Leeds Country Way Relay Leg 3 – Race Report

This year would be the 27th running of the Kippax Harriers Leeds Country Way Relay Race. If you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of months or are a new visitor to the site you can find details here.

This year would be my 3rd as a Harrier and luckily I would be given my 3rd opportunity to represent the Harriers in the race. Though in fairness, the way that runners fell away injured or were unavailable for other reasons I think I could have asked for an appearance fee. It really came down to the wire (and a bit of begging from mens captain Chris Bartle) to ensure we were able to get 12 fit and healthy runners runners to represent the mens team.

For the previous 2 years, I have run Leg 4 of the race and really enjoyed it. I was secretly hoping to get that Leg again. However, it was not to be and I was given Leg 3 and my running partner victim was to be Nick Rushton. Neither Nick nor I had run this Leg before so it seemed prudent to arrange a time to recce the course. Unfortunately dates where Nick was available were limited, something to do with a prior arrangement he couldn’t get out of. I found this a bit lacking in commitment to the club. It was only a wedding and honeymoon after all. I’m sure his fiancée would have understood.

Despite my protestations the wedding and honeymoon wasn’t moving so we worked out we had a total of one evening when we were free to run. Unfortunately for us, on the day of the recce it seemed the wettest since Noah put some animals on a boat. Still we set off in the knowledge that after 10 minutes it wasn’t as if we could get any wetter.

Since neither of us had run this course before, we were relying on a mix of old (printed instructions) and new (posh Garmin with breadcrumb trail to follow) technology to get us round. This mix worked perfectly for about 800 yards. At this point we missed our first turn and didn’t realise for about a quarter of a mile. To be fair Craig Worley did warn me that the turn off is a little earlier than indicated on the map my run route. This was to become a feature of the run as the 9.5 mile course turned into 11.7 on my watch. It didn’t help that the printed instructions insisted on disintegrating after 10 seconds in the rain. Still if you make a few wrong turns you are more likely to remember the correct way come race day. Thats my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a “recce report” it’s a race report so fast forward onto race day.

Race morning arrived and as with each previous year I’ve run the race I found it a little strange to be sitting at home whilst the race I was taking part in had started over an hour earlier. One of the drawbacks of this type of race is logistics. Due to the “point to point” nature of the course you need to arrange to meet your running partner at the finish of your Leg, leave a car, then drive back to the start point.

This rigmarole over with and we are stood at the change over point with loads of equally excited looking runners. Or maybe they were all like me and felt in need of a wee. Runners from other teams soon started to come in and hand over their batons. As the runners approached and handed over, the other runners would shout encouragement and applaud. The loudest cheer was reserved for a lone gentleman who came down the lane just out for his Sunday morning run. The look on his face as 60/70 runners cheered him through the changeover point was priceless.

Before long we could see Paul Durkin and Daniel Burkitt making their way down the lane. Both of them looked absolutely fresh wasted. They had obviously given everything on the run.

I should probably give a little background information on our respective training going into this race. I, a soon to be 45 year old veteran old git am training for the Yorkshire Marathon in October so have been steadily racking up the miles, but with little in the way of pace. Nick, a spritely young, soon to be police officer, yet to see 30, has prepared with an extended recce (as detailed above), a couple of weeks of whatever people get up to on honeymoon and a police beep test.

The baton was passed on whilst Paul could be heard muttering about what a wonderful time he’d had on course effing and blinding, and we were off. Whilst we had been waiting for Paul and Daniel we had seen a few other teams change over not long before so I immediately set off determined to chase them down. It was at this point I realised I hadn’t really discussed any strategy with my partner about how we were going to approach the run. Should we aim for a time and pace evenly, maybe conserve energy and finish strong or just run as fast as we can for as long as we can and hope we didn’t totally blow up.

Nick seemed happy to go along with my strategy of chasing runners down. Well at least I couldn’t hear any objections from that far behind me. Only kidding Nick 🙂 We did set off a tad quickly and gained a couple of places running through the woods before the route climbed up a lung busting sod of a hill. The hill eventually relented and we emerged into fields where we spotted another couple of runners in the distance. Like an excited puppy I once again set off in enthusiastic pursuit. Only this time my younger obviously more level headed partner sensibly instructed me to rein it in a bit.

