karl’s uphill england task

Karl Gray warmed up for England duty in last Saturday's Heptonstall Grand Depart fell race. He won in a record time.  Picture: Woodentops
Karl Gray warmed up for England duty in last Saturday's Heptonstall Grand Depart fell race. He won in a record time. Picture: Woodentops

Calder Valley Fell Runners ace Karl Gray will be pulling on an England vest in America next month for an event that he describes as ‘crackers’.

The 44-year-old from Slead Syke, Brighouse, has gained selection for a three-man team to compete in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.

That is a dubious honour as the 13-mile event on August 16 at Pikes Peak - the most visited mountain in North America - is all uphill!

Gray, who earned selection via a 20 kilometre trial in Snowdonia earlier this year, admits that the race is the ultimate lung-burster.

While he has made short work of races like the Three Peaks, he has never tackled anything like this before.

“We will be starting at 7,000 feet and running to the top of Pikes Peak, which is about 14,000 feet.

“I estimate that it will take between two and a quarter and two and a half hours to complete - it’s a crackers race.

“The longest uphill I have gone is up Ben Nevis but you also come back down in that race.

I’ve never done an uphill- only race.”

High altitude is another factor and means that Gray and Lancashire pair Tom Cornthwaite and Josh Tighe will travel across “The Pond” on August 4 to give them time to acclimatise.

Gray, a physiotherapist, also has to juggle his home life and a ramped up training schedule with the America trip.

“I’ve got two young daughters and it will be the six weeks holidays but this should be a great experience and I don’t think I will get such an opportunity again.”

Training is split between pounding the local hills and riding a bike, and Gray rode much of the stage two of the Tour De France route which came through Calderdale on one training stint this week.

His efforts are paying off if his record-breaking performance in last Saturday’s Heptonstall Grand Depart fell race are anything to go by.

Gray was a latecomer to the sport, 13 years ago, after concentrating on football up to then. Although now officially in the veterans class (over 40) he can still beat the vast majority of his younger rivals.

“I have got better at distance running as I have got older. I will be pacing myself up Pikes Peak and hoping to reel in some of the runners who have got off too fast.”

It will be Gray’s second England appearance, following an 11th place in Poland last year, when he was the first veteran home. Around 15 countries competed and England failed to pick up a medal because one of their runners was unable to complete.

Gold, silver and bronze medals are up for grabs in America and Gray is hoping England might manage a team medal .