Gray, still a mighty force over the fells at the age of 47, finished second to Salford Harriers’ Gary Priestley in the eight-mile contest near Halifax.
Calder Valley members have organised the festive race for many years. Gray has been in charge for the last eight or nine and was keen to support fledgling club Northowram Pumas in their first staging of the event.
He was pleased with his second place in a field of 73, having expected fellow international Priestley to be quicker than him over a distance short of his best.
Valley’s Gav Mulholland, who added some more star quality to the line-up, came third.
Gray was keen to test his fitness levels ahead of an attempt to gain GB selection for the World Long Distance Mountain Championship in Italy in the summer.
The physiotherapist from Hove Edge came 12th in last year’s event in Slovenia and helped GB to the silver medals.
The Coley race confirmed that he was “not in bad shape.”
He added: “Gaining selection for the world mountain race will be my main target next year.”
Gray is pleased that the Three Peaks race, a 26-miler in the Yorkshire Dales in late April, will again be the selection race.
He plans to take in the Wadsworth Trog and Heptonstall Fell Race along the way.
“If I am not selected for Italy I will probably do the Lakeland Classics,” he added.
Gray gave the thumbs up to the Pumas’ organisation of Tuesday’s event, which is now run from Northowram Fields Cricket Club, a couple of miles from the previous starting point at Shelf Hall Park.
The race links up with the original route at Coley Church and is a mile or so longer than before.
Gray said he and fellow Valley runner Ben Mounsey had encouraged Priestley to come across from Lancashire for the race.
“The weather was brilliant which made a nice change from the wind and rain when I used to do it. We had to cancel it twice because of ice.”
Gray said he, Priestley and Mulholland had forced the pace.
“I felt good going past Coley Church and Priestley Green so I tried to push on and we dropped Gav (Mulholland).
“Going up Judy Woods Gary got 20 metres on me and he maintained it to the finish.”
– Calder Valley News Reporter: Beastie –