Ben leaves opponents slightly foxed @ Heptonstall Fell Race

Ben in record breaking form

Ben in record breaking form

Calder Valley’s Ben Mounsey broke the course record whilst the Slightly Foxed Brewing Company took over as main sponsor of the 2015 Heptonstall Fell Race in what proved to be a vintage year. Clear blue skies and warm spring sunshine greeted visiting runners from across the region. Not with standing a chance to win free beer, numbers were further boosted by the local clubs opting to include the race in their club championships.

Championship points encouraged 39 Calder Valley Runners to join a record field of 227 runners gathering on Heptonstall’s cobbles to take on 15 miles and 3200 feet of ascent over the hills and valleys of Colden Clough, Heptonstall Moor, Hebden Dale, Greave Height, Hardcastle Crags, Shackleton Knoll, and Crimsworth Dean.

Now in its 5th year, the race began with runners receiving their traditional start-line blessing from the Rev Howard Pask in what has become a memorable feature of this community organised event. Calder Valley Search and Rescue team and Mytholmroyd Scouts along with 50 volunteers from the village were stationed around the 15 mile route as a large crowd cheered the runners out of the hill top village as they set off up Town Gate in blazing sunshine.

Karl chasing hard ....

Karl chasing hard ….

It was obvious from the outset that the 2015 race was going to be the best yet, as the likes of Calder Valley’s Karl Gray, Tim Ellis, Alex Whittem, Ben Mounsey, and James Logue, jostled for pole position along with Wharfedale’s Spencer Riley, Pudsey and Bramley’s Matthew Lockyer not to mention reigning course record holder, and twice winner Adam Osbourne of Leeds AC.

Descending from Standing Stone Hill, 3 miles in, Mounsey had taken a good lead over Gray and Osbourne before he was “slightly foxed” as to the best line down to Blake Dean. Taking a bad line cost the leader minutes that would not go unpunished in this top class field as Mounsey’s rivals capitalised on Calder Valley Captain’s error. Ben found himself off the route and forced to sprint down a track to re-join the race in 5th place.

The lead pack then fought a memorable battle of speed, wit, and endurance over the next 6 miles. Mounsey recovered on the big climb to Greave Height, then decided to work with Osbourne as the pair built a good lead climbing out on the path from Walshaw Dean over to Walshaw Farm, but as the race descended into Hardcastle Crags Mounsey’s poor route choice once again allowed Gray, Ellis and Riley back in the race. However Ben chose this moment to seize control, “I absolutely hammered the climb out of the woods and opened up a huge lead by Turn Hill and the descent back to Walshaw Farm. From there I never looked back. I put the hammer down on the ascent to Shackleton Knoll and really enjoyed the last 3 miles”. Mounsey arrived back in the village in an incredible 01:47:15, knocking a 7 minutes off the course record.

As proof of the dazzling array of talent on display, the next four runners also set times that were all inside the previous course record. Calder Valley’s Karl Gray (2nd) and Tim Ellis (4th) came in 01:48:59 and 01:50:45 respectively, either side of Wharfedale’s Spencer Riley (3rd in 01:49:25), whilst the 2013 and 2014 race winner and record holder, Adam Osbourne, found himself in 5th place in 01:52:48, despite having also beaten the his own course record. Karl Gray’s time set new V40 record for Heptonstall Fell Race

Richard on his way to V50 record.

Richard on his way to V50 record.

There were many other impressive times as Calder Valley’s James Logue (1:59:04), and Alex Whittem (1:59:45), finished 7th and 8th, whilst 9th placed club mate Richard Pattison (2:04:06) set a new V50 course record.

In the women’s race, last year’s winner, Valley’s Jo Buckley (02:20:51), came a very narrow 2nd after an epic battle with Dark Peak’s Sally Fawcett, who took the top spot in 02:19:06.


Jo still smiling on her way to winning 2nd lady.

The event was organised by runners from Calder Valley and Todmorden Harriers, based in and around Heptonstall, with tremendous support from village residents. Heptonstall Hurriers, as they are otherwise known, came up with the idea of the race as means to showcase the village, support local businesses, and raise funds for local causes.

