Nabs and Gullies

Next week sees the English and British championship, as well as Calder Valley Fell Runner’s own club championship series, move to the Lake District for the beast that is the Ennerdale Horseshoe Fell Race.  So Calder’s ensemble of fell runners could be forgiven for taking a week off racing in preparation for this most enduring of classic lakeland challenges.

There was, however, a smattering of red and white vests who turned out to run in a series of races hosted by Holmfirth Harriers.  The West Nab races start in Meltham and wind their way through the heart of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ country; but instead of the countryside hosting genial old men rolling a bathtub on wheels down a hillside, there was instead an altogether more frenetic stampede of fell racers, accompanied by the sound of the huffing and puffing of exertion.

In the senior races, current English champion and hill farmer Simon Bailey won the race, although he was pushed all the way by young Teeside star Jack Willis.  Calder’s Giles Simon had a good day in the countryside to finish inside the top twenty.  Further down the field there was a great tussle for club V50 honours with John Nunn, Dave Culpan and Martin Whitehead renewing old hostilities to contest a closely fought battle, with only a few seconds separating the three veteran men.  In the end it was ‘Cleggy’ Nunn who just managed to hold off ‘Foggy’ Culpan with ‘Compo’ Whitehead slightly further aback.

Helen Berry of the host club won the women’s race, but she had Calder’s rapidly finishing V50 Superstar Sally Newman breathing down her neck all the way to the finish line.  With Issy Wharton in 56th and Linda Hayles in 80th, the women just missed out on first team prizes to a strong Holmfirth contingent. Issy’s fourth place finish in the U18 girls race leaves her in a great position to achieve her second medal in the national series this year.

The West Nab races also included a number of junior races, with this being episode four of a six part English championship series. Once again Calder Valley’s exciting crop of young racers just keep on improving.  First off was Patrick Casey who went one better than in his last race by coming home well clear of the field in the U8 race. Matilda Baldaro again showed her determination to finish high amongst the girls.

Whilst some of the longer serving juniors continue to run well in the older age groups it really is exciting to see the emergence of the next generation, especially those on show in the U10 age group where four boys finished inside the top fifteen: Billy Blacker in fourth, Eilo Beesley in fifth, Jude Baldaro in eighth and James Duffy in fifteenth.  Not to be outdone by her brother, Beth Blacker continued her own rise up the ranks with an excellent fifth in the girls.

Calder’s only runner in the U12 age group was Robin Casey and while she couldn’t equal the win of her younger brother on she ran strongly to finish well.

With a few juniors missing, there was a patient wait until the U16 race for the next red and white vest to appear.  Jack Denton, back in his first race since his selection for England at the European cup in Italy this summer, romped to victory ahead of his ever present team mates Martin Howard (eighth) and Matthew Murray (24th), both of whom continue to improve.  Jack Denton clearly is the club’s new Max Wharton.

One of the most endearing aspects of fell running is the sheer variety of distances and terrains that the sport encompasses.  While Ennerdale is arduous in terms of its distance and length, Coniston Gullies offers a different kind of extreme: A race so stupidly steep that if it wasn’t for the hazardous scree and boulder it would be a suitable gradient to stage a cheese-rolling contest.

Celebrated Yorkshire farmer Ted Mason once again provided ample evidence of his kamikaze downhill technique to take another victory in this classic tale of lakeland madness, just beating his almost equally unhinged clubmate Sam Watson into second place.  Calder Valley’s short and sharp kings were out in force with Joe Crossfield running a fine seventh place ahead of Ripponden physio Joe Washington in thirteenth and Stephen Smithies, who is now showing some return to form, coming home in sixteenth.  Calder women’s captain Helen Buchan ran a good race and ended just a few places ahead of Stainland’s Trevor ‘Super Strength’ Murgatroyd.