Snakes and Lions

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Pinhaw Moor, the second race of the Pendle and Burnley Grand Prix series and my first of the season. The race starts from Earby, though fortunately the race sees some of the best Earby has to offer. The first port of call is the Cricket Club at the Applegarth, and on a dry but chilly late spring evening the club was busy with runners and junior cricketers practising their googlies or something. The Applegarth gives panoramic views of Elslack Moor leaving runners in no-doubt about the pain that lies ahead. Turning for registration I was confronted with a very busy bar area. Complete your form on the pool table, try and find the back of the queue, before doing a snake like two loops of the pool table to the registration desk. It was reminiscent of the Snake game on the old Nokia 3310s!

Over to the start, which is a good half a mile away, and there were plenty of Humbugs on show. By my reckoning there were 53 from Team TAC which is a fantastic turnout of the overall 256 runners (thought to be a record). At this time of the year, it’s always great to see so many new faces. The race starts by following Red Lion Street up until the Red Lion pub. For those of you who don’t know Earby, keep going up Red Lion Street and it’s not far until you get to Earby’s hidden gem of ‘The Waterfalls’ and the surrounding parkland. A good location for walk on a nice day. Back to the race, which takes a turn to the left and picks up a farm track to head up onto the moors. Pinhaw is an odd trail race with much of the first quarter more like a road race with the route following a well paved farm-track. In terms of incline, the elevation is relentless rather than steep and it’s only the ongoing 2.5 mile up-hill that makes it a challenging course. The first mile of the course is never more than 1 in 8 according to Strava. Hills are where I thrive, at least relative to my ability, and I was able to make my way through the pack.

After the farm at around a mile, the next section is very much trail. Before the race there’d been a bit of chat about road or trail shoes and by this point I was questioning my choice. Whilst not boggy apart from the odd avoidable puddle, the ground was soft and interspersed with the odd bit of rocky ground which my road shoes weren’t that supportive on. There’s no let up of the gradual incline, but the gradient does ease off on the trail section. Just before the two mile point the trail meets the top of Clogger Lane and it’s back to tarmac as you continue to climb to Old Skipton Road. On a good day you can get some cracking views over the Yorkshire Dales, but unfortunately it was weather more typical of Earby and grey filled the skies. With the steepness of the road again increasing it felt like the route suited the weather.

A few hundred yards later and it’s time for the final stretch to the trig point with the route again returning to trail as the route continues along the Pennine Way. It was about at this point when I started seeing the speedy runners passing me already on their descent. Only a few places behind the leader I was pleased to see a good friend of mine and then my next-door neighbour flying past, just a shame they don’t run for TAC! Just behind them came Martin Greenwood as the first Humbug. Martin went on to finish 17th with a very impressive time of 33:36. Not far behind Martin came another of my neighbours. Whilst she didn’t go on to catch her husband, she did go on to finish as 1st lady. Well done Jacqueline.

A quick loop of the trig (elevation 388m) and it’s back the way you came to Earby. As I started descending the moor with the worst bit behind me I was chuffed to see John McDonald a good hundred yards behind me. John’s always a good marker for me and I’m usually happy if I can see him, never mind in front of him! I’m not the best at downhill, and even by the time I hit the trail section again I’d already lost about 10 places. Even worse Johny Mac came flying past me, whilst I wasn’t surprised to see John pass me, I was a bit gutted he’d done it so quickly. I don’t know if I improved, but from this point I was only passed by one more person. One great thing about Pinhaw is that you can really relax and enjoy the second part of the race. None of the terrain is too difficult so you can let yourself go. The only downside is that for people who wore trail shoes, the tarmac and constant descent can be heavy going on the feet and I heard a few grumbles about this at the end.

As I got back to the Red Lion the crowds were out in force and as well as supporters of the runners, plenty of locals were out in their gardens cheering people on. As I approached the bridge at the end of Red Lion Street I found the energy to have a go at a sprint finish. The guy in front of me was a good 30-50 yards in front, but I went hell for leather and managed to pip him. Strava has me hitting a speed of 4 minutes per mile over the last 100 yards! The only downside is he seemed pretty naffed off that I’d charged past him pretty much on the line. From my point of view it was nothing personal, and I was just using him as a marker for one final push. In the end I finished with a time 42:29 which was 8 seconds faster than my last attempt two years ago.

Well done all Trawden runners and hope you all enjoyed it.

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