Once we left the fields there was a mile or so to run on flat or even slightly downhill tarmac. This was an opportunity to put in a faster mile or two, or would have been if we hadn’t legged it up that damn hill! Still we pushed on and closed the gap on the runners in front eventually overtaking them.

After the nice fast tarmac, we were back into the trails and fields. When we passed through these fields on the recce, the walkway was occupied by a herd of horses and the next field a herd of cows. I’m not a big fan of large animals, especially ones that can run faster than me. I was very relieved that the horses had vacated their field in favour of somewhere else. The cows however were still in place along with a large number of cow pats. Once again, a couple of fields ahead, we caught sight of another team of runners. After picking our way between the cows and the excrement we once again found ourselves on the roadside and in civilisation and about a half a mile of fast road which ended with a very steep descent to what is the lowest point along the route.

Both Nick and I were breathing hard but we were now over half distance and whilst the end wasn’t in sight, it was alot closer that at the beginning. The next part of the course runs through more fields and woodland in equal measure with each field entrance and exit involving navigation of a metal kissing gate. We could hear the team ahead each time they let the gates slam shut and each time it was getting louder. I took this to indicate we were getting closer rather than them getting overly rough with the gates.

Sure enough, just before the next section of road we caught the pair up and breezed wheezed past.

Once again we are running on the trails and through fields. We’ve recently had a bit of a dry spell and the ground was rutted which made it quite difficult to make good progress on. Once again, we spot another pair of runners in the distance and again we are slowly closing in. As I’m focusing on the runners ahead, one of them stops, crouches slightly and repositions shorts to just above the knee. I guess when you’ve got to “Do a Paula” you have to “Do a Paula”. Still this didn’t scare us off and we continued to close in.

After we come to the end of the fields we find ourselves running pretty much on a fairway of a golf course. We pass the pair of runners that were ahead and continue on our way hoping there are no golfers hitting wayward tee shots.

We now only have just over a couple of miles to go, but Nick is starting to really suffer. It turns out that the honeymoon method of training doesn’t build stamina in the same way lots of running does 😉 I tell Nick to pretend I’m a villain and he’s the copper he’s going to be and needs to catch me. “I’ll effing taser you” or some such like came the reply.

Those who know leg 3 will be aware that it has a rather nasty sting in the tail comprising of 2 climbs, followed by steep downhills followed by a final climb up to the finish at Thornbury. About a mile earlier we had decided walking those hills was probably going to be as fast as trying to run them. It turned out I don’t think either of us could have run them even if we wanted to.

After the second descent, you come to a level crossing which is about a half mile from the finish, all up hill. As we crossed I could see not just one, but two pairs of runners just ahead up the hill. “Come on, lets get em!” I shout. Alas, the honeymoon has caught up with young Nick and we are unable to quite catch these two teams before arriving at Thornbury and handing the baton over to it’s new custodians of Andy Hill and Ian Downham for Leg 4.

So it’s a quick drink and a few sugary sweets (plus a lie down for Nick) and it’s back to the car for the return journey to where it all started in Morley.

Then it’s back to Garforth for an evening of eating and drinking beer at the Podger. I even won a bobble hat in the raffle. All in all a top top day!

All joking aside, I would like to thank my running partner Nick for putting up with me and really pulling out the stops and putting himself through the ringer to run a great time on the day, all on the back of very little training.

I’d also like to express my thanks to all of the volunteers who did the catering, marshals, time keepers, runners from all teams as well as Kippax, the results team, and of course, our run director Helen Cowley who goes through weeks of stress every year fretting that something is going to go wrong. Without any one of these the event wouldn’t be what it is. Massive apologies if I’ve missed anyone off!

Written by Mark George

Daniel and Paul looking very refreshed after completing Leg 2
Team Leg 3
I won a hat!