Sunday December 11th, 2016

The Great Yorkshire Pieathlon is now a firm favourite in the end-of-year race calendar. Having been forced to miss the event in 2013 and 2014 through a combination of lack of money, and injury, 2015 was the year where I finally put my finger in the pie, dipped my toe in the mud and saw for myself the glory beholden. My mate Jordan and I ran relatively undertrained, but well enough to finish reasonably well and having consumed about half our bodyweight in pie. The hordes who run in fancy dress  no doubt contribute to the fun, Christmassy aspect of this race, not least of all for the prospect of having to tackle the race’s infamous Bog of Doom, an unavoidable stretch of mud that has ruined many a suit and claimed many a shoe.

I was lucky enough to win my entry to the race at the start of this year, when I was randomly selected just for liking a post on Facebook, starting off a year where I’ve been lucky enough to win a three boxes of TREK bars, and most recently, some calf sleeves via Running Heroes. If that translated to Irish Lottery wins, I’d be at least a grand up by now! But I digress. This turned out to be a neatly placed end of year event and a good way to ease back into schedule after the Snowdonia Marathon.

Jordan didn’t sign up this year, and I didn’t feel I could splash out on a decent fancy dress costume – we had the idea that Jordan and I could recreate a hungry man chasing after the other, dressed as a pie. Alas, on my own, I opted to just enjoy the race while running it as hard as I could. Besides, some of the outfits on display were amazing. Like this guy, carrying a full size artificial Christmas  tree with a frame on his shoulders. Magnificent.

Cue the start, a very windy day indeed at Salendine Nook High School, which nearly took down the inflatable arch, but with a bit of willpower from Wane, the organiser from Team OA, it stood upright and soon enough, we were off, down the school’s football pitches and through the gate to Longwood Edge Road. I soon made my way up to third, and for a while I tracked the two lads in front along to the end of the road, and down the steep Shaw Lane. All was going to plan at first, and as we arrived at the first pie station, I quickly nipped in, like someone who’s done this before, and briefly jumped into second, although I was overtaken again. Then, I bit into the porkpie. Ugh, it was dry. And by dry, I mean claggy. It wouldn’t go down at all, and as we ventured up ‘One Pie Hill’, which crosses a golf course, I had to stop just to swallow a bit and take another bite.

Over the stile I went, the front two still visible. I kept an eye on my footing but suddenly, it went from underneath me and ‘thud’. I landed fairly flat, arms outstretched to break my fall. As far as falls go, it was a pretty good one. I got up and got on with it. At this point I struggled for a bit, and found myself wandering slightly off the track a little – not by much, but enough that allowed a few others to catch up, and I dropped from third to sixth. Still, I was doing my level best to enjoy it, as the race took another sharp descent, this time down Hollin Hall Lane, as the race neared the infamous ‘Bog of Doom’. A left turn, over a stile and onwards. Another runner in front took a tumble, and there wasn’t too much distance up to the runners ahead. There was the bog. The photographers, marshals and a few supporters were gathered ‘Go on Peter, straight through it!’ yelled one lady who I might have recognised. I don’t know why I moved slightly to the right – perhaps I thought it looked slightly less boggy. Oh well, splodge SPLODGE. Tackled like a demon. With a thumbs up to those gathered, I went past the chef, who’d made his way to the bog for the ensuing hilarity, and started to head for the road section.

Here is my one and only race photo. I don’t like it, I don’t look to be enjoying myself and why my arm is up in the air like that, I don’t know! I was still having a good time, I assure you.

Over a stile, over the cattle grid, past another pie station. I picked up, and dropped, another porkpie. Not only that, I actually knocked over a full tray of porkpies as I grasped to catch the falling pastry. Apologetic, I tried to chase down the three men ahead. I got past one of them, a dreadlocked Santa Claus, but it would soon be the devilishly tough ascent up Dodlee Lane. I wasn’t too far behind, but the cobbled nature of the hill is punishing, and I had to walk a little. Eventually, still trying to gnash the now gritty pie, I plundered along to Edge Terrace, another steep, angled climb, partly walked, mostly run, I finally reached the top and clambered through the gate. My calf muscles were aching. I opted not to go for the sprint finish, reigning in my competitive instincts and indeed, preserving my energy, and took it steadily all the way to the finish.
Two porkpies, both of which I couldn’t finish, one fall, one bloodied knee, and fifth place overall, in 32:34. An improvement on last year, but largely insignificant really in an event such as this.

I stopped around at the finish, talking to some of the other runners about the race, the hills, the Bog, and those claggy pies, before heading off to clean my shoes. Inside, it felt a bit sparse. Pie-Eck, the wonderful company who turned up last year, weren’t about with their Yorkshire-themed pies, but there were complimentary mince pies for the runners at the end – how I wish I’d grabbed one of those out on course! And I was able to clean up my knee, although in reality it was a minor graze and nothing to worry about. And unfortunately, it appeared the school were fixing the shower area up, so I wasn’t able to clean my legs, or my arms for that matter. I couldn’t complain too much though. I was very grateful to have won my entry to this race, and so I was happy just to have enjoyed the race, the people in fancy dress, and everything that came with it. I’ve never fallen over in a race before, but I really don’t mind – it was nothing serious and it was all part of the fun.

The organisers have confirmed a new catering company are in place for 2017, which should hopefully result in the return of those love, rich, gravy-laden pies. But nonetheless, even though it was quite as indulgent as the year before, this was still a fabulous event, one ideally better suited if you’re running with friends or family members, and ideally, the dafter, the better. And even if you do take it semi-seriously, as I did this time, you can expect a thorough examination of your hill strength, and indeed your penchant for pie. And the race finisher t-shirt this year was just sums up what we all really think about running!

A big thanks to the race organisers for my prize entry, and to the organisers, photographers and volunteers for all their help on the day.

Entry for the 2017 Pieathlon is now open. Simply head here if you fancy a slice.

2016 results

2016 photo gallery