13/10/2009: How the heights were reached on Skiddaw and Latrigg

18/20th September – Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships, Keswick


As promised in the last edition, Clubnews is hereunder reproducing reports from Adam Osborne and Adam Grice on their medal-winning exploits, and those of James Walsh, at Keswick.  They appear in the order of their races; Adam O and James ran on the Friday, and Adam G. on the Sunday.

18th September – Uphill Race, Skiddaw
The Commonwealth uphill race had a decent front end, with multiple world champion and mountain running legend, Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand, plus Wilson Chemwono, a Kenyan debutant armed with some very handy road and track times. The question was, would they translate to the steep climbs of Latrigg and Skiddaw?  The short answer was yes; Chemwono won pretty convincingly from Wyatt.

I was a bit impetuous in the first mile and should have let them get on with on it. As we hit Latrigg I could tell I didn’t feel as good as at the trial a few weeks ago when I’d run away from the field on the first climb. By the top James and I were in 3rd and 4th, but I then had a very bad patch, dropping to about 10th before managing to re-attach the wheels on the long climb up Lonscale Fell.  With only 3 medals to be awarded to the scorers in the team event, I knew I had to make up some places and passed England’s Rob Jebb and James McMullan, with James W. and Orlando Edwards still some way ahead. As we hit the last climb up to the summit of Skiddaw, I had hauled myself up to 6th, with James just ahead, having lost some ground on the descent off Little Man. I got a shock with 700m to go when I realised Jebb was right on my shoulder, but after all that I wasn’t going to let a medal slip away and dug in, finishing comfortably ahead. England were 4th, 5th and 6th and so Commonwealth Champions, leading to some last minute revision of the words to Land of Hope and Glory. Still waiting for the congratulatory letter from the Queen though……

Obviously, being the Lakes there were sheep every-ruddy-where, mostly looking very confused at all these nutters charging through the bracken. It was a great event, perfect conditions and hopefully will be a full Commonwealth Games event by 2016, which may be a tad too late for me, unless I can emulate the evergreen Leeds City icons of Doscoe, Hull and Bilton. You never know….

20th September – Up-and-Downhill Race, Latrigg
The course was nobody’s easy run, being three laps of Latrigg.  Having just completed my first week of my Obstetrics and Gynaecology placement for my Fourth Year of Medicine I was a little apprehensive or how I might fair as I was absolutely drained from the week. On my warm up on the day though I felt good!

We set off and I was very conservative but felt good. I started to pass people on the first climb and found myself in the top ten, in a chasing pack with three of my England team mates, whilst the eventual Kenyan winner was well ahead.  But then came the descent!  I started charging and passed five athletes to move up to 5th. There was another small climb then before a very steep and technical descent, I charged again and overtook the Kenyan athlete Kipkosgei Wilson Chemweno by the bottom.

It was then a bit of fast running before we climbed again. Being considerably faster on the flat having run 7.39, 28:36, 1:02:40 for 3k, 10k and 1/2 marathon respectively, the Kenyan runner overtook me on the second climb.  I gritted my teeth and dug in knowing I would have to work hard to keep the
gap small before I could charge again on the descents. He had a consistent 17-second lead before I overtook by the last part of the descent; but the story repeated itself as he got away on the climb.

The last lap was about making my legs burn.  I dug deep and climbed Latrigg flooding with lactic.  Could I catch him before the top of the ascent?  I was catching him as he tired, but it was the descent where I overtook. I had the last descent now which took me all the way to the bridge of the finish, this was 300m of steep downhill running, I gave it everything and I took 20 seconds out of him! We had 800m of flat running for the finish…another day, another race it could have been another story but I gave it everything my jelly legs had left and it wasn’t enough to hold of the naturally fluent Kenyan. Missing out by a mere 17 seconds over 13km of 700m of ascent and 700m of descent left me with a feeling of mixed emotions. I came 2nd and felt overwhelmed but at the same time gutted, frustrated and hungry for more. The consolation to the silver was that the England team won the team event so I got both a Gold and a Silver medal!

11th October – West Yorkshire Cross-Country League, Halifax


It seems to be a policy of the West Yorkshire League that if it’s Halifax Harriers’ turn to host a race they get the first one of the year – because the thought of Roils Head Playing Fields in December is enough to chill the bones of the hardiest Harrier.  The cross-country equivalent of Wuthering Heights lies on the 1000-foot contour line at the end of a dead-end road through a council estate; there is one house and a block of somewhat spartan changing-rooms in the middle of a few football pitches, some scrubby woodland and patches of rough grassland, with nothing to stop the gales howling across the plateau – and on Sunday there were gales!  Fortunately, apart from the wind it was a bright autumn day, so it wasn’t Roils Head at its worst; but nonetheless ambulances had to be called out on two occasions during the afternoon!

