The History of PECO part 2: The Ladies team

If we oversimplified the Men’s team story, we could characterise it as one of steady progression culminating in a team that solidly finishes 3rd to 5th in the Premier division (of course with highs and lows along the way).  So, with this line of thinking in mind, to compare this with the Ladies team…. Well, the Ladies do not do things by half!  The Ladies will go from euphoric highs to calamitous lows and back again.  So strap yourselves in for the roller coaster ride that is the Hyde Park Harriers Ladies PECO team.

As we have explored already with the Men’s competition, there has been plenty of evolution in PECO.  However, we’ll find that the Ladies competition sees more changes over the same time period.  These changes are partly due to the growth of PECO generally as a competition and partly due to increases in female participation generally over the same time period.  In terms of female participation, we see from the 2009/10 season to the 2018/19 season female participation triples compared to a 2.5 times increase from the men over the same time period.

HPH Ladies Team at Temple Newsam after winning the 2017/2018 series.

The story starts back in the 2009/10, this is either when PECO started or when they started leaving race results up on the PECO website.  Either way, our story starts here.  Unless you have read the Men’s blog first, you’ll be surprised to discover there is no such thing as Hyde Park Harriers in the competition at this time.  At this time, the club was known as Virgin Active Road Runners and still wore the same red with white stripe.  The Hyde Park Harrier Ladies team found themselves competing in the First division which contained 8 teams (compared to the Men’s 11).  One interesting thing to note about the make up of the scoring was in the Ladies competition the scoring was progressive across the divisions rather than standardised.  This meant the Premier division had 5 counters but the First division had one less, using only 4 counters (compared to 8 across both divisions for the Men).   The season started somewhat averagely for the Virgin Active ladies with a 5th place in round 1.  The Virgin Active Road Runners steadily improved on this average of starts with a 4th, 3rd and 4th in rounds 2, 3 and 4 respectively before finishing in spectacular style with a win in round 5!  This would see the Virgin Active ladies finish in 3rd place overall, a very respectable finish but sadly not enough for a promotion this year.  The highest ranked Virgin Active Road Runner finished 6th overall.  When it comes to participation, 16 ladies took part, which is interestingly more than the Men’s 13 this season and would be the only time participation from the club would have more women than men, will the 2021/22 campaign see more women than men participate? 

The 2010/11 season saw Virgin Active Road Runners metamorphosise into the Hyde Park Harriers we know and love today.  In this season the First division had been expanded from 8 to 10 teams.  After finishing 3rd last season would Hyde Park Harriers achieve promotion this year?  Well, the Ladies would certainly be going about it the right way, starting off with a 2nd place in round 1 before two 3rd places and a 2nd from rounds 2, 3 and 4 respectively.  This saw Hyde Park Harriers climb to 3rd in the table and very much in the mix for promotion.  Would round 5 see the result needed to leapfrog Valley or Rothwell for promotion?  Sadly, it wasn’t to be as Hyde Park Harriers slumped to a 6th place finish in round 5, which would see them finish 3rd overall for the second year running and just miss out on promotion.   This year saw a slight increase in participation from 16 to 19 and the highest ranked Hyde Park Harrier went from 6th the previous season to 5th this season.  Despite the fall at the last hurdle, Hyde Park Harriers had a had a much better campaign then the previous year and sustained a promotion charge all the way to the end, just sadly it wasn’t to be this year……. Or was it?

An interesting alteration happened in the 2011/12 season, the Premier division was expanded from 7 to 8 teams, which meant PECO needed to find another team for the Premier division from somewhere.  So who better then Hyde Park Harriers (having just missed out on promotion the previous season) to fill such a void?  Hyde Park Harriers were now competing in the Premier division.  This now meant, due to the progressive nature of the scoring in the Ladies competition, that there would be 5 counters to count instead of the 4 that had counted when Hyde Park Harriers were in the First division.  Would Hyde Park Harriers use this opportunity handed to them to establish themselves as a Premier division side or would they come back from whence they came?  Sadly, the result from round 1 would suggest the latter, with Hyde Park Harriers finishing 7th.   An improved 5th place result in round 2 would revive hopes of a solid mid table finish before back to back bottom of the table finishes (8th) in rounds 3 and 4 would leave Hyde Park Harriers in serious trouble.  Round 5 saw Hyde Park Harriers achieve their best result of the campaign with a 4th place finish, but sadly, it was not enough to save them as Hyde Park Harriers finished 7th overall and were relegated from the Premier division.  the 2011/12 season saw a big increase in turnout from 19 to 27 ladies running at least one race.  The highest finishing individual ranked 24th.

