Max’s running journey so far


GB athlete Max Wharton first started on his route to international competitions through running cross country at Riverside Juniors in Hebden Bridge. He enjoyed that so much, that he went along with some friends, his sister & his Dad to join Al Whitelaw at Calder Valley Fell Runner’s juniors group in Mytholmroyd – later also joining Mark Goldie’s coaching sessions, which is when he really took a serious interest in running.

Wharton recalls, ‘Mark was instrumental in getting me to the level I am now and made me believe I could achieve a lot in the sport’. With Goldie’s help, at only 15 Wharton earned his first Great Britain vest, competing in the 2012 European Mountain Running Championships in Turkey. Three more competitions followed as a junior, with a career best of 15th & a bronze team medal at the 2013 World Mountain Running Championships in Poland. Wharton also continued running cross country, winning the English Schools Fell Running Championship and the UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Championships a couple of times, plus placing 6th at a British Championship Senior Fell race when he was only 16/17.

At this point, Wharton made the shift to track & in his first year of proper training, he became Yorkshire Champion over 800m and came 4th at the English Schools Athletics Championships. Since then, he has added Northern Champion, England Senior Champion and British Universities Champion – whilst studying for my Sports Science degree in London. In 2018, Wharton was fortunate enough to receive a sports scholarship to study for a masters in Sports management at the University of New Mexico and race for their track team, which he describes as ‘an incredible opportunity to be able to train and compete in the collegiate system in America’ and he absolutely loved his time out there.

This last summer, his studies finished, Wharton returned to a very strange time in the UK. He has done well to secure a job as a consultant for a sports agency, working with athletes to help them secure scholarships to America. He is ‘loving being able to support young athletes with their dream of competing and studying in the States’.

Alongside this, Wharton continues to compete, & is looking forward to Olympic Trials this summer. His other aims include to run 4-miles in the 1500m in under 1500m, the 800m is under 1:46 and to make the National team. He is also looking forward to shifting back to fell running (which involves running quite differently – losing speed to be able to run for longer periods of time). He may even go back to fell racing, describing how ‘you can’t beat the atmosphere at a fell race, just a lot of fun – it’s something I miss’.

Alongside this, Wharton has got into coaching, which he is really enjoying & finding helping others incredibly ‘rewarding’. During lockdown, he completed a personal training qualification & has set up his own small coaching/fitness business, through which he hopes to pass on my knowledge in all things health and fitness, & support as many people as possible in achieving their health and fitness goals – no matter how big or small.

‘If you’re looking for an added bit of motivation, a specific event, or just to get fitter and healthier, I am keen to help’.

To find out more about Wharton’s coaching, go to:




Running tips for winter

Running – Getting started or keeping motivated in the Winter!

Sportshoes & inov8-ambassador, Calder Valley & GB fell runner, Ben Mounsey, & one of CVFR’s press officers, Catherine Jones, have teamed up to write some advice on embracing the cold & keeping active in the cold & dark Winter months:

It is easy to find a million & one reasons not to get out – but our most important tip – Tip #1 – is to avoid making excuses! Even the serious runners among us find the hardest part is getting out the front door! It’s dark by the time your working day is over or when you’ve finished home schooling the kids, it’s icy or snowy or raining, you’re tired and fed up … There are so many reasons not to exercise … but getting out is a great way to clear your head and stay mentally & physically fit.

Avoid making your living room sofa too inviting, don’t say ‘I’ll just have a cup of tea first’; instead, be strict with yourself: Set a time limit or give yourself a small window of time to get out the front door. It can help to have all your clothes ready to go, & to start stretching whilst drinking that cuppa. Whatever you do, DO NOT sit down on the sofa! If you live with other people, tell them you are going to go out & ask them to hold you to it & nag you until you do!

Obviously, it is very dark out, so our Tip #2: it is vital to see clearly & be seen! Make sure you avoid only dark clothes! Lots of running shoes, leggings, socks and jackets have reflective strips, but you can also buy cheap USB rechargeable illuminated running strips, like these from Lightbox for £16.49 which you tie round your arms, legs, etc. Catherine’s found hers invaluable for running on country lanes at dusk & after dark. In addition, wherever you run, it’s also worth investing in a decent head torch. We recommend the UK’s Fellrunner Guide’s great article on choosing a good head torch.

