Tuesday 9 June 2009

Upper Wharfedale off-road half marathon run on Saturday, June 6th, 2009

It was cold, heaving down with rain and blowing a gale for the start of the Upper Wharfedale ½ marathon so I waited until the very last minute to decide what I was going to wear. In the end I opted for running tights rather than shorts because my old legs are subject to cramp when they get cold. A thermal top, running vest and lightweight Paramo rainsmock proved an ideal choice for my upper body whilst for footwear I wore my trusty old Inov-8 Roclites. Suitably dressed I didn’t mind the elements at all. Throughout the race I was running at exactly the right temperature.
The first ½ mile from the start at Threshfield is flat or downhill but I resisted the temptation to push it at that stage knowing the next 3¼ miles rises 680ft to the first checkpoint. I settled into a steady rhythm that I managed to maintain for most of the race. A Rotherham Harrier came alongside, chatted briefly and went slightly ahead. At some point I got ahead of her and pulled her along. She was determined she wasn’t going to lose touch!
From the 1st checkpoint the route drops 500ft in the next 1½ miles, crossing the river Wharfe at Conistone before the next 2½ mile/780ft climb to the top of Mastiles Lane. A Cuckoo was calling and I'm sure it was mocking me! The Rotherham girl was ahead of me again at this point, intent on running all the way to the top if it killed her. I must admit to walking the last 100 yards or so up this 1 in 4 to give my running muscles a few moments rest. I was mighty glad to get to the juice stop at the next checkpoint.
The next phase was one of the easiest, about 1½ miles to the third checkpoint at Bordley with only 90ft of ascent. Here I declined the offer of water, thus getting ahead of my Rotherham companion, and plodded on through the rain. Beyond Bordley there’s a steep downhill with a 250ft climb out at the other side. Here I must admit to walking again (only because I couldn’t run!) and by the time I’d got to the top my shadow was just behind me again.
The next checkpoint was unmanned so we’d to click our dibbers in an electronic timing device fixed to a gatepost. The guy in front missed it so I’d to shout him back – thus gaining a place! After an initial 80ft or so of climbing towards the next checkpoint, also unmanned, the rest of the route was all level or downhill. It was also quite boggy and for the first time in the race the mud was above my ankles.
By this time the rain had stopped, the sun was trying to get out and Skylarks were singing. I took off my rainproof smock, which took a bit of controlling in the nasty wind, and eventually got it rolled up and tied round my waist. Meanwhile the Rotherham girl was streaking away down the field ahead of me, passing a Clayton-le-Moors harrier who impeded my progress at the next stile, complaining how slippy it was. Over the stile I surged past him, gathering speed now, and closing the gap on the black vest ahead of me. All at once she bent down to tie a shoelace and I almost collided with her. From there to the finish it was me doing the pace making, crossing the line a few seconds ahead of her. But we’d helped each other a lot so mutual congratulations were due.
My official time was 2:17:54 which I was quite happy with given the nasty, wet conditions for three quarters of the race. Annoyingly, the prizes finished at the MV65 category but, at 77, I was awarded a prize for the oldest finisher. I enjoyed the day immensely and was delighted with my level of fitness off a crash training programme. Alison (Hargreaves) was there, clocking a time of 2:41,:37, but husband Andy was in the Outer Hebrides, sailing to St Kilda as part of his Sailing Proficiency Certificate. Gilly was there too - winning the LV50 race in 2:09:02, so she's considerably faster than me now. "Aye, but it's taken me thirty years to do it" she said.
I celebrated in the evening with a choice piece of rump steak and half a bottle of 14% Rosemount Estate Shiraz. Roll on the next half marathon at Burn Valley in early July.


  1. Sir . . . that's BRILLIANT! Congratulations. I took up running (M's and half-M's) in my mid-forties. But sub 3 hours in your sixties! You have the legs on me.

    My children and grandchildren have "challenged" me to scale the Xscape climbing wall on my 75th . . . 3 years away yet.

    You know the best compliment I ever got? My youngest daughter said "Dad . . . you're the kind of old geezer who takes up hang-gliding on his 100th birthday"

    Very best of luck. Stay fleet of foot and shame the couch-potatoes!!

  2. Congratulations RF. A fantastic effort that puts whippersnappers like me in the shade. I look forward to reading more of your adventures. You're an inspiration.