Two intrepid Calder Valley adventurers ventured off the edge of the Yorkshire map to the land marked ‘there be dragons’ last week to take part in the legendary Dragon’s Back race. This 5 day race, from north to south Wales covering approximately 200 miles, took place only once before, twenty years ago. To mark this anniversary the race was resurrected, however this time it was decided to make it more off road and a little tougher than the original route.
Ian Symington, seasoned ultra runner, and Rod Sutcliffe (who as a Vet60 is simply seasoned), started the race with 89 other competitors. With soaring temperatures and an extremely challenging day 1 route, Sutcliffe failed to complete the route within the cut off time, along with a substantial chunk of the rest of the field. Realising that the new route might be proving a little too tough, the organisers shortened the route on subsequent days, removing some of the climb in an attempt to make things a little easier (though running 200 miles in 5 days is never going to be a walk in the park).
Having run out of food and water part way through the first day, Symington started day 2 with nothing in the tank and came a cropper as he failed to make the checkpoints in time and retired to camp to recover. Refuelled and re-energised, Symington and Sutcliffe continued to complete as much of the course as they could, with the organisers offering shortened options for those that wanted to take part on a non-competitive basis.
Symington was left wishing he could turn back the clock and get the balance on the first couple of days right as he recorded the 3rd, 2nd and 1st fastest times on the final three legs of the race. Both though were glad to have had the chance to be part of such a legendary race, and there was no shame in not finishing – only 29 of the original 91 starters completed the whole route, with many dropping out completely.
Elsewhere in the land of dragons runners competed in the last of the British Championship fixtures at Moel Wnion. In this short race of 7.5km and 540m of climbing, there was a slim chance that Calder Valley’s Helen Fines could secure the top spot in the Championship, however any such hopes slipped away as Todmorden Harriers’ Lauren Jeska described feeling ‘strong’ during the race while Fines felt ‘horrible’. Jeska’s first place in the race lands her the British Gold, while Fines finished fourth but still gets British Silver.
In the men’s race, Calder Valley’s Karl Gray, Gavin Mulholland and Tim Black finished 7th, 9th and 13th, with Shaun Godsman and Alex Whittem close behind in 15th and 16th. The impact of these strong runs on the team championships have yet to be calculated, although Calder Valley’s men are already assured of at least a bronze medal position in this Championship.
Still away from the home turf of Yorkshire, Calder Valley’s Barbara Lonsdale and partner Chris Heppenstall had a great run in the Howgills in the first of the Rab National Mini Mountain Marathon Series, finishing second overall and first mixed pair. Husband and wife pair Anne and Bill Johnson are second mixed pair having been heavily penalised for being out 15 minutes over the 4 hour time limit. No doubt the two pairs will continue to battle for points as the series continues in its best 3 of 4 format, with each round being another 4-hour score event. There are another 2 rounds to be held in the Lake District in November and a final round in the Dark Peak area in December. Linda Hayles also stormed to success and is leading the female vet50 category after this first round.
Finally, back home in Yorkshire, Calder Valley’s own men’s team Captain Ben Mounsey triumphed in the Yorkshireman Half Marathon taking first place, while Linda Murgatroyd was first FV40 in the full Yorkshireman Marathon. What a week! Anyone inspired by this active bunch of Valley dwellers can check out www.cvfr.co.uk/beginners-group/ for info on where and when to meet up to try out fell running – come on out and join us before the nights draw in!