Apart from the Under-11 and Under-17 Girls, there was Club representation in all age-groups, but not too many of the male age-groups had a full team out.  However, the Under-11 Boys’ race gave a good start to the day with an eye-catching performance, when Tomas Szajdzicki placed third in his first serious cross-country race.  Of the three lads who turned out in the Under-13 event, all of them for their first effort over the rough stuff, Kieran Savage had the best result, with a 10th placing that a little more racing should see improved; but Jack Allison (40) was running with one arm in a cast (well, if they will play Rugby ….), and in 45th Cameron Robinson’s better known for hurdling.  Best individual results came in the Under-15s, when Steven Eastwood (running in a woolly hat for much of the race) finished a close second and Harry Foster a not-too-distant 5th; there was back-up from another debutant, Jack Teale, who’ll improve on his 27th place when he gets himself a pair of spikes; Roils Head, even on a fairly dry day, isn’t the place to race in ‘flats.’

Team matters started with the Under-13 Girls, whose 5th place in a close race wasn’t a bad opener.  As she often does Gemma Keir forced the early pace, but had a bad patch when a couple of girls went past and slipped to 7th; she was seen afterwards receiving sage advice from Madam President.  In contrast Nicola Sawyer started more conservatively and worked steadily up to 11th, and Danielle Griggs ran soundly to round off the team in 45th, though if she’d known one more place would have moved the team up one she might have … but then!  Running with the older girls for the first time, Gabrielle Scobie got stuck in and managed 55th.  The Under-15 Girls finished a four, but well down in 10th place; Georgia Yearby had a sound run in 21st, but Grace Coburn (48) is still getting over her knee problems, India Wilson (52) seems better suited to sprinting and Georgina Shaw (49) is just a bit short of confidence over longer distances – and they’re all first-years.

One team title was fairly certain among the younger age-groups; even with an off-colour Elliot Todd spectating the Under-17 Lads were carrying too much fire-power in depth for the rest, especially with only three to count.  However, the individual race in this age-group was always going to be warm, with Mike Wood taking on most of last year’s top Under-15s as well as Holmfirth’s Max Kaye, and the pair of them staged a race-long tussle which Mike settled about half-way round the second lap by finding his racing gear.  Gordon Benson was in there (along with Halifax’s Sam Kerfoot-Roberts) early on, but hasn’t really hit his best form off the track so far, and 4th was more of a dogged effort.  The question was which of the three-strong ‘second division’ of Alex Hart, Jamie Higgins and Rob Torch would make up the counting trio, and for the first lap it looked to be “evens the field” as they ran in a close group; it was Alex who made the surge to move up to finish 10th (for a short way he was a couple higher up but got outkicked), though neither Rob (16) of Jamie (19) had a bad run in conditions not really suited to them.

Only five of the Club’s Senior Ladies faced the starter, only one being among the ‘big guns,’ so in those circumstances 5th team wasn’t a bad showing.  It was helped by two things – an excellent run in second place by Emily Klee, who with her fell-running experience didn’t have too many qualms about the conditions, and the first appearance in Club colours – or in any sort of race – for over a year by Sophie Lovell, whose 19th place was a bonus both for her and the team.  The remaining trio consisted of an anything-but-fit but determined Jennie Guard, who needs a few more races but should improve on her 40th, the only-just-Senior Sian Davies, and the considerably Senior Veronique Marot; the latter two had an intriguing contest throughout the race, which in spite of certain members’ encouragement to Sian (“Hang on, Sian – the Old Lady’s coming!”) she narrowly lost (54th and 57th).

With a lot of attention being paid to next week’s National Road Relay it was significant that most of the leading Senior Men were giving this one a miss, but there were two other significant points about the race – when the resurgent Andrew Pearson set off at some pace not one of the thirteen Leeds City athletes followed him, but by the end of the race Leeds City had five in before anybody else had finished three!  It was the old story of people working through  from a good but not over-vigorous start, and the likes of Martin Hilton and Chris Birchall – to say nothing of Greg Hull – are masters of it.  Martin was the first to show in the first ten, by the end of the first lap, with Chris and James Smith not too far behind and Steve Body and Elliot Cole in reasonable touch.  For the early part of the race sixth man was Sean Cotter (in spite of his characteristic arrival on the start-line), but Greg was lurking, and by half-distance he’d moved through.  One interesting development was that for the first lap Greg was towing youngsters Danny Davis and Dale Worton, who had started steadily in their first Senior outing; the question was, could they stay the distance?

