Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The "disappearing" BOGGART HOLE CLOUGH runners!

   In response to a couple of queries about the "peculiar" title of last Sunday's race,  which took place in a park called Boggart Hole Clough in North Manchester................
   A boggart,  seen here sitting  recovering having run the race,  is a malevolent "fairy" which is said to cause things to disappear, turn milk sour and make dogs go lame (wikipedia).
  A clough is a northern word for a steep sided, wooded valley. True!  So Boggart Hole Clough is as per description and said to be inhabited by said boggarts.  Perhaps disguised as the young men doing "community service" in the pouring rain last Sunday. 

I was working out.  The last time I ran in this park must have been 1964.  A day in which matters did indeed turn particularly sour and some runners did indeed disappear. 
  The previous week  most of our  team of Sale Harriers  youths had  run for our various schools in the Manchester Schools Cross Country Championships.  The championships traditionally acted as a selection race for the Lancashire Schools Champs and 5 of us had finished in the first 8 to qualify.  Or so we thought.    
  After the race in Heaton Park it was announced that there would be another race the following week , North Manchester XC league  Vs South Manchester XC league  , acting as a final selection race.   Venue,  Boggart Hole Clough.  Saturday morning.
  The problem was as a club team we had the EAST LANCASHIRE CHAMPIONSHIPS the following week,  in the afternoon.   It turned out  the schools organiser proposing the "extra" trial was a coach at a rival club and it appeared to us that the decision was totally devious.  Deliberately designed to prevent us winning the afternoon championship.
  We couldn't "boycott" the morning race.  So,  we contrived to  start the race,  positioning ourselves at the back.   After a short way we would drop back, hide  behind bushes and wait for the field of runners to come back towards us.  We would then join in at the back again.   We would have been seen to have participated but instead of finishing all in the first 10 as the previous week, we would make our "protest" by all finishing in the last 10.    That was the plan anyway.  But........
  Unfortunately, our "disappearance" from the race field was spotted by a teacher jogging around.  Our action was duly reported and as you might imagine ,  in modern parlance,  "it all kicked off"  after the race as the race organiser and our club coach "discussed the merits" of holding an impromptu  extra trial on the morning of a regional clubs championship.   We listened intently from the changing rooms as the heated debate took place outside.  A rift developing that would take some healing in the future.
  We eventually ran the afternoon East Lancashire Champs event.  I managed bronze with back up 4th, 8th and 10th to win the team race.   We were banned from running for Manchester Schools the following year.   One of the team was stripped of being head boy and nearly expelled.  As ours was not really a cross country school I don't recall much being said to me.
 Thinking back  I think we could have run both races, morning and afternoon, and still achieved our goals. But as 15 year olds we knew we were being forced to make a choice which just was not necessary.  The city championships had always been used to choose the city team.  There was no need for an inter league race the following week.  It was a decision ,we felt, to prevent us winning the East Lancs.  for Sale H.
 The teacher who  created the dilemma went on to found another club very close to ours and to this day it is a major national competitor.   I have met him over the years and said hello but never discussed with him that day when a group of runners "disappeeared"  in a race in Boggart Hole Clough!
  Here's a picture with all the "disappearing" runners on it; our Sale harriers team from that period.   Prize for picking me out!


  1. front row 2nd from the left(holding the trophy)

  2. Front row second from the left. You haven't changed a bit.

  3. You are both correct, of course.
    My times haven't changed either, Simon.
    Just the distance! The time I could run a mile in, I can now only manage 1 kilometre in!