WITH the first snow of the winter, there were some challenging conditions for the Harriers this week. 

But they’re a hardy bunch and they collected some fantastic successes despite the tricky conditions.  On the icy paths, Ben Rothery flew round the Clough Head Fell race, one of the Kong Running Winter Series races, at a blistering pace. 

Despite being only five miles in total the first two miles sees participants tackling a total of 1870ft of climbing.  The race starts from Threlkeld quarry and heads straight out onto the fell to begin the climb up to Clough Head summit.  From there, it’s a flying runnable descent to the rocky summit of White Pike with a sprint along the quarry tracks to the finish.  Rothery was way ahead of the pack on the ascent and took first place, as he finished over two minutes ahead of the next runner, taking the course record by over 50 second, which given the conditions was a remarkable achievement.

Meanwhile, across in the Yorkshire Dales Jann Smith and Paul Carman were tackling an equally challenging five-mile race.  The Really Wild Boar starts and finishes at the Fat Lamb Inn in Ravenstonedale and climbs up 1401ft to the top of Wild Boar Fell and back.  No doubt motivated by soup and beer at the finish, the duo had a fantastic race.  First over the line in 56:08 was Carman, followed by Smith in a superb time of 1:04:02 which saw her claiming first prize in her age category.  

It was also race two of the 2023/24 PECO Cross Country League on Sunday at Temple Newsam in Leeds.  The League is a series of five races organised in and around Leeds in which clubs affiliated to the League compete across men's and ladies’ divisions. Each race is about 4-5 miles.

 It was a fantastic turnout for the Harriers.  In the ladies’ race, Sarah Hayes was first over the line in 41:29, followed by Diane Kitchen in 41:49 which saw her taking second place in her age category.  Kate Lofthouse and Sarah Lambert completed the team.  14 Harriers turned out for the men’s race which had the option of tackling the infamous water obstacle.  James Horrex was the first over the line in 27:50 closely followed by Danny Thompson who took second place in his age category.  There were other age category placings for Jeff Green and Robert Hamilton.  The Ilkley men were the fifth-place team in the Men’s Premier Division and third in the Men’s Vets Premier Division. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal Harrier’s week without one member pushing the boundaries, and this time it was Petra Bijsterveld’s turn.

 Not content with the challenge of wintry conditions, Bijsterveld tackled the Cheviot Goat Ultra in Northumberland, a 59-mile race with 13000ft of climb. The route prides itself on taking participants into one of the last wild places in England, boasting the lowest population count per square mile. Starting and finishing in Ingram, the route takes in a loop of the largest hills in the border region, tackling peat covered hills, challenging grassy descents and a traipse along the border ridge with Scotland on one side and England on the other. With a 24-hour cut off, this was a challenging event only for experienced ultra runners and Bijsterveld had a superb run, completing it well under the cut off in 20:40:51, finishing as 12th female overall.

Of course, some Harriers are more sensible and despite tackling a marathon distance, Dick Waddington did at least choose to do it in Valencia, Spain, away from the snow and ice.  The course, starting in the Plaça de la Marató and ending along a walkway over water in the City of Arts and Sciences, is the ideal circuit for achieving a personal best. It is completely flat and at sea level. It runs along large avenues and through the historic centre of the city.  The course didn’t disappoint for Waddington who had a fantastic run, completing it in 3:10:34.

And finally, with a few cancellations across the region there was a lower turnout at the weekly parkrun events.  There were however some great results with top ten finishes and a PB:  Matthew Thackwray and Christos Tzelis were the first finishers at the Conyngham Hall and Skipton events respectively; there were top ten finishes for Steve Coy, and Tom Worboys; and continuing his run of form, Andrew Smith got another PB at the Roundhay event.