Over the last two laps there was certainly a challenge on from Bingley, who had eight athletes packed very closely together between 10th and 25th; but three in the first ten and six in twenty is tough to beat anywhere.  Martin, who’s not raced much this summer, was pleased with his 6th place, though he was burned off a bit by the younger Mark Buckingham; but Chris looked like the Chris of four years ago finishing 7th, and the surprise packet was Elliot, who charged through from the twenties to 9th, passing James (who’s not keen on the country at the best of times, and at the moment has other things on his mind – see below), who held on to 13th and held off by a couple of feet a fast-finishing Steve.  Greg soldiered on and through to 20th, one place behind Bingley’s fourth man, to give an impressive score of 69 points; The Scribe ventures to wonder how many times in the last twenty-odd years Greg has been a counter in a Club team.

In spite of the thinness of numbers a B team was finished, which placed theoretical 10th in spite of having to wait to 160th place for the redoubtable ancient John Mace to make up the count.  ‘Scooter’ led the Second Division in 29th place, while Danny’s 35th, not only a good but a sensible run, was probably his best ever.  Dale (51) struggled a bit on the last lap, but racing over six is a different ball-game, and he’ll get there.  The team was made up by Steve O’Neill (57) who dealt well with unfavourable conditions, and Martin Farran (64), who claimed to be “desperately unfit” but still staged one of his pull-through runs and should soon be back.  A not-100-per-cent Rob Gatenby placed 175th.


The Horsforth 10k was a ‘first’ on several counts for Alison Varley; it was her first competitive outing since the winter (she’s been a bit busy In her professional capacity as a gardener), her first since turning 40, and in finishing 81st in 44.05 she was first over-40 Lady home.


Back in the dim and distant early days of the Club’s history in the 1970s there was an organisation loosely connected with it known as the British Irwin Club, which caused certain of the more staid senior members of the Club’s hierarchy some heartache.  Its leading lights, apart from The Scribe himself, included such legendary figures as Huw Pryderi Rhys, Brwsi Kilner, Len I’Anson (“Mister L.J., The Famous Artist”) and Roger Parker (who in those days wert in Heaven), and its activities were best summed up by the famous words uttered in 1965 at Manchester University by Ugandan international Gadi Ado – “first we go for a match, and then we go for a booze!!!!”  In the modern, serious, focused, Olympic-preparing, coach-loaded athletics scene, when even the Irwin Arms itself has been replaced by a Netto supermarket, these fine traditions have been somewhat neglected; but it is good for the old f***s who survive from that era to know, due to the following e-mail report from Gavin Chatterton, that in certain quarters the spirit of the British Irwin Club is still well alive.  Monstra pudendum!!

“Coniston is famous for the Old Man and The Black Bull, specialising in Bluebird Ale brewed on site. Both combined for a pretty eventful weekend for James Smith’s Stag Do which demonstrated a couple of things – the excellence of the local brewery and a fine display of Leeds City dominance.  The Coniston 15k Trail Race on October 3rd was the last in this years Lakeland series, and weather conditions of driving rain, 80mph gusts, and the standard 1,200-plus feet of ascent and descent combined with wet rocks on 1 in 3 gradients made it brutally tough in places.

There was an element of extreme farce at times. As I was pounding my way up The Old Man of Coniston, I glanced up at one point to see Mike Burrett seriously questioning his own sanity when he was sent by marshals over the edge of some potentially career-ending rocks, followed by James Smith wearing a stag outfit of a ballerina skirt (billowing mightily in the wind) and pink Ra-Ra socks, as we were then hit by an 80mph gust which nearly had us all blown off the mountain – quite bizarre.

James Walsh led home (55.18), followed by Simon Deakin (57.36) a couple of minutes later. Mike (trading as Mike Burnett from “Jims Stag Do”) was next in 59.28, chased home by me in 59.52, then the stag himself, still in full stag regalia, in 1.00.31. All this meant a Leeds City clean sweep of 1st-5th which demonstrated that even with a few pints of local brew the night before, we could still beat all-comers. John Wood also ran a pretty solid 1.13.05 for 73rd place (taking Phil Townsend’s number). Elsewhere, in the Women’s race, Susan Partridge was 2nd (11th overall, 64.15) and Ruth Wilcox 10th (99th overall, 74.46)

We almost felt embarrassed collecting nearly all the Puma and Bridgedale kit prizes – not embarrassed enough to turn them down though.  Elliot Cole took his responsibilities as kit man very seriously, and held the bags in excellent fashion.

There was a secondary race (unofficial) at around 1.30am where a very inebriated James Smith (as a result of failing a simple quiz on his specialist topic – his future wife) took on Elliot Cole in a 100 yard dash up Coniston High Street.  A DNF sadly from James who was perhaps missing his pink ra-ra socks.”