Heptonstall – Sunday, 24th March 2019 is a big day in the local fell racing calendar, with the 15.4-mile, Heptonstall Fell Race. This event packs a punch and runners need navigational skills alongside plenty of stamina to make it around a course that is only partially flagged, and includes steep-sided wooded valleys, upland pasture and pathless moorland, thick heather, deep bogs and a lung-busting 3170ft ascent.
The consensus was that it was a beautiful day for a race with some brutal climbs, and stunning views that would take your breath away (if you had any left after the gruelling climbs!), but that it was all worth it for the post-race black treacle flap jack!
A firm favourite with Calder Valley runners, this year, the race attracted runners from all over the North, beating its previous record entry by far, at an amazing 290 runners. It was a hotly fought battle for first place – Phil Marsden (Horwich RMI Harriers)’s finish time was the 3rd fastest recorded over nine 9 editions, but he finished only seconds ahead of second placed, Robin Howie of Wharfedale Harriers. Dark Peak’s Max Wainwright came in not far behind in third place, with a record 10 runners managing to come in under two hours (including CVFR’s Martin Howard in 7th place overall), demonstrating the quality of the field. Strong runs were also recorded by CVFR’s Jonny Croston (27th overall – 8th in the MV40 category) and Iain Illstone (42nd).
In the ladies’ race, last year’s winner Annie Roberts not only retained her title against a much larger field – but smashed her 2018 time by 22 minutes! 2014 and 2017 winner Jo Buckley also raised the bar to beat her 2017 winning time by 14 minutes; not to be out done Nik Terrega (2nd lady in 2018) upped her game by 17 minutes to finish 3rd. CVFR’s Buckley, who was also the first Female Vet 40 over the line – nearly two minutes faster than the next same category runner, was delighted with her result. Having spent most of the race nearly catching the nearest runner on the uphills only to lose her again on the downhills, she reports being a bit surprised when I managed to chug past into 2nd place towards the top of Shackleton knoll. I then just had to contain my excitement and position to the finish!’
All proceeds from the race (around £2,500) will be donated to the Scouts, Church, and Calder Valley Search and Rescue. In addition, having noted a few stiles on the route in need of repair (already down or damaged before the race), the race organisers are looking to make a donation to CROWs – Community Rights Of Way Service – a voluntary organisation with an interest in ensuring that local Rights of Way remain accessible.
This year’s event also had special significance for veteran race organiser, Stephen Grimley, who after 9 years of fronting this homespun event, was able to leave it in the capable hands of friends & neighbours (aka ‘The Hurriers’) and take part in a course he had heard so much about over the years. Delighted to don red & white racing hoops & celebrate ‘going over the hill in style’ Grimley ‘loved every minute of it’, with ‘the icing on the 50th cake being taking a bow to a chorus of happy birthday from the gathered masses’.
Other significant Calder Valley results over the weekend included a number of shorter races; Darren Earnshaw’s came 7th in Storthes Hall Park Run, Ben Cliff’s improved on previous results with 6th in the Halifax Parkrun and Elliot Corner placed second in Centre Vale’s park run. In addition, CVFR newcomer, Charlie Ing came an impressive first place at Helm Hill – a race just short of 5 miles – part of the Kendal Winter League series races – Ing finished over a minute in front of his nearest competitor, with a fastest time recorded for any runner on every segment of the race – definitely making him one to watch for the future.
Saturday 2rd March also saw Junior Calder Valley runners Charlie Pickens, George McFie, & Tom Owen competing at the National Minor Schools Cross Country Championship, outside Loughborough. In a field approaching 200 in a race run at a cracking pace, CVFR provided more than a quarter (3 of 11) of the West Yorkshire Team, with the boys finishing a noteworthy 81st, 111th, & 126th respectively.
– Calder Valley News Reporter: Catherine Jones