Postman Alex delivers in Midgley Moor race

Alexc Whittem
Alexc Whittem

Calder Valley Fell Runners’ Alex Whittem made light of a navigational error to win Sunday’s Midgley Moor Fell Race.

Clubmate Joe Crossfield was third while Valley had the top two women in Helen Fines and Jo Buckley.

Todmorden Harriers supplied 34 of the 106 runners and they were led home by Ivan Gee in fifth.

The contest meets all the criteria for a small but perfectly formed fell race with fast descents, tough ascents, varied terrain and even tea and biscuits.

The runners set out from the farmer’s field adjacent to Booth cricket ground in search of the check points.

A surprisingly tough and fast ascent through pasture took the increasingly strung out procession of coloured vests onto Midgley Moor and up onto Crow Hill.

From there runners took either established paths to Sheepstones, or risked entanglement and inertia in heather before converging at the trig point.

This proved to be the temporary undoing of flying postman Whittem. He was temporarily enveloped in confusion and accomplished navigator Ian Nixon of Pudsey and Bramley took the lead.

From there the race drops into the Luddenden Dene Valley near Castle Carr before a sharp climb takes runners back to the wall corner behind Crow Hill on Midgley Moor.

This is where the key route choice presents itself as runners have to find a good line across the moor.

Whittem found a great line to the final checkpoint and wrestled the lead from Nixon to post his first victory in this race after several near misses.

Nixon was second, with gentle giant Crossfield third, although Calder’s young star was disappointed with his run.

Veteran Fines was joint English and British champion last year and she’s in imperious form prior to the championship season kicking off next week.

Buckley sprinted past Lynn Clough of Wigan for second.

Lucy Burnett, Kath Brierley and Jane Leonard took the ladies team prize for Tod while Valley’s men were successful from Tod’s Gee, Ben Crowther and Paul Brannigan.

Gee was first veteran after injury while Tod won two more sectional prizes through V70 English fell champion Richard Blakeley and Kath Brierley in the Ladies V50.

Mel Blackhurst competed for the first time since having a pacemaker fitted while recent Tod recruits John Allan and Kirsty Patten had excellent runs.

It was great to see club stalwarts Neil Hodgkinson and Darren Graham return to racing after lengthy lay-offs.

Calder’s Alexander Bowden travelled from Milton Keynes to run but didn’t stick around long enough to collect his team prize bar of chocolate.

This delighted unattached runner Danny Franklin, who received the prize as consolation for getting lost.

Calder Valley FR and race organiser Hannah Dobson thanked the landowners, especially Geoff Midgley from Dean House Farm.

As it is lambing and bird nesting season, moorland runners are requested to keep dogs on leads and stick to marked paths.

The race raised £400 for Cancer Research UK.

Calder Valley results: 1, Alex Whittem 39:47; 3, Joseph Crossfield 42:40; 9, Alexander Bowden 45:29; 13, Mark O’Connor 46:04; 16, Bill Johnson46:09; 18, Liam Gough 46:25; 19, James Adey 46:26; 21, Stephen Smithies 46:53; 22, Helen Fines 46:58; 28, Jo Buckley 49:07; 39, Richard Ingram 51:31; 54, Rob Ball 54:37; 56, Nick Murphy55:45; 59, Brian Horsley 56:13; 61, Nathan Kennaugh 56:27; 64 Graham Lloyd 57:10; 72, Toby Sydes 58:38; 90, Philip Jones 01:06:57.

Todmorden Harriers results: 5, Ivan Gee 45:08; 7, Ben Crowther 45:26; 8, Paul Brannigan45:28; 12, Craig Stansfield 46:01; 23, Darren Tweed47:10; 24, John Allan47:55; 25, Robert Gray 48:02; 41, Lucy Burnett 51:54; 45 Simon Galloway 52:36; 48, Darren Graham 52:50; 50, Andrew Bibby 53:42; 53, Andy Glyde 54:13; 67, Mick Craven 57:21; 69, Guy Whitmore 58:19; 70, Phil Cook58:27; 71, Kathleen Brierley 58:35; 75 Neil Hodgkinson 59:31; 77, Jane Leonard 1:00:20; 80, Richard Butterwick 1:01:41; 82, David Leslie 1:02:05; 83, Richard O’Sullivan1:02:43; 85 (fem 11) Kirsty Patten Todmorden F 1:04:54; 86, Richard Blakeley 1:05:2587; 87, Kevin

Coughlan1:05:36; 89, Elise Milnes 1:06:12; 91, Louise Abdy 1:07:15; 93, Peter Ehrhardt 1:10:39; 94, Fiona Armer 1:10:56; 96, Moyra Parfitt 1:16:28; 97, Melanie Blackhurst1:16:29; 98, Helen Wilson 1:16:30; 99, David Wilson 1:16:51; 100, Graham Milnes1:17:26; 101, Chris Drinkwater 1:17:43.

Todmorden Harriers’ Jon Wright was 36th and wife Bev 1786th out of 4000 runners in the Wilmslow Half Marathon.

Heptonstall Fell Race preview - page 20