Oxenhope Straw Race 2018

After a couple of years of trying to cajole Mr Pilling into to doing the Straw Race with me, I finally realised I needed to look elsewhere for a running/beer drinking/straw carrying companion.

There have been some strong female P&B pairings in the past, so it made sense to attempt to carry on this tradition and Claire was the obvious choice. I was chuffed at the level of enthusiasm, equalling my own giddiness at the prospect of doing it and knew that even though this was “just a bit of fun,” we both wanted to win.

Our entry only went in at the last minute – literally a minute before entries closed. This caused a couple of issues. The first being costume and the second being our starting slot. We opted to dress in whatever we could find that was bright and gaudy – it worked out fine and looked sort of Hawaiian/festival type thing, but most importantly, did not hinder running.

We arrived early at The Waggon and Horses to discover that we would be in the last group to start. A lot of waiting around. Talk turned to strategy and tactics. I haven’t really thought about this, other than acquiring a broom handle to aid carrying the bale. Our support team offered suggestions and a plan was formed. As we waited, the nervous toilet trips racked up and my ability to remember who was drinking at what point kept getting jumbled. We watched in awe at the weird and wonderful costumes and at the absurdity of this strange gathering.

The first few pairings to head off were the folks out to race. It was useful to watch what they did, but frustrating to not be setting off with them. We knew that as the last to go, we had the extra challenge of working our way through the congested narrow track down to the village.

Claire took on beer number one. I set off running, stick in hand, determined to make a good start, realising very quickly that my legs weren’t feeling great after doing Buttermere the previous week. Claire caught up in no time and we politely (sternly) shouted at people ahead to clear the way until we reached The Bay Horse, for beer two and straw collection. By this point steely determination had set in, it seemed frantic and chaotic, people everywhere. My mind was racing – Don’t make a tit of yourself and balls up downing a beer, being my main thought. Don’t let yourself down. Don’t let P&B down. Beer drunk, Claire now ahead running like a beast with the straw bail across her shoulders. I caught up and took hold of the end of the broom handle. Claire had speared the hay with expert precision. We found a good rhythm, knowing from past race photos that we oddly run in sync when we run together. Beer three. We knew what we were doing by now and started to feel relaxed as we worked up the hill pushing past unsuspecting pairs out to enjoy themselves. As we charged up, we could hear amusing comments and friendly encouragement from people not quite expecting anyone to be taking it so seriously or moving so quickly at that point in the day. Niall appeared frequently ahead on his bike shouting encouragement. Beers four and five came and went pretty swiftly and the final pub was in sight. A strong drive up to the finish. A gaggle of people ambling towards the dibber were charged out of the way to ensure we weren’t delayed at the end.

Greeted at the finish by some mockery from Dave Woodhead and just about avoiding a post-race spew. We had done it. No idea of the result, but feeling pleased. Happy to have not brought shame to the club.

Later on, the call came. Winning Ladies. Objective achieved. Plan in place ready for next year.

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