Langdale the final English counter!

Ben makes history as Calder Valley bring the medals home in English champs

The conclusion of the English Fell Running Championships took place in Langdale in the Lake District on Saturday, and saw Mytholmroyd-based Calder Valley Fell Runners returning with no less than six medals from the season-long championship.

In the male seniors series Ben Mounsey took third, despite his energies being focused on international mountain races for Great Britain, making him the first Calder Valley runner to win a medal in the hard-fought men’s open seniors competition.

Ben Mounsey making the head lines and Langdale English championships 2016

Ben Mounsey making head lines at the Langdale English championships 2016

Karl Gray, always at the top of the medal table, was joint first in the V45 category alongside the fell running legend Ian Holmes. Gayle Sugden, despite struggling with a back injury this season, took bronze in the women’s V40 category and Dick Spendlove was an impressive first in the V70 category.

Ben Mounsey’s success came after a tough race at the Langdale Horseshoe, a 13mile race with almost 5,000 feet of climbing, and the final showdown of the championship series.

“I had little expectation for Langdale,” he says, “as the English Championships haven’t been a priority or focus for me this season. However, I knew I was still in with a chance of a medal and I needed a top result to guarantee bronze. With this in mind I set off near the front of the race with the main protagonists and led for the first two miles. At the halfway point, Sam Tosh made a small break at the front and a poor choice of line across Crinkle Crags cost me some vital time.

“It opened a gap that I was never to close and at the top of the final climb I was in 5th place – but most importantly a few minutes ahead of the next runner behind. I knew a sensible descent to the finish would be enough for a podium spot in the championships so I actually managed to enjoy the last mile.

“I can’t express how happy I was at the finish. It’s been an incredibly busy season with huge success in international races for England and Great Britain but this has proved to be the surprise highlight of 2016. It makes me excited to see what next season has in store!”

Gayle Sudgen is equally happy with her performance over the season:

“I knew my V40 category this year was going to be tough, competing against running machines like Lou Roberts, Helen Berry & Mel Price. I was going to have to train and race hard to stand a chance. The races have been great, though the short races don’t suit me so much – I can’t get my backside moving quick enough! I prefer the long stuff with never ending hills. After battling it out all season I’m super chuffed to have clinched bronze.”

Gayle Sugden earns Bronze at Langdale. Photo By Calvin Ferguson

Gayle Sugden earns Bronze at Langdale. Photo By Calvin Ferguson

The club also took two excellent team wins: second ladies team and first male V40s. Gayle and team captain Helen Buchan have been instrumental in encouraging the Calder Valley girls to get out and race over the season. The long races were the toughest, yet Lucy Collins, Jo Buckley and Lindsey Oldfield took the challenge of the likes of Borrowdale Fell Race, and along with Gayle got the points needed to medal. Backed up by Helen Buchan and Rachel Crossland who raced hard to make sure that 3 runners got round the races to score the necessary points towards the teams success.

Early injuries looked to have blighted the men’s’ chances but they came through on the later races, with strong performances from a number of runners, including Karl Gray, Gav Mulholland, Jason Williams, James Logue, Shaun Godsman and Darren Kay, taking them to gold once again.

The 2016 season has proved a fantastic year for Calder Valley, due to both strong individual performances and excellent team work. “It’s been the great team spirit,” says the club’s membership secretary and driving force, Thirza Hyde, “just keeping on getting runners and teams out has meant we’ve ended up doing so well.”

There were 15 runners competing in Langdale for Calder Valley, with Mounsey finishing in 5th, Karl Gray in 14th and Tim Ellis in 15th and the club taking the men’s V40 team prize and second in the men’s open team prize on the day. Other who raced this tough Lakeland classic Alex Whittem 65th , Mark O’Connor 101st, Graham Lloyd 368th & Dan Biggs 377th.

Withins skyline

The day after Langdale, 15 Calder Valley runners took part in the Withins Skyline organised by Dave and Eileen Woodhead on the Howarth moors. With seven miles and 1,000 feet of climbing, this a shorter, fast race.

The club’s women proved strong in the race, with Jo Buckley taking 3rd, Lucy Collins in 4th and Lindsey Oldfield in 6th place and together securing the ladies team prize. Anne Johnson meanwhile won the women’s V50 category, building on her success last year when she broke the record for the age category.

For the men, Ian Glendinning was first back for Calder Valley in an impressive 28th place out of 290 runners. A good tussle ensued behind him in the V50s category with Mark Wharton and Bill Johnson close behind in 31st and 36th respectively. Others who raced were Dan Marsden 53rd,  Chris Standish 106th, Toby Sydes 116th, Jez Wilkinson 175th, Helen Flage 221st, Steve Cavell 234th,  Philip Jones 231st.

– Calder Valley News Reporter: Giles Simon –