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.
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.
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).
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!”
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.