Tag: Calderdale Way Relay

Calderdale Way Relay 2019

Calderdale Way Relay is the biggest off-road club event, organized by Halifax Harriers. There are six legs that cover the 50 mile run, and teams run in pairs. We fielded a women’s team.

Leg One: West Vale to Cragg Vale, 10.55 miles

I hadn’t done Leg One for a few years but it was the only leg I could even vaguely recall. Cat had done it the previous year so reccying wasn’t required (this is a plus for a non-driver / someone dependent on others). We still got lost on the way to the start though. Once there, there were long queues for registration and generic portable loos [edited to comply with a trademark request!] the last more important when you need more than just a wee. This is where the plumber’s van and buckets are handy. The start was in Clay Park and began with a section of grass running to divide the hares and tortoises before the climb up through woods until Norland Moor. I asked Cat, “Best if I go in front or stay behind’, not sure whether that made me a considerate running partner or a patronising one? She advised that the worst was still to come, as the second part of the 10.5 mile leg is much hillier and also has a few miles on road. I’m not a fan of jumping over rocks on flat moorland so hills and road seemed safer to me.

By halfway we were overtaking a few and our pacing was good. At the top of the climbs and hitting a mile of road I’m sure the info said good views of Stoodley Pike could be seen (it was later on apparently but I still missed it). There were only a few miles to go once on the tops. The hard work was done, there was a nice flattish grassy bit and then a downhill. Cat told me she’d tripped and fallen along this bit, but I didn’t see it, which I felt about but at least spared her blushes.  Downhill to the finish and we encounter some Hyde Park women who have taken the wrong turning. We did shout out to them as we nipped down in front of them to the single track then the final descent to the finish. We shouldn’t have told them, as the youngsters (well with faster mobility) outsprinted us to the end. We arrived a few minutes short of the cut off time but we’ll put it down to Cat coping with an iron deficiency (and still managing a great run). We’ll crack it another year.

—Kate Bell

Leg Two : Cragg Vale to Todmorden, 8.46 miles

Organizing a relay makes herding deaf and blind cats look easy. So for Hilary Lane to get a women’s team out of our boutique-sized club is amazing. But of course as is always the way with relays, there were injuries and illness and obstacles along the way. For all these reasons, it turned out the best option was for me to volunteer to run two legs, so I’d be running Leg 2 with Eleanor and Leg 5 with Hilary. Weirdly, though you’d think there would be plenty of time between the two, there wasn’t, if registration was open for a limited time as it was on our leg (it closed at 9, though the mass start wasn’t until 9.45). In fact, there was so little time that Eleanor and I couldn’t afford to do the usual two car drop (leaving one car at the start and another at the finish) because I would have to get my skates on to get up to Wainstalls, Leg 5 start, in time to register. In short, I began to have relay-organizing stress dreams (as did Hilary) and was weirdly nervous on the morning of the race, but that might be because I had to wake up at 5.30am, a time so early even my cat was puzzled. We made good time to reach the finish at Todmorden, and I’d organized a lift to the start, thanks to the good and kind hearts of Nick and Clare Greenwood of Pudsey Pacers, who had answered my Facebook appeal. Seriously, the transport logistics of relays make running them look like child’s play.

We arrived with plenty of time at the start, unlike last year when Liz and I were strolling down Cragg Vale road, about half a mile from the Hinchcliffe Arms HQ, when we realized we had about four minutes until registration closed. Nothing like a warm-up. There was the usual kit check. I was carrying even more than my usual picnic and camping set, as I had to carry everything I needed for the whole day, including a change of clothes because I would have time to cool off before I ran again, and chilly sweat is not nice. I couldn’t quite fit in a warm hoodie and joggers though, so Hilary was going to bring a pair for me for the finish. We had time for a coffee and a Tunnock’s tea-cake in the pub, which counts as very classy pre-race prep. There were the usual several toilet visits, and then we went to loiter outside, as we thought Kate and Cat had a good chance of making the cut-off. They didn’t though (see above) and so we set off with the mass start, which is good for navigation purposes and also takes some pressure off. We shouldn’t have needed the navigational help, as I’d recced and run the leg last year, and Eleanor had done the Halifax Harriers group recce, but both of us were a bit hazy about the last two miles up and down Tordmorden. Eleanor was worried about her fitness and that she hadn’t been doing much running, so she walked – very speedily, ultra-runner-style –up the long drag to the reservoir. Then she hit the flat and boom! She was off and I was struggling to keep up. In the end, we balanced each other out really well: I had more on the hills and she was Usain Bolt on the flat. Up to Stoodley Pike then a lovely careering descent where it was odd to see absolutely no-one go off-piste but stick to the technical path. I did, fully expecting to encounter some hidden pot-hole which must be the reason all these people were sticking to the path, but I survived. My right knee was grateful for this as it still has three holes in it from an encounter with a rock on Simon’s Seat during Charlesworth Chase.

