The Haworth Hobble 2018 – by Adam Jackson
Every year as the memory of Christmas recedes and the New Year begins, the irrepressible desire to set goals, think up resolutions, enter and commit to a worthy cause begins. So this is how the Haworth Hobble came to my attention. It’s a pleasant 30+mile run in ‘God’s own Country’, it has a relaxed entry style (no-up-at-midnight, to enter as the entries are all taken in 10mins!) and is nice and early in the season to offer a good kick-start.
Unfortunately my training for the event was not as expected, poor weather put paid to some big runs and the only other event ‘That’s Lythe’ a 24mile cake eating trot around Kendal had left me feeling anything but ‘Lythe’ after eating 3 donuts in succession at one checkpoint!
The Hobble starts in the beautifully preserved town of Howarth, birth place to the Brontes. An offer on YHA accommodation saw our family booked into a family room in a very grand looking property overlooking Haworth, and within easy walking distance for the 7am registration.
Registration was a simple affair and the large looking queues were quickly processed and I was soon pinning my number, onto the red and grey vest, nibbling on the complimentary Kendal Mint Cake, and wondering whether ‘to cagoule’ or ‘not cagoule’. The forecast wasn’t too kind.
For the start we had to walk into the town centre where everyone (375 runners) just seemed to aimlessly mill about, until someone announced ‘Go’- it was so unexpected that I had my cagoule half on, and my running pack between my knees at the time! Luckily it was a slow start up the cobbled streets and out onto the moors over towards Bronte Bridge.
Route instructions, sent pre-race via email were incredibly general. They barely covered half a sheet of paper, yet covered 32miles and to make matters worse the route flip-flapped between two sides of the 1:25000 map that I had to carry, so I was keen to keep sight of others as the race progressed despite the difficult conditions.
All went well until my watch registered 7 miles and we were still nowhere near the first checkpoint. Realising that we must be measuring everything in Yorkshire miles left me wondering just how far the route would actually be in metric.
At the second checkpoint I wasn’t expecting food (in the form of a massive box of broken biscuits) and then worried that there wouldn’t be any at the next checkpoint, so grabbed a handful only to regret it further on as my stomach groaned and protested at having to eat so many cookies and yet still maintain a pace. Food did duly arrive at expected checkpoints, and I was pleased to see plenty of real food; pork pies and hot dogs… so topped up the tank again.
Rain came and went and there were still many snow obstacles left over from ‘The Beast from the East’ which made the going heavy and difficult.
Footwear was a tricky choice. I had read ‘comfort over traction’, but had nearly come a cropper so many times, that for periods I cursed my Hokas, but for the roads and harder trails they were ideal. I decided that there was no right and wrong shoe choice, just get pair that match comfort and traction as much as possible.
The miles rolled by and I did get lost at one point; dropping down to Todmorden, I failed to see the tiny tiny ginnel by the back of the church and had to run back up hill once I realised there was no one in front or behind me anymore.
From ‘Tod’, comes the steep hill of Stoodley Pike, with its monument on top. This was the most difficult climb of the day, especially after about 20miles but still small by Lakes standards. Seeing the family on top through the mist gave me a huge boost, and I fairly skipped down to Hebden Bridge afterwards. From here a difficult crossing of the main road ensues, followed by another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ginnel that leads to steep stone steps which I ‘jumared’ using the hand rails to spare my legs, up to Heptonstall. Here you have to turn right at the first pub which is an ‘unmanned’ checkpoint (7). Luckily there were two ‘marshals’ inside the pub who pointed helpfully from the window towards the side alley, (in their other hand I fancy, there was a pint of beer)
From here on it felt as though we were definitely on our way home. The navigation was much more straightforward, and the weather was improving. The buffet at Checkpoint 10 was about 40m off route AND uphill so I declined the hospitality and just had my number recorded by the marshal on the path.
A final steady climb up and over Penistone Hill, through a church yard and then out once again onto the cobbled streets of Haworth. Across a few roads and alleyways and soon back at the school to have your time recorded (5hrs 26mins- since you ask). Family reunion and one of best post-race meals ever. What’s not to like?
In retrospect I really enjoyed the race. It was fun, low key and somewhere different. It wasn’t expensive as some ultras are and was all very friendly and homespun. I would recommend this as an early season ultra, or an ultra for beginners it has generous cut off times and walkers are in attendance and are welcome to start at an earlier time. We made a family weekend of it with 2 nights at the YHA and found a lovely gentle walk with a café at Hardcastle Craggs, on the Sunday, combined with a visit to Hebden Bridge for retail therapy and lunch, before driving home.