There is no better way to finish the year off than taking in one last dose of the magical madness of a Woodentops race. It would take more than a few sniffles to stop me doing the Auld Lang Syne. (Yes Dominic Raby, that one's for you! Your clubmates were telling me you were running scared today!)
The popularity of this event went through the roof two years ago when 557 funnelled out of Penistone Hill's old humble little quarry in bone-chilling sub-zero temperatures. Since that mad stampede, a conservation group has requested a limit of 400 runners which is quite reasonable really. 
At the fun end of things, the fancy dress contingent was larger and wilder than ever this year. At the sharp end, this race attracts the likes of top marathon runner Andi Jones who made the Commonwealth team earlier in the year. European Triathlon champion Jonny Brownlee, whose brother Ali the 2009 World Triathlon Champion, won this race last year. Add to that the legendary multiple fell running champion Ian Holmes and a good few other top fellsmen and women, this is truly a great event on the fell running calendar.
After my first decent bit of running for over a week without snow under my feet yesterday, I did six miles but couldn't judge whether it had put me in good or bad stead for today. I felt pretty lousy warming up which is nothing new, but once the race got under way I didn't feel too bad and worked my way up the pecking order over the first few miles. I had Clayton's Jack Dugdale shadowing me until we reached the halway mark at the trig point above Withins where we loop back and soon enough pick up the route from the way we came up. At this point I pushed past a few other guys just ahead, including Wharfedale's seemingly out-of-sorts Gareth Hird, who I didn't expect to get anywhere near. I was now hoping I had enough in the tank to stay there. The next group further on were pretty much uncatchable by now so it was a case of trying to stay ahead of the bunch I had just taken on.
Before descending down to the stream again and then climbing out of it, I briefly looked across in awe at a quickly moving dot in the distance which was one of the front runners already well out of the valley and kicking for home. Stroll on, they are quick lads I kid you not.
On that steepish climb out of the valley there was little I could do as Sean Carey and Alec Duffield powered by and made about ten or fifteen yards on me before I could even contemplate my next move. For a moment or two I had some crazy ideas about catching them up over the final mile, but I seemed to have lost that bit of an edge over the past week or so and deep down I knew it was a bit over-ambitious. However I wasn't going to beat myself up too much as I was in the company of some very good young Yorkshire talent and managed to get a bit nearer to Sean. As a result I kept Wharfedale lad Matt Athersmith off my case after he had got a bit too close for comfort. I found a good kick wth a couple of hundred yards to go and sealed 18th spot. My time was over a minute down on my course best but nevertheless a top twenty place at a race like this isn't a bad return for the likes of myself.
Packed like those proverbial oily fishes in rich tomato sauce in The Old Sun Hotel afterwards, I was once again in awe of Dave and Eileen's prize-giving with an absolute grotto of prizes stacked high on the table and Dave's own brand of unique presentation on overdrive. Maybe my emotions got the better of me because when I went up to collect my ludicrously generous eight-pack of Wychwood's bottled Goliath Ale, I shook Dave's hand, told him that I love him and his wife Eileen that I loved her too. I should have given her a big smacking kiss on the cheek aswell to be honest - maybe next time Eileen - there will be no escape! Perhaps the Woodentops couple thought I'd downed four pints already and was talking crap, but no. Just the one pint consumed and nothing less than genuine affection for both of them. On that note, that was the year that was.
Time: 45:35   Pos: 18th/390     

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