One of the great things about relays is how quickly they pass because you’re in company. On we went, finally dropping down into Tod where the race route cruelly immediately sends you back out again and via a bloody big hill. At this point, I remembered I had chocolate-covered mint cake in my copious pack, and even better – as Eleanor is vegan – it was dark chocolate. By ‘eck, it tasted good.

We made it to the finish line in 1:22. Then, Wonder Woman style, I did a quick change in the portaloos, emerging not with a gold bustier but a fresh-ish vest and shorts, and we jumped in the car and headed to Wainstalls for the next leg.

—Rose George

Leg Four: Blackshaw Head to Wainstalls Road, 9.36 miles

I knew this leg was going to be tough, one for the fell runners I have heard. I was also partnered with Ann Brydson who has been flying on the fells recently and earned a well-deserved age group win at the Dick Hudson fell race. 

We were in the mass start which was very informal, so informal there wasn’t a countdown or whistle, we just ran off after the rest of the runners. Ann led the way for the whole leg, which I expected. It started to feel hard going up Pecketts Well and the merciless climb that came after that until we were on the moors. I am usually a steady strong climber, but had to walk the climbs at times. Ann skipped up all of them like Bambi! Dave Woodhead was taking the obligatory photos. I commented to him that I was struggling, as I did to his wife, Eileen, who was taking photos further along the moor. At this point I was able to have a breather from the relentless climbing, long stretches of flat running, then we were descending down path, road and woods.

I was dreading the last batch of climbing and Ann cajoled, encouraged and verbally dragged me to the finish… at a sprint! Ann and I made the right decision to run in trail shoes as the route was virtually dry. I was surprised we finished in 1 hour 43.36 which was over 30 minutes quicker than the organised reccie by Halifax Harriers that I went on the previous weekend. I wasn’t happy with my performance but proud that the club were able to field a women’s team. 

—Sharon Williams

Leg Five : Wainstalls Road to Shelf, 7.55 miles

(Rose again!)

Eleanor dropped me off at Wainstalls Road which was a huge help as people were parked at least a mile all the way down it. I’d worried about registration closing but they were relaxed about it, and I was pleased that it was my favourite fell-running kind: numbers dispensed out of a car window. I got there about 12.15 and the mass start was at 1pm, so I had time to spend in the very long toilet queue (that’s not a complaint, I’m grateful that Halifax Harriers had portaloos at every changeover). I wasn’t quite sure how best to prepare. Should I stretch? Dynamic stretch? Warm-up? But wasn’t I warmed up already? Or had I cooled down enough in the car? In the end I didn’t do anything but went to the toilet and milled about. I wasn’t hungry either: Aly G from Kirkstall had given me a packet of crisps at the finish in Tod, and I didn’t want anything else. Hilary was very solicitous about whether I needed fuel or drink, but I felt fine. Again, we thought Sharon and Ann might arrive before the cut-off but in the end they didn’t, so we trooped over the stile, familiar to anyone who has done the Yorkshireman, gathered round and then with little ado, we were off. I felt fine, and Hilary and I were well matched. I knew the first few miles from the Yorkshireman but after that I was totally in Hilary’s hands, and she was an excellent navigator, telling me what was coming up before it came up. I was really enjoying myself, partly because it’s a nice route. Then we got to the section of the route where it diverts from the Yorkshireman. We ran down past a little hamlet and I noticed a man hanging over his fence holding a pint, then we reached a table where a man was offering drinks pouring something pale and fizzy out of a jug. Great, I thought, apple juice. I took a cup and a big gulp – the weather was warm – and only after drinking half the cup I realised it was beer. I’ve mostly been teetotal in recent months, and the last bit of alcohol I had was half a pint at the end of Charlesworth Chase. Maybe I am condemned to only drink alcohol while running. I wouldn’t have drunk it had I known it was beer, as I’d be worried my digestion would strongly object. But it was too late now and I was thirsty, and it tasted good, so I finished it. And mostly, my digestion accepted it with good grace.