The event has gone from strength to strength, whilst helping to create a greater sense of community spirit in the village; seventy volunteers helped to marshal, provided free refreshments, and organised parking The Cross Inn acted race HQ to provide registration facilities whilst William Holt’s Greengrocers and The Bakehouse donated to the post-race catering. The event raised more than £1000 for St Thomas’s Church, Mytholmroyd Scouts, and Calder Valley Search and Rescue.

Other club results …..

1 Ben Mounsey m 1:47:15
2 Karl Gray V40* 1:48:59
4 Tim Ellis m 1:50:45
7 Alex Whittem m 1:59:04
8 James Logue V40 1:59:45
9 Richard Pattinson V50* 2:04:06
31 Joe Washington M 2:16:12
47 (lady 2) Jo Buckley L 2:20:51
51 Iain Glendinning m 2:21:08
53 Mark Wharton V50 2:21:25
57 Joseph Crossfield m 2:23:11
69 Ben Frechette m 2:26:20
71 Toby Cotterill m 2:27:33
76 Richard Sunderland V40 2:28:31
78 Bill Johnson V40 2:28:56
83 John Killerby m 2:31:08
91 John Minta V40 2:34:06
92 Jake Ackroyd m 2:35:06
106 Mike Dean V50 2:37:58
107 Richard Ingram V40 2:39:07
112 Tristan Sheard V40 2:41:14
113 Mike Wardle V50 2:42:00
120 Darren Sargent V40 2:43:36
122 Philip Beecroft m 2:44:00
136 Tim Brooks V40 2:49:47
139 Paul Taylor V50 2:50:35
159 Craig Hall m 2:57:34
160 Dave Culpan V50 2:58:21
166 Jim Mosley V40 3:01:05
168 (lady 22) Rachael Crossland L 3:01:41
189 Toby Sydes V40 3:10:25
198 Rod Sutcliffe V60 3:18:00
199 (lady 34) Linda Hayles LV60 3:18:01
207 Graham Davy V50 3:29:56
208 (lady 37) Carolyn Shimwell L 3:30:02
210 Martin Millard V40 3:35:26

Haworth Hobble Heroes

Mlieage monster Kev

Mlieage monster Kev

A real test of endurance was held last Saturday.  The 33 mile Haworth Hobble race starts in Haworth and was the first of the national Runfurther Ultra Championships and also the first race in Calder Valley’s Ultra Championship.  Calder’s Ian Symington won both Championships last year and the defending champion set off well on the route around the moors taking in Top Withens, Hurstwood Reservoir in Lancashire, Cross Stones, Stoodley Pike and Heptonstall before heading back via Haworth Old Road.

However club mate and 2014 Runfurther winning teammate Kevin Hoult was not prepared to let Ian take the lead again.  In a sprint finish for the line after 33 miles of racing Kevin finished in 3rd place a mere 20 seconds ahead of Ian in 4th in 4:22:02 and 4:22:23 respectively.  Kevin takes an early lead in the Calder Valley Ultra Championships.  The race was won by Chris Singleton of Trawden in 4:09:10.  Another of Calder’s distance demons, Simon Bourne was 10th in 4:45:20 and Martin Huddlestone was the 4th Calder runner to beat the 5 hour mark in 19th place and 4:56:00. If there had been a team prize the lads would have hobbled away with it!!!
The Women’s race was won by Bonnie Van Wilgenburg in 5:06:36 closely followed just over 30 seconds later by Dark Peak’s Nicky Spinks.  Calder’s only female representative, Linda Murgatroyd, came in 161st in 6:02:41.
One of the most enjoyable things about ultra races is the variety of food on offer at the checkpoints.  As well as the usual fare of cakes, donuts, and tea, also available at the Hobble were beer, curry and single malt whisky.  However it’s not clear if the front runners took full advantage of the offerings. 
Other Calder runners included John Minta and Mark Wharton, both in training for the 60 mile Fellsman race held at the end of April.  Club Chairman, Bill Johnson was disappointed with his time, complaining that his legs weren’t working, never the less he still managed to complete in less than 6 hours.  However he fared better than Mark O’Conner, who, after keeping in with the front runners for the first 20 miles, suffered a massive attack of cramp in his hamstrings and calfs coming off Stoodley Pike and had to walk down to Hebden Bridge where he retired.  Adrian Shaw, Jonnie Watson and Jon Underwood all broke the 6:30 mark. Manhar Patel came in 241st place. He last ran the race ten years ago only 18 minutes quicker, proving that Calder Valley’s Ultra Fell Runners really have staying power.

