Racing successes galore!!!!

Joe with eventual winner Darren hot on his heels @ Widdop

Joe with eventual winner Darren hot on his heels @ Widdop

With Calder Valley Fell Runners enjoying a boom in membership there was a plethora of red and white vests in the hills and mountains on one of the busiest fell and mountain running weekends of the year.

Some of those runners warmed up for the weekend at Widdop, a cracking seven mile race in the windswept wilderness of Widdop Moor high above Hebden Bridge.  The race has been organised by one of the club’s most popular members Andy Clarke, who though now semi-retired from competing, still has enough enthusiasm for fell running to put on a great race each year.

One of the club’s burgeoning talents, Joe Crossfield, was narrowly beaten into second place by seasoned veteran campaigner Darren Kay, with CVFR’s Alex Whittem coming home in fourth place. The genial postman is only slightly off the pace following the recent delivery of a special package in the Whittem household, a baby girl . Other notable performances came from Dave Beels, who continues to belie his years with a fine run to take first V60 and from Lindsay Oldfield who was second female. Lindsay, who is the daughter of Steve Oldfield, is proof in person that running talent does indeed run in the family, although Lindsay was only just beaten by an in-form Lucy Collins of Stainland Lions.

Saturday also saw many Calder runners land in Llanberis for the International Snowdon Mountain Race, which on any other day takes runners up and down the well trodden tourist path for a lightening quick visit of the highest summit in England and Wales. On this occasion, it was the risk of a bolt from the blue that saw the race organisers cut short the race route.  Perennial race winner Andi Jones said goodbye to the race for a while as the marathon man moves to a new job in Qatar and to many people’s surprise, he didn’t celebrate a seventh victory in the country where so many share his surname.  The wily Italians Cesare Maistri (first) , Erik Rosaire (second) and Paolo Gallo (fourth) were just too proficient on the technical descent; these men in blue bolted past the roadrunner to claim three of the top four places. Irishman Tim O’Donoghue was third and Borrowdale man Morgan Donnelly was first Englishman in fifth, just one place ahead of Jones.

It wasn’t long before Calder’s runners started to come crashing down the mountain and into the finish field as Gavin Mulholland, who was representing Northern Ireland for the third year in a row finished in 23rd, with Joe Washington and Johnny Helliwell not far behind in 31st and 32nd.  The subtitles of Welsh TV channel S4C which was covering the race, proclaimed the tattooed Stainland man as looking like an “escaped convict”.  Not sure about that, but what is certain is that both he and Washington ran with conviction to post impressive times in this race of international all-stars. Ireland’s Sarah McCormack was clear winner in the women’s race from orienteer Tessa Hill and Italy’s Elise Compagnoni, who were second and third respectively. Calder’s Holly Page took a leaf out of the book of other Calder greats from the recent past and ran in an England vest to finish in seventh place in the Women’s race. She even managed to finish one place ahead of one of the greats of fell running, Pippa Maddams, a truly outstanding effort by the Blackshaw Head based runner.

Snowdon also staged the uphill and invitation only ‘Snowdon Super Cup’ which was won by James Walsh.  The partisan local crowd were hoping to celebrate a Welsh champion, but in the end they had to settle for a ‘Walsh’ runner as the Leeds City man beat Snowdonia’s Rob Samuel into second place. Calder’s Joe Crossfield was twelth and second U23 just ahead of first woman and sponsored athlete Emma Clayton of Bingley Harriers, who has made a remarkable return to racing following a broken foot injury last year.

Karl in full flight @ Kentmere (courtesy of Racing Snakes)

Karl in full flight @ Kentmere (courtesy of Racing Snakes)

Finally, there was just the small matter of an English Championship Race at the Kentmere Horseshoe Fell Race in the Lake District on Sunday to complete the round up. While Rory McIlroy was celebrating a victory in the British Open, the equally precocious talent of Tom Addison will soon be crowned national fell running champion if he can put in a reasonable show at the long counting Sedbergh Hills.

What hasn’t been written about Karl Gray? At 44 years old he’s still Calderdale’s best runner and for twelve years he’s improved year on year as third place in this race caps off another imperious year for Calder’s George Clooney.  Karl was only just beaten by Rob Hope, who will now be crowned V40 champion. Calder’s Ben Mounsey showed he could be the man to assume the Calder mantle if age ever does start to catch up with Gray, with the Brighouse teacher coming home in a cracking ninth place. With Tim Ellis in 11th and Shaun Godsman in 19th and  Alex Whittem paying for an overcooked start in 47th, it still an impressive show from Calder’s men.  Holmfirth’s Helen Berry led the charge for the women, from Mercia’s Mel Price and Dark Peak’s Judith Jepson. Karon Forster was the solo Calder woman to race.

At Holme Moss, the name made famous for its long road climb in the Tour De France, Calder’s Rob White had a great run to place 19th and 1st under 23 in this testing long race in a time of 3 hours 28 minutes. Phil Scarf was 34th overall in a time of 3 hours 44 minutes and hot on his heels and less than a minute behind him was women’s captain Helen Buchan. After a few weeks off from racing she took 2nd ladies spot and was well pleased with her run. And not to be outdone Jackie Scarf raced in around the 4 hour mark and took the 1st women over 50s prize.

