The stuff of Legends – #TeamGB

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.

KG TeamGB Line up

Left to Right, Legend Karl ‘Earl’ Gray, Ricky Lightfoot, Andrew Davies, Tom Owens and Rob Hope

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.

Karl Gray #TeamGB

Karl Gray #TeamGB

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).

Team GB Silver Medalists

Team GB Silver Medalists

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!”

Al on the final summit of Ben Nevis

Alistair on the final summit of Ben Nevis

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.

European Mountain Champs #TeamGB

Calder Valley’s Ben Mounsey is all set for an Italian job after another top draw performance at the British trials for the European Mountain Running Championships at Whinlatter forest, near Keswick.

Tom Adams, Ricky Lighfoot then CVFR Ben Mounsey #TeamGB

Tom Adams, Ricky Lightfoot and Ben Mounsey #TeamGB

With team GB places for the European Championships in Italy up for grabs there was plenty at stake as the elites of British mountain running gathered to take on the challenging 12km course with 750m of ascent, over 3 mountainous laps in hot, energy sapping conditions. Learning from bitter experience in recent FRA Championship events, the Calder runner reigned in his instinct to set off like a bullet, knowing that most of the field would go off too fast and pay a heavy price later in the race. Mounsey’s patience was rewarded as he reeled in his rivals moving from 15th to 10th after the first lap, to join a the leading group, with Andy Douglas and Andy Davies setting the pace.

EuroChamps Mounsey3

Ben Mounsey making his move at the European Mountain Running Championships

By lap the end of the second lap Mounsey’s recipe for success saw him climb his my way in to sixth place behind Ricky Lightfoot, while many of the favourites ran out of gas, having over-cooked the first half of the race. Sensing a ticket to Italy was within his grasp Calder Valley’s mountain man launched himself into one last big push to move past Max Nicholls, on the last lap,  before steaming home in a fantastic 5th place behind Andy Douglas in 1st, Andy Davies 2nd, Ricky Lightfoot 3rd and Alex Pilcher 4th. Mounsey will find out later this week if his performance was enough to secure a prestigious Team GB place at July’s European Mountain Running Championship. Since going to press it has now been confirmed that Ben is off to Italy to represent #TeamGB.

Closer to home Calder Valley’s Joe Washington headed over the other side of the M62 for Sunday’s Saddleworth Fell Race. Washington was all set for a memorable victory over the tough 3 mile route with 950 feet of ascent, but having done all the hard work, he somehow lost track of the flags to end up finishing a highly credible, but frustrating, 2nd place.

Saddleworth Edge - Joe Washington

Saddleworth Fell Race – Joe Washington

Bank Holiday Monday saw Steve Smithies and Bill Johnson join George Osbourne in the Tatton MPs home constituency, taking in the festivities at the Wildboarclough Fete in Cheshire.

Unlike the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who clearly had not budgeted for the £4 entry fee, the roving Calder runners threw their hats in the ring for the Shutlingsloe Fell Race. Proving the point that not all of Cheshire is as flat as some would belief, this short sharp race manages to pack 900 feet of climbing into 2 brutal miles of running.

Johnson was able to show his Yorkshire legs were more than a match for the local talent as he romped to a V50 category victory in 21.22, just ahead of club mate Smithes who descended the Shutlingsloe (commonly described as Cheshire’s Matterhorn) just 1 minute behind. Local legend Simon Bailey was first home completing a winning streak that stretches back over more than a decade.

Bill Johnson takes 1st V50

Bill Johnson takes 1st V50

Ben Mounsey’s 1st at the English Championship

Black Combe, English Championship Victory for Mounsey.

Ben Mounsey’s trooper legs don’t disappoint at Black Combe

At the south western tip of the Lake District is Black Combe, a little climbed, 600 metre high hill. It was also the venue of the first race in the English Fell Running Championship for 2016.

The weather promised an eventful race as the clag was down with visibility less the 100m on the higher parts of the course. In the run up to the race the money was on Ben Mounsey to take the win.  He had reccied the route a couple of weeks earlier.  You can be as fast a runner as possible but if you don’t know the course inside out and the fog comes down, you’d better hope your navigation is up to the job.

BM BC DescentBen went out hard and broke away early with Sam Tosh of Rossendale. They opened up a good lead at the top of Black Combe before taking a poor line off together on the way to White Combe. They re-joined the race in 4th and 5th behind Rhys Findlay-Robinson and Kris Jones of Dark Peak. Their calm heads and navigation saved the day. The four of them broke away as a group and worked together till the final climb when Ben used his leg strength, built up on reps of Trooper Lane, to pull away on the ascent. His final mile run in, with 1000ft descent, was clocked at 4 minutes 38 seconds.

