Champions galore in a great weekend of racing


Joe with Vic Wilkinson hot on his heels at Peris

There was double joy this weekend for Calder Valley as Helen Fines and Shaun Godsman became national champions. Club captain Helen became joint British Fell Running champion after a nail-biting climax to the season at the Peris Horsehoe event in Snowdon. The race saw the culmination of a season-long, ding-dong battle with her main adversary, Victoria Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who is a specialist and decorated mountain runner, was well suited to the course in Snowdon and needed to win to secure her own share of the spoils with local vet Fines.

The classic Peris race is rightly regarded as one of the toughest on the calendar with over 16miles of brutal climbing and descending in an around Snowdon National Park. Helen threw her heart and soul into the race and has the cuts and bruises to prove it, as she fell several times on the unforgiving Snowdonian peaks in her pursuit of Wilkinson. Wilkinson prevailed with a strong win, but Helen’s heroic fourth place meant that she shared the overall British crown, with her brilliant wins at Silent Valley (Northern Ireland) and Blisco (Lake District) plus her second place at Yetholm (Scotland) meaning she couldn’t be dislodged.

The title is a fitting end to Helen’s season which has seen her elevate herself to the very top of the female ranks and show what a class act she is. Sheer hard work and an iron will have seen Helen go from good to very good indeed and she will be determined to defend her crown next year.

There was further glory and another joint British Champion with Calder’s Joe Crossfield taking the Under 23 title. Joe does his road work with Halifax Harriers, but has recently joined Calder Valley to hone his fell skills, and is clearly another young runner blessed with huge talent.

Elsewhere, Tod’ fireman, Shaun Godsman secured his first British Open Fell Running (BOFRA) title but boy, did he have to work for it. Shaun has shown binary form throughout the BOFRA series this year having finished first or second in all the races he’s run in. His laser like focus on winning this BOFRA crown was put to the test by the equally determined Ted Mason of Wharfedale. Going into Saturday’s deciding Burnsall race, he was neck and neck points-wise with Mason, with either of them in a position to win the big prize.

Shaun picks up the story for us: “The race started fast and I led it out but could not shake off a young Leeds City runner, Jack Simpson, who has been injured most of the year and is now making a comeback. We climbed together and dropped Ted a bit and turned at the summit together and I basically blundered my way down the tricky descent managing to keep in front of Jack, just! On climbing the wall into the fields I noticed Ted had nearly caught us on his ‘secret’ route and was coming in from the right hand side of the fields. From here it is basically a mad sprint for a couple of minutes to the finish. Jack just got in front at the top of the last two fields with a lung busting sprint down to the finish line, I just couldn’t pull him back. Jack was 1st in 14min 12s I was 2nd in 14min 13secs and Ted was 3rd in 14mins 14secs – three seconds between us! Thankfully it was enough to give me the BOFRA title as Ted needed to beat me in all 3 remaining races. They say it’s the first time that a v40 has won the championship so I will win the open and the v40 titles, there’s some grace in getting to that 40 mark I suppose!!”

Closer to home the inaugural Turbine Tangle in Rossendale saw runners aim to navigate all twenty six jumbo wind turbines on Cowpe Moor within three hours. Jim Mosley (14th) and Tony Steward (24th) both completed the course for Calder Valley in what was widely agreed to be an excellent new addition to the calendar. It’s good that wind turbines have some uses after all!

“Fleet” of Foot and True Yorkshire Grit

Nicky & Fleeter at the Ben and Kev, Martin and El Capitano in action at Yorkshireman

Nicky & Fleeter at the Ben and Kev, Martin and El Capitano in action at Yorkshireman

The Ben Nevis Race has been run every year since 1951 with the exception of 1980, that year the elements won and the race was cancelled. The record times for both men and women have stood since 1984 when Kenny Stuart and Pauline Stuart (nee Haworth) respectively recorded 1h 25m 34s and 1h 43m 25s. The Ben exercises a hold over runners and for those completing 21 runs a coveted Connochie Plaque is awarded.

This years’ race saw the restricted field of 600 runners gathering at the race headquarters of Fort William Football Club in very changeable weather. One minute it was rain, the next sunshine, fortunately the wind was gentle and a mere 15mph was expected at the summit. Just before 1pm with the sun shining brightly the runners followed the pipers around the field to the start line. The first mile is along a tarmac road before the route heads out onto the mountain with a runnable 2 mile climb. At this point is Red Burn, the first checkpoint and a fairly tight cut off point of 1 hour. With the sun still bearing down many runners took a quick sip from the Burn before heading up the steepest section of the race. This time it’s hands on knees or the ground and make as much progress as possible. After another mile and half of scrambling towards the summit the gradient eases and the last few hundred yards are runnable again. The summit cut off is two hours and then it’s about turn and descend as fast and as safely as possible. Even with all the sunshine the ground was slippy due to heavy overnight rain and plenty of runners came a cropper on the treacherous descent.

