Haworth Hobble – The Abridged Version
by Pip Haworth
I nearly didn’t write a race report for Saturdays race. It felt a bit pointless after the route was cut short. But I love this race, and I want more people to know about it. I think it would be a great starting place if you’re looking for your first ultra and you do plenty of running in the lakes. The course is set in the heart of Bronte country and follows some beautiful trails and sections of the Pennine Way. The route isn’t way marked and GPS isn’t allowed but its a fairly easy route to navigate and plenty of competitors to follow. Usually the race takes in Stoodley Pike and the elevation overall is 1340 metres over 32 miles. You get 11 hours to finish the route and 6 feed stations along the way so for £22 (£18 for FRA members) I think its worth every penny.
This was to be my third Haworth Hobble. I first ran the race in 2020, right before lockdown. 8 days later we were all told to stay at home and only leave the house for essential purposes. I’m glad to say, 3 years on, that that all feels like a world away from today.
Being held in March means that the Haworth Hobble always plays a wild card with the weather. My Mum ran it in gale force winds, sleet/snow/rain one year, and in 2022 my race started in a downpour and cleared up to be a very hot, summers day!
This year was no exception.
Three days before the race the weather forecast was saying we were due some heavy snow, and an e-mail pinged through from Si Entries saying that there was no intention of cancelling the race.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gary Chapman, the race director, last year on Cape Wrath. He was a fellow competitor and a very experienced ultra runner who recently just finished the Ice Ultra (230km, 5days, -40, takes place in Lapland) so if anyone was going to make the Haworth Hobble happen in the snow, it was him.
We left a snowy Cumbria on Friday afternoon, and arrived in a snowier Haworth. Me, my mum and sister had all booked a holiday cottage for the weekend and it was a struggle to even get parked behind the house with deep snow and ice. The evening was spent waiting for a race update to follow up from and e-mail I’d had earlier that afternoon saying that the race would be on, but the route was to be shortened. Initially I was disappointed. After two years of Ultra glory i’ve gone into 2023 with no big plans, and the Hobble is the only Ultra I’d booked, but I pulled myself together and decided it would be fun romping around the hills in the snow with no pressure and no time to beat.
At 9pm the update came through. The race had been chopped from 32, to 21 miles and the mass start had moved from 8am to 11am. Sweet, that means a lie in.
The next morning I headed down to the primary school for race registration, picked up my number, dibber and a bacon butty and found myself a quiet corner to get ready in. I overhead a lot of people stressing about the new cutoffs for the revised route, they were pretty tight but manageable. The Haworth Hobble has always been open to walkers, and everyone who wants to go at a slower pace has the option to start early. You can get going anytime in a hour and a half period before the mass start sets off, and this was still available for the new route.
I bumped into a few friends I knew from my brief period of living in Todmorden, and the three of them were aiming for a 10:15 start so I decided to join them, It been a long time since I’d ran a race with company.
We dibbed in at the bottom of the main street in Haworth and set off up the cobbles trying not to slip over in the slush in the first five minutes. It was a bright and sunny day and we all soon realised that we were overdressed, despite running into what we new would be deep snow, it was more like t-shirt and sunglasses weather. As we made our way along the road, each of us stopped at intervals to shed a layer. We pulled off the road and crossed over Bronte bridge and headed up towards Top Withens, the point where the jukebox inside my head usually turns on a bit of Kate Bush and Wuthering Heights.
The snow was a couple of feet deep with some huge drifts banked up against the dry stone walls. A trail had been carved out by other participants and we joined a train of people heading uphill in the snow trench occasionally falling over when a hole appeared and the snow was suddenly thigh deep. We crested the hill and decided it was time to leave the pack. The four of us pulled out of the snow trench into untouched snow and blasted it down the hill, stumbling and laughing and occasionally falling flat on our faces. We joined onto the reservoir path and onto the road which took us to our first checkpoint. At this point we were being overtaken by the front runners and another friend of ours flew past shouting hello’s to us. He was running as part of a pair and ended up coming in 1st.
We carried on. With the sun getting warmer the snow began to form a lovely slippy slushy layer. The route joined onto the Pennine Way and we enjoyed a lovely runnable section surrounded by sweeping views before joining the road again and running down to Heptonstall and meeting up with the original race route. There’s always a checkpoint at the Cross Inn pub and they supply runners with fresh chip butties. Usually at this point you’re over 20 miles into the race, but with the shortened route we’d only ran 11 but still took full advantage of a well supplied feed station and helped ourselves to chips, doughnuts and coke, although we all passed up the shot of whiskey which usually lives at the checkpoint before the climb up Stoodley Pike.
The four of us carried on, however, when my friend Paul’s foot started giving him trouble, he urged us to go ahead. I broke off from the three of them a little later as we were all navigating a particularly muddy and slushy section.
The rest of my race carried on uneventfully and I enjoyed the lack of pressure that I had. No cutoff worries, no unimaginable distances to the finish, no battling through god awful weather. I cruised through the rest of the race and waved hello to mum as I came down the church steps back onto the cobbled street of Haworth and ran down to the Primary School and the finish line.
I packed up, and grabbed a slice of pizza that was on offer for finishers then waited for my friends to come in, feeling content with a good day out.
Entries for next years Hobble usually open up in October on Si Enties but the sell out pretty fast.