The stuff of Legends – #TeamGB

Calder Valley Fell Runner Karl Gray was part of a Great Britain team which took a silver medal at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia.

KG TeamGB Line up

Left to Right, Legend Karl ‘Earl’ Gray, Ricky Lightfoot, Andrew Davies, Tom Owens and Rob Hope

Competing against the world’s top mountain runners, “Earl” Gray clocked a fantastic 4:00.19 to finish 12th overall last Saturday. The 42.195km course included a whopping 9000 feet of ascent. Throw in the heat, altitude, and a host of elite rivals used to competing on alpine routes and you have some idea what our local hero was up against.

Karl Gray #TeamGB

Karl Gray #TeamGB

Runners gathered from across the globe in bright sunshine, taking in the fresh alpine air of the spectacular Podbrdo mountains. With a mixture of technical terrain, complete with rocks and mud, the footing was challenging on many parts of the course. Those with tentative descending skills were quickly left behind by the sure-footed mountain goats. The best runners on the day were those proficient in all types of mountain running technique.

Gray’s years of experience competing at the highest level in UK and in international races ensured he maintained a strong position as those around him faltered. Early leader Andy Wacker (USA) dropped out of the race at 28 kilometres, having set a solid pace and took a lead of nearly four minutes at the top of the first long climb.

There were many positional  changes after that as runners battled for medals. Alessandro Rambaldini won in a record time of 3:44:52, leading Italy to gold. With Marco De Gasperi second in 3:46:12 and Fabio Ruga 14th in 4:01:15, they had a total time of  11:32:19. That was more than five minutes ahead of second-placed Great Britain,  who had Tom Owens in fourth (3:49.34),Ricky Lightfoot sixth (3:53.30), Andrew Davies ninth (3:54.39)  and Rob Hope 16th (4:01.59).

Team GB Silver Medalists

Team GB Silver Medalists

Gray gained selection after finishing fourth at Yorkshire Three Peaks race, knocking two minutes off the veterans 40 record. He said:

“I’ve been lucky to run for England before but getting selected for GB is another level and I am really proud to have achieved that! “I have been training really hard so that I didn’t let the very strong mens team down. “I had a fantastic race in Slovenia. I managed to pace myself well around the course by not overdoing it on the first climb and descent. “I think I was in 26th place at the first summit and managed to steadily make my way up to 15th before the last climb and lost a couple of places by the summit. “I then gave it everything on the final descent to pull through to 12th. “It was a fantastic team performance with all five of us finishing in the top 16 and one I am really proud to have been a part of. A fantastic experience!”

Al on the final summit of Ben Nevis

Alistair on the final summit of Ben Nevis

Hebden Bridge’s Alistair Morris has completed the  Three Peaks Yacht Race, one of the oldest and most remarkable multi-sport endurance contests in the world. It is a unique event combining sailing, running and cycling; with the quirky feature that rowing is allowed in moments of calm. It takes competitors through some of the most spectacular scenery in the United Kingdom. Not only are teams required to have excellent sailing and navigational abilities, but they also run Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in only a few days. Teams of four or five per yacht sail from Barmouth on the west coast of Wales up to the finish in Fort William on the west coast of Scotland. Two of the crew are required to climb each of the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland en route, thereby running the equivalent of three marathons. Calder Valley Fell Runners’ Morris, 43, was a member of the White Cloud team which finished fifth out of 17 teams. He was one of the two runners in the team and ran all three mountains – almost three marathons in four days. The crew had to row when the wind dropped and Morris said: “It was an amazing  experience. “We saw whales, dolphins and seals and sailed day and night, completing in four day and nine hours.”

Calder Valley’s Calvin Ferguson was disappointed with his 90th position at the Aggies Staircase fell race on a sunny Thursday night in Darwen, Lancashire. He clocked 41.52, three minutes slower than last year.

Roberts shines through the clouds in cymru

Cwm Pennant

Situated in the far west of Snowdonia, Cwm Pennant is an overlooked beauty of Welsh Mountain Scenery. Four years ago Math Roberts (now a Calder Valley Fell Runner) held a race heading around the Pennant valley that he hoped would be suitable as a British Championship Race, this year he got his wish.

