Tuesday 28 August 2012

Burnsall 10 mile road race - and other things

   At times last weekend one could be forgiven for thinking Hurricane Isaac had lost its way to America's Gulf Coast and come rampaging through the Yorkshire Dales. In the hour prior to the start of the Burnsall 10 mile race on Saturday we sat in the car unable to see out of the windows for the amount of rain sluicing from the sky. Nearing the appointed hour we trundled our way through puddles, huddled under umbrellas, to the sanctuary of a gazebo conveniently placed by the Start/Finish line. Then miraculously, as we were called to the start, the rain gods mercifully relented and reduced the deluge to a mere trickle. At 2.30pm prompt we were on our way.
The Burnsall 10 mile race route
   Many consider Burnsall a hard race with its undulating roads and 1,028ft of ascent spread out over its 10 miles of challenging Dales landscape. Local and unattached runners seem somewhat daunted by it whilst many club runners tend to avoid it because there's little or no chance of posting a PB (Personal Best) time. A note on the entry form says an approximate time for the race is 50 to 75 minutes - which is a joke. Nowadays, only about half of entries are capable of achieving this.  Sadly, I'm no longer one of them.
   As in the Arncliffe race two weeks ago I was one of the last to set off. I've an aversion to being passed. If anyone is going to do any passing, it's me!  Besides, it's uphill from the start so I wanted to control the pace until such a time when the going got easier. In my visualization of the race I'd planned to run within my limits to the top of the second last big hill at 5½ miles, then step on the gas. In the absense of a suitable female pacemaker I latched onto Ged Peacock of Otley A.C. to pull me along from the 2 mile marker in Hebden for the next 3¼ miles to the steep pull out of Threshfield where he seemed to fade a little. I was on my own after that. After a few seconds walk to take on water at Linton I set off to tackle the steepest bit of the course, a nasty hill rising to the highest point at the picturesque village of Thorpe which is hidden from the world in a fold of grassy hills.
   Here I got a bit annoyed. A girl in front, who shall remain nameless, was running bang in the middle of the narrow road, earplugs jammed in her luggoles and totally unaware of a car cruising just behind her, wanting to pass but unable to do so until reaching a wider bit of road ¼ mile farther along. I'd let the car pass me OK and she could have done too. The driver was very patient, I think I'd have blasted her to the side, out of the way!  Whatever runners do in training they shouldn't use mp3 players, or whatever, while taking part in races, and with total disregard of things going on around them. I'd disqualify them!
Easing into gear (No 17) at the wet start of the race
   Leaving Thorpe the route is all downhill or flat, the fastest bit of the race, and my legs still felt strong as I stormed in my geriatric fashion towards the Finish line which, to my amazement, was still there!  I say this because usually, 90 minutes after the start of the road race, the finishing funnel is reversed for the use of fell runners who complete their races from the opposite direction - if that makes sense! My finishing time was 92.04, a couple of minutes outside the changeover mark, so I was lucky. Some runners finishing behind me (aye, there were one or two) didn't have their times recorded correctly. Full results here:  Amazingly, I was once again awarded a prize for 1st local finisher, the only other being Peter Hodge, another 'mature' runner and father of Andy Hodge who recently put our village on the map again when winning Olympic Gold for a second time in the men's coxless fours. 
.....and cruising to the Finish  92 minutes later
   I don't think I'll run Burnsall again, but you never know.  I just wanted to post a fairly good M80 time for future octogenarians to have a go at. According to Jim Maxfield, the Entries secretary, I'm the oldest person ever to have run it, but I reckon they'd attract more Super Vets if they extended the prize list which currently only extends to M60 and L40. Problem is, they'd maybe have to start the road race ½ hour earlier, at 2pm, so as to finish before the start of fell races at 4pm. They'd be most reluctant to do this as rules for these village events were set in stone many generations ago.

   Thankfully, rain cleared away overnight and Sunday dawned bright and clear. Which was fortunate because as fell race stewards my wonderful partner and I, along with Jacqui Todd, had to spend the day marking and flagging various fell race routes in preparation for Hebden's Village Sports on Bank Holiday Monday. After a ten mile run the previous day the old legs were a bit stiff for clambering over high walls, flagging the route on Hebden Crag and wading the swollen beck. But all went well and by late afternoon everything was in place and ready for action.
With Andy and that precious Gold medal
   Evening found us all gathered at the village pub, the Clarendon, to greet and congratulate our local hero, Andy Hodge, for his incredible Olympic rowing success at Eton Dornay.  Along with his charming wife, and mum and dad, a meal had been planned for 6.45pm, but he was still signing autographs and posing for photographs with all and sundry when I arrived from Church at 7.30.  Of course, I had to grab hold of that shiny Gold medal with its purple ribbon, perhaps hoping some of its power would suffuse into me and boost future performances!  But in holding it I tried to imagine what Andy must have felt like when it was hung around his neck for the very first time on that Olympic podium. Words failed me, as they must have done with him. On such esoteric occasions, only tears can adequately express the fullest meaning of that sublime experience.
   Such times have passed me by. I don't believe there's such a thing as re-incarnation but if there was it would be wonderful to come back to Hebden as yet another victorious Olympic medallist to be greeted and applauded by highly appreciative villagers, amongst them, perhaps, an active octogenarian Andy Hodge still flushed with pride after being crowned first local in the Burnsall 10!  Dream on!


  1. Wow, to hold that medal...! Wonderful.

    Congratulations on another great race!

  2. Well done Gordon. Inspirational as always. Certainly worth the trip for a good time and a cuddle with that gold medal!

  3. Well done, Gordon. I'm afraid I wimped out and ran a flat 5K at Lancaster. Ref. popularity of the "10" the 1977 race shows runners from Portsmouth, Holbeach, Derby, York, Salford plus locals Holmfirth and Bingley. Standard? Won in 49.19.
    23rd place ran 54:37 which would have won this year,of course.
    Hope you have recovered well. Take care, Terry.

    1. Thanks Terry, shame you weren't there, I could have used you as pacemaker - for the first 400m or so!
      Was that 49.19 Graham Ellis's time when he set the record, or was he faster?

    2. Not sure, Gordon. Getting results sheet from Burnsall was never an easy task. I know Charlie Spedding ran it in 1979 but I don't have any details,sadly.
      I may see if present organiser knows who has full results going back.

  4. With the amount of water on the road a coxless fours might have been a good idea, and with that medal you would have been right up there!!!

  5. Sounds like a tough race... An Olympian and the Running Fox in the same village, now there's a talented bunch!