The 2012/13 season saw yet another tweak to the Ladies competition.  Both divisions would now have 5 ladies to be counters as opposed to the previous 5 and 4 (Premier and First).  With Hyde Park Harriers back in the First division, would this be a promotion year or would another 3rd place finish be on the cards?  Well, I guess with the first 2 results it could go either way.  Hyde Park Harriers finished 2nd in round 1 and 3rd in round 2.  In either case, it was a very good start to the campaign and a promotion charge was definitely on the cards.  But how would the rest of the campaign go?  Rounds 3 and 4 saw back to back wins for Hyde Park Harriers, this would also see them top the First division for the 1st time in the club’s history (but only on countback).  With the club tied at the top on countback with one round to go we have to ask, would it all go wrong at the last minute like in the 2010/11 season?  The answer, an astounding NO!  Hyde Park Harriers finished round 5 and the campaign in style with a 3rd successive win to see them not only get promoted but go up as champions.  Well done Ladies!!  Oddly this season would see reduced participation from 27 to 18 Ladies.  What you will notice with participation for the Ladies team is that participation will be quite up and down over the course of time.  The highest finishing individual was ranked 2nd, which would be the highest ranking for any individual Hyde Park Harrier (male or female) for the entirety of the clubs PECO history.

The 2013/14 would see yet another tweak to the Ladies competition, the Premier division was expanded from 8 to 9 teams (the First division was now 11 teams).  With Hyde Park Harriers returning to the Premier division as champions (rather than by the expansion of the division), would now be the season to truly establish themselves as a solid Premier division team?   Well, if that was the plan, Hyde Park Harriers were really trying to hide it.  They finished rounds 1 and 2 with back to back 8th place finishes before a slightly improved 7th in round 3.  Hyde Park Harriers were in a real relegation fight, it was time for the Ladies to stand up and be counted, and that is certainly what they did.  Round 4 saw an improved 6th place followed by a further improved 5th place in round 5.  This saw Hyde Park Harriers finish 7th overall.  In 2011/12 7th place saw Hyde Park Harriers relegated but with the division expanded to 9 teams, 7th place was enough to see the club avoided relegation.  Participation increased from 18 to 25, but was short of the record 27 of the 2011/12 season.  The highest ranked individual came in in 13th place overall.

The 2014/15 season saw a big change to both the Ladies and Men’s competition, the establishment of the Second division.  Both the Ladies and Men’s competitions would comprise of 3 divisions with 7 teams in each.  For the Ladies it will be 5 counters to score across all divisions.  The 2 previous Premier division campaigns saw Hyde Park Harriers first round result leave them in the relegation zone, would history repeat itself for a third time?  I am very pleased to announce that the class of 2014/15 finished round 1 in 5th place, just outside the relegation zone…. with the emphasis being on the OUTSIDE rather than the just!  The campaign would prove a very consistent one with rounds 2,3 and 4 resulting in joint 5th, 5th and 6th places respectively.  Consistency is always a good thing but after 4 rounds Hyde Park Harriers were in 6th place and just one point behind 5th placed Abbey Runners and battling to stay in the division.  Hyde Park Harriers needed to beat Abbey in round 5 to stay up.  Would we see a spectacular result that would see Hyde Park Harriers safe or would the season end in disappointment?  Well, sadly it was the latter.  Hyde Park Harriers would produce another consistent 5th place finish (for the 4th time this season) but sadly Abbey Runners finished 4th which doomed Hyde Park Harriers to relegation to the First division.   This year would see record turnout, going from 25 to 31 and the highest ranked Harrier was 25th overall.

After the previous relegation in 2011/12, the class of 2012/13 came out firing on all cylinders to go back up as champions at the first attempt.   Could history repeat itself?  Could the class of 2015/16 bounce straight back up?  The answer seemed unlikely from the first 2 results with Hyde Park Harriers securing back to back 5th places from rounds 1 and 2.  The club would come back fighting though with a win from round 3 to give hope that the dream was very much alive…… but then round 4 happened and another 5th place firmly took promotion off the cards and actually Hyde Park Harriers needed to be more concerned about watching their backs as they were sitting just above the drop zone to the Second division (although with a decent gap to 6th place).  Round 5 saw the club finish an impressive 2nd on the day but 5th overall.   With Hyde Park Harriers bouncing straight back to the Premier division in 2012/13 I think it’s fair to say the campaign would be viewed as quite disappointing.  The 5th place in the First division actually represents the worst finish in the club’s history in PECO competition (for Ladies or Men’s teams)….. However, the low was in, which means from here on in, the only way was up!  the 2015/16 season saw another increase in participation from 31 to 37 Ladies.  The highest ranked Harrier came in at 60th overall, the lowest of any Hyde Park Harriers side (male or female).  It’s a very much indicative of the Ladies team’s roller coaster history at PECO that they have the club record for both the highest and lowest ranked individual Harrier in PECO competition (2nd in the 2012/13 season and 60th this season).