3rd for Mathew Roberts

3rd for Mathew Roberts

Also a counter for Calder Valley’s Club Championship, an eclectic group of Calder’s finest headed over to test out the 15 mile long route with 5,500ft climbing. Taking in six hills over 600 metres high including Moel Hebog at 782m there was some trepidation as many of the runners hadn’t had time to check out the course beforehand and would have to rely on good navigation, or failing that hoping the runner in front was going the right way.

Gayle continues to fly! at British champs

Gayle continues to fly! at British champs

Math was first Calder runner back in an excellent third place and Gayle Sugden was 7th Woman (2nd FV40). Mark Wharton and Bill Johnson battled for V50 Calder Championship points with Mark the victor, as he has been all season to date. Lee Shimwell left it all out on the course returning a wrecked man and Dan Biggs continues to improve, picking up maximum handicap points.

Keswick’s Carl Bell and Ambleside’s Lou Roberts were the overall male and female winners. Carl smashing the old record by 23 minutes in 2.16.40 with Lou smashing the ladies by 20 minutes in 2.43.49.

Full Calder Valley Results

3 Matthew Roberts 2:23:20
81 Gayle Sugden 3:05:23
111 Mark Wharton 3:18:03
120 Bill Johnson 3:24:11
141 Stephen Smithies 3:30:32
149 Lee Shimwell 3:35:27
214 Dan Biggs 4:14:16
226 Graham Lloyd 4:42:03

From Short to Ultra Calder Valley win through

Hebden Bridge Fell Race

Jon Smith HB

Jon Smith leading the way to Victory at Hebden:

On a beautiful early summer evening 137 people lined up to race the 10th Hebden Bridge Fell Race. Heading out of Calder Holmes Park, through the woods, across the moor, up to Stoodley Pike and back down, it’s a classic 6.5 mile fell race.

Part of the local Calder Valley Fell Runners club championship, 43 of the field were from the club – and they took the lion’s share of the wins.

The race was won by Calder Valley’s Jon Smith, who fought off second place local runner James Bostock and Calder Valley rival Mark O’Connor, who took an excellent third.

“After yet another great battle at Cadair Idris with Mark O’Connor two weeks ago,” said Jon, “where he came blasting past me on the descent, I knew Hebden would be a crucial race in deciding this year’s club championships and I was determined to run well in my home town race.

“My plan was to establish a healthy lead over Mark at the turn as we know how fast he is coming downhill. In the end it was just enough and I was delighted to come home for my first fell race win since representing Calder Valley juniors in 1992.”

Gayle Sugden won the women’s race by an incredible 7 minutes, smashing the women’s course record in the process. Having broken the record for her leg of the Calderdale Way Relay just three weeks before, Gayle is in excellent form. She was characteristically modest about her win at Hebden, which saw her coming in 8th overall:

Gales Gugden HB

Gayle Sugden on the descent from Stoodley: to smashing the record!

“Unlike most races I wasn’t feeling nervous. I decided to sit back and take the first climb steady and let people go ahead. At the top my legs were feeling good so I pushed on, saw a few of the Calder lads ahead and went past them. I thought this is turning out to be a good race, keep it going Gayle.

“I felt strong on the climb up to Stoodley but kept thinking I would be caught on the descent. I ran hard going down and amazingly no one caught me. Not wanting to lose any places I ran hard to the finish and broke the ladies record. Super chuffed!”

Alongside these wins, Calder also took the team prize and the club’s Ian Powell was the first V40, Mark Wharton the first V50, Nick Murphy the first V55 and Brian Horsley the first V65.

With all important club championship points at stake battles took place across the field. Four Calder runners – Mark Wharton, Bill Johnson, Richard Sunderland and Phil Wells – finished within 20 seconds of one another. And Paul Haigh and Paul Gilbert continued their running battle with Gilbert gaining on the final technical descent but Haigh pipping him at the post to win by 6 seconds.

Stella Chrisanthou enjoying a perfect summers evening at Hebden Bridge Fell Race

Stella Chrisanthou enjoying a perfect summers evening at Hebden Bridge Fell Race

Cape Wrath Ultra

Imagine running for eight days straight, covering over 300 miles across tough mountainous terrain in often poor conditions. John Minta of Calder Valley Fell Runners did more than imagine, completing the gruelling Cape Wrath Ultra in northern Scotland in a total of 61 hours and finishing in an impressive 16th place – particularly noteworthy given that half the competitors failed to finish the course.

