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Reminiscences of The Trunce
By Martin Cartwright
There are not many races held where people are willing to turn up in all weathers, change in the car, behind the wall, use toilets “behind the hedge” or in an old tin hut which is falling apart, wade through a sometimes raging river, struggle up steep bankings only to be rewarded by again having to change in the car, then straight into the pub without a shower. One of these races must be the Trunce, a one off race in true cross country style and much preferred by the dedicated runner over the flat, race¬track park-land course which are generally used today. Unlike modern day races, the Trunce has never had Marshalls or had the route marked. It has always been left to individual runners to “know the course” and find their own way around.
The man mainly responsible for starting the Trunce, and who was involved with the organisation from its foundation until 1991, was Oxspring resident Gordon Davies, who himself was a useful runner before injury finished his career. Back in 1968, Gordon and five other workers from Samuel Fox Steel Work’s North Office Block decided that they needed something extra to supplement their football training. They came up with the idea of a regular run which, in the days before the running boom took off, was quite a novel idea. So, on 28th February 1968, the 6 assembled at the Waggon and Horses and ran over part of the today’s Trunce course to Greenmoor, finishing at the Rock, a run which they christened “The Marathon”. Not overawed by the experience, they agreed to try it again in two weeks time when again six runners took part. By the time the third race was arranged on the 3rd April, they were well into the running scene and decided to run to Greenmoor and then return back to Oxspring, for which seven runners turned up. The starting point for this race was the Travellers Public House, locally known as the “Fours”. The fourth race saw the beginning of the race in the format which it is known today, when a new course was devised which started and finished on Oxspring Football field at the rear of the Waggon and Horses.
Eleven turned up for this race and the honour of winning the first “Trunce” fell to well known Penistonian and former Penistone Footpath Runners club member, Howard Crossley, in a time of 29-50.
This course was basically the same as the current one except that it bore right halfway down the first hill and followed a path down towards the River Don before turning right up onto the present course, so missing out the first set of stepping stones and footbridge. The start and finish were by the goalposts of the football field, which used to be at right angles to the current pitch. Before the fence was erected alongside the field down towards the road, there was a narrow stream which had to be jumped over twice and a rough path across the grassed area towards the track under the bridge.
The name of the race originates from the “Trunce Farm”, which is situated halfway up the banking towards Greenmoor. Presumably the early contestants said they were racing around the Trunce Farm and this eventually was shortened to “The Trunce”.
A total of 19 races were held in this first year, going through to 1st December, and were generally held at the weekend. Numbers began to rise as the news of such an unusual event spread throughout the District. During May the first “team” race was held between different office teams from the Steel Works and these continued in succeeding races and proved to be very competitive events.
Brother David made his debut in the race in June and I followed in August. Who would have thought that after 40 years, we would still be toiling up those hills.
The success story of the Trunce carried on throughout 1969, with a total of 15 races. These were held fortnightly from March to September, and generally had between 10 and 20 competitors. An extra event, a Junior race over a shorter distance, was held for the first time during July and continued on a regular basis thereafter for a few years.
1972 saw the next real change, when, because of access being stopped across the rough ground to the right of the first hill, the route had to be changed to the present course, the start and finish still being on the football field. Even though some slight changes have been introduced over the years, the length of the race has always remained constant. The current Fell Race Fixture Handbook shows the race to be 4.25 mile but an accurate measurement shows it to be only 3.8 miles.
A total of 11 races were held in 1972 but the numbers competing were starting to dwindle as the popularity of the race started to decrease, only 5 runners turning out in the last race in November.
This trend continued throughout 1973, when only 7 races were held with always 10 or less competitors. The question was asked more than once whether it was worth carrying on with the race. Fortunately, Gordon was persuaded to carry on organising the race and eventually, the fame of the race spread to Barnsley and both Dave Bennett and Paul Midwood, who were in the process of forming Barnsley Road Runners, turned up to run during that year. The races were generally held on a Wednesday or Thursday during the early 70’s.