As I have said, the 2015/16 season represents the low point in the history of  the Hyde Park Harrier Ladies team.  So, I think you can guess this season will certainly be an improvement on the last.  So how would the class of 2016/17 fare?  Well, they started the campaign as if you had actually told them the previous campaign was the worst in the club’s history.  They started with not 1, not 2 but 3 back to back wins!  There was no messing about, the class of 2016/17 were clearly on a mission not just for a promotion, but a second First division title.  Round 4 saw the form at the start of the campaign ease off slightly with a still impressive 2nd place.  After 4 rounds Hyde Park Harriers topped the league with an impressive 6 point lead over second place.  They had one hand firmly on the First division title, only a complete capitulation in round 5 would see the club not become champions.  ‘Not a chance of that’ shouted the class of 2016/17!  Round 5 saw them finish in 3rd place to become First division champions for the second time.   Oddly for this campaign participation was down from 37 to 33 ladies.  However, there was a massive improvement in the individual rankings, with the highest ranked Harrier going from 60th the previous campaign to 15th in the 2016/17 season.

The 2017/18 season saw yet another tweak to the scoring for the Ladies competition.  All 3 Ladies divisions would now use 6 counters to count for the score.  Hyde Park Harriers had become something of a yo-yo team, having only successfully stayed in the Premier division once in the 3 seasons they had been in the division and that one success was by finishing above the drop zone pretty much by the skin of their teeth.  Would the class of 2017/18 break the mould and establish themselves as a solid Premier division side?  Would it be a relegation battle from the start?  Well, the answer to the first question was of course going to become clear in time but the answer to the second was an emphatic NO!  Hyde Park Harriers started the campaign with a 2nd place finish from round 1, which was the highest ever finish in a round for the Hyde Park Harriers Ladies side, a massive achievement!  With a positive start and clear momentum behind them, could Hyde Park Harriers keep this going?  The answer, an emphatic yes!  In round 1 Hyde Park Harriers made club history with that 2nd place finish, so why not just do it again in round 2, another 2nd place finish!  The momentum continued with a 3rd place in round 3, this left Hyde Park Harriers in 3rd place overall and in a close 3-way tussle with Horsforth Harriers and Valley Striders for the title.  There was no talk of relegation or the drop zone in this campaign, but were Hyde Park Harriers title winning material?  Round 4 would suggest so, with a joint 2nd place finish which left Hyde Park Harriers top of the league, a position no Hyde Park Harrier side (either men or women) has ever been in before (The men’s team wouldn’t achieve this until the 2021/22 season).  It was tight at the top, 3 sides separated by 1.5 points, this meant whoever won the next round between Horsforth Harriers and Hyde Park Harriers would be champions, although if Valley Striders won there are a few extra calculations to throw in (too much to go into and I’m literally about to reveal what happened next anyway).  So, round 5, the final day at Temple Newsam the Ladies do battle, but where would Hyde Park Harriers finish? The answer…… 2nd, but did Horsforth Harriers win?  No.  Ah, damn those Valley Striders winning…… er, wait…… it says round 5 winners were Harrogate Harriers…. Horsforth 5th, Valley Striders 6th…. which means…. drum roll…. Hyde Park Harriers are Ladies PECO Premier division champions.  The class of 2017/18 have written themselves into immortality at the club, a phenomenally amazing achievement and to this day (sorry, spoiler), the highest finish of any Hyde Park Harriers side (men or women) in the club’s history.  This represents the high point for the Ladies team, which is all the more of an achievement when you think the low point of the Ladies team was just 2 seasons ago.  What a transformation!   One other interesting thing about this campaign, is that it was achieved without Hyde Park Harriers actually winning an individual round.  On the plus side this gives future Hyde Park Harrier Ladies sides something to aim for.  This season saw a record 47 ladies take part, up from 33 the season before.  The highest individual Harrier was ranked 9th.

The 2018/19 season saw yet another tweak to the Ladies competition scoring, the Ladies and the Men’s scoring changes from a standardised system with the same number of scorers in each division to a progressive system with more counters the higher the division you are in.  For the Ladies this meant 8 counters in the Premier division, 7 in the First division and 6 in the Second division (the men’s league used 9, 8 and 7 counters respectively).  So, with the class of 2017/18 immortalised forever, would the Hyde Park Harriers Ladies team go for another title, rest on their laurels or something inbetween? Ok, so I put a spoiler in earlier, there would be no title, but 2nd to 7th places were very much up for grabs and as reigning champions you’d expect a mid table to higher end finish.  With this in mind I think Hyde Park Harriers would be slightly disappointed with a 5th place from round 1, but a 3rd placed round 2 demonstrated that this was now an established Premier division side.  With this in mind, it must have come as a bit of surprise that Hyde Park Harriers came bottom (7th) in both rounds 3 and 4.  This left Hyde Park Harriers bottom of the league with one round to go.  But all was far from lost, 2 teams were within 2 points of the Hyde Park Harriers and all was still to play for.  A mid to higher end result from round 5 should see them safe, could they do it and stay up or would Hyde Park Harriers go proverbially from champs to chumps?  Sad to say it was the latter, Hyde Park Harriers finished 5th on the day which left them bottom of the league overall.  The Hyde Park Harriers Ladies team roller coaster ride delivers yet again.  Turnout was down on last season’s 47 to 39 and the highest finishing individual was ranked 9th overall.

