions as I felt stronger as the race went on.

I would definitely do the race again and it was suitable for anyone who hasn’t done many fell races or who is making the transition from trail and road to fell running. There were a lot of fast times and good performances, particularly from some of the female vets. I was second in my age group but a good 12 minutes behind first place F50. It was good to see Karen Pickles, now running for Pudsey and Bramley AC, finishing third woman and 1st F45, taking home a couple of nice long-sleeve running tops. I had my eye on the bumper size Toblerones….  maybe next time!

At £12 EOD or £10 pre entry it seemed pricier than the usual fell race but there was an extensive prize list and 5 year age group prizes. There was also chip timing which I assume adds to the cost but results were speedily available once you crossed the finish line.

I’m looking forward to crossing the Lancashire/Greater Manchester border in the future.

Sharon Williams

Winner Shaun Godsman M45 CVFR 1.01.57
1st woman Alice Swift F Chorlton Runners 1.16.33
121 Sharon Williams 2nd F50 NLFR 1.37.47
203 finishers
The race was organized by Cannonball Events, full results here.

Images by Paul Taylor. Full gallery available here.

Rombald Stride 2018

We had four runners complete the Rombald Stride on Saturday February 4. Congratulations to Phil Livermore, who won it with a magnificent time of 2:58. In any conditions that would be a superb result, but even more so given pretty constantly falling snow and very sloppy stuff underfoot for many miles. Here is Phil’s race report:

Although not really a fell race (strictly it’s a long walk event but half the entrants seem to run) it has all the hallmarks of a traditional event : plenty of mud, some hills and even a pie at the end.

After beginning in Guiseley, the route takes you up over Baildon Moor, around a complete loop of Ilkley moor and then up, down and up again on the Chevin before a descent to where you began 23 miles earlier.

The conditions this year were cold and damp , drizzle at low levels and snow on the tops. Probably rather cold for walking, and certainly cold for the marshals who braved the conditions to support the event.

Several runners from North Leeds turned out, including myself. After running it last year and not being particularly “at the front”, I was somewhat surprised to find myself in first place at White Wells on Ilkley moor, about 15 miles into the course. I was glad that I had thoroughly revised the route as it is not flagged and had no-one to follow. I must have paced all of it well too, as my energy levels didn’t crash at the bottom of the Chevin as they had done the previous year. This was probably made possible by the power of  cheese and pickle sandwiches! (A tip from Jack Wood.)

As a trophy I was presented with a whisky decanter. Now I just need to try it out…

(No, he didn’t get to take home all those rice puddings.)

Marmot Dark Mountains – Forest of Bowland

This event has been on my radar for a few years now, after having failed to make the start line a few years ago due to injury, and it’s taken me about 18 months post hip surgery to be confident enough to take something like this on. It’s been fascinating to hear stories from previous years about the challenging conditions that only a night mountain marathon in the depths of winter is sure to bring, so hopefully you’ll find this one interesting too.

I was joined by fellow Roundhay Runner and ultra-running legend Pete Wilkie. We had entered the Long Score class, which gave us 10 hours to find as many checkpoints as possible, starting at 9pm on Saturday night. Not really knowing how either of us would hold up over the distance and not having raced together before, we agreed that the night would be a success if we nailed the navigation and kept moving as consistently as possible throughout.

I’ll spare you a long essay about the full night and instead I thought I’d provide you with a five line summary and an annotated map of our route.

  1. Jogged up a road
  2. Slogged up a hill, contoured through some heather, descended through some heather, disappeared into a stream, slogged into the wind. Repeat
  3. Put on a warmer layer and some waterproof trousers
  4. Repeat step 2
  5. Ran down a road a bit more quickly

(If you click on the map, you should be able to see it in high res in a new window)

Finishing with just 5 seconds to spare at around 7am, we ate a very welcome cooked breakfast and had a bit of a nap. As the sun rose and the finishers from most of the linear courses came in it was finally time for prize giving. With the top runners battling it out on Elite, we were happy to sneak into first place in the Long Score. Huge congratulations to anyone that made it round any course!

So I guess technically that leaves us leading the British Championships, perhaps it’s time to look at going to Scotland for the LAMM? Anyone else fancy heading up?