These early races also saw parts of the course obtain “names”. The hill in the field from the river bridge to the path became known as “Jackson”, after a runner called Jackson who, in his first race, finally gave up halfway up the steep climb. The steep rocky path became known as “The Hill”, after the film of the same name where an unknown runner was trained to International fame on a steep hill. As the early runners were ascending this climb, they were often greeted by shouts of “The Hill” from other runners, to encourage them to greater efforts. Penistone Footpath Runners & AC later adopted this name for their Club Magazine. The land at the top of this climb became known as “The Quarry”. A copy of the plan issued with the 1982 race instructions is shown in Appendix A.
The early 70’s saw a spin off from the race, when Gordon organised an “air-bed” race down the River Don from Oxspring to The Bridge at Thurgoland, and also a two man pram race. Both these events attracted wide publicity in the local papers.
1974 saw a slight improvement in the numbers competing. It was also to eventually prove one of the most significant years so far and was to change the life-style of the Cartwright brothers, who, at this time, were fairly unfit footballers. The race struggled through the year generally topping the 12 number mark but the last race saw several of Barnsley Road Runners turn up and discussions with them in the Waggon afterwards saw them persuade myself, Jimmy Hinchey and Gordon Davies to go down to Barnsley and join the Road Runners. This encouraged brother David and later Howard Crossley to recommence running and join the Club.
The highlight of this year saw one of the most famous names run the Trunce. I had recently started working with Malcolm Thomas, who won the National Cross Country Championship in 1972, beating David Bedford into second place. He was gradually returning to form after being injured whilst running in America and I persuaded him that an “easy” race (only a little white lie) like the Trunce, was just the thing he needed during his recovery. Upon his arrival Gordon Davies sauntered up and, as he was a new runner, asked him his name. “Malcolm Thomas” was the reply, “Not THE Malcolm Thomas” asked Gordon. “Yes”. Exit Gordon with a total look of astonishment as he sees all hope of victory disappear.
Another famous competitor in the Trunce, and who has had the most newspaper articles written about him, was David’s dog Scamp. To keep him out of the way of the runners, he was released after the last runner disappeared under the bridge. His dashes up the first hill became legendary and many a runner has wondered what the black, white and brown flash was that flew past as Scamp chased after David. Several articles appeared in both local and National papers over the years about him and one PFR & AC member Steve Blackburn even wrote an “interview” with him. A copy is attached in Appendix B.
The tie-up with B.R.R. showed a dramatic improvement in the numbers competing in 1975, with generally 30 turning out in every race. The success also saw the introduction of the first Points scoring system, in a somewhat slightly different form to today’s competition. The first system was, Position 1 to 3 – 4 points, 4 to 6-3 points, 7 to 9 – 2 points, 10 to 12 – 1 point, with additional points for improvement. The number of races was cut to ten, run on a regular 3 weekly basis on Monday. This system continued until 1977, when the present scoring system was introduced.
Also during 1975 a “Marathon” race was organised to supplement the Trunce races. 18 hardy souls set off on a two lap course from the Waggon, taking in Dean Head, Hartcliffe, Millhouse, Thurlstone, Hoylandswaine roundabout and along the A629 to the “Fours”, 13 managed the first lap to be greeted by a large crowd holding tempting pint pots outside the pub. Only 5 managed to resist the temptation to stop and carried on to complete the full two laps, Gordon was first back in a time of 3 hours 3 minutes.
21st June 1976, saw the next significant point in the races history. Penistone resident, Keith Darlow, who ran for Bolton United Harriers, and was an ex-army champion, had been competing in the Trunce for several years and had put in some very fast times. This night saw him set up the time of 21-33, which was to stand as the record until 1988.
The late 1970’s also saw the introduction of the “Rodney Hobson Endeavour Award”. This was awarded each year after the last race to a Trunce runner who had put a lot of effort into the race over the year but not necessarily won anything. This was awarded in memory of a member of Hallamshire Harriers who was a regular Trunce runner and did a lot of work for running in South Yorkshire but who unfortunately passed away in the prime of his life.
