Its 8 am on Saturday morning, with an icy wind blowing and flakes of snow in the air, and me and Harry are in the crowd of 315 runners/walkers queuing in the cobbled Main Street of Haworth, just outside the Fleece Inn, ready for the start of the 32 mile and 4600 odd feet of climb 'Haworth Hobble'. We'd only entered this race at the last minute on Thursday with Brett, the race organiser from Keighley and Craven AC, confirming that it would be okay for Harry to run the race too (one of three dog runners that I could see on the day). It would Harry's very first ultra distance race.
The Haworth Hobble is a stunning route over the hills and moors of Bronte Country, which is that part of the Pennines wedged between Colne and Burnley in the west and Haworth and Hebden Bridge in the east. When I was a southerner, many yonks ago, I'm not sure I really knew what moors were but, at the time, I envisaged them to bleak and miserable places. Just like yesterday in fact! (just kidding). Nowadays I now know moors much much better and, yes, they can be bleak, incredibly bleak in bad weather, but they are also fantastically beautiful and mystical places. And flipping rocky and muddy too! I love 'em.
We ran the first 15 miles or so of the Hobble really well and the route up until that point surprised me as it was all very very runnable, making for some fast going. I then started to struggle a bit (although Harry was whizzing along) and its no coincidence that the route became much steeper and hillier at the 20 mile point, with a rock solid climb up Stoodley Pike, over the tops and then dropping down to Hebden Bridge, up to Heptonstall (including a humdinger of a climb up a set of cobbled steps) before kind of annoyingly dropping straight back down again to Hebden Water and commencing one long drawn out climb past Hardcastle Crags all the way up to Top Withens, purportedly the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. By the time we got up there the rain, sleet and snow was fairly full on, making the going even more "fun", but we were then in sniffing distance of the finish and we both found a good spurt from somewhere and managed to push on strong for the final 3 miles.
We finished in 5 hours and 57 minutes and, although initially we thought first dog had gone to Harry, we later found out that a lovely brown and white collie (and owner Ian?) that we'd seen earlier won the day. Never mind Harry loved it either way and particularly loved chasing sticks and stones and playing puddle splashing all the way round. Luckily he was wearing his running harness, with its handy carrying handle, which made getting over the stiles and cattle grids much easier. I was pleased with my run too, having HPM'd last weekend.
Grand day out followed by a much deserved pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord in the Fleece afterwards.
|Soon after the off and Harry is already setting a cracking pace|
|Running on boggy ground - aah, luxury!|
|Stoodley Pike - a nice little climb at the 20 mile point|
|Looking back from Stoodley Pike|
|31.4 miles and 4,600 feet!|
Edit: I have subsequently been informed that we did not run past Top Withens near the end of the race but instead we did it near the beginning. Doh! Apologies but the copy maps I carried with me with the route marked up disintegrated in the rain and I used guess work and my own brand of befuddled logic to assume that where we'd been. Needless to say I'm no expert in Bronte Country!