Hilary had known there would be beer, but I hadn’t read the Leg Five instructions. Mistake. I can’t remember much of the rest of the route, there were twists and turns and tarmac which Hilary didn’t like but on my getting-tired legs seemed like a bit of relief. I mostly felt surprisingly good, and that I was operating on Three-Peaks-training fitness, but then I began to flag a bit on the hills. At one point on a steep climb up a road Hilary put her hand on my back and pushed me up. I was surprised as I hadn’t heard her ask if I wanted her to do that, and I’d never had it done before, but it felt great.

Hilary ran really well, and we got to Shelf in 1:25 which I was pleased with. Then, we jumped into the car and drove to the finish where – thank the lord – they had provided cheese pasties as well as hot pork pies (and a vegan option, of sorts), which was an excellent end to a very long day.

Well done to all our runners, I’m really proud we have such a hardy and dynamic women’s section. In the end we came 78th overall out of 97 teams, with a total time of 09:27:22. But – very impressively – we were 9th women’s team out of 16.

Bradford next?

—Rose George

Calderdale Way Relay OR the deathly duo do Leg 3

Once upon a time there were two fifty-something, experienced runners who have been racing for many a year. They were au fait with race rules, they were familiar with the route they were about to embark on and they knew themselves…or so they thought. They also knew that one shouldn’t run with a chest infection and that one shouldn’t run in the midday sun without a sun hat when one is susceptible to heat exhaustion, (especially in tropical conditions such as on the day in question).

They journeyed to the beautiful town of Todmorden in enough spare time to contemplate a little jaunt around the thriving Sunday market. Luckily they decided against that indulgence and drove past it towards the registration point a little further along the road.  This was the starting point of leg 3 of the Calderdale way relay.

The pair smugly emptied their kit bags for inspection by an illuminated race volunteer for proof of hat, gloves, whistle and compass, oh, and waterproofs. To the horror of one of the (not now so smug) couple she realised with dismay that she had no waterproofs.“We’ll just pop back to the car and get them, I must have left them in there” said one in a quivering tone. Back at the vehicle: no waterproofs! The quick-thinking one of the pair remembered they had a friend who resides in Mytholmroyd. A panicked phone call was made and after a couple of attempts to get through to the household the demand of waterproofs was almost shouted down the phone line to their Mytholmroyd mate.The pair made a few expletives while waiting for the arrival of said friend and waterproofs. Time was running out. Registration was due to close at 10:30 and it was by now 10:10. They waited and waited by the roadside and suddenly in the horizon the welcome site of the red car arrived upon them bearing the gift of the nylon equipment. This was hastily stuffed into the kitbag of the stupid one and the girls ran back up the hill towards registration. By this time the stupid one needed desperately to relieve herself from excess fluid with “desperate” being the operative word. There was no other way than to relieve herself in between two parked cars while the onlooker of the pair stood guard. They carried on up the hill when from out of nowhere the stupid one urgently needed the relief of ventilin.

When all was made good and registration passed without incident the duo set off with a mass start. The ascent of the first hill was a sight to behold, and the hill, well, was one continuous one for two and a half miles. “I can’t move my legs, my head has gone fuzzy” panicked the red-faced one.

“Wear my hat” ordered the stupid, infected one. “Have some water and take your time.”

Both members of the dying duo knew the course so knew it wasn’t a long leg, it would all be over in a jiffy. As they neared the last bend they happened upon a gnarly looking duo with words of encouragement who were on their way back to Todmorden.” Well done girls, you’re at the last bit before the last bit!”

The deathly duo chortled at the comment because they couldn’t manage anything telse. As they arrived at the foot of the final hill the red-faced, jelly-legged, fuzzy-headed one was almost kissing the ground but managed a heat-exhausted wobble to the finish line. Shade was sought and water downed. The pair needed to prepare for the jog/walk back to Todmorden when suddenly their Mytholmroyd mate approached them, like a mirage.

“You’re not driving to Todmorden perchance??”

“Hop in” said he, and without hesitation they accepted his generosity and of course they were obliged to offer him refreshment in the public house.

The red-faced, jelly-legged, fuzzy-headed one soon recovered after a brown elixir was poured thirstily  down her gullet.

Happy, the deathly duo proceeded to the shopping paradise of Hebden Bridge where cake was hungrily consumed and they deservedly purchased hippy clothing and joss sticks … and a book on mindfulness.


Team 51 NLFR women (our men didn’t field a team)

Leg 1: Lisa & Cat
Leg 2: Liz & Rose (no photo)
Leg 3: Clare & Ann
Leg 4: Sheelagh & Hilary
Leg 5: Emma & Jenny
Leg 6: Lorena & Sarah