Up to 1976, the results had always been produced in a typed format but during the period from 1977 to the 7th race in 1982, all were hand written, which was certainly no mean feat. As well as having to write out up to 100 results, the compiler had to manually work out the finishing points and whether a pb had been set. A race by race ranking list was also produced for both men and women, seniors and juniors.
The Trunce was to show a steady trend of improving numbers and quality from this period as news of the race spread amongst the running clubs in the South Yorkshire area and many of the top runners from Hallamshire, Rotherham, Sheffield and Dark Peak became regular attendees along with B.R.R.
Numbers increased throughout the next few years, topping the 100 mark for the first time on the 12th June, 1978. This was an incredible experience for the ones who had been toiling over the course since it first began and especially for Gordon, whose organisational ability was now being stretched to the limit. Not only was he having to keep the race running smoothly but was also having to appease the farmers over whose land the race was run and who several times had threatened to withdraw access.
The first race of 1979 in March, was run in deep snow with drifts over 6 feet high in places along the lane on the outward journey. One hardy soul took the lead along there and everyone else literally followed in his footsteps. As such, times were very slow but even in these conditions, 36 still turned up to run. Dark Peaks Tony Trowbridge and C. Walker were first equal in the slowest ever winning time of 29.46.
During the late 1970’s, with the redevelopment of the football field and the erection of the fence alongside it, the start had to be moved over onto the track. The finish was located in the car park and both positions set so that the length of the race remained the same. This period also saw one of the races great characters, Howard Thorpe, begin to help at the finish area, looking after the runner’s safety as they came off the track onto the road and into the finish.
With the advent of the 80’s and the start of the running boom era, the race became well established with numbers always over the 100 mark and reaching a total of 190 finishers on two occasions. Tremendous support for a race from such humble beginnings. The early 80’s also saw the start of the now traditional fancy dress event at the last race, where some weird and wonderful outfits have been seen running around the course. Many of us have felt the frustration of being beaten by a “running waiter” or a “missile throwing Rambo”. Unfortunately, this period saw Gordon have to give up running the race with knee trouble, but thankfully he maintained enough enthusiasm to keep the race going, always dropping hints that he would like someone else to take it over.
The first lady to run the Trunce was Rockingham AC’s Shirley Pickering on 21st March 1977 when, running alongside husband Ken, she recorded 36-43 and proceeded to run in every race during that year, improving to 32-52. There was no ladies championship at that time so Shirley had to compete with the men for position and improvement points. Later, Ken was to suffer the worst accident so far in the history of the Trunce, when, going down “Jackson”, he fell and broke his leg, putting him off competing in the Trunce for a number of years. Happily he came back as a regular competitor before retiring in the late 1990’s.
Shirley’s pioneering spirit led to other ladies attempting the race on equal terms with the men. In 1981, it was decided to creat a ladies Championship because of the numbers taking part. The first winner was Hallamshire Harrier’s Jenny Pearson, who also recorded the ladies record of 26-49 on the 1st June 1981. They still, however, competed for points within the complete field and Jenny’s winning total was only 22.
A Junior Championships was also set up in 1981 but again they still had to compete against the Seniors for points. The first winner of the Junior female title was Linda Hutchinson with 20 points. The Junior male race was much more competitive with Micah Wilson recording a time of 24-08 on the 3rd August, a time many Senior runners would have been happy to achieve. Micah recorded a points total of 104, which would have placed him 6th in the men’s Championship.
The start of the 1982 season saw a novel introduction when a Special Trunce Badge was produced for any runner who broke a minute barrier below 30 minutes. For example, someone who recorded 29.59 could buy a Trunce Under 30 minute Badge, someone who recorded 24.59 could buy a Trunce Under 25 Minute Badge. Long term runners could use their past pb’s if they wanted to buy a badge. Badges were on sale to qualifiers in the Wagon and Horses after each race.
During 1982, Micah continued to dominate the boys race, regularly reducing his time until obtaining the boys record of 22-58 on 13th September, a time which is unlikely to be beaten as the juniors now run on a shortened course.
