The return of the Holmfirth 15
In the November 2014 issue of Runner’sworld we lamented the death of The Holmfirth 15, a 15-mile race in West Yorkshire that had enjoyed a proud history since making its debut on the roads back in 1968. It attracted many of the era’s top runners, such as double Olympian Ron Hill and 1989 London Marathon winner Veronique Marot, but in 2011 it was decided to lay the venerable event to rest. That is, until long-standing Holmfirth Harriers member John Philpott saw our piece and decided something had to be done.
‘I was having a beer with a few members at the club after reading the article,’ he says. ‘ We got talking about the reasons why the race got cancelled in the first place – health and safety – and decided that this was a pretty depressing reason for a much-loved race not to take place. The race had been held on open roads and in 2011 free policing for the event came to an end. This, coupled with the fact that the field was collectively getting slower and slower and so was still out on the roads when the Sunday rush hour started, meant that it wasn’t viable.’
John got together with friend Dene Townend, an experienced race organiser with Cannonball Events, and set about putting everything in place. ‘First of all, we had to get the idea past the club committee,’ says John. ‘ We did that by pledging that half of any profits would go to the club, with the other half going to charity. Then we made sure that the community were in favour – which they were – and after that it was a matter of the race logistics. We trialled various different routes, but in the end went back to the original two-lap, undulating route, as it was the best – a case of “if it ain’t broke…”. The hardest bit was alerting everyone to the road closures we’d now secured to cover off health and safety. When you get permission to shut off roads for a couple of hours you have to knock on every single door and also mailshot everyone in the vicinity to tell them about it. It’s a council requirement.’
The revamped 2015 Holmfirth event drew a modest field of 77 entrants, while a new 10K, added to complement the traditional 15-miler, attracted an additional 80 runners. ‘A fair number of the 15-mile entrants were people who’d run the old race and who were delighted it was back,’ says John. ‘ We want to build on that now. The capacity for the event would be 400 and if we hit that number it’d be pretty good for a club that is predominantly fell-running- focused. We think we can get up to 250 runners in the next couple of years and use that as a base to build. We’ll try to do things differently; for example, this year the memento for all finishers was not a medal but a Holmfirth-branded coolbag – much more useful. And beyond that we plan to hold a 50thanniversary event in 2018. It’s nice to have the race back.’
The 2016 Holmfirth 15 takes place on Oct. 30. runnersworld.co.uk/holmfirth