Mulholland Magic on Windy Hill

photos courtesy of

photos courtesy of

The inaugural running of the Windy Hill fell race took place on Sunday from Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough. The race is the brainchild of Todmorden’s running machine John Lloyd and is part of his burgeoning Cannonball Events portfolio. The nine mile/1281ft race starts out from Littleborough rugby club and climbs up and over Windy Hill at the highest point of the M62 motorway.

The runners traverse the famous footbridge and head toward the large radio transmitter with its enviable view over glorious Rochdale. A speedy technical descent takes them back down towards Rakewood and a grandstand finish across the rugby pitches towards the clubhouse.

Calder Valley’s diminutive Gavin Mulholland set the early pace on the way up to Windy Hill but it was Clayton Le Moors Harrier Spencer Riley, recently returned from a horrific broken ankle, who stole the honours. He produced a well-timed break coming off the final descent to win in 57:49. Mulholland had to settle for second place, 28 seconds behind, but it was good to see the Ulsterman back to something near his best.

Not far behind in 15th was the Royd Rocket himself, Mark O’Connor, who improves with every race as he completes his morphosis from sequinned ballroom dancer to chiselled fellsman. In 40th it was good to see Calder’s Graham Hill clicking along near full pace after a patchy 2013 dogged by injury. Tucked in just behind him were Calder’s dynamic duo of British champ Helen Fines and decorated veteran Sally Newman, who both ran splendidly to come 42nd and 43rd respectively. For once, Fines didn’t win the women’s prize as this went to Blackburn Harrier’s Helen Leigh, who scorched round in a brilliant 1:07:14.

Next up for Calder was new boy John Minta in 82nd and Andy Thorpe continued his fine start to the season with a cracking 131st. Andy has put in some sterling runs in recent weeks, including a valiant 108th at the tough Mickleden Straddle race the week before. He continues to be one of the most consistent runners in the midfield. Speaking of consistency, Mr C himself, Dave Culpan, added yet another notch to his fell running bed post with an assured 137th Not far behind, in 157th, was Gillian Wisbey, whose excellent run enabled Calder ladies to claim the team prize, an Aladdin’s Cave of rewards laid on by Cannonball Events. The general consensus was that Windy Hill is an excellent addition to the fell running calendar and Cannonball Events can take great credit for their expert organisation and event support.

Calder Valley FR’s Shaun Godsman ran superbly at the Barbondale Fell Race, which is part of the Kendal winter league series. The contest is only about 2.5 mile long but has around 1400ft of climbing, starting with a steady ascent and then steeper climb, which in places seems almost vertical. Once at the top there is a three quarter mile undulating run to a cairn before the return trip.

All the Godsman family took part with Ben tackling the shorter under 12 route – basically half way up the climb then back down – while Charley took part in the slightly longer under 14s race. Todmorden fireman Shaun and wife Sharon did the senior route and Shaun led until the steep descent, where Sam Watson of Wharfedale swept past him for first place.

The “Crossfield” Colt gallops home to 3rd place

photos courtesy of

photos courtesy of

There would be no horsing around for competitors at this year’s running of the popular but tough Wadsworth Trog fell race (aka ‘The Beast’), with a suitably beastly weather forecast predicting high winds, sleet and heavy rain. Luckily the worst of the weather held off for the start, and the 173 runners setting off on the 20 mile route initially had a strong tailwind to help them on their way. A leading group of four was quickly established, with CVFR’s young colt Joe Crossfield and the painted stallion that is Jonny Helliwell joining pre-race favourites Simon Harding (Macclesfield) and Tom Brunt (Dark Peak). For 20-year-old Joe to be mixing it in this company is testimony to the focus and hard work he has put in of late in training.

The Trog is one of the toughest races on the calendar and Saturday’s wild weather made the going as brutal as many could remember. Once the leading four had broken the back of the route and returned to Cock Hill above Oxenhope for the second time, they encountered a fierce headwind, to go with their aching limbs and worsening fatigue. It was here that experience showed and the older boys let young Joe take the lead, acting as a convenient windbreak back toward High Brown Knoll.

But it was Helliwell who slipped up first, when a stumble in one of the many man sized tussocks meant he was left behind and as he lost the group he also lost his navigators. Tiredness and cold took their toll causing confusion to set in, with Helliwell taking the wrong line to the next checkpoint and getting lost, which in turn cost him about a fifteen minute detour to get back on track. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, his club team mate cob Ian Symington took the chance to overtake him.

Harding and Brunt made their move and kicked for home, leaving Joe trailing in their wake as he was unable to counter after his sterling effort into the wind. Then on leaving the final checkpoint above Mount Skip, runners encountered a last minute diversion. Those flagging the route earlier hadn’t dared venture into a field where three wild eyed horses were staring at them with flared nostrils, so runners were redirected along the road and then back to join the original route for the last checkpoint before the final climb up to the finish line at the Cricket Club in Old Town.

Finishing in 3rd place behind Harding and Brunt, Crossfield galloped home first CVFR member and 1st U23. Symington and Helliwell cantered in in 5th & 6th place thus securing the team prize, with John Lloyd (13th) coming in just ahead of Helen ‘Filly’ Fines (14th and 1st Woman). Not to be outdone Fines along with strong runs from team mates Jackie Scarf and women’s captain Helen Buchan also sneaked away with 1st female team.