Julie Trickett (now Wilson after marrying Micah) set a new girls record of 29-19 in the same race. Julie is still competing in the Trunce and is regularly winning the Ladies race.
1982 also saw the introduction of the present computerised results system and a reduction to nine races each year. The first race was set to always be on the first Monday after the clocks went back, ie the end of March. Stocksbridge resident John Dyson had been a regular competitor in the race and he volunteered to set up a programme so that results could be produced immediately after the race in the Waggon. This also meant each runner would have to be given an individual number which they would keep for “life”. John took on the task of importing all past runners into his programme including their pb’s, no small task for a race which had been running for 15 years. From the 1982 information sheet, the cost to enter the race was “20p per entrant to cover the cost of Trophies and other administration costs (10p if under 16)”.
During 1983 Jenny Pearson lowered her ladies record to 26-14, whilst Keith Darlow’s time of 21-33 from 1976 was never approached. The girls record was reduced to 28-22 by Rowan Smith on 30th April 1984.
1984 also saw the introduction of a Male Veterans race with separate championship points. The first winner of this was Micah’s dad, Billy Wilson, with a total of 191 points. However, the Ladies did not get their own Vets race until a few years later.
On the 21st April 1986, Holmfirth Harrier’s International Fell Runner, Carol Haigh lowered the Ladies record to 26.04 and then set the current record of 25-01 on the 15th September of that year. During the same race, Sara King lowered the girls record to 26-49, a time which still ranks her 4th on the ladies all time list. Both times remain unchallenged at the start of the 2009 campaign.
By now, the cost to enter the race had risen to 30p and 20p for Juniors.
1st June 1987, saw the long established course record equalled by Micah Wilson, now in the Senior ranks, and it was only a matter of time until he made it his own. 11th July 1988 was the date and 4 seconds the reduction to 21-29, which is still the fastest time ever recorded.
Holmfirth’s Fell Running International, John Taylor, also came near to Keith Darlow’s old record on the 3rd August 1992, recording the third fastest time ever of 21-42. John was a regular competitor until he tragically collapsed in 2002.
At the end of the 1991 season, Gordon Davies finally announced his retirement from the organisation of the race and was presented with a gortex suit to mark the occasion at the prize giving ceremony.
The man to take over was Penistone Footpath Runner & AC’s Andy Plummer, who, with a group of indispensable helpers, has maintained the races excellent standards and traditions.
The later years of the 80’s saw the popularity of the Trunce soar and most races had in excess of 100 runners, sometimes even approaching the 200 mark.
However, the early years of the 90’s saw a dramatic fall in the numbers and generally less than 100 were regularly turning out, culminating at the end of 1996 when only 36 started. One of the reasons was thought to be the attitude of the landlord of the Waggon, who did not encourage families to take their children into the pub after the race. This attitude was to change with the advent of Tony and Samantha taking charge of the pub and one of the improvements they brought in was the opening of the Rafters Bar, where families were welcomed after the race. As a result attendances in the race climbed back over the 100 mark.
March 1998 saw a significant alteration to the course at the top of the path leading to the Quarry. Previously, runners carried straight on up the path, ducking under a barbwire fence. The land ownership changed and the new farmer erected a new stock proof fence so the course had to turn right to the style and then left back onto the original course across the Quarry.
2002 was a significant point in the history of the Trunce when finally the race became “Official” and a permit through the FRA was applied for. This also meant that a separate Junior race could be introduced as regulations did not permit them to run with the Seniors. A shorter route was devised and both boys and girls set off together, generally before the Senior race started. PFR & AC Junior Secretary Ian Charlesworth and his wife Sue took on the responsibility of organising the event and registering the young athletes. 15 points were awarded to the winner with 10 for beating a pb.
2002 also saw a significant change to the Vets points system. Previously, a runners best ever time was used as their pb and this penalised some of the long standing runners whose time had been recorded many years earlier. A new system was introduced where the average time of the year’s previous races was used to determine the time to beat to gain improvement points, with a minimum of 4 races to qualify. This pb would then be amended each year based on the previous years races.