Wharton shows his class on the track

Max leading from the front

Max leading from the front

We normally see reports about muddy fell runners throwing themselves heroically down mountain sides in all the worst weather they can find…so it makes a change to report from an INDOOR running event held in Sheffield on the 1st March.

In only his second full year of competition since converting to track athletics Max Wharton, coached by Calder Valley’s Mark Goldie has once again shown his world class potential. After representing Great Britain for the past few years in the world of Mountain Running he threw down the gauntlet on the track at the National Indoor Championships at the English Institute of sport in Sheffield.  Max demolished the competition in the heats on Saturday, winning his heat in 1:55.40 with another trademark front run in only his second Indoor track race.

The final on the Sunday was a closely contested affair, with favorite Spencer Thomas and Max battling it out, not only for a gold medal in the National U20 Championships, but a chance for the gold medalist to earn a coveted England vest at the Welsh International meeting this weekend in Cardiff.  Once again Max did all the hard work and led from the front, leading over the whole 4 laps of the 200m banked indoor track. He set a blistering pace as he wound up the lap times to keep the pressure on the rest of the field. But a split seconds loss of concentration by Wharton on the back straight, combined with good tactics from Thomas saw the Phoenix AC athlete move into first place as they hit the final banked curve. Wharton responded with a final effort but was narrowly beaten into second by an agonizing 0.11 sec in 1:52.35.

Not bad for an ex-mountain runner, and not the kind of margins we see in fell running. So after a brilliant win at the Northern Indoor Championships a few weeks ago at the same venue he is now second in the UK U20 rankings for 800m. The England selectors are watching this new kid on the block closely, and with the outdoor athletics season approaching they should see some more great performances.

A “Bloomin’ good show at Flowerscar

The fell running season got going in earnest on Saturday with Flower Scar being the first English Championship counter of the season, and also being chosen as the annual Yorkshire Championship race. Older readers may well enquire as to why a Yorkshire Championship race was being held in Lancashire, but that’s a chat for another day.

Staged in the usual expert fashion by Todmorden Harriers out of the splendid Todmorden Cricket Club, the race is a ‘Class A – Short race’, of 5.5miles and 1400ft. The tension before the race was palpable. Rather like a Hollywood night on the red carpet as the big names arrive one by one, the anticipation creeps steadily upwards as people clock who will be taking part. Bailey, Jebb, Donnelly, Hope, Addison – check; Wilkinson, Conway, McCormack, Rice – check. It was soon evident that the fields were of premium quality on this fine spring morning. But rather than Armani, Valentino or Dolce & Gabbana, it’s Inov8, Salomon and Ron Hill that these idols are clothed in, and as the sinewy throng of athletic brilliance took to the start line it was the ladies who got us underway first.

Upsetting the bookmakers who had Bingley’s Victoria Wilkinson down as a clear favourite, the Ambleside pairing of Annie Conway and Sarah McCormack again demonstrated the calibre of Lakeland clubs with a brilliant 1-2, beating Wilkinson into a distant third place. For Calder Valley, Gayle Sugden was first home in a superb 16th place, further showing that the mantle of top Calder lady now sits snugly atop her head. Gayle has gone from being good to very good of late and is regularly a major force to be reckoned with. The season holds no fear for her and she can look forward to an excellent year of achievement ahead.

Super Vet Sally on her way to 1st LV50.

Sally on her way to 1st LV50.

Not far behind were the bouncing bombshell herself, the indomitable Sally Newman, and super steady Jo Buckley in 21st & 22nd respectively with only a cigarette paper between them. With Gayle, this trio gave Calder second place in the ladies team event, an outstanding achievement behind such a fabled club as Ambleside. Close by in 26th was pocket rocket Lindsey Oldfield who continues to shine, the iron lady Jackie Scarf, barely out of breath in 58th, and further back Carolyn Shimwell and Sharon Godsman who kept each other company all the way round.

With the ladies race having whipped the crowd into a heady sense of excitement, the men took to the starting pen like a cast of strutting stags. It’s difficult to do the quality of the field justice and I can’t think of one big name who wasn’t there. In stark contrast, the quality of the field at Centre Vale continues to be a disgrace. The consistency of the main area of this once majestic park is now somewhere between the Somme, a bowl of cold porridge and Derby County’s Baseball Ground in the early 70s. With the added ingredient of having been shaken and stirred by the ladies’ race just prior, Wellington boots, rather than studded fell shoes may well have been more advisable.