Records tumble in Grand Départ

Holly on her way to breaking the record in "Le Tour" style -

Holly on her way to breaking the record in “Le Tour” style –

Calder Valley Fell Runners pair Karl Gray and Holly Page demolished the men’s and women’s course records in last Saturday’s Heptonstall Grand Départ fell race. The hugely popular 9.5k village event was switched to Tour de France weekend and Valley’s star pair revelled in the perfect evening conditions.

Gray, tackling the race for the first time, sped round in 49 mins 37 seconds, smashing Christopher Smale previous best of 52:09 set in 2012. Joe Washington made it a 1-2 for Calder Valley with Richard Meade, an elite marathon runner who was part of a contingent of runners from Edinburgh in the area for the bike race, third. All three beat the previous record of Smale, who was 12th this time. Page came ninth of the 94 runners and won the women’s race for the third year in a row. Her time of 54:58 bettered the 55:42 of Holmfirth international runner Katie Walshaw in 2011.

The race was a club championship counter for Calder Valley and Gray, who is used to  scaling The Three Peaks with the minim of fuss, remarked how tough the course had been. The route, which has more than 1,600 feet of ascent, starts in the hilltop village and plunges deep into a neighbouring valley before finding its way to the top of a nearby peak.  It returns in similar fashion and there is a mixture of terrain with cobbles, grassy fields, muddy slopes, rocky bridleway and open moorland, some of it pathless.

That test wasn’t enough for Sikobe Litaba who ran approximately 30 miles from Glossop before taking part and still beating a dozen rivals home. Organiser Steve Grimley of Heptonstall Hurriers and Calder Valley FR put the record times down to perfect conditions and slightly cooler temperatures due to the evening start. He said it had been a real community event with 30 volunteers from the village acting as route marshals and others providing French-themed food. The village had been decked in bunting and numerous campers had added to an “amazing buzz” surrounding bike race weekend. The event raises money for the Heptonstall Festival later in the year.

Holly Page was making it two course records in four days at Heptonstall, having demonstrated she was in top form in the Cragg Vale Fell Race. She was seventh overall in a four mile race which started at the Hinchliffe Arms and attracted 112 runners. Page clocked 31:07 behind winner Jamie Parkinson (Pudsey and Bramley AC, 27:00).

Valley had six of the next seven runners to win the men’s team prize, spearheaded by Joe Crossfield in second (28:26), Joe Washington in fourth ( 28:57), Mark O’Connor fifth (30:51), Robert White sixth (31:02) and Tom Collinge eighth ( 31:11). Valley won the women’s prize through Page, second-placed Lindsey Oldfield (30th, 34:58) and fourth-placed Issy Wharton (48th, 37:25).

Dollars, Peaks and Galas

Mileage Monster Murgatroyd in action abroad

Mileage Monster Murgatroyd in action abroad

Veteran Calder Valley Fell Runner Karl Gray was right on the money this weekend with another marvellous run at the Dollar Fell race in Scotland, which is the latest British championship counter in the annual three from four race series. Gray is looking to cash in on his peak fitness and make another mark by bagging yet more silverware in both the Open and V40 categories.  
Andrew Fallas currently sits atop the standings with the in-form and now 40 year old Pudsey and Bramley man Rob Hope in second place. Borrowdale Vet Morgan Donelley has now moved slightly ahead of Gray in both the Open and Veteran categores, but if Gray can outfox the Borowdale man at the final counting race, the ‘Maesgm Muddle’ and with weather and route choice such critical factors in fell running there’s still every chance the alchemist Gray could be celebrating turning a nailed on bronze medal into a silver one. The irrespressible Simon Bailey once again won a race he was on the start line of, but Hector Haines of the irreverently named Hunter’s Bog Trotters running club pushed him all the way, finishing only seconds behind. Rob Hope was third, with Morgan Donelly seventh and Karl Gray ninth. In the Women’s race, Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley Harriers continues to dominate the British championships, but Jackie Lee of Eryri Harriers is in the form of her life and took a close second from Jasmin Paris of Carnethy. Finally, Tim Ellis had a fine run to finish in 31st place and Karon Forster and Rod Sutcliffe were only seconds apart, coming home well under the two hour mark.

Stainland’s Linda Murgatroyd continues to enhance her iron woman reputation with first mixed team in the eye-watering and will-shattering Lakeland 10 challenge. The race takes in ten of the Lake District’s signature peaks, with 5600 metres of climbing over 73 kilometres. Murgatroyd and partner Ian Haigh were out in the hills for 19 hours of continuous peak bagging in this Herculean hill challenge. (read Linda’s report here)

At the other end of the fell running spectrum and in less time that it took Linda Murgatroyd to pack her bag for the Lakeland 10, Joe Washington was also romping up and down the hills of Cumbria at Kirkby Gala Fell Race. Washington posted a well earned fourth place, with Wharfedale’s Ted Mason winning another race in the British Open Fell Running Association series