Thanks to Shane and team for hosting the Marmot Dark Mountains. We’ll be back.


Trigger: Sunday 14th January

Wow, what a race! It’s an epic. A whole sheet of an OS map! And a race for the older person: more than 60% of runners were over 40. Place names like Pudding Real Moss, Soldiers Lump, Shining Clough Moss, Old Woman, Wool Pack, Fox Holes to name a few. What more could I want?  So, a run from Marsden to Edale, taking in the trig points at Black Hill, Higher Shelf Stones and Kinder Low.  Straight line measurement is 20 miles but actually around 24 miles with 4000 ft of climbing.

I first ran the race in 2015 and what stood out was the amount of navigation choices to make, the cold and the often poor visibility.  This year I really wanted to nail the route and be confident and ready for the clag, and if all going well perhaps make up a few places with some choice navigation.  I trained throughout October, November and December exploring different lines and establishing bearings.  Some beautiful, snowy and cold outings; returning back across the moors by torchlight.  Fantastic.

So we (Caroline, Dave, Anthony and I) arrived at an already heaving Marsden cricket club at 7:30am.  Kit check, some chit chat and then at 8:30am set off on our way by Nicky Spinks.  The first 10 miles or so over Black Hill down to Crowden were fine.  There was a spring in mine and everyone else’s step.

However, heading up to Lawrence Edge someone said to me “oh the race … it starts now”.  True words. As soon as I get to the top of the Edge, stinging cramp got me.  Very disappointing.  This meant from there on I had to take it steady across Shining Clough Moor.  All that training and sorting my lines out!  Let alone the fact the visibility was absolutely clear and the check points were marshalled by Woodhead Mountain Rescue people all wearing bright red.  There were moments when I felt a touch, I’m ashamed to say, hard-done-by.

Heading from Snake Pass the race goes off the Pennine Way to the site of an old plane crash, which required 20 minutes of trudging through the heather.  I did notice though some people make it look easy.  I could only look on in my just-cramping-trudging state.  After that, the race goes around the edge of Kinder to the Kinder Low trig.  Along this section it became bitterly cold, with frost blown grass, a luminescent fog down below and a lot fewer people around.  Quite eerie.  I needed to stop behind some rocks to get more clothes on and my hands were so cold I needed to ask a passer-by to pull my zip up.  At Kinder Low there is a choice of continuing on the high route around Kinder or on the low route along the Edale valley.  I continued along the high route and as the end neared picked up some energy and finally dropped down from below Grindslow Knoll chatting with another runner into Edale. Miraculously my cramp had disappeared.  All good.

Soup and cake in the village hall with the prize giving and finally to the Ramblers Arms for warmth, catching up and hot chocolate.

Winner 3:28, Anthony 33rd 4:26, Dave 85th 5:09, me 138th 5:47, Caroline 161th  6:17 and 173 finishers.

Alan Hirons


Peco Race 4 Middleton Park 21 January 2018

On a snowy January Sunday morning I made my way to Middleton Park for the 4th race in the PECO XC series with fellow NLFRs Matt John and Ian Furlong.  With the club not being part of this series, Matt was running as a guest in his first race in over year after his hip op, whilst Ian and I were running for our second claim clubs, Roundhay and Abbey.

The PECO series is incredibly popular and over 700 senior runners set off in the staggered men’s and women’s races. The course was fast, undulating and very muddy. Great speed work for the fells.

Matt was ninth overall, having stated beforehand that he would be taking it steady….With three weeks more training until race 5, he will be pushing for a win. Ian was happy with 54th and is getting stronger with each run. I was delighted to get 74th after so much time out over the past year with injury.

Roll on the Northerns at Harewood House this Saturday (27th January) with NLFRs Phil, Richard and myself running a 12k course and pretending that we should be in the same race as some of the best runners in North England.

–Dominic Nurse

Matt with Abbeys Jim Whitaker, John Ward and James Franklin

Stanbury Splash

14 January 2018, 1200ft  (BM)

This was a strange race this year as it was the first one not organised by Dave / Eileen Woodhead aka Woodentops. It was first  hosted in June 1984 apparently.   However, the registration was as efficient as ever, the race start was the usual mass gathering 300 metres in front of the official start line followed by the stampede out of the quarry.  I did miss Dave W shouting “get back you lot, get back”.