With the front runners nearly home, the fell ponies further back were steadily plodding on but found themselves having to contend with increasingly strong gusts of wind. Marshals reported having to hold on to a Trig point to stop themselves blowing over, hats were whipped from heads (testament to why FRA rules require jackets with attached hoods as well as hats) and a pair of marshals did the can-can in an effort to keep warm. The persistent rain finally arrived just as the last runners cleared the moor, and everyone was glad of the warm reception, food and cakes in the Cricket Club. Thanks go to the various landowners for letting us run across their land once again, to Old Town cricket club for their warm hospitality and to Hannah Reeve and her stoical team of weather-beaten marshals who all contributed to a memorable day.

Some members ‘Handicapped” by the weather

photo[1]Calder Valley Fell Runners held their annual ‘Winter Handicap’ race on Saturday, where runners set off at intervals, slowest first, in the hope that everyone crosses the finish line at the same time.  The race, from Mytholmroyd, straight across the quagmire of Erringdon Moor, to Stoodley Pike and back, was perfectly timed to coincide with a downpour of rain that turned to a painful hail storm as runners climbed towards the Pike.  Caps, hoods and hands were employed to shield the eyes of competitors struggling to see where they were going against a barrage of hailstones.  At least one runner found that shorts provided insufficient protection from the elements and sought shelter by a wall rather than race on.  Hardier (or better dressed) souls ploughed on, staggered round the Pike in the wind, and were blown safely back across the moor to the welcome shelter of the Shoulder of Mutton.  First runner back was Andrew Meek, just ahead of Helen Buchan, who was fastest woman.  Fattest man was Shaun Godsman.

After prizes and warmth in the Shoulder of Mutton, runners went home to scrub up in time for the CVFR Annual presentation do.  Club members struggled to recognise each other without mud, sweat and stripy vests, with this year’s dress code being ‘posh’ – although it was Burn’s night the proportion of vegetarians in the club rendered a haggis themed evening unpopular!  Nevertheless, Iain Glendinning donned his kilt, and was the happy recipient of the ‘most improved runner’ award.  In the new Ultra Championship, the winners were Linda Murgatroyd and Kevin Hoult.  Helen Fines managed the impressive achievement of being both the Women’s Champion, and coming 3rd in the overall Championship.  The Men’s Champion was local teacher Tim Black.

Other winners were: V40 Champion: Steve Smithies, V50 Champion: Brian Horsley, Short Race King: Alex Whittem, Medium Race King & Queen: Tim Ellis & Helen Buchan, Long Race King & Queen: Ian Symington & Helen Buchan.

Wally of the Year was hotly contested.  Last year’s winner Alex Whittem committed a number of acts of fell running stupidity this year, and made a last ditch bid to retain the title by losing the trophy, however he failed to compete with the joint follies of eventual winners Sharon and Shaun Godsman.  Navigational Cock Up of the Year went to geography teacher and top orienteer James Logue.

The final award, Runners’ Runner of the Year, is awarded on the basis of nominations made on the night.  This years’ winner was coach Mark Goldie.  Mark has coached increasingly popular training sessions every Tuesday night for a number of years, and his dedication and enthusiasm makes him a deserving winner of this award.

Tim & Helen stride out to ‘Straddle” Success

Tim Ellis and Helen Fines Mickleden Straddle 2014There was double delight for Calder Valley on Sunday as Tim Ellis and Helen Fines repeated their success of twelve months ago with victories in the Mickleden Straddle fell race. Set in the delightful High Peak countryside about half way between Huddersfield and Sheffield, the race was blessed with crisp winter sunshine, albeit in parky conditions.

The 14 mile/2431ft race is a punishing mix of trail, fell and cross country and sets out from Langsett Barn near Penistone. Once up onto the moor and along Micklden Edge, the runners settle in for a long steady pull toward Howden Edge, with the field unwinding before the speedy descent down to Howden Reservoir. A pleasant jaunt around the reservoir path brings you toward Howden Clough which presents ideal woodland running.

But then the fun really starts as you commence the climb toward Penistone Stile, which the locals sardonically refer to as ‘Ice Station Zebra’ due to its formidable reputation in wintry weather. Here the terrain turns from easygoing trail to morale destroying shin high tussocks. Eight miles in and this begins to sort the field out and Tim, a renowned climber, knuckled down and extended his lead from local Penistone lad Andy Swift, picking his way along the narrow sheep trod with classy expertise. Once he’d summited at Howden Edge, it was a foregone conclusion as he powered home to win in 1hr:45:42. Helen likewise displayed all the craft of the British Champion that she is to cruise round in 2:00:54 to come in 20th overall, and easily beating the next lady home who was Kimberworth’s Jo Bolton in 74th.

John CannonBall Lloyd similarly matched his own 4th place from last year to complete the symmetry but it wasn’t enough to give Calder the team prize which was claimed by Penistone. Elsewhere in the field, Calder stalwarts Dave Culpan and Martin Whitehead continued their accumulation of British fell races, each of them having done well over 100 different races in their careers so far. Big thanks go to Denby Dale Travellers who organised the event in exemplary fashion.

Results: 1st. Tim Ellis – 1:45:42, 4th John Lloyd – 1:53:03, 20th Helen Fines – 2:00:54, 47th Jim Mosley – 2:13:46, 95th Andy Thorpe – 2:29:40, 105th Michael Dean – 2:33:34, 110th Dave Culpan – 2:35:40, 119th Martin Whitehead – 2:40:15, 146th John Nunn – 2:57:03.