In the race, Finlay Wild, of local club, Lochaber, was firmly in control and well on his way to a fourth consecutive victory. Angela Mudge of Edinburgh based club, Carnethy, also had a commanding lead over the next lady. Andy Fleet of Oldham, and running for Calder Valley was having the race of his life and had shadowed regular top ten finisher, Sam Watson of Wharfedale, all the way to the summit. 48 year old, fell running legend, Ian Holmes of Bingley was showing most of the younger lads how to run this race as he descended at break neck pace in fifth place but Ian needed to make sure he finished though as he was due to collect his Connochie Plaque later that evening along with two others.

Finlay and Angela went on to win their race in times of 1h 30m 6 s and 1 h 52m 37s respectively, with Angela finishing in 31st place overall. Second man home was under 23 runner Sam Tosh of Rossendale making his Ben Nevis debut in a time of 1h 37 m 27s. Sam was regularly heard asking “Did he go that way”, and with a bit more experience he may be a future race winner. Just over a minute later Murray Strain of Hunters Bog Trotters was third man home with a delighted Ian Holmes finishing fourth. Andy took a bad tumble just before the road section but wasn’t going to let this rob him of his fantastic achievement and made it to the finish line in tenth in 1h 42 m 3 s, one of the fastest ever times by a Calder Valley runner and a well earned bronze medal (8 bronze medals awarded to top ten finishers). Diane Baum of Lochaber was second lady in 2h 2m 57s with clubmate, Sarah Mackenzie third in 2h 5m 19s.

Other Calder Valley runners: Toby Cotterill 2h 6m 11s, Stephen Smithies 2h 8m 16s, Trevor Murgatroyd 2h 34 m, Linda Murgatroyd 2h 39m, Nicky Bolton 2h 40m 8s, Blair Garrett 2h 44m 52s

Yorkshire half and Full off road marathons: Half 15 miles: Full 26.2 miles

Ben Mounsey, El Capitano of CVFR managed to successfully defend his half Yorkshireman title and win the race for a 6th time so he was very pleased. He finished in a decent time of 1:41:04 and held the lead for the whole race which began with a trademark sprint start.

The weather and conditions were excellent but unfortunately he was nowhere near the record of 1:36 he set in 2009! (he’s eating too many pies these days haha) It was however his first race for 3 months so not a bad comeback.

In the full race Martin Huddlestone and Kevin ‘Usain’ Holt also successfully defended the title they won last year in the full marathon paired event in a time of 3:47:07 just winning  by 10 seconds!!!!! Ian Symington had a fantastic run as a solo taking 3rd place in a time of 3:24:44

“Polished” performance brings home bronze

Junior Men

CVFRs Max (84) and Brad (83) ready to run for their country in Poland

The 29th edition of the World Mountain Running Championships took place last weekend in the mountain resort of Krynica-Zdrój in Poland. British Athletics sent full teams for four races: junior women (U20), junior men (U20), senior women and senior men. The event took place alongside the annual Running Festival Biegowy that is hosted by the town and brings 8000 runners together, providing an exceptional and vibrant atmosphere to the championships that saw 365 runners from 40 countries compete on the unusually challenging ‘down and up’ course.

The World Championship alternates, each year, between an ‘uphill only’ competition and an ‘up and down’. For the first time in its history the course challenged the runners to a ‘down and up’ course where they tackled a steep climb on the ski slope after descending 276m in 2.5km in each 4.65km lap. The junior women ran one lap; the junior men and senior women, 2 laps and the senior men 3 laps.

The first race of the day, the junior women’s saw Annabel Mason and Georgia Malir (GBR) together, at the front, in the early part of the climb with Catriona Graves (GBR) in 15th. Annabel and Georgia pushed each other on towards the finish but were eventually overhauled by Mandy Ortiz (USA), Lea Einfalt (SLO) and Tubay Erdal (TUR). Their final positions were 4th and 5th respectively with Catriona coming through brilliantly into 6th place bringing the team home for gold. Annabel spoke of her race plan after the race, “I ran my own race and ignored everyone else and went at the pace that I thought I could go at. I was a bit worried about the transition from the descent to the climb but I just got into it and it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. The hurt came later in the course!”

The junior men also packed extremely well in their race. At the top of the climb after one lap, Brad Traviss (GBR & CVFR) was in 4th place with Nathan Jones (GBR), Max Nicholls (GBR) and Max Wharton (GBR & CVFR) together in 13th, 14th and 15th. After moving into 3rd place at the bottom of the 2nd lap Brad eventually finished a very credible 6th place and equalled the highest position by a British junior man in these championships (Dewi Griffiths, 6th, 2010) with Max Nicholls 12th, Nathan Jones 14th and Max Wharton 15th to give the team the bronze medal behind Czech Republic and Italy. After the race Brad commented, “I’ve got to be pleased and I’m so happy for the team. In the Europeans [in July] I’d trained so hard and that was a big focus and I was so ready but I had a bacterial infection and it took it away from me. I was so disappointed but I had that rest and I believed in myself. I came nowhere in the Europeans but I’m glad it’s happened at this one.”

