Howarth Hobble 2024

There was a buzz of excitement amongst the club in the lead up to the Howarth hobble this year. A
few returners from last year (Mel, Emma, Stuart and Steve) but also some newcomers to the ultra
community who have worked really hard to build up their endurance over the winter months (Tessa,
Shona, Jess and Caroline) with of course the support of our very able team cheerleader Del. Not
forgetting Mick, Paul and Nicola who are ultra runners.
An early start, even earlier for those who took advantage of the opportunity to get going before the
mass start. We arrived at Haworth primary in good time for the usual faffage. A last minute queue
for the toilets meant I only just made it to the start line in time! So many people run this race that
really it is only possible to start in a leisurely manner (not that I had planned it any other way!). As
we started to spread out on the track leading down to Bronte bridge we had a superb surprise in
store. I heard it before I saw it, a local brass band playing out to us and it certainly gave me a smile
as I started ascending the first climb.
As we descended the paving slabs of the Pennine way Emma W who had only been a few runners
ahead gracefully trotted off into the distance like a mountain gazelle. Paul and Mick overtook me
soon after as to be expected! The first checkpoint arrived, I had made good time, faster than I’d
initially anticipated. In my previous ultras I have always made full use of checkpoints, perhaps
getting a bit too comfortable so I had made a conscious decision in this race to minimise stoppage
time. A quick grab of some fruit and jelly babies and I walked off while I scoffed them down.
Paul overtook me a second time before I reached the second check point, runners tummy causing
him an unscheduled stop. At the next checkpoint everything felt a bit bleak. There was a cold chill in
the wind and it was reasonably foggy so could not appreciate any nice views. I was starting to
wonder why I had decided to enter, but I was still making good time so I pressed on.
A hot cup of tea really perked me up at checkpoint number 3 and I was raring to go again – still not
stopping for long, I walked and slurped as I went along. I considered whether to get my poles out at
this point, having not used them so far but in my mind, it was downhill all the way to the next
checkpoint so didn’t bother. I immediately regretted this decision when I arrived at the big steep hill
up to Mankinholes which I had completely forgotten about. Seeing Tess, Shona, Jess and Del on this
hill cheered me right up. It had been a while since I’d seen a familiar face and on a hard hill at this
point in the race (around 19 miles) meant a friend smile was very welcome (or should I say friendly
grunt from Tess who seemed about as impressed with this hill as me)! It was lovely to cheer on our
first-time ultra-runners and I felt a real sense of pride in their achievement so far, I had no doubt
they were going to make it to the end seeing how positive they were in spirits. It gave me a real buzz
as I continued on to Stoodley Pike – the section I had been dreading the whole way round. The
monument of Stoodley Pike towers over the valley of Todmorden and even through the fog you
could still just make it out in the distance looming like a sinister beacon.
A quick stop at Mankinholes checkpoint, I was determined I was going to try the whisky this year but
when the moment arrived, I didn’t really feel I could stomach it so just stuck with fruit and sweets
again. I did finally get my poles out though. The ‘mountain’ of Stoodley Pike was the main reason I
had carried them and I have to say it was totally worth bringing them for this. Of course, there was
no chance of me running up this hill but the poles really took the strain out of my legs, it gave me a
good hiking pace and I overtook quite a few people on the ascent. I was so relieved to get that hill
done, it had been playing on my mind for the whole race.

I knew now that there was a lovely descent into Hebden Bridge but at the cost of another big ascent
up the road to Heptonstall. But again, I was using my poles which gave me a nice rhythm which
distracted me from my now tired and aching legs. I had certainly slowed down a lot since checkpoint

  1. The promise of another hot cup of tea and my Mum waiting at the Cross Inn spurred me on
    though. I was delighted to be told I look ‘sunburnt’ by my Mum…I’m not sure she had considered the
    effort that goes into running 40k that might make you look a little red in the face!
    I knew I was on the home straight now and in my mind, we had done the majority of the climbing
    though I had forgotten a couple of the long gentler drags. The steep climb on the road from
    checkpoint 6 felt particularly brutal. Still, after that, I somehow found the strength to keep running
    up the gentle climbs and a few people that I overtook congratulated me to be running uphill this late
    in the race. To be honest, the downhills hurt more at this point – my knees were sore and my feet
    had swollen and felt as if my trainers were bruising them. The last 4 miles felt eternal!
    I came into the finish wondering to myself whether I had enjoyed the race or not. I quickly bumped
    into Emma, Paul and Mick back in the school who were in their various stages of post-finish
    recovery. A bit of food, change of clothes and more cups of tea made me realise I had, in fact,
    enjoyed myself and we all headed out to cheer the rest of our NFAT team mates in. I was also
    chuffed to see my work friend Roz, again a first-time ultra runner, to finish soon after me feeling
    emotional and proud. But the true joy was seeing Del, Tess, Shona, Jess and Caroline finish. It was a
    big step up for these team mates to sign up for the Hobble, I’m not sure if some of them had even
    done a marathon distance before this and I don’t think I can do justice with words to describe how
    much physical and mental effort they have put into this. You all really did yourselves and your club
    So now to decide….do I enter the Fellsman?!