J. Minta, cruising along the mountainous Scottish trials on the 8 day Cape Wrath Ultra

J. Minta, cruising along the mountainous Scottish trials on the 8 day Cape Wrath Ultra

John Minta described the epic race, that travels across tracks, mountains and moorland, as “the hardest thing I have ever done” – no understatement from a rugby player and regular ultra-runner.

Edenfield Fell Race

A few Calder Valley runners also headed over to Blackburn to compete in the 6 mile Edenfield Fell Race. Shaun Godsman of Calder Valley led the way in a field of 83, winning the race by almost a minute in a time of just over 46 minutes. Having suffered with injuries for the last few months, it looks like Shaun is back on form. Also competing in Edenfield were Dave Culpan, Gill Dickson and Sharon Godsman of Calder Valley.

Kettlewell Fell Race

A handful of Calder Valley runners took advantage of the weekend’s weather and headed over to Skipton to compete in the fast and furious Kettlewell Fell Race. At 1.5 miles with nearly 200 metres of ascent this as an eyeballs out race, with Calder Valley’s Joe Washington taking an impressive fourth in 12:31. Helen Buchan was the 16th lady, with Craig Hall and Dave Hammond of Calder Valley also running.

Position First Name Surname Time
4 Joe Washington 12:31
34 Craig Hall 15:54
53 Dave Hammond 17:09
72 Helen Buckan 19:32

European Mountain Champs #TeamGB

Calder Valley’s Ben Mounsey is all set for an Italian job after another top draw performance at the British trials for the European Mountain Running Championships at Whinlatter forest, near Keswick.

Tom Adams, Ricky Lighfoot then CVFR Ben Mounsey #TeamGB

Tom Adams, Ricky Lightfoot and Ben Mounsey #TeamGB

With team GB places for the European Championships in Italy up for grabs there was plenty at stake as the elites of British mountain running gathered to take on the challenging 12km course with 750m of ascent, over 3 mountainous laps in hot, energy sapping conditions. Learning from bitter experience in recent FRA Championship events, the Calder runner reigned in his instinct to set off like a bullet, knowing that most of the field would go off too fast and pay a heavy price later in the race. Mounsey’s patience was rewarded as he reeled in his rivals moving from 15th to 10th after the first lap, to join a the leading group, with Andy Douglas and Andy Davies setting the pace.

EuroChamps Mounsey3

Ben Mounsey making his move at the European Mountain Running Championships

By lap the end of the second lap Mounsey’s recipe for success saw him climb his my way in to sixth place behind Ricky Lightfoot, while many of the favourites ran out of gas, having over-cooked the first half of the race. Sensing a ticket to Italy was within his grasp Calder Valley’s mountain man launched himself into one last big push to move past Max Nicholls, on the last lap,  before steaming home in a fantastic 5th place behind Andy Douglas in 1st, Andy Davies 2nd, Ricky Lightfoot 3rd and Alex Pilcher 4th. Mounsey will find out later this week if his performance was enough to secure a prestigious Team GB place at July’s European Mountain Running Championship. Since going to press it has now been confirmed that Ben is off to Italy to represent #TeamGB.

Closer to home Calder Valley’s Joe Washington headed over the other side of the M62 for Sunday’s Saddleworth Fell Race. Washington was all set for a memorable victory over the tough 3 mile route with 950 feet of ascent, but having done all the hard work, he somehow lost track of the flags to end up finishing a highly credible, but frustrating, 2nd place.

Saddleworth Edge - Joe Washington

Saddleworth Fell Race – Joe Washington

Bank Holiday Monday saw Steve Smithies and Bill Johnson join George Osbourne in the Tatton MPs home constituency, taking in the festivities at the Wildboarclough Fete in Cheshire.

Unlike the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who clearly had not budgeted for the £4 entry fee, the roving Calder runners threw their hats in the ring for the Shutlingsloe Fell Race. Proving the point that not all of Cheshire is as flat as some would belief, this short sharp race manages to pack 900 feet of climbing into 2 brutal miles of running.

Johnson was able to show his Yorkshire legs were more than a match for the local talent as he romped to a V50 category victory in 21.22, just ahead of club mate Smithes who descended the Shutlingsloe (commonly described as Cheshire’s Matterhorn) just 1 minute behind. Local legend Simon Bailey was first home completing a winning streak that stretches back over more than a decade.

Bill Johnson takes 1st V50

Bill Johnson takes 1st V50