Quote from Max Wharton:

I’m very Happy with my individual position and the team bronze especially, the whole team had probably the runs of their life to secure the bronze medal and it was an amazing feeling standing on a World podium. I have 2 more years as a junior so hope to maybe challenge for a medal in the future. My mate brad and I both live in Calderdale and we’re both top 15 in the world.

The senior women also ran the two lap course and Emma Clayton (GBR) took an early lead but was eventually reeled in by Alice Gaggi (ITA) and so Emma had to settle for the silver medal. Afterwards she commented, “I knew I was in good shape but Gaggi was so strong and I lost it on the climb but I’m delighted. I’ve done a lot of off road runs and prepared by running really hard down the descents. Every time I hit a descent I would work hard down it and I’ve also done a specific hill session every Saturday. The transition from the descent to the climb was fine on the first lap. I held back a bit on the descent but because I worked so hard on it on the next lap I found it quite tough.” Emma was backed up by Sarah Tunstall in 8th, Mary Wilkinson in 12th and Katie Walshaw in 16th to give the team silver. Emma got her first British vest as a junior in 2006 and said that she is proud to be on the team with her role models, “It’s taken a long time for me to get into the senior ranks but people told me my time would come and it has come. I ran as a junior in 2006 and got my first senior vest in 2011 but I worked hard and now I’m on the team with the girls that I’ve been looking up to for years.”

The final race of the day and arguably the toughest, due to the heat of the day, a three lap course and a strong African representation saw a solid performance by the British men’s team led home by Chris Smith in 19th and followed up by Andi Jones (26th), James McMullan (48th), Tom Adams (51st), Nick Swinburn (63rd) and Rob Samuel, who unfortunately suffered with a hamstring problem in 70th. Their team position was 7th.

Team leader, Sarah Rowell, commented “We were always excited about the senior women’s prospects and they certainly delivered but even more exciting is the potential we have seen from the British juniors, many of whom will remain in this age group for the next couple of years.”

Whittem “posts” record time @ Blackshawhead

Blackshaw Head Fell Race (31 Aug  2013) (16)

No 12 Whittem takes the lead from the start

Saturday’s record entry for the 6th running of the Blackshaw Head Fell Race provided further evidence of the surge of interest in off-road running. The booming South Pennine fell race scene continues to attract ever increasing numbers of runners to Calderdale’s magnificent valley’s, woods, and moorlands. With over 50 races in a 15 mile radius nowhere else in the UK can compete with Hebden Bridge’s claim to the title of national fell running mecca. It is perhaps no coincidence that this unrivalled access to a weekly diet of tough competition has seen the upper valley develop into a centre of fell running excellence. Local clubs are now producing some of the UK’s leading talent, whilst new-comers and novices are signing up to the pleasures of running across breath-taking South Pennine moors and woodland, rather than soul-destroying tarmac and concrete. A bumper Blackshaw Head field included 32 Calder Valley, and 14 Tod Harriers as 112 lined up on the gala-field start line. Setting out from the village fete the runners were cheered on their way by festival crowds enjoying the late summer sunshine. The 5.5 mile route then took in a series of steep climbs around the Colden valley totalling 900 feet of ascent, interspersed with classic sections of wide open wilderness across Standing Stone Hill and Heptonstall Moor. Conditions were good under foot after the warm, dry summer, but the forecast gales soon added a blustery challenge to proceedings. In-form favourite Alex Whittem certainly had the wind in his sails as he breezed his way to a commanding lead. The Calder Valley runner maintained pole position as the pursuing pack tried in vain to chase him down on the final descent, along the Peninne Way, from Mount Pleasant to Jack Bridge. Whittem took the course record in a fantastic 36min19seconds, making light work of the 300 feet climb from the stone clapper bridge in Colden Clough, to the Blackshaw Head finish line, well ahead of club mate Graeme Brown (37.09), and Tod Harriers Nick Barber (37.27). Helen Fines made it a Calder Valley double winning the women’s race in convincing style 5 minutes ahead of her nearest rival, in 42.30 and 20th overall. Race Organiser Guy Whitmore and his team can be rightly proud of their efforts in adding yet another marvellous event to the UK’s premiere fell running calendar. Whilst Calder Valley’s seniors were covering themselves in glory at Blackshaw Head Jack Denton was flying the colours at the Bradley Fell Race. Jack continued to show his potential, finishing 2nd Under 17 (21:21) in a very competitive field as the race featured as an International trial . The up and coming Calder Valley youngster is waiting to see if he’s been selected to run for England in the Junior Home Internationals in Aberfoyle. Denton’s arrival on the international scene would provide yet more evidence of the strength of local fell running, with a host of future stars taking to the fells at the highest level.