The Howarth Hobble – mine to loose!

The Haworth Hobble was the designated trial race for the British Athletics team ahead of the 2017 IAU World Trail Championship in June.

I’d not even thought about running The Hobble until I was having a post race chat with Andrew Horrobin after the Tour de Helvellyn back in December and he suggested giving it a go. I’d had a great 2016 of races but 51km and just 1600m of ascent was not a race that would play to my strengths – a really needed a longer race and more technical hills! But you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? So I entered, if only to see how I would fair against lots of super speedy ladies.

Although anything over 26.2miles is technically an ultra marathon some, including myself, might argue its not really. Being as short as an ultra can really get meant the seasoned ultra runners had to up their speed, whilst it was still short enough for the fell runners (which are traditionally much shorter races) to get in the mix.

Over the last couple of months I’d had to teach myself to “run” again having spent most of the last year on much hiller terrain where I’d march up the hills rather than actually run.

I’d been feeling pretty run down and it had been a super busy few weeks of work in the 2 weeks leading up to the race.  A nighty rum/whiskey had eased my chest a little but I wasn’t 100% – I had to put that to the back of my mind as race day arrived.

I always try not to set an expectation on myself, but I knew this was probably the most important race I’d ever run! There were lots of familiar faces hanging around at registration, including Andrew Horrobin, this time giving me a little pre race pep talk. “Its yours to loose” he said. Those words stuck with me the whole way round!

The race starts on the steep cobbled high street of the lovely Yorkshire village of Howarth (meaning settlement on a small hill) and heads straight up the hill towards the fells. One moment everyone was standing around chatting and the suddenly we were off – going seriously fast! I didn’t dare look at my watch to see exactly how fast, but I knew it was fast because for the next hour my breathing sounded like a steam train! Sally Fawcett disappeared into the distance with another lady (who I now know was the ultimate winner, Julie Briscoe!) and I counted 3 more ladies in front, which put me in 6th. I didn’t look behind.

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Generally, the first 3 will be selected to represent GB in the World Championships. But this race wasn’t going to be won in the first mile so I just ran at a pace that felt hard, but maintainable. After a mile or so I was in 5th. 3rd and 4th were slowly puling away but I didn’t chase – my ultra head knew very well not to chase down places until at least half way round.

The first long gentle climb felt hard. My legs were heavy, but thats normal for at least the first hour so I knew I just had to ride it out. I ran straight through the first checkpoint and thats when my legs started to feel ready to go. Then I saw couple of ladies about 2 minutes ahead and wondered did I maybe have a chance of catching them? I didn’t chase, I wasn’t even a third of the way in yet! After the rather unpleasant 1/2 mile along the Long Causeway road, I knew there was the rather enjoyable few miles down into Todmorden. By the time I’d reached Todmorden, 17 miles in, I’d caught up with Sarah Ridgeway and Sally, who were now in 2nd and 3rd. Racing amongst such company felt rather a little strange, but I felt good so along with them I went!

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Before the climb to Stoodley Pike, Ben Mounsey who was spectating, told me I was 3rd and gave me a very encouraging cheer. Sally was now 100 metres ahead as we reached the top. Towards the bottom of the Pike, Sally and I were running along together again – which continued for the next 12 miles!

The next hour went by so quickly as Sally and I ran along together. Before long we were just a few miles from the end. With about 1.5 miles to go there is a horrid gentle road hill, then the final mile into into the finish. I was actually glad that Sally was a little ahead at this point as it gave me a few minutes of alone time to compose myself before the end. I bounded into the finish in 3rd place – which I now know was enough to secure me place on the GB team for 2017 IAU World Trail Championships!

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A special thanks must go to Andrew, first for suggesting I enter the Hobble and secondly for his wise pre race words! And of course, Sally, for her lovely company on route!

Thank you as always to Mountain Fuel for allowing me to fly!

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