Stainland Bluebell Trail 2023
Some runners like flat road races with the possibility of a Personal Best (PB), whilst others prefer the adventure, mud and hills of a trail race. I would definitely identify myself as the latter. So when I heard about this race I was very interested.
The Stainland Bluebell Trail race takes place in Halifax and is described as a ‘A 10.3 mile multi-terrain race through woodland, canal towpaths, trails and cobbled streets with the occasional hill here and there.’ I have since realised that there is a bit of Yorkshire humour in the use of the word ‘occasional’ in this context. If I’m honest I was lured by the mention of bluebells. I love the woodlands covered in blue and the beautiful scent. This race occurred on Sunday 7th May so the bluebells were in full bloom.
I asked about the race on the club’s Facebook page. As a fairly new member I am always grateful for the advice of some of our more experienced members. I got a sense of Love/Hate from the responses. As in people who had previously done it had both loved and hated it. I was also informed it used to be 14 miles (now just over 10) – I can imagine those additional 4 miles were tough. Undeterred I signed up for it and managed to attract interest from Sue Costello.
I really like races which are organised by clubs, in this case the Stainland Lions Running Club. You can tell that love and commitment had gone into organising the event. It took place at the Heath rugby club and there was a wonderful cake stall which I took a photo of but didn’t fancy eating before (or after) and just a really great atmosphere.
My dad (a former Kippax Harrier) drove me to the event and when I got there I think he knew lots of people and seemed to go off and talk to his friends. The runners were escorted over the road for the start. I hung back to force myself to take it steady. It was always a risk a week before the Leeds marathon so I promised myself (and my husband) I would be careful. Another injury was not what I needed.
Off we went, into the woods. It was a bit congested at the start as it was single file in places but given the uneven terrain that wasn’t a bad thing. The hills didn’t hold back and we were straight into a muddy ascent followed by a muddier descent. And on that went for 10.3 miles.
After 4 miles you hit the infamous Trooper Lane hill. ‘How hard can it be?’ I thought. Very hard is the answer. I always planned to walk this bit but when I got there even a walk was a struggle. I met a few people I knew up the hill, including someone from work who I didn’t even realise was a runner. Although I was too busy to concentrate on trying to breathe to start a conversation. Also, it was unseasonably warm that day, adding to the intensity. And at the top of the hill my dad was there with a camera. Thanks for that dad. I don’t want to put people off as the sense of achievement as you get to the top is amazing.
Then up again. Then down again. And repeat. Bank Top is amazing, the view is beautiful. There is a beacon at the top, and another person taking photos. Given it was such a warm day there were lots of families out walking. They looked at us in disbelief as we attempted to run. I always find the downhill bit harder as you have to be on your guard for tree roots, rocks and mud. Also, in places the downhill bits are cobbles, laced with mud. So you do have to be very careful. There are also some beautiful (and flat) canal paths. The word ‘multi-terrain’ has never been more appropriate.
The marshals were absolutely amazing – encouraging us all on, singing, dancing, giving out sweets. In the true Kippax Harriers way I thanked each and every one of them. Even when I was struggling for breath.
Towards the end the race goes through Elland Park Wood. This too was very muddy and uneven, but the bluebells were amazing.
But they save the best it to the end….the river crossing! Not a little stream, the River Calder! At the start I was worried about this bit, by the time I got there I was so ready to get into that water to a) cool down and b) wash my muddy trainers! The river crossing is very safe and there are people on hand to help you in and out. And there he was again. My dad with the camera.
Then after the river there’s only 50 meters to sprint over the finish line. By this time I was buzzing. I saw Sue (who had finished several minutes earlier). I don’t think she had read the elevation before entering the race so was in a slight state of shock. But it was truly amazing and we both had a sense of achievement. They also record the river crossing so you can have that memory forever. Well done to the 289 runners who completed it.
Would I enter it again? Yes, it was an adventure and the views were amazing.
Will I moan as I walk up Trooper Lane hill? Yes, definitely.
Not my fastest race (1 hour 58 minutes) but by far my favourite.
by Anna Lay