28 June 2015
Half an hour before we set off and Claire and me are warming up under muggy grey skies outside Laycock village. The valley falls steeply away behind us (that’s where Shane and Scott will have to grovel uphill to hand over to us) and I’m telling Claire that I recce’d our route two days previously, on the Friday morning. Lovely it was, too, a nice afternoon out. “Put your map away! Three or four weeks gap between recce and race I can see how you might forget bits of the route – but not two days.” Besides, having just written an article for the Fellrunner magazine on getting lost (and in particular Pudsey & Bramley’s well-earned reputation for getting more lost than anyone else) the irony would be too great.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Three or four minutes into our run, crossing a road and climbing up through a field of stubble, I scan the wall opposite for a stile and can’t see one. Maybe it’s over to the right… no, must be across to the left… we come to a halt at a wall corner and Claire gets her map out. Oh look, we’re here. But we should be there. We clamber the wall and scoot back across adjoining fields as two teams who’d set off a couple of minutes behind us charge past. One of them shouts “We won’t tell anyone!” and off they head down the hill. Claire laughs, but keeps her map out for the rest of the race, and I can see her sneakily checking every time we turn a corner or cross an unmarked stile.
Earlier I’d been with Shane Green up on the blustery tops at Penistone Hill car park waiting for Charlie Mac and Matt Harmon. By the end of Leg 1 the gaps between teams are already being counted in minutes rather than seconds, but with the uphill finishing drag out of Haworth at least we get to see some proper grimacing. A good leg from Charlie and Matt before Shane and Scott set off like a train. Shane has given me the full medical tour of his hamstring problem on the way there so it isn’t a surprise when he appears at the end of Leg 2 clearly suffering. Still manages half a smile though – I imagine Shane’d turn out for a relay even if his legs were in plaster. Negotiating the Bronte country pit-bogs and peat groughs on crutches and shouting “keep going, I’ll catch you up!” to Scott.
Claire and me have a right fun day out of it after the gormless navigating, on what is basically a hurdles race over half a million broken and creaking stiles. Claire does battle with each and every one of them, her limbs somehow wrapping themselves around gateposts, wall-tops and wooden steps with all the grace of a blindfolded contortionist. She still runs faster than me, though, so I shut my gob and work out how we’re going to cross the main by-pass outside Silsden without ending up as roadkill. We descend to the change-over where Rachel and Belinda pause for a chat before setting off towards Ilkley Moor. Well, not a chat, just a few seconds of dithering as befits anyone wearing the maroon and gold. Leg 4 – Belinda’s first fell race, so rumour has it! – is a proper fell leg, down towards Addingham and then a good climb up onto Ilkley Moor and handing over to Graham and Matthew. It’s nice, isn’t it, Rachel handing over to Graham? Sweet and romantic. I bet other clubs don’t factor that into their relay organisation, the brief and fleeting touch of hands at changeovers… alright, I’ll stop that right now.
Graham and Matthew have a stormer, charging down to finish 8th on their leg and taking our ramshackle-cobbled-together-higgledy-piggledy team into a creditable 10th overall. I watch them as they career down the moorland path off the tops, smiling as they stomp along. In contrast, a pair of runners who were a few places in front (Pudsey Pacers, this is your life) stopped by me at the wall crossing, and after grubbing around at the foot of the wall pulled out a carrier bag full of supplies including what looked like sandwiches, cake and ginger pop. They grabbed some and stuffed the remainder back under the wall. They’ll probably still be there for next year’s relay, so I’m hoping I get that leg so I can have a proper meal half way round.
So the Millennium Way is over for another year as knackered runners trot into the cricket club at Bingley. The sun’s out and Charlie Mac has been at home washing his car for six hours. Job done. Despite the usual stuttering chaos of drop-outs due to injury and illness, coupled with the odd navigational hitch (I forgot to mention Shane and Scott’s insistence on taking an extended tourist sight-seeing route half-way through Leg 2. And Graham and Matthew’s desire to complete the race at a school playing field across the road from the finish), a fine effort from everyone. And to the grumpy git scowling at us parking on the road near his manicured front garden in Laycock – see you next year.
Leg 1 – Charlie McIntosh & Matt Harmon 6th 1:25:36. Leg 2 – Shane Green & Scott Alder 12th 1:17:04. Leg 3 – Boff Whalley & Claire Green 16th 1:09:19. Leg 4 – Rachel Pilling & Belinda Baquero 18th 1:23:26 (fastest female pair). Leg 5 – Graham Pilling & Matthew Seddon 8th 1:26:16. — 10th Team Overall