2004 was to see the next significant change in the course when, because of safety reasons, the finish was moved from the car park onto the track. To preserve the same distance, the start was also moved further down the track towards the road. This move coincided with Howard Thorpe gracefully retiring from the cones and marshalling duties along the road between the track and the car park as they were now no longer required. Happily Howard kept in touch with the race and often came down to the car park area to renew acquaintances with the many friends he had made. Sadly, Howard passed away in 2007 at the age of 94 and will be missed by all who knew him. Andy always called him “a star”.
During the next few years, numbers competing showed a dramatic improvement with over 200 running the first race in 2003. 2007 saw the 200 mark exceeded 3 times and the 2008 5 times with an average of 195, tremendous support.
2008 saw fourth fastest Ladies time recorded by 16 year old Blue Haywood who, on 2nd of June, recorded 26.41, showing that fast times are still possible on the course. Blue finished 12th overall out of 208 finishers to show what a prospect she is for the future.
At the end of the 2008 season, the Ladies finally gained equality with the Men by having a Winners Trophy presented and the first recipient was Emma Flaherty with 187 points.
These numbers have brought in several problems for the race, with queuing at the stiles at the top and half way down the first banking and after the river crossing. Runners have to be constantly reminded that they must not climb over fences alongside the stiles and if they did not want to queue, then they would have to set off faster.
By now the cost to enter the race had risen to £1 to cover administration costs and access over private land. This was eventually to rise to the current price of £1-20, the 20p being a ‘donation’ to the Oxspring Sports Field fund. A new pavilion, changing rooms and showers are in the early planning stages to replace the one on the opposite side of the road. Left over monies help sponsor local events like the Broomhead Chase, the 3 in 3 challenge (Thurlstone Chase, Broomhead Chase and Trunce), donations are made to Woodhead Mountain Rescue and 2008 saw a donation to Steve Burgess for his Cape to Cape expedition.
There is no doubt that the current course is much ‘slower’ than it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. Many of the paths and tracks have become worn and are more uneven. Several stiles and small diversions have been introduced, breaking up the runners rhythm. Several trees have fallen across the path through the wood down to the second river crossing and these provide hurdles which slow progress down there. After the river crossing, the route now follows the path up the field rather than the road from the houses.
There has always been a debate on whether it is quicker to go through the river at the bottom of the wood or stay on the path and go over the stepping stones. Since the floods of recent years, this has been solved by the stones being dislodged due to the force of the water, making them unsafe. The local Parish Council have even looked into erecting a wooden bridge at this point but it is unlikely that this will ever happen.
Bob Innes has produced an account of runners times and how they compared over a ten year period between 1989 and 1999. This is shown in Appendix C at the end. There is also an age to time formulae produced by an Athlete called Howard Grubb where you can convert your times back to a standard depending on your age. There are only two runners still regularly running the Trunce from the 1970’s and a comparison of times is also shown in Appendix C.
The end of 1997 season saw a 30 year celebration presentation evening when Keith Darlow was invited back to present the awards. PFR & AC’s President, Steve Lavender, marked the occasion by sponsoring T-Shirts for award winners and all runners who had competed in at least 5 races. 2007 saw a 40 year celebration when again T-Shirts, again sponsored by Lavender NDT, were awarded to mark the occasion. Penistone Grammar School held a competition to design the logo which was to be used on the T-Shirts.
John Dyson had been producing the results from 1982 and in 2003 reluctantly had to announce that he was moving down to the south west and would have to hand over the task to someone else. Martin Milan took over from John and set up the first Trunce web site on www.trunce.org.uk. He has continued to produce the results until the end of the 2008 season, when he announced that he was standing down. PFR & AC’s Mark Pearce, with input from Brent Lindsay, has developed a new, improved web site and this will be up and running for the start of the 2009 season.