Well in 4 seasons Hyde Park Harriers have achieved the worst finish in the club’s history, the best finish in the club’s history, a First division title, a Premier division title and a relegation.  So, what would the 2019/20 season bring?  Given the previous 4 seasons I would say this season could bring literally anything!  The 2019/20 campaign would be another chapter on the Ladies roller coaster ride, but with a few extra metaphorical twists and turns then you would expect.  So as Hyde Park Harriers are competing in the First division, there are 7 counters for the season due to the progressive scoring system in use.   So, I’m going to stop making pre reveal predictions as basically anything could happen.  But this time it was a positive anything.  Hyde Park Harriers started with back to back wins in rounds 1 and 2.  Round 3 would bring a 3rd place finish leaving Hyde Park Harriers 1st in the table at this point.  Now if you have read the Men’s blog, you’ll know exactly what’s coming, but if you have preferred to start you HPH history quest with the Ladies team and you didn’t do PECO in 2019/20 you might be a bit surprised with what comes next.   Round 4 at West Park looked like a normal round until race day itself where it achieved infamy by bringing a monsoon that would not look out of place in India.  The rain was that torrential that people didn’t show up, some ran to their cars directly from the start line… as I recall there was an interesting video of Naomi Miles doing just this (I do hope someone has a copy of this to bring out during the PECO campaign).   From what I hear the conditions were horrendous…… which for the first time since I had broken my leg had actually made me glad that I had broken it and wasn’t running myself.  In spite of these dreadful conditions the Ladies of Hyde Park Harriers showed what they were made of (well the ones brave enough to endure the conditions) by notching up a 3rd win of the campaign, but this day will live in infamy forever!  Round 5 had the unusual buildup of a certain virus you may have heard of coming over from China.  Should we race, should we not?  Well, I don’t think Leeds city council was bothered about that.  Although the race was cancelled, it was cancelled because Ed Sheeran played a concert at Roundhay Park the week before round 5 and the ground had not ‘recovered enough’ for the runners…. because of course really muddy fields were going to be a problem for cross country runners.  Either way, the race was cancelled and could not be rearranged due to the coronavirus.  This meant that the competition ended with round 4 and with Hyde Park Harriers as First division champions for the third time.  The Hyde Park Harriers Ladies team roller coaster never seems to disappoint for action and it would seem that if you join the Ladies team you’ll be champions of something 1/3 of the time, relegated 1/3 of the time or fighting for promotion/relegation 1/3 of the time.  We are yet to see a dull mid table finish from the Ladies team.  Oh, while I remember, the Ladies team saw an increase in participation from 39 to 46 Ladies and 46 just so happens to be the exact number of male participants for the same year…. talk about an equal club!  The highest overall Harrier was ranked 26th overall. 

The 2020/21 season didn’t take place due to the coronavirus.  Now we hand the baton over to the class of 2021/22.  What will it be?  Champions?  Relegation?  Or are we just going to have a very dull mid table finish just for a change?  At the time of writing, we have had only the first round of the 2021/22 campaign, which will achieve infamy for being the race with the massive marshalling error that saw every runner run more than they were supposed to but the first 100 or so runners covering a few hundred metres more.   The first result for Hyde Park Harriers is a very respectable 4th place finish, bang on mid table.  Could this be the first mid table finish ever for Hyde Park Harriers?  Or will the Ladies roller coaster keep going this season?   Over to you ladies.  Some statistics below

Michael Vargas

SeasonDivisionHighest round finishOverall finishPromotion/relegationHighest individual HarrierHighest individual rankingNumber of participants
2009/10First1st3rd Helen Williams6th16
2010/11First2nd3rdpromotedHelen Williams5th19
2011/12Premier4th7threlegatedAlison Boyle24th27
2012/13First1st1stpromotedJocelyn Payne2nd18
2013/14Premier5th7th Alison Boyle13th25
2014/15Premier5th6threlegatedRebecca Rodgers25th31
2015/16First1st5th Lucy Rider60th37
2016/17First1st1stpromotedRebecca Gray16th33
2017/18Premier2nd1stchampionsEllen Sharpe9th47
2018/19Premier3rd7threlegatedAmy Young9th39
2019/20First1st1stpromotedNaomi Kellett26th46