For me it was a tester to see if my two weeks of regular running and swimming had done anything to my fitness levels. Two weeks earlier I did what I call “died on my ass” at Auld Lang Syne and was blowing by the time I hit the Beck, ended up crawling the last few miles.  To my surprise this time I felt better all the way round and even managed to locate my gears for a sprint finish.

As most of you will know, Penistone Country Park comes with its own micro-climate and weather conditions can be harsher than the underfoot conditions.  However, the weather was kind and visibility good.  The route was the true “splash route” and was certainly splashy underfoot in parts especially over Sladen Beck and around Ponden Kirk.

Anyway, back to the race, I just avoided getting lapped by the race leaders but did manage to see that it was Ian Holmes who was in the lead at the passing point near Birch Brink. However, Jack Wood took the win overall in a time of 45.44, with Ian coming 2nd,  1st Vet and 1st MV50 in 46.04, Robin Howe 3rd.  The women’s race was won by Ruby Sykes in 54.38, with Annie Roberts 2nd and Jo Buckley in 3rd.  Wharfedale took the Men’s team prize and Todmorden took the Women’s.

As for NLFR we were down in numbers due to this race clashing with the Ilkley Skyline presentation event.  However, Andrew Byrom did 1.17 followed by me in 1.22, much improved from ALS.  Onwards and upwards for 2018.

Jenny Cooper

The Stoop

I’ve not run a fell race since June, due to focussing on the Dublin Marathon. So it was great to get back out on the moors. I drove over with Jenny Cooper and a friend from Pudsey Pacers. The forecast wasn’t great and on arrival the sheet ice on the car park gave an indication of what the course would be like.

Because of the ice, the route had been changed to a 4.2 out and back around the Stoop stone. I was a bit disappointed with this but it gave an opportunity to watch the leaders coming back down the hill as I was going up. The conditions made for tough running especially on the track from the road which was sheet ice the whole way and made runners stick to the verge, this spread the field out quite a bit as passing was virtually impossible.

My complete lack of hill training showed and it was slow progress up the hill. I was pleased though with my downhill form and I got up a decent pace and managed to stay upright. From the Stoop I gained 6 places and only lost 1 in the final 100m so was pretty pleased with that.

I got round in 53.02 which was reasonable. So the end of an era looms with the final ever Woodentops fell race taking place on 31 December, with the Auld Lang Syne. I’m looking forward to this and it looks like there will be a huge turnout from NLFR so it will be great to meet more club members.                                                — Andrew Byrom



Gathering Winter Fools

For the Gathering Winter Fools relay, organised by Keighley & Craven, we fielded a women’s team. The weather was cold: sun overhead and ice underfoot. Leg 1 runners Sharon and Cat set off carrying Ruby the Reindeer baton.

They beat the cut-offs, but Ruby the Reindeer baton didn’t make it further than Leg 2, staying in the hands of Jenny and Hilary, who had dressed properly for such an honour. (Jenny searched for months for her special speed-inducing ear-muffs.)

Lisa and Kate set off with the mass start of Leg 3, tinsel in place.

They just missed their cut-off, finishing in 46 minutes, and arriving to see the mass starters of Leg 4 setting off down the canal. Leg 4 was Rose and Liz, who managed to survive the abandoned shopping trolleys and the picturesque ginnels of Keighley, making it back in 1.12. The team came placed 32nd of 42, in a Keighley & Craven turkey & bauble sandwich.

Full results are here. NLFR sends its best wishes to Julian Hood of Barlick, who broke his ankle on Leg 1, and salutes the runners of Bingley and Wharfedale who stopped to help him. The conditions were icy and treacherous, despite the sunshine, so well done to everyone who raced. Even Ruby the Reindeer.


Open 5 – Coniston

Great Sunday spent running and cycling around the Lake District. I’m not going to write too much, the photos are far more impressive than any words I could contribute. Some please enjoy the small selection of the spectacular photos taken by excellent event photographer James Kirby. Thanks also to James, Lisa and the Open Adventure team, along with Joe Faulkner plus helpers for the catering.

Next event is in Edale in February get signed up!

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