So to kick off my very first blog I’ve decided to give my account of winning the Haworth Hobble. Its been over a week and the dust has settled, I’ve collated my thoughts and just about feel ready to share my experience.
For those who don’t follow or know me then let me start by just briefly explaining that this race has an emotional connection to me with it being a race that my Grandfather used to take me to watch every year. Sadly he’s no longer with us and was unable to share this wonderful experience with me.
So the day started with friends and team mates Big Mac (Wayne McIntosh) and James Williamson collecting and ferrying me to the race……now the drive over is only a short 8 miles on typical country winding roads but Mac likes to put his foot down! I was the back seat passenger and by the time we reached Haworth I’d been flung around the rear seats like a cowboy on a bucking bronco – to put it politely I wasn’t feeling the best!!! However, I said nothing as we parked the car and headed for registration.
We got registered in plenty of time and met up with club mates and friends for a pre race chin wag…..all the pre race talk was about Marcus Scotney (Montane) and Jez Bragg (Team North Face). The fact that these guys had turned up made my stomach sink….these guys are experienced sponsored runners and truth be told that scared the hell out of me!!
Anyway, final checks done we headed for the cobbles to start. Chatting away with good friend Shaun Livesey on the start line I saw a bit of a gap towards the front and signaled for him to follow me to the head of the field. No sooner had we got to the front than the shout of “GO” sounded from the sidelines and we were off!! I settled into a nice steady pace with the front group as we headed toward ‘Bronte Bridge’.
Listening to the likes of Marcus and Jez chat away was kind of inspiring, to be running along side these kind of athletes is something I’ll not forget in a hurry. Marcus must have decided the pace was a little slow a mile in and slightly picked it up, I followed and caught him up soon after and introduced myself as ‘Chris from Twitter’??? Luckily he recalled a brief exchange we had a few days earlier, said hello and got down to business. We crossed Bronte Bridge and hit the first climb, I just got my head down and got stuck in. To be honest I wasn’t really taking much notice of what was going on behind me and by the time we’d got to CP1 I looked back and couldn’t see anyone. Trying not to panic I again got my head down and focused on my race.
I climbed up from Widdop feeling very easy and comfortable then dropped down the other side to Hurstwood. Here I saw one of my club mates Lorna Balmer who shouted words of encouragement between expletives trying to get her phone out in time to take a picture……she got one in the end, rear view of me heading for CP2.
Just before CP2 the path forks and this was the only 400m of the route I hadn’t recce’d……me being me, I took the wrong turn and ended up having to double back costing me about a minute! I arrived at CP2 to see Jamie Osborne waiting with some water…..I cant repeat my words to him but I expressed my disgust at myself for my error, took a gulp of water and headed off (I have since apologised).
Once off Long Causeway you hit a gradual descent towards Todmorden before climbing again towards Stoodly Pike…..I just allowed myself to stay at a comfortable pace taking on liquid and gels as I felt I needed them. Hitting Stoodly I managed to find the trod that I’d missed during the recce and in doing so had a more runable ascent to the summit (thanks to John Lloyd for talking me through it). Upon reaching the summit I took a moment to look back down to see where the others were – I couldn’t see anyone, hmmm, what’s going on? maybe someone was in a dip and I couldn’t see them? Had I gone off too fast? Just some of the thoughts running through my head……nevertheless I was in a race so no time to worry too much and off I headed for Hebden Bridge.
At Hebden I was greeted with the infamous steps…..needless to say I had a little verbal exchange with said steps and they’ll think twice before getting in my way again. You then climb a tarmac section to the village of Heptonstall which is quite steep and testing on the legs, yet they were holding up to the task and I still felt I had some good running left in me with 9 or 10 mile to go. From Heptonstall you descend quite steeply to Hardcastle Craggs and for the first time I could feel my quads start to shake and some fatigue creeping in. A gel and more fluid consumed as I started on the long gradual climb out of Hardcastle towards Haworth.
Form time to time I’d allow my mind to wander and worry about what was going on behind me, quickly followed by the voice of my wife telling me to keep my concentration and plough on. Christina is always with me in my mind every time I run, she’s the voice that keeps me going and gives me a good talking to when I need it. We invest a lot of time into our running (too much really) and without going too much into everything, we have to make it count every time we race – the time invested in running and lost elsewhere in life makes it that way for us both!
Anyway, last CP in sight and only a few more miles left. I take the congratulations from the marshalls who were great throughout the race and head off for the last push. I’m tired by now, very tired!! The early pace has caught up with me and I’m feeling it. ‘Just keep your legs moving up the last climb before dropping into Haworth and we’re there’ I told myself……I dropped into a power walk up the last hill and had another glance back down – still no one insight!!
At this point I cross the spot I had been on many occasions as a kid with my grandad, a little smile came across my face and the quietly muttered words of ‘done it’…..
I dropped down to Haworth towards the church on the High Street where I saw my wife waiting for me, “Have you won?” , “Yes, I’m f#*king shattered” was all I could manage as I headed for the school and the great sight of the finish line.
Christina greeted at the finish me and I couldn’t hold it in, welling up and embracing each other I told her how much I loved her before the legs buckled and I needed to sit down! She’s the one who allows me to put the silly amounts of time in training and we share all our successes with each other, but this one was special for many reasons.
4:09:10 was my finish time, I had a secret target of 4:15 so I’m happy with that. It puts me up there over recent years with some of the best ultra guys around. I’d beaten some notable names although to be fair, Marcus had been open about treating the day as a training run and Jez must have only just been warming up at 32 miles.
A mention to Chris Holdsworth who I was originally running with as a pair. He had to pull out with a few weeks to go through injury but time is on his side and he will one day smash this race and the time I posted!
So in summary, happy! Can I go faster? Hell yes! Will I be back? Hell yes! Thanks to everyone who messaged me to congratulate, friends, family and some very well known names in the ultra world and a big well done to team mates and everyone who ran this well organised race – now time to plan my next adventure!
Grandads Hobble badge came with me!