Up to the end of the 2008 season, there have been 397 Trunce races since the humble beginnings in 1968 and Andy has a total of 2203 runners registered on the computer. Several runners from the 70’s are still regularly competing. There are records for every race except one, where the clock went wrong and no times were recorded. The race has been held on the same basic course for every race apart from 1 when, because of the amount of water flowing down the river, the course had to be diverted away from the crossings up to the road near Green Moor. Nowadays, if the river is in flood, Andy fastens a rope across for runners to hold as they wade through the water.
A glance through these records show the race has attracted many star names from the world of Athletics and many Cross Country and Fell Internationals have regularly attended the race over the years.
Any race cannot continue without the support of the many helpers in the background who faithfully turn up to help the organisation run smoothly. Over the years, Gordon and Andy have always had many helpers registering runners, recording numbers and times and on car parking duties. The only Marshall who has been used during the life of the race has been at the gate, halfway up the Hill, to ensure that the gate is closed after the last runner has gone through. 2009 will open without the help of Mike Shaw, who has given years of valuable help to Andy.
So what makes the race so popular. For me it is the unique nature of the event, the course which takes in everything a true cross country runner wants, the friendships made and competitively kept through the year long series, the atmosphere with the relaxing end to the evening in the Waggon with a quick look through the results to see how their rivals went on. Everyone has a chance of winning as the accent of the scoring system is towards the most improved runner and not the overall winner of each race. Many runners have been known to arrange their holidays, or return early, so that they do not miss a Trunce.
Hopefully, the race will go on from strength to strength and I hope to still be competing to celebrate the next milestone, the 50th Trunce Anniversary in 2017.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL!
Diagram to be added shortly
PONDEROSA PERIL SHOOTS HIS MOUTH OFF
By Steve Blackburn
Following our recent popular interviews with Jim Hinchey and Ron Cooper, we offer a third in the series. We were recently granted an audience with South Yorkshire’s greatest canine folk hero – Dave Cartwright’s dog “Scamp”. He is the only living being to have won every Trunce his master has entered and the following text is a transcript of our interview with him.
Editor I would like to begin this interview by expressing my sincere gratitude at being granted this audience with such a living legend as yourself.
Scamp That’s all right, it does me good to be reminded of my humble upbringing and that I’m still supposed to be just “Man’s Best Friend”.
Editor I would like to say how amazing it is to see you win the races so easily even though you insist on giving everybody a start. How do you do it?
Scamp I believe in proper training, a balanced diet and clean living. I am lucky to have an active master who only feeds me meals which Prolong Active Life. I prefer Chum but I have been told that I have insufficient blue blood to warrant such expense. My master likes to be out of the house as much as possible and so he needs little persuading to come out for a run. He sometimes brings his brother and some friends along and, as they are slow, it’s up to me to lead. My clean living comes from not being allowed out at night unchaperoned. This restriction though means it is not necessary for me to refrain from any practices which may impair any fitness the night before a race.
Editor Does your master recognise your athletic gift?
Scamp Yes, I have been given many concessions. For example, I am not expected to carry slippers or chase cats and, if I wish to bury a bone, I only need ask one of the children to dig the hole for me. On the days leading up to a race my master will even support my back leg if I stop at a lamppost.
Editor Have you ever been in danger of losing a race?
Scamp I am willing to concede that there was one occasion. I was coasting past the Trunce Farm when I saw this gorgeous Border Collie bitch who had broken out of her kennel to come and admire my skills. She simply stood there panting with her tail in the air. After exchanging one or two pleasantries I really swept her off her paws by offering to show her my old bone collection. I was so love-struck that I didn’t notice the human runners coming past and it was only when I spotted my master’s brother that I realised I must be nearly last in the race and I came to my senses.
Editor Have you any plans for the future?
Scamp I’ll soon be six years old and for dogs that classes one as a VET and that means I can borrow John Finn’s Philisan without any fear of ridicule.
To be added shortly
To be added shortly
Directions to Oxpring
This link will give directions to the Wagon and Horses pub in Oxspring. Registration is on the sports fields alongside the pub.