I’m a bit of a fairweather fellrunner to be honest, preferring spring, summer & autumn races to the harsh stuff over the winter. If there’s one exception it’s the Stanbury Splash, a mid-January mini-adventure over the Haworth moors to and from Penistone Hill. 6 miles in total with plenty of exciting descents and 4 stream crossings – hence its name.
This year’s “Splash” on Sunday was the first of the “new era” of Penistone Hill races – the legendary Woodentops having now passed the baton on to Wharfedale Harriers – but it seemed a pretty seamless handover. As usual, I got there early, as delays with parking, registration and kit selection can happen. Note to self – in January, print out the universal race entry form and fill it in at home, rather than attempting to fill it in on the day with freezing cold hands! And predictably I changed my mind 3 times about what combination of kit I was taking, eventually plumping (rather cautiously, although it was very cold) for a lightweight breathable walking jacket. I found this worked well – I didn’t overheat during the race – and I wasn’t too put out that many had just opted for a running vest. A different breed!
At least with the Penistone Hill races you’re starting at the top of the hill, so you get a pretty good idea of what conditions will be like throughout the race. The flip side of this is that you often get a good descent towards the start of the race, and an agonising climb back up at the end. But it does provide a good spectacle, and the view from the Back Lane car park of 300 runners charging down the hill towards Sladen Beck is a memorable one – almost reminiscent of a medieval battle scene!
After that initial down and up you do a full loop of Ponden Kirk before repeating the first mile and a half in reverse on the return. Conditions were certainly kinder than last year, which was all freezing rain and swollen streams – this time the “splashes” were no barrier and I got round 10 minutes quicker than in 2017. The sight of the finish line on the cricket pitch – with the tea urn and pile of broken biscuits – always very welcome!
So many thanks to Wharfedale Harriers, the Woodentops, and to all the supporters on the day, including everyone that took photos and clips and generously shared them so we can relive it all again from the comfort of home. See you next January.