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.