A man in a penguin outfit is shouting at 300 runners in Santa hats, shivering in a bleak Yorkshire gritstone quarry high up in Bronte country. That’s festive fellrunning for you.
Mr Penguin, aka Dave Woodhead, a rather excellent chap who, along with his wife Eileen (who’s not a penguin, nor indeed any other bird) organises, photographs and generally makes fell races happen in Yorkshire. He is taking no nonsense as he lays down the FRA (Fell Runner Association) rules. Usually this involves carrying a rucksack with spare clothes, food, head torch, sometimes a tent, maybe a kitchen sink.
But today, there’s only one rule. Everyone, with no exceptions, must wear a Santa hat, supplied with the £4 entry fee, along with a Cadbury’s Wurly (which can be eaten rather than worn). Failure to comply means disqualification. No-one argues with the penguin.
It must have been a bizarre sight, hundreds of red hats emerging from a quarry and heading across the moors to the boundary stone between Haworth and Oxenhope, called The Stoop, and I was wearing one of them.
A mere five miles, but with the thick, sticky mud, deep standing water, deep ruts and slippery stones, it definitely seemed longer. I mustn’t have been trying hard enough, because I didn’t fall, though I did collect a lot of mud. Noel fell four times, so he tried enough for both of us.
My friend Jill and I were bringing up the rear, far too busy chatting to make quick progress. But as always it’s the taking part, not the winning that matters. Followed by hot soup in the pub afterwards, spot prizes, (I won one), then the satisfying tightening of the skin on your legs as the moorland mud and crud dries and finally crumbles into the footwell of the car on the way home. A great £4 worth, and we get to keep the hats.