Ben said “There was some serious pressure and weight of expectation on me before the race and I am absolutely chuffed to bits that I didn’t disappoint and managed to deliver the win! I can’t describe the feeling of winning at the end – unreal. Thanks to everyone for their support and kind words.  I’ve achieved a career dream of winning a Championship race against the very best competition in the country, and on unfamiliar Lakeland soil. This is a big deal. I now have a realistic chance of becoming English Champion 2016. Whether it will happen I don’t know but I’ll certainly give it my best shot!”

Gayle Sugden, Lucy Collins, Lindsey Oldfield, Jo Buckley and Rachael Crossland made a strong challenge in the team competition to pick up third women’s team prize. Captain Helen Buchan was disappointed not to be running, having recently picked up a neck injury. The women’s race was won by Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley in 33rd place.

Unfortunately some of Calder’s other runners were ‘navigationally challenged’. Karl Grey headed east in search of checkpoint 4 coming off White Combe, essentially ending his race.  Steve Smithies was really pleased to finish and see Karl along with Rob Hope and Simon Bailey come in behind him.

Calder Valley Full Results

1 Ben Mounsey 1:10:28
27 Darren Kay 1:17:40
92 Math Roberts 1:24:19
164 Steve Smithies 1:33:16
167 Gayle Sugden 1:33:19
194 Lucy Collins 1:34:35
208 Tim Ellis 1:35:22
217 Lindsey Oldfield 1:36:30
228 Alex Whittam 1:38:28
233 Mark Wharton 1:38:45
257 Gillian Wibsey 1:41:45
315 Jo Buckley 1:49:31
334 Darren Sargent 1:53:50
336 Rachel Crossland 1:54:03
357 Toby Sydes 1:55:36
374 Dave Culpan 1:58:01
383 Rod Sutcliffe 1:59:50
399 Dan Biggs 2:03:24
410 Graham Lloyd 2:05:04

Haworth Hobble

Ian and Ken win the Hobble 2016

Ian and Ken win the Hobble 2016

The Howarth Hobble is a 33m ultra distance race that is rightly a classic in the fell running calendar. Starting in Howarth the route heads over Top Withens, past Widdop to Lancashire before heading to Stoodley Pike and returning to Haworth via Heptonstall.

Calder Valley’s ultra experts, Ian Symington and Kevin Hoult stamped their mark on the race, gaining 1st and 2nd places respectively.  Ian, the reigning Runfurther Ultra champion, ran with Ken Sutor who will surely be challenging Ian for his crown this year.  They came home in 4 hours 16 minutes.

Kevin Hoult at the Howarth Hobble

Kevin Hoult at the Howarth Hobble

Ken and Ian had decided to run together towards the end of 2015. They are in the 2016 Goretex Transalpine running as a team and needed to check their compatibility. During the Trog in February,  they ended up racing together and were pretty much step for step the whole way until Ken broke free on the final climb over the muddy fields.  Ken has been Ian’s regular Ultra rival for the past two years.

Ian said “He always starts faster than me so it is quite a nerve wracking experience waiting until about the 30 mile mark to see if I’ve paced it better than him. I’m convinced he is a better runner, he just runs Ultras like a greyhound out of the trap”

“I think we may have been a bit faster if we were racing each other. I made Ken run conservatively and I thought the biggest threat was from Kevin Hoult storming through at the end if we faded. With Kevin in mind I just knew we had to keep going at a reasonable pace on the 2nd half and we would be OK.

“We whittled it down to a pack of three on the climb out of Widdop and were on our own as we dropped down into Tod.  We took it really easy going up the pike but none seemed to close in so I was fairly confident we had it.

“I like the Hobble but I always get cramp on it. It is the amount of fast runnable climbs that do it. I felt the twinges as I was passing Tod golf course then had it fully lock out coming off the pike. I’ve had this often enough to know you keep going it can go away (don’t stop and try and stretch it out, keep running). I stamped it out on the way down into Hebden and it wasn’t so bad for the rest of the run home.”

Simon Bourne made a pleasing return to racing after a calf injury side-lined him earlier in the year. Starting off in about 30th place at the first checkpoint he worked his way thought the field to finish 8th overall.  The women’s race was won by Lucy Colquhoun in 5hrs 10mins.  John Minta, not content with the 33 mile Hobble on Saturday also completed the 16 mile Edale Skyline race in the Peak District on Sunday.

