Wintery conditions doesn’t stop them fell runners

photos courtesy of Geoff Matthews and Woodheads

photos courtesy of Geoff Matthews and Woodheads

There has been plenty of fell racing going on recently, despite the wintery weather.  The 11th January saw the Trigger Race leave Marsden on a one way trip to Edale. Runners navigate their way from Marsden over the notoriously featureless Black Hill, Bleaklow and Kinder to Edale visiting three trigs points on route.  How they get back is anyone’s guess. The linear route is measured at 20 miles with 4500 feet climb.  The mens winner was Neil Northrop of Dark Peak in 3 hours 36 mins and the women’s winner in 7th place overall was Jasmin Paris of Carnethy in 3 hours and 51 minutes. Four Calder Valley Fell Runners competed the race including long distance stalwart John Minta who finished in 68 place after 4 hours 48 minutes of running.  Linda Hayles was the 2nd female v60 in 6 hours 44 minutes behind the indomitable Wendy Dodds of Clayton.  Tony Steward (135th) and John Nunn (176th) were the other CVFR finishers.

Closer to home many Calder runners were out on the Hebden 22 and Hebden 15 last Saturday.  This is a Long Distance Walkers Association event that is a very popular early season training event for local fell runners.  The routes are, of course, 22 miles and 15 miles long and took place in icy conditions with heavy snow showers.  Starting in Mytholmroyd both routes snake around the Upper Calder Valley via Wadsworth Lanes, Gibson Mill, and Blackshawhead.  The 15 then returns to Mytholmroyd Community Centre via Erringden Moor while the 22 takes a tour to the top of Cragg Vale.

The top five places in the longer route went to Calder runners.  Ben Mounsey and Gavin Mullholland have been first back in this event for what seems like the last 500 years, but this year they were joined by Johny Helliwell, all three finishing with a time of 2hrs 59min.  Graeme Brown was 4th and Ian Symington was 5th.  Hard man Minta didn’t let the previous weekend’s efforts stop him from coming 24th in 3hrs 49min. The first Calder women back were club captain Helen Buchan and Linda Murgatroyd in 4hrs 38min.

In the 15 mile version Ed Hyland from Stainland was first back with a comfortable margin in 2:17.  A ‘back in form’ Steve Smithies was first Calder runner in 4th place just a minute ahead of Michael Dean, 6th in 2hrs 50mins.  Steve had a knee operation towards the end of 2013, and spent most of 2014 doing leg presses to strengthen his supporting muscles; it looks to have paid off.

Penistone Hill in Haworth was the final racing venue, on Sunday for the 7 mile Soreen Stanbury Splash.  There was however a last minute route change to the shorter 5 mile Stoop route due to dangerously icy conditions.  The race was won by Tom Adams of Ilkley in 36.06 closely followed by Simon Bailey of Mercia.  The snow was knee deep in part with runners falling like nine pins on the descent from the Oxenhope Stoop stone, but with only two retirements it seems that everyone returned safe. Calder’s first runner was Mark O’Connor in 20th place getting in just under 40 minutes in 39.45.  Tristan Sheard was the second Calder finisher exactly one minute later. Lindsey Bridle of Horwich was first woman with an excellent 19th place overall and only just three minutes behind the first man.  2014 star signing Lindsay Oldfield was Calder’s first woman in 98th place, fifth woman in 44.56

Johnnie shows he’s certainly not spineless!!!!

Johnnie (with head torch on) at the Whitehouse eating chips and only 35 miles into his 268 mile race.

Johnnie (with head torch on) at the Whitehouse eating chips and only 35 miles into his 268 mile race.

Going from Edale and continuing to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, the Spine Race started on the 10th January.  A different order of magnitude, this race covers the full 268 miles of the Pennine Way, and is billed as Britain’s most brutal race taking place in the depths of winter. Of course taking place in January, there are only about 8 hours of daylight so most of the race takes place in the dark.

Calder Valley’s Johnnie Watson entered the race and spent the next few days on his feet, only stopping when the weather conditions were so bad that to continue would have risked life and limb. The runners were stopped by the organisers at Hawes for several hours as 110mph winds were forecast.

Most of Johnnies club mates were watching him on their computers as he had a tracking device on and they were all hooked on his progress and in awe of what he was doing. Results are still being calculated due to the enforced stops but it seems that Johnnie came about 14th in 150 hours and 39 minutes an excellent result in an international field of Ultrarunners. The winner for the second year in a row was Pavel Paloncy from the Czeck Republic who did the whole 268 miles in 79 and a half hours.

A few days after finishing Johnnie said “It was very grim at times but there was some real moments of beauty. My feet are surprisingly ok but swollen. Legs a little sore. Still very tired and hungry all the time. (its Friday nearly week after the race and he still can’t stop eating). It will interesting to see what my final place is as I reckon my time on the course was about 5 days 5 hours.” Johnnie moved up to 12th after the recalculations. A truly amazing result with nearly 100 starters and only 46 finishers due to the grueling conditions.

Olympic hopefuls line up with the Brownlee Brothers

Dave Woodhead’s tremendously popular Auld Lang Syne fell race run from Penistone Hill near Howarth was again graced by the fabulous Brownlee Brothers. Joining Alistair and Jonny were nearly four hundred other Olympic hopefuls, many dressed in a wide array of fancy dress costumes and most still full of festive cheer, despite the snow covered moorland.

The sharp turn in the weather meant the course had to re-routed slightly to avoid some treacherous ice and snow patches, but the terrain held no fear for the brilliant Alistair Brownlee who won in an excellent time of 38:28. Surprise of the day was that his brother Jonny came in third, beaten into second place by Holmfirth’s Mark Buckingham, who will no doubt treasure his illustrious scalp for a long time to come. I wonder at what other sport can Joe Smoke tip up, pay his four quid and then race toe to toe with Olympic medallists. Even better, you can then have a pint with them after in The Old Sun.

First lady home was Homfirth’s Helen Berry in a super 44:57 and she claimed the coveted Daleside Brewery trophy – won last year by Calder’s Holly Page, unfortunately absent this year.

Calder Valley were well placed with Tod’ postman Alex Whittem coming tenth, Steve Smithies looking good in 35th, then Ian Symington on a rare short outing, and Iain Powell, Mark Wharton and Chris Sylge all showing well.

Fancy a gold medal yourself in a few years’ time? Come and join the fun at