Not, you may think, the best surface for local gun Ben Mounsey to execute his trademark bullet start. As regular readers will know, Ben has been in the form of his life and fancied his chances to win this race despite the luminous competition – a measure of just how far he has come as a fell runner since his epiphany from the tarmac. Undeterred, he belted out of the blocks and led the race out past the band stand like a scene from Benny Hill, round the field and to the foot of the big climb up to Todmorden Edge and Flower Scar. This ‘eyeballs out’ strategy usually suffices for Ben and another victor normally ensures, but it soon became clear that among this calibre of runner, plan B might be needed.

A very happy Yorkshire champion.

A very happy Yorkshire champion.

Ben picks up the story, “As the race progressed it soon became clear that trying to hang onto the coat tails of Simon Bailey was too tough a task, so I switched my aim of 1st to a top 5 finish and winning the Yorkshire Championship. As I watched Simon, Rob Hope and Rhys Findlay-Robinson slowly pull away I tagged onto the back of Tom Addison (who was in 5th) knowing that if I could stay with him to the top of the main climb I could pass him on the descent. As we climbed to the top I was in 6th place and when I looked back we had opened a big gap over Rob Jebb in 7th, so that gave me loads of confidence on the turn. As soon as we began to descend I got my breath back and attacked on the steepest section and then never looked back. I could hear Tom all the way behind me on the final climb but I knew so long as I got to the top of the final descent first I could beat Tom.

As the leaders fizzed past Eagle Crag, Simon Bailey of Mercia had by now established a sound lead, his extraordinary ability and Lou Ferrigno thighs powering him to eventual victory in 38.39, Rob Hope of Bingley and Morgan Donnelly of Borrowdale completing the top 3.

Ben duly held on and took 5th place and the Yorkshire Crown to go with his victory at Great Whernside last Autumn. In doing so he becomes only the third man to defend the title after Bob Whitfield (Kendal AC) in 1985, 86 & 87 and the venerated Ian Holmes (Bingley) in 2000 & 2001.

To finish 5th is a tremendous achievement for Ben and if you want to know what you need to do to do that in an English Championship race, here it is. Ben regularly puts in at least 65 miles, 8-10 hours and 8000ft of climb per week – astonishing figures – and along with his Elland based crew of crack Stravarati in Karl Gray, Gav Mulholland and Jonny Helliwell, they regularly churn out eye watering training stats.


Brotherly love ….

Gav and Karl were to the fore in 9th & 11th respectively and the top 25 was studded with Calder Valley. A reflection of the club’s astute transfer policy saw Welsh galactico Math Roberts debuting in a brilliant 7th place, the Foxey fella Jason Wilf Williams a dazzling 15th, Super Shaun Godsman in 19th, Stripey Ted Darren Kay in 21st, the Bard of Edgworth Tim Ellis 23rd, and Tod postie Alex Whittem a mere 25th! Such brilliant stats meant the team prize fell easily into Calder’s lap and the sense of mission accomplished was manifest for all involved.

To clean up in a race such as this with such a strong field, by my reckoning with proven race winners all the way down to 76th place (Ted Mason, Wharfedale), is one of the finest achievement yet for Calder Valley men. More of the same at the relays and Calder can really puff their chest out. The magic dust wore off on the rest of Calder with excellent runs coming from club champ Mark O’Connor in a lung busting 86th, Lee Shimwell proving that you can’t recce a route often enough in 122nd, and Mark Wharton flying round for one of the runs of the day in 152nd.

The upper-midfield men were vying for honours too with only a couple of minutes between Toby Cotterill, Iain Glendinning, Iain Powell, John Killerby, Ben Frechette and Jim Mosley. The red and white just kept on coming with excellent runs from older hands Andy Clarke, Phil Scarf, John Minta, Tim Brooks and Brian Horsepower Horsley; new boy Phil Beecroft, Darren Sugden and queue enforcer Dave Culpan….the list goes on.

Buoyed by such a red letter day, the fun continued long into the glorious spring afternoon with the club decamping en masse to Tod’s White Hart pub, whose takings received a hefty shot in the arm, while the new signings received several hefty shots down the neck, as a thorough initiation ceremony ensued.