Full Calder Results

1 4:16:01  Ian Symington (& Ken Sutor)
2 4:22:38  Kevin Hoult
8 4:48:26  Simon Bourne
48 5:30:57  Bill Johnson
56 5:35:03  John Minta
161 6:24:00  Phillip Beecroft
218 6:58:25  Linda Hayles
267 8:00:14  Philip Jones
288 8:53:18  John Nunn


A golden year

A gap in the racing calendar allowed fell running’s great and good to gather at the FRA annual presentation at The Daffodil Hotel, Grasmere, hosted by Ambleside AC.

Men's English and British Gold 2015

Men’s English and British Gold 2015

SHIRTS FRA Presentation 2015Calder Valley’s glitterati were out in force as the club’s men celebrated in style, picking up trophies for a clean sweep of the national 2015 FRA team titles.

An amazing year has shown that the club’s strength in depth is second to none.

CVFR were recognised for their magnificent achievement of winning gold medals in both the English and British Championship, with further gold in the English Vets and British Vets Championship.

This was the result of around 10 runners each contributing in some way in a multitude of counting races across the UK’s hills and mountains.

The women won bronze team medals in the English vets championship.

Ladies Team, English Championship Medals 2015

Ladies Team, English Championship Medals 2015

There were also individual successes to celebrate.  Karl Gray won joint-gold in the English V45 championship and Bronze V40, Gavin Mulholland won bronze in the British vets and Sally Newman won gold in the English FV50 and silver V45.

Gavin Mulholland & Karl Grey

Gavin Mulholland & Karl Grey

The Tour of Pendle

A hardy group of Calder Valley Fell Runners struggled across flooded Pennine Valleys to Lancashire on the 14th November, to take on the daunting Tour of Pendle, an early winter classic that packs in a mighty 5000 feet of climbing over 17 painful miles that criss-cross Pendle Hill with several immense ascents.

400 runners arrived at Barley Village Hall to the news that famous course was to be shortened by 3 miles to avoid the risk of exposing marshals to long periods of potentially dangerous weather. In practice this meant missing out the last two torturous climbs of Pendle Hill, reducing the course to 14 miles and 2700 feet of ascent.

The race began as usual with first big climb from Barley to Check Point 1, at Pendle Hill’s summit cairn. There followed the enjoyable descent over open moor and into a valley following a fast flowing stream to

Check Point 2, before a sharp drop to Churn Clough reservoir and a relative rest as runners ran along the access track by the water to Check Point 3.

By this time the race had settled down, with the leaders off ahead and a long column behind, containing most of the Calder Valley mid-pack runners.

The leg to Check Point 4 was a short but nasty climb up a steep sodden hillside covered in bracken and peat making for inefficient motion. This big effort was immediately rewarded by the massive, adrenalin-inducing descent to Ogden Clough. The kamikaze-style running that typifies this section of the race has led to the infamous descent being branded ‘Geronimo’. This seemed about right, as many runners resorted to slithering down on their backsides at great speed to Check Point 4 in the valley bottom.

The race then turned sharply through a water crossing, to follow a stream for a few hundred yards before climbing sharply to Check Point 5, only to turn 90′ and drop back to Ashendean Clough, and the foot of the last big climb on the shortened route, back to the top of Pendle Hill (again!) where the race dropped rapidly, back to Ogden Clough for a relatively easy half mile downhill to the road, where the Calder Valley contingent put in a 1 mile sprint finish to arrive back in Barley.

Pudsey & Bramley’s Rob Hope was first home followed by Chris Holdsworth of Clayton Le Moor in second, just ahead of Bingley’s living legend, Ian Holmes. Calder Valley’s A team were noticeable in their absence, which gave Kevin Hoult the honour of being the first Calder runner over the line in 2.05.24, in 36th place overall.

Ladies Captain Helen Buchan was having the race of her life until the sole came off her fell shoes. She still limped home to finish but was obviously disappointed. That’s fell running for you  … you just never know whats round the corner.

Pendle results:-

36 Kevin Hoult 485 M40 02:05:24
53 Ian Symington 118 M 02:10:01
78 Bill Johnson 477 M50 02:15:55
101 Mark Wharton 247 M50 02:19:16
191 Helen Buchan 164 W 02:32:40
215 Michael Wardle 152 M55 02:36:12
254 Mike Dean 23 M50 02:42:22
325 Linda Murgatroyd 290 W45 02:52:03
350 Craig Hall 445 M 02:58:28
357 Dave Culpan 180 M50 02:59:08
383 Philip Jones 463 M55 03:05:01
390 Rod Sutcliffe 206 M60 03:11:46
393 Daniel Biggs 70 M 03:14:22