Tip #3 is to find other people to keep you motivated. This can be hard during lockdown, although at present we are allowed to walk or run with one other person. Some local groups, like Hebden Bridge St Pol’s Striders, are offering a running buddying system for women. However, even if there’s no-one for you to physically run with right now, find motivation by joining virtual running groups. Do a virtual couch to 5K, like this one with the NHS, &/or join a supportive community on Facebook (e.g. Transform Your Running), or Instagram, download a running app on your phone, like Strava, which has a free basic version (runs can be recorded on a phone as well as the more expensive running watches). We’ve both met so many great people this way, & you’ll find likeminded people from serious athletes to those who are just starting out (& everyone in between).
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Walker’s move up north

Photo credit DaveMcFarlane

Like friend & fellow international runner, Holly Page, Calder Valley Fell Runners newest recruit, Alison Walker, has hit the racing leader boards with quite a bang – progressing from relative unknown name to ultra record-breaker in under two years!

Malaysian-born Walker jumped straight in at the deep end, going from self-proclaimed ‘hobby jogger’ to competing in eye-watering 100+ miles races, taking a staggering six Malaysian records in her first 24-hour race. Like many athletes, 2020 was unusual for training & racing – & inov8 ambassador Walker kept herself busy, with a 108-mile ‘backyard’ ultra & becoming the first person to complete the ‘Smog Graham’ round – an endurance event where a runner has to ‘bag’ every peak across all 32 London boroughs (a staggering 302km with 302 kilometers/187 miles and 3211m/10534,78ft of climb) in only 54 hours & 33 minutes!

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Great Owl Grand Prix

Those who love to race are finding creative ways to represent their club & push themselves, despite COVID restrictions. One such example is CVFR’s Mark O’Connor, who has been taking part of the Great Owl Running GPX Grand Prix.

Set up specifically for 2020 & technically non-competitive (although serious racers will tell you there are no such thing!), the grand prix offers runners a real mixture of 12 unique races – variations of existing courses & new ones that were in the pipeline pre-COVID (the fun is guessing exactly what & where before the race opens!). The 12 races cover a variety of lengths (short, medium & long) – mostly on trails & local to Leeds.

When each virtual race opens, runners get the GPX file & full course description; subsequently they can attempt the race on their own, whenever they choose, & even run it as many times as they wish, until they get a time they are happy with. After finishing an attempt, a racer has 48h to submit it via their chosen running app & they are subsequently awarded a number of points, with their top five scores count towards their final grand prix score.  

Two months ago, O’Connor started his grand prix attempt with the Roundhay Rumble – a fast & furious 5K route on woodland trail. He did go out & ‘recce’ (practice) the route before racing it, but only after dark – which proved pointless, as he took a wrong turn in the complicated mass of woodland paths. However, he only lost about 20 seconds in the end.

For his second race, he took on the Iconic “We need to talk about Chevin” in Otley – an 11km route, including a lung-busting 500m of ascent. O’Connor ran a recce before ‘racing’ the route – & was happy with this time, despite having only just recovering himself from the dreaded Covid19.   

He was hoping to excel on the third counter – being back on the fells, with one of the longer routes, taking in Baildon & up to Ilkley Moor trig point. However, without a recce & being on unfamiliar territory, he chose some bad lines across the moors & found himself in foot-deep water & slush – slipping over rocky muddy paths – not ideal for a ‘race’. However, he still pushed himself & got a respectable time. 

With time getting tight for a fifth race, O’Connor dashed to take on the Holly Hustle an 11km trail with 200m of ascent. He set of quickly, but it was difficult to follow the GPX on his watch at high speed over technical terrain, in a maze of woodland trails with so many options. He found himself on the wrong side of the river & to get back on route, had to take a hilly half-mile detour. However, he pushed himself hard, & enjoyed the challenge of a day out racing.  

With one more race to go & eight possible further races to choose from, O’Connor opted for a 28-mile trail race! For a seasoned runner, he made the rooky move of doing this with limited training on longer runs, little planning, but an abundance of enthusiasm. He found a good starting point which meant he could leave his car at the 15-mile point & so could stock up on water (meaning carrying less), which was fortunate, as he didn’t check the weather & his ‘race day’ had clear blue skies & glorious sunshine. Having booked the day off work, O’Connor was in his element, enjoying the route planned by organiser Adama Nodwell, which saw him slipping through deep mud & traipsing across water-logged fields – despite being on trails, he wished he’d taken his Inov8 Mudclaw fell running shoes!

Reflecting back on the day, O’Connor reports how 20 mile was a big land mark mentally, & he “really started to feel it” on the final stretch, but “dug deep” for the last three miles, & was glad his chosen start point saw him finish with a downhill run through the “stunning” Harewood estate. Reflecting back over the race, he was delighted with his achievement, the day itself, & having completed the race in only 4hrs 23mins.

With just a few more results to come in, O’Connor thinks he’ll finish about 10th overall in the series. If he has time before the end of the year, he may even attempt one or two more of the races …