A record entry for the sixth running of the Blackshaw Head Fell Race last Saturday provided further evidence of the surge of interest in off-road running.
The booming South Pennine fell race scene continues to attract ever increasing numbers of runners to Calderdale’s magnificent valleys, woods and moorlands.
With more than 50 races in a 15 mile radius,Hebden Bridge can claim to be the national fell running mecca.
Local clubs are now producing some of the UK’s leading talent, whilst new-comers and novices are signing up to the pleasures of running across breath-taking South Pennine moors and woodland, rather than soul-destroying tarmac and concrete.
A bumper Blackshaw Head field included 32 runners from Calder Valley and 14 Tod Harriers in the 112 strong line up, who were cheered on their way by festival crowds.
The 5.5 mile route took in a series of steep climbs around the Colden valley, interspersed with classic sections of wide open wilderness across Standing Stone Hill and Heptonstall Moor.
Conditions were good under foot but there was a blustery challenge to proceedings.
Favourite Alex Whittam certainly had the wind in his sails as he breezed into a commanding lead. The Calder Valley runner kept pole position on the final descent, along the Pennine Way, from Mount Pleasant to Jack Bridge.
Whittam took the course record in a fantastic 36min 19seconds, making light work of the 300 feet climb from the stone clapper bridge in Colden Clough, to the Blackshaw Head finish line, well ahead of club mate Graeme Brown (37.09), and Tod Harriers’ Nick Barber (37.27).
Helen Fines made it a Calder Valley double, winning the women’s race by five minutes in 42.30 and 20th overall.
For Todmorden Harriers at, Barber finished just ahead of Jon Wright, who claimed the v40 prize. Jon Mitcham added the v50 prize and Rebecca Patrick finished third woman.
Race organiser Guy Whitmore and his team can be proud of adding another marvellous event to calendar.
Calder Valley results: 1 Alex Whittem 36.19 , 2 Graeme Brown 37.09, 7 Joe Washington 39.19, 8 Mark Goldie 39.28, 10 Liam Gough 39.52, 12 Robert Paradise 40.30, 13 Mark Wharton 40.40, 20, Toby Cotterill 42.09, 21 Helen Fines 42.13, 27 Ashley Sharp 43.46, 30 Jim Mosley 44.00, 32 Graham Hill 44.10, 34 James Kershaw 44.23, 38 Stephen Grimley 45.47, 41 Lance Parker 46.14, 52 Tim Brooks 47.51, 58 Nathan Kennaugh 49.31, 34 Kate Mansell 59 49, 63 Paul McKay 50.03, 65 Dave Culpan 50.19, 69 John Nunn 50.53, 72 Andrew Meek 51.50, 79 Brian Skelmerdine 53.13, 81 Bob Howard 53.44, 85 Steven Cavell 54.14, 88 Charlie Boyce 55.36, 94 Thirza Hyde 57.02, 96 Linda Hayles 59.22, 102 Sarah Dunnakely 61.27, 103 Neil Croasdell 61.34, 104 Catherine Plane 61.49.
Todmorden results: 3 Nick Barber 37.27; 4 Jon Wright 38.12; 15 Jon Mitcham 41.34; 16 Marcel Ellison 41.38; 19 Dan Taylor 42.00; 29 Dave Collins 43.55; 33 Gary Quested 44.18; 36 Martin Roberts 45.27; 47 Simon Anderton 47.17; 48 Roger Haworth 47.19; 55 Rebecca Patrick 48.26; 56 Mark Anderton 49.21; 76 Paul Cruthers 52.22; 100 Andrea Marshall 60.53.
Next week sees the unveiling of Hebden Bridge’s three mile Urban Fell Race from Old Gate (7.0), features big ascents and descents of cobbled lanes, followed by a reading and book signing from champion mountain racer Heather Dawe at the Bookcase (8.0).
Endurance fanatics will head to to Haworth for the muddier, boggy terrain of the Yorkshireman Race with a choice of 13 or 27 mile routes over the Bronte Moors.
Jack Denton provided further evidence of Calder Valley’s flourishing junior accademy when second under 17 at the Bradley Trial Race. He is hoping to be selected to for England in the Junior Home Internationals in Aberfoyle.