Calder Valley Fell Runners – 25th November 2021
Two major events and a prize giving dinner dominated the fell racing calendar last weekend: The punishing route that is the Tour of Pendle, the infamous Harriers vs. Cyclists and the BOFRA (British Open Fell Runners’ Association) Presentation Dinner 2021.
Bingley’s Harriers vs. Cyclists is a great – if somewhat crazy – event, steeped in history. This race sees fell runners take on cyclists on the same course. Runners watch cyclists whizz past them on the flats, & then overtake them on the ascent on the fells. Then the descent off the moor is something of a free-for-all, with spills aplenty – for the film aficionados, Calder Valley’s George Kettlewell describes it as something akin to the Raptor chase scene from Jurassic Park 3G.
For the 2021 race, 167 competitors lined up on the start line on two feet or two wheels to take on the 8.3km (5.3-mile) course, complete with its 288m/945ft of climb. Ilkey Harriers runners won first & second place in the men’s race – a bare half a minute slower than the course record set by famous fell runner Robb Jeb in 2018. This year, the first cyclist had to be content with third place, although the top 20 places were equally divided between runners & cyclists.
Victoria Peel of Hope Factory Racing was the first female over the line, in 35th place overall, winning the women’s race on a bike. Peel fared much better than one of her teammates who snapped his bike clean in two on the way down off the moor!
First over the line for CVFR was Mark Wharton, who decided against competing in the Tour of Pendle at the last minute & opted to go to Bingley instead. Wharton ran a cracking race, finishing the punishing route in 46:49 to take 62nd overall and third in the MV50 category. Reflecting back on a ‘brilliant’ race, which Wharton describes as ‘a proper fell race with the added jeopardy of a load of cyclocross riders careering through’, he highlighted how ‘brutal’ the ‘45-degree uphill start’ & the front-loaded nature of the ascent was, but how this allows for some ‘crazy descents’ on the return.
Mark Wharton Climbing Baildon Moor – photo courtesy of Dave Woodhead
Wharton’s ‘tactic’ was to ‘go all out on the climbs’, hoping to stay in front of the cyclists who typically end up carrying their bikes on the descents (& some on the tricky technical parts of the ascent too). This paid dividends, & he was delighted to survive the descent & finish third MV50, ‘but more importantly’ to also ‘beat about half of the cyclists’, which is what the race is about, after all!
Two further runners donned their red & white stripes in Bingley. Next over the line was George Kettlewell, who despite describing it as ‘a tough day out’, still found the juice to race the nearest runner all the way, edging him out, to finish a respectable 76th in 48:45. Third CVFR over the line was MV60 runner Steven Cavell, who ran strongly to finish second in his age category in 1:08:11.
The Tour of Pendle in the South/West Pennines over Pendle Hill & the adjoining moorland sees runners slog it out over 27km (16.8 miles), complete with 1473m (4833ft) of climb. Whilst results have yet to be published on going to press, it was hardly surprising that not all of the c.330 runners made the time cut-off at check point 3 & found themselves directed back to the start line, to wait for the finishers.
Calder Valley’s Karl Gray decided to give the race a go, despite not doing any real race preparation, as he just ‘loves’ the course & ‘couldn’t resist it’. Although he describes ‘not feeling great’ over the first half, he kept ‘plugging away’, ‘trying to keep the leaders in sight’, knowing full well ‘how tough it gets towards the end’. Gray predicted correctly that there would be ‘time to make up on those who set off too fast’ – & he was able to pull back a number of places on the last climb.
Karl Gray at Tour of Pendle – photo courtesy of David Belshaw
Keswick’s Harry Bolton ran a sterling race & was the comfortable winner, & whilst Gray almost caught second place Ellis Bland of Bowland, the latter held him off by only 17 seconds. Gray was nonetheless understandably delighted with third place overall, finishing the race in 2:25:33. This meant Gray was once again outright winner of all veteran racing categories, including his own MV50 age category.
There were also strong performances from Alex Whittem, John Allan & Jonny Croston, finishing 30th, 39th, 40th overall respectively, with Whittem & Croston also taking 8th & 10th in the MV40 age category. This saw CVFR clinch third place in the men’s team competition. In addition, Darren Earnshaw finished 125th overall, Michael Clayton 129th, Stuart Russell 130th, Simon Bourne 135th, & Jon Wilson 244th. Fiona Lynch was the only one of the Calder Valley ladies to race & took a very credible 145th place overall, plus 2nd in the FV45 age category.
Our U17s doing us proud
Also in Barley on Saturday, but this time away from the fells, CVFR’s junior runners Elijah Peers Webb, Euan Logue and James Aitken were proud to pick up the Colin Driver trophy for the most under 17s fielded at the FRA Junior English championships. Missing from the photo but a strogn part of the team were JD Andersen Martin and Tow Owen. Peers Webb commented, “I was really pleased to be able to represent the club – it was a fab outing & I left feeling inspired by seeing some of the old pictures of the fell running greats”.
At the BOFRA (British Open Fell Running Assocation) dinner on Saturday evening, and not to be outdone by his son Euan, James Logue collected his trophy as the winner of the MV50 age category competition.
James Logue with his trophy – photo courtesy of Geoff Thompson
– CALDER VALLEY NEWS REPORTER: CATHERINE JONES