Big miles bring big smiles

Calder Valley Fell Runners – 11th October 2021

This weekend’s senior races were dominated by the big hitters, the go-big-or-go-home races: The ultras. Two of the most anticipated events in the fell runner’s diary fell on Saturday 9th October: The infamous ‘Lakes in a Day’ & the Three Peaks – with neither race name leaving any shadow of doubt as to what runners should expect.

All smiles at the start – photo courtesy of Woodentops

416 runners finished the 66th Three Peaks Fell Race (sponsored by Inov8), completing the 37.4-kilometre rugged course (with its 1608 metres ascent – including a climb up to 723m above sea level). One of the oldest & most famous fell races in Britain, the Three Peaks traverses the famous Yorkshire Dales mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. Whilst this is not the toughest of races technically, it remains challenging due to the sections of fast running, broken up by three tough climbs & descents which make it difficult to pace & judge when to push and when to hold back.

An amazing day of running for CVFR culminated with a V50 record for Karl Gray, who finished the race in a staggering 3 hours, 7 minutes & 34 seconds – an amazing feat, especially given the anything but clement weather. Gray finished not only in 4th place overall but outright won the MV50 race by the proverbial country mile – crossing the line 30 minutes ahead of any other MV50 runner.

Karl on the final climb of Ingleborough – photo courtesy of Andy Jackson

Gray’s outstanding result, coupled with excellent runs from team mates Adam Osborne (12th overall, 5th in the MV40 race), Ed Hyland (17th – 9th in the men’s open age category) and Jon Smith (60th – 15th MV40), saw the red & white stripes also take the men’s team prize. In addition, there were good performances from Jonny Croston (66th overall – 17th in MV40), Mark Smith (73rd & 23rd MV40), Mark O’Connor (131st), Darren Earnshaw (155th), Barney Horne (192nd), Iain Conley (242nd), & Gavin Roper (259th).

Reflecting back on the race, Gray, in typically self-depreciating style, highlighted how this ‘superbly organised’ event, with its ‘amazing atmosphere & spectators’ – spurring runners on at various points in the course, really seems to suit him. He reported that on setting off he’d not known what to expect, mindful of his lack of targeted training due to COVID & this year’s condensed championships series. He’d been aware he’d not only not put the usual mileage into preparing for this kind of event, but also not raced anything comparable since June, he is not surprisingly ‘super proud’ at having broken the previous V50 record.

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