Auld Lang Syne – Farewell to Woodentops

As most in the fell running community will know, Dave & Eileen Woodhead, AKA the Woodentops, have decided to retire from race organising. Entries for their final race, the 2017 Auld Lang Syne, filled up within a day or so but fortunately we had a good group there representing P&B to say thanks and farewell to the much-loved pair.

We did have some notable dropouts however, with the sharp-end of the race certainly missing the presence of John Spill (injury) and Joe Baxter (flu). I believe Boff was taking the race so seriously that he took up an experimental descent training technique involving a sledge, resulting in a broken rib and punctured lung. Ouch! Get well soon.

Shane paid a fitting tribute to the potential for injury with his poignant and thought-provoking ‘Captain Bubblewrap’ costume.

The remainder of our costumed contingent was made up of Rachel as ‘I Want to Break Free’-video Freddy Mercury (Why aren’t you both dressed as Freddy? I was repeatedly asked — because we only have one fake moustache), Karen Pickles as the fell running Milk Maid, and Gary Bailey as the Haworth Moors Murderer.

As for the rest of us, Dave Alcock and Neil Armitage seemed to have a good tussle for position in the 20’s, with myself, and a slightly-ill-and-not-really-feeling-it Colin a little farther down the field; an ever-smiling Caroline rounded off the ladies trio.

There were many enjoyable costumes on show, as there usually are, providing an appropriately merry atmosphere and making the race a fun one to spectate. Plenty of encouragement en route, be it the frequent ‘Come on Pudsey’ from people I never properly see because I rarely look up, and of course Pres. Sarah in her usual spot by the house, offering sweets.  Despite there not being any actual Junior races, it was also great to see some of our Juniors out anyway, along with Coach Joanne Boocock, offering support to the senior runners.

Prize-giving in the pub afterwards was as busy as you would expect. In typical Woodhead no-nonsense style, things proceeded in a to-the-point but chaotic manner – no farewell speech nor airs and graces – just plenty of shouting, beer, chocolate, and good cheer.

Alistair Brownlee won the men’s race (and provided quite a spectacle at prizegiving for those who aren’t used to seeing him racing/training locally) and Nicola Jackson the ladies’, in a close battle with Ribble clubmate Louisa.

Like a few runners I know, the Woodentops races played quite a large part in getting me into fell running. The first fell race I did was Withins (which I recall finding incredibly tough at the time) but a memorable turning point was an ALS race from a few years back on a particularly grim and rainy day. I remember splashing through that river crossing, a big smile on my face, relishing how bonkers the race seemed — ‘if this were the end of the world, I honestly think we’d all still be out here enjoying a run’, I thought to myself. Add to that Dave’s joyous disregard for officiousness/bureaucracy, as well as the general prevailing anarchic feeling to proceedings, and I knew it was the sport for me.

Dave & Eileen were presented with an etching by Shane on behalf of ‘all P&B runners, past, present and future’ to say thank you for all they’ve done for the sport.

The races will continue to be organised by Wharfedale Harriers, and (thankfully) there’ll be no escape from Woodhead’s verbal abuse during other races, as they’ll continue to be out and about taking photos and maintaining a presence within fellrunning.

So that’s that. Cheers once again to Dave & Eileen for all their support, as well as all the other volunteers and marshals for the ALS race.

Remember, it’s your own stupid fault if you get run over, and GET BAAAAAAACK!

David Alcock 21st 49:57. Neil Armitage 24th 50:10. Gary Bailey 42nd 51:38. Graham Pilling 63rd 53:35. Colin Walker 74th 54:52. Rachel Pilling 85th 56:05. Karen Pickles 122nd 59:33. Shane Green 189th 65:17. Caroline Harding 215th 66:35.  (FULL RESULTS HERE)

Above photos taken from the Woodentops site, c/o D&E, Mick Fryer, and Kath Bridger.

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