Sunday 13th December, 2015 – 7:00am
7 months since my last event. A feverish hunger to get back on track.
To race again. And now, to run and eat pie simultaneously.
Of course the premise of this race, if you hadn’t guessed, is in its name. Described as ‘the hungriest race in Yorkshire’, the Great Yorkshire Pieathlon is a 6km trail race with traditional fuelling stations instead stocking pies, which entrants could choose to stop and eat or attempt to run and consume them. After missing out the previous two years due to work obligations, it was good to finally be here. Not just because I wanted to eat pie on the run, but because this was a step back from injury, having spent the best part of 7 months dealing with sesamoiditis, and it seems my foot has being doing better in recent weeks – so this was a key barometer to see where I was in terms of progress towards marathon training.
Preparation for the race could not have gone much worse, from getting soaked in the rain the day before, exacerbated by a taxi driver who couldn’t find his way round a paper bag never mind the town he was supposed to know inside out; to a difficult kids bedtime which pushed back the pre-race evening meal to 11:30pm when it was all said and done. The morning was a rush, trying to get a spare change of clothes together, being undecided on exactly what to run in, and trying to balance the needs of the house. In the end, I got out for my intended bus which finally put me at ease.
I met up with my good mate and former work colleague Jordan, with whom I previously ran the Great Birmingham Run in 2014, and together we made the bus journey up to Salendine Nook, which was distinctly colder than Brighouse from where I’d set off. Teeth a-chattering, we made our way down to the High School grounds where the race HQ was based this year. We were greeted by a man in a chef’s outfit who asked us ‘Morning guys, are you here to run?’ Clearly we should have said we were here for the pie, but instead, we both said ‘yes’. The man started to laugh. Insanely. I’ll say no more on that. Although I’m pleased to say he didn’t run at us with his rolling pin!
The Pieathlon, along with Team OA’s other quirky races the Chocathlon and Wineathlon, is very mucha fun race, not one to be taken seriously, and as such I decided long ago I would run to Jordan’s pace, what after leaving him around 25 minutes behind in Birmingham the year before! But aside from that we’d both expressed a will to do this race, so it would be best enjoyed in tandem. And it would be hard, you imagine, trying to eat pie if you push for push for near 3:00/km pace.
A variety of people in fancy dress gathered at the start line, along with myself, Jordan and a fair few other runners in traditional running kit. The mad chef reminded runners about the pie stations in good heart and banter and it wasn’t really a race – that there will be a winner but they expect everyone to eat pie on the way round!
Off we went, across the school’s football pitch, through the goalposts, and over to a gate on the other side, leading to Longwood Edge Road – a gravel road with a slight uphill incline, leading to a tarmac road before eventually turning downhill. I was finding it relatively easy going at this point in time. We reached the first pie station where I took a rather rich and tasty beef pie! I opted to keep running and kept checking behind me to ensure I wasn’t leaving Jordan too far behind.
The race continued over Outlane Golf course where golfers were lining up their shots as runners passed by! Thankfully they didn’t take a swing and seemed quite reasonable. The race was proceeding uphill and beginning to get a little muddier. Both myself and Jordan were getting found out at this point for a relative lack of running fitness, but we made it up to the top. Jordan nearly went down at one point but kept on his feet and the race proceeded towards twistier, wetter and muddier terrain. At times every step was a big splish-splash-squelch as my legs started to get covered in the stuff. The white Thorlo socks I was wearing would surely no longer be white. And that was before reaching the race’s now infamous ‘Bog of Doom’ – a very marshy stretch which runners often come a cropper on. Jordan seemed to navigate this quite well – I on the other hand slowed down where fleet of foot might have been better. In my foot went. I thought I was going to lose my shoe but thankfully the shoe emerged still attached to my foot, and onwards we went.
The second pie station appeared at 5km, where this time I grabbed a mince pie, and gleefully scoffed it as the chef emerged around a wet corner complimenting the runners’ abilities. Along a steady downhill section, we were now approaching the finish. Two tough climbs awaited – the first, the cobbled Dodlee Lane, the second, Edge Terrace, offering a stunning view over the Holme Valley, turning back on itself to Longwood Edge Road to complete the loop back to the finish. As we neared the top, Jordan told me to go for it, and my competitive urge seemingly unleashed, I powered up the remainder of the hill, entered through the gate, overtook another runner, who sportingly congratulated me and vice versa, and tried to sprint towards the finish. My usual kick wasn’t there, but it was good enough, and I crossed the lines some 37 minutes after we’d started. Jordan was only a few places behind, and too finished strongly.
Following a quick shower, we heading back into the sports hall where all the action was going down. I grabbed a cup of tea and thought we might be setting off. But no. Jordan had bought himself a pie! I ummed and ahhed…and went and got one myself. A nice chicken pie from the ladies from Pie-Eck, a local pie company who present all their menus and descriptions in true Yorkshire dialect. Topped with gravy, we sat down and tucked in. And by ‘eck (or is that Pie-Eck?) it was delicious. 3 pies consumed in the space of 90 minutes, we walked all the way back down into Huddersfield town centre, looking back at actually how well we’d done in the race, considering there weren’t too many people around at the finish. We estimated top 20.
It turned out I finished 10th in 37:37, while Jordan came 13th in 37:59. What a fantastic result!
Considering I’ve spent the last six, seven months battling a nagging injury and losing some of my fitness, considering Jordan last properly trained for a race when we ran Birmingham, is pretty good going!
That said, the most important thing wasn’t the result, but the race experience. It was a blast. We definitely have to do this again. In fancy dress next time! I thoroughly recommend you come round this part of Yorkshire and try it too. Its a little bit tricky in places, but what do you expect with a trail race really? You get some cracking course sections and pie to boot. That race photo is also possibly the happiest I’ve ever looked in a race. That’s what a nagging injury, and indeed the prospect of pie, will do for you!
A big shout to Wane and Team OA, Bolster Moor Farm Shop, Haigh’s Farm Shop, Pie-Eck and Laura Crane Trust (and anyone I forget here) for putting together a tremendous event, the marshals and volunteers for ensuring this event is possible and well done to every who ran, walked and ate pie! Here’s to next year!