The History Makers


The CVFR History Makers: a tale of friendship, encouragement and dedication by a group of keen fell runners and their wider support crew – without whom none of this would have been possible. 

Written by Paul Haigh, with support from Dougie Zinis, Lee Shimwell, Charlie Parkinson, Andy Wright, Phil Wells and Andy Ford.

4.06am Sunday 12th September. Message from Craig Stansfield flashes up on Dougie Zinis’s Double BG messenger group “Finished 45.03 🤜👏🤟” and a dozen grown adults who’d been fighting sleep watching a dot inch around a map of the Lakes for almost two days go potty. 

Over the next few months Dougie would quite rightly go on to become a fell/ultra running household name.  But for a group of Calder Valley Fell Runners (CVFR) this achievement marked the culmination of an unprecedented 19 weeks of 2021 successes; results baked in hard yards on the CVFRs winter ‘Pain Train’, a mental toughness bred through the ethos of the club and a belief that no matter what went wrong throughout the training blocks, or on the day itself we had each others backs.

No doubt you’ll have heard of Dougie’s Double Bob Graham (DBG).  You’ve probably heard of Andy Ford’s Lake Meres & Waters (LMW) – the 2nd fastest of all time; fastest completion in 38 years and only other person than Joss Naylor to have done it in under 25 hours.  You should know of Charlie Parkinson’s Bob Graham (BG) – the under 20s record holder and first under 20 to break the sub 19 hour time. And if you’re unlucky enough to hear me witter on about it (as club Captain Shaun Godsman would put it) you may have also heard a Calder Fell Runner broke the Double Yorkshire 3 peaks record this year too.  But what these individual stories don’t tell is the wider story: of the other big rounds these club-mates were involved in; how each one of these big days out was connected; how each one of us kept each other going and the remarkable success rate (CVFR enjoyed a 90% success rate on these big days – against a BG average of 42% – according to Steve Chilton).  The full roll call of these remarkable days of late spring to the last breath of late summer reads:

  • 1st May – Paddy Buckley Round – Lee Shimwell (22hrs 41mins) & Dougie Zinis (20hrs 44mins)
  • 28th May – Bob Graham Round – Paul Haigh (20hrs 10mins)
  • 12th June – Bob Graham Round – Charlie Parkinson (18hrs 58mins – Under 20s record)
  • 19th June – Paddy Buckley Round – Andy Wright (23hrs 57mins)
  • 3rd July – Bob Graham Round – Phil Wells (20hrs 31mins)
  • 24th July – Double Yorkshire 3 peaks FKT – Paul Haigh (8hrs 53mins) – nb Dougie also chose that day to become the fastest ever Yorkshireman round the Lakeland 100 (22h 53mins)
  • 22nd August – Lake, Meres and Waters – Andy Ford (24hrs 42mins – FKT Alan Heaton way J)
  • 12th September – Double Bob Graham Round (HRH Douglas Zinis 45hrs 03mins)

(nb – this list could also be complemented by Calder’s Ed Hyland and Stephen Hall – the first & only people to complete a double Calderdale Way – one Calderdale Way loop is 50 miles – on 1st May; and JD Anderson & Emilia Wright – the youngest pair we know of to complete a Double Yorkshire 3 peaks on 27th June.  But in fairness unlike the aforementioned rounds neither of these rounds had our involvement in terms of support) 

So where do we begin? Firstly it would be remiss of us not to point out CVFR is steeped in the tradition of Ultra running.  Our membership sometimes feels like a who’s who of Ultra running containing legends such as Anne Johnson (former ladies Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Lakeland 24hr record holder who would think nothing of crushing a nettle in her hands to take away the pain in her legs);

Anne on one of her many amazing records.

her husband and ex chair Bill Johnson (13thoverall in Spine 2018 and 5 times winner of mixed pair at Mountain Marathon events with Anne); Simon Bourne (6th fastest BG ever in 2006, 4th fastest Joss Naylor challenge ever 2019, twice 2nd at Fellsman, 2nd v50 at TDS race in UTMB); Holly Page (2018 Skyrunning World Series Classic Champion); Kevin Hoult (2016 Runfurther UK Ultra champion and holder of the 50ml Calderdale Way Ultra record) not forgetting possibly the G.O.A.T Karl Gray (holder of the 48 miles, 17000ft Joss Naylor Challenge record and the 3rd Fastest ever Paddy Buckley, besides both the v40 and v50 records for the Yorkshire 3 peaks race). And then there are mere mortals like Jonnie Watson who’s competed and finished UTMB, The Spine and Tor des Geants.  Therefore when you rub shoulders week in week out with these lot, and you count them as friends (CVFR is renowned for its down to earth, friendly club spirit and the sense of humour of the club means if the unthinkable happens and one day Ben Mounsey walked in and announced he was God he would be very quickly be brought down to Yorkshire with a bump), some of that magic fairy dust rubs off and you can’t help but puff out your chest, be inspired and push your body that bit harder.

Anyway, on with the story…11th January 2020 was a day to stay inside and forget. Although it started off warm, the wind picked up and started blowing race numbers off competitors backs.  As he approached the White House at 4pm, a check point 6 hours and 31 miles from the start of the 108 mile Montane Spine Challenger course, it began to rain incessantly. But Dougie Zinis, a newcomer to 100 mile Ultra races, let alone Spine Challenger, and a relatively unfancied unknown took the lead.  At that point subconsciously in the heads of his fell running friends a switch went off. 

