Whittem “posts” excellent win at Midgley Moor

1st and 3rd photo courtesy of www.woodentops.org.uk

1st and 3rd photo courtesy of www.woodentops.org.uk

The Midgley Moor Fell Race meets all the criteria that a fell race requires for it to be considered small but perfectly formed: Small? Check; Local? Check; Route Choice? Check; Fast descents? Check; Tough Ascents? Check; Varied Terrain? Check; Tea and Biscuits? Check.

Perhaps the best feature of the race is its ability to change each year to the vagaries of weather, time and controlled moorland fires. This year 106 runners decided to experience this season’s moorland features setting out from the farmer’s field adjacent to Booth cricket ground on Sunday, with 105 returning having found all the check points (…more on this to follow). A surprisingly tough and fast ascent through pasture took the increasingly strung out procession of coloured vests onto Midgley Moor and up onto Crow Hill. From there runners take either established paths to Sheepstones, or they risk entanglement and inertia in heather to reach a common point of convergence at the trig point. This proved to be the temporary undoing of Calder Valley’s flying postman Alex Whittem. Alex has been in great form, but he was temporarily enveloped in confusion, unable to stamp his commanding lead on the rest of the field as accomplished navigator Ian Nixon of Pudsey and Bramley took the lead.

From there the race drops into the Luddenden Dene Valley near Castle Carr before a sharp climb takes runners back to the wall corner behind Crow Hill on Midgley Moor. This is where the key route choice presents itself as runners have to find a good line across the moor. Alex Whittem made amends for his bad route choice by finding a great line to the final checkpoint as he wrestled the lead from Nixon to post his first victory in this race after a number of close run races in the past.

Nixon was second, with gentle giant Joe Crossfield coming a creditable third, although Calder’s young star was disappointed with his run.

Helen Fines continued to show early form with yet another victory for the women. The Veteran Vet was joint English and British champion last year and she’s in imperious form again as the championship season kicks off next week. Helen’s teammate Jo Buckley was second lady after a sprint took her two seconds clear of chasing Lynn Clough of Wigan.

Special mention goes to Alexander Bowden who used to go to Calder High, where Calder legend Gary Webb got him into fell running as a teenager. He’s had some pedigree as a road runner since then, but he fancied doing some fell races, so re-joined CVFR, despite living in Milton Keynes! On Sunday he made the round trip from home just to run the race, but he didn’t stick around long enough to collect his team prize bar of chocolate. This delighted unattached runner Danny Franklin who received the prize as consolation for getting lost on a flagged section.

Calder Valley Fell Runners and Race Organiser Hannah Dobson would like to extend thanks to all the landowners, especially Geoff Midgley from Dean House Farm. Landowners also requested that as it’s now lambing and bird nesting season, they would be grateful if moorland runners can keep dogs on leads and stay on the footpaths.

The £400 raised from the race went to Cancer Research UK.