A smile with that well earned medal

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No handicaps at Hoofstones

Calder Valley Fell Runner – 24 January 2022

At Hoofstones Fell Race it was an excellent day for fell running in the South Pennines on Saturday 22nd January. Light cloud, bit of a breeze, no rain and the ground drying out in places after a few weeks of glorious mud. There are still plenty of bogs to navigate on the course at this time of year but somehow, a perfect for day breaking records.

The podium leading from the start – photo courtesy of Stuart Wolstenholme

Hoofstones is a January favourite for many Calder Valley club members but often clashes with the club’s own Winter Handicap as was the case this weekend. CVFR’s contribution to the 2022 running of the race was small in numbers but big on results with the Calder Valley men’s team bringing home the team prize in emphatic style and taking all three podium places with a one, two, three. Bingley won the women’s team prize headed up by first lady, Jo Buckley.

The race is organised by Dan Taylor and Claire Shaw headquartered in the Staff of Life Inn, Todmorden. The eight-mile route starts on Knot’s Road with a 2-mile flagged section on the way out. The real challenge starts here with 4 miles of navigation over rough moorland taking in a number of checkpoints including Hoof Stones Height at 480m before picking up the flagged route from Sportsmans back to the finish.

Calder Valley’s men’s team took up the running early on with a proper battle taking place between Shaun Godsman, Math Roberts and Karl Grey. After the early part of the course, Roberts had a good lead over Gray and Godsman and maintained the lead up to the Hoof Stones trig point.

Capt’n Godsman taking the win and course record

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Spine and Splashing

Calder Valley Fell Runner – 17 January 2022

The Spine

The Spine Race is touted as Britain’s most Brutal race, covering the full 268 miles of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District, passing through Charlestown, Blackshawhead and Colden to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It’s also held in the middle of winter so competitors have 16 hours of darkness to cope with too.  Tiredness, fatigue, sleep deprivation and exposure to the extremes of winter weather are all to be expected.

Many top ultra-runners had entered this year’s race along with Calder Valley’s, Bill Johnson, Doug Gurr, and hotly tipped Dougie Zinis.  Dougie is building a reputation as an up and coming ultra-runner after winning the 108 mile Spine Challenger race in 2020 and gaining the record for a double Bob Graham, a mountainous 132 mile Lake District route.

Starting a week last Sunday, after a couple of days many of the favourites started to succumb to the energy sapping route.  Kim Collinson, previous winner of the Lakeland 100 and Sabrina Verjee, holder of the Wainwrights record both dropped out, while in the lead, at Malham.  Damian Hall, previous record holder for the Pennine Way and current holder of the Coast to Coast record, then took the lead only to drop out at Alston.  Previous Spine winner, Spaniard Eugeni Rosello Sole was then in 1st place, before dropping out himself after trying to recover by resting at a farm near Bellingham.  This left Eoin Keith to take the win in 92 hours 40 minutes and 30 seconds; bear in mind this time includes sleeping and eating.

Dougie tucking in for the long road ahead

All this time, self-reliant Dougie Zinis had kept on moving, running his own race.  With Eugeni dropping out, he moved up to joint second place with James Leavesley, winner of the summer version of the Spine.  This pair joined forces at Middleham, and ran together to the end, crossing the line in joint second place after 96 hours 06 minutes and 30 seconds.  Dougie had aimed to finish in less than 100 hours so was pleased with his time.

He said afterwards “I’m over the moon with my race, getting a podium finish was beyond my dreams but also the whole Spine experience, the Spine family, who really treat you like royalty. I’ve met some wonderful people and learned some massive lessons and sure I’ll be back for more.”

Bill at the end of the Spine

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Trigger happy

Calder Valley Fell Runners – 10 January 2022

This week saw a couple of the club’s hardiest ultra-runners finish preparations and set off on the Montane Spine race – one of the world’s toughest endurance races. This epic challenge sees racers run along the full Pennine Way, running non-stop from Edale to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish border. Many of the club ran up on Sunday to cheer ‘Spiners’ on or even keep them company for a few miles, as they passed through or near our Valley.

With so much attention turned towards supporting club members on the Spine and settling into ‘dot watching’ for the rest of the week (as trackers mark racers progress along this iconic and tough route), racing was largely on the back burner for the club. However, five brave club members – Ed Hyland, Fiona Lynch, Emily Ledder, Stuart Russell and Jonny Croston completed the redoubtable Trigger Race on Sunday 9th January.

For the Trigger Race, competitors run in the opposite direction to Spine runners – towards Edale – this time all the way from Marsden, over Black Hill, Bleaklow and Kinder. Whilst the linear route measures 21 miles with an eye-watering 1650m feet climb, the race includes quite a lot of navigation. Runners have to run a few set points and ways around landmarks such as Butterley Reservoir, but they are free to choose their own routes or ‘lines’ across the moors. Consequently, some racers are likely to run further and ascend a lot more – depending on their navigation skills and  the ‘lines’ they choose, as they run between the three trig points that give this race its name: Black Hill, Higher Shelf and Kinder North Sandy Heys.

The 2022 event marked the 10th year of this race, after the 2021 edition had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. This year, 162 runners signed up and set off in rain, wind, snow and clag, but only 143 crossing the finish line. 19 had to abandon the race en route, struggling with the tough course and baltic conditions.  One competitor needed to be helicoptered off the moors.

Jonny concentrating so as not to fall in the cold water

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