Karl Gray slogged it out on the local moors to take the Wadsworth Trog honours for Calder Valley Fell Runners.
A field of 161 hardy runners set out from Old Town Cricket Club on Saturday for a race known to many as “the beast of the South Pennines”, with its 4000 feet of ascent tand 20 miles of the boggiest winter moorland.
Valley duo Gray and Ben Mounsey were looking to make it a two horse race.
Skipping over the rough terrain around High Brown Knoll and Midgley Moor the pair built a commanding lead to pass the check point at Cock Hill minutes ahead of the pack.
The Trog then began to exact its crushing toll, as the race ascended the aptly named Top of the Stairs, before grinding across the bleak wastes of Oxenhope Stoop to the Bronte ruins of Top Withens.
Despite his 43 years, Gray began to edge ahead of his youthful Calder Valley teammate through Walshaw Dean, before the tired climbs over Wadsworth Moor and Shackleton Knoll.
After the brief respite of the descent to Lumb Falls, Mounsey was still clinging on to second place as the route climbed relentlessly back to Cock Hill for the final excruciating slog across open moorland via Whinny Stones, High Brown Knoll, and Sheep Stones.
It was during this tricky navigational section that Mounsey took a series of bad lines with disastrous consequences. These vital slips in the disorientating mist and fog allowed Mark Ollershaw of Glossopdale to steal second place (3.08.37) whilst clubmate Ian Symington grabbed third spot (3.16.48).
Mounsey’s wandering meant Gray (2.49.11) not only won the race but was washed and dressed and waiting with a cup of tea as the second placed runner finally crossed the line!
Gray’s name returns to a trophy he won with a still unbroken course record in 2008.
He also led the Calder men’s team to Trog victory along with Ian Symington, and fourth-placed Ben Mounsey (3.17.22), to make it another successful day for the red and white stripes.
Local finishers (CV unless stated): 1, Karl Gray 2:49:11; 3, Ian Symington 3:16:48; 4, Ben Mounsey 3:17:22; 10, Andy Thornton 3:26:30; 15, Chris Mawdsley 3:33:46; 18, Craig Stansfield (Todmorden Harriers) 3:35:59; 22, Robert Paradise 3:36:50; 32, Phil Scarf 3:42:58; 49, Alistair Morris 3:49:25; 57, Darren Graham (Todmorden Harriers) 3:51:11; 85, Martin Mason 3:11:37; 86, Jackie Scarf 4:11:39; ;89, Robert Tyson (Todmorden Harriers) 4:13:55; 93, Lance Parker 4:18:42; 100, Michael Dean 4:24:48; 113, Tony Steward 4:35:33; 115, Helen Buchan 4:38:08; 126, Nicky Bolton 4:54:03; 131, Colin Brooke (Calderdale Tri) 5:03:11; 133, Elise Milnes (Todmorden Harriers) 5:04:19; 141, Beverley Holmes (Todmorden Harriers) 5:30:47.
Calder Valley’s golden girl Jo Waites, dogged by injury for most of last year, proved she has recovered her shine by winning Sunday’s Winter Hill Fell Race.
The Blackshaw Head runner made it two successes in two weeks, beating Lindsey Brindle of hosts Horwich RMI by two minutes as she clocked 2.02.20 for 24th place overall in a field of 189.
Waites made light work of the boggy ground and blizzard conditions over a course which started from Rivington Barn on the West Lancashire moors. The 11 mile route has 2700 feet of climbing in various ascents of the infamous hill.
Calder Valley’s Tim Ellis turned in an outstanding performance. He was among an elite leading group of the UK’s top fell runners, including Rob Hope (Pudsey & Bramley), Danny Hope (Pudsey & Bramley), Ricky Lightfoot (Ellenborough), Darren Kay (Pudsey & Bramley) and Tom Brunt (Dark Peak).
Ninety minutes into the gruelling race there was nothing between the top runners but Lightfoot put the hammer down, taking first place in 1.40.08. Ellis (1.40.11) was second and Hope (1.40.15) third.
Calder Valley’s Steve Smithies looked back to top form in seventh place.
Local finishers (CV unless stated): 2, Tim Ellis 01:40:11; 7, 7 Stephen Smithies 01:55:04; 20, Dan Taylor (Todmorden Harriers) 02:01:49; 24, Jo Waites 02:02:20; 35, Andy McFie (Todmorden Harriers) 02:04:13; 48, 48 Paul Biddulph 02:08:30; 81, Giles Simon 02:17:41; 93, Simon Fisher 02:22:18.
Todmorden Harriers’ Road Championship opened at the Blackburn Winter Warmer 10k on Sunday, but with sleet quickly turning to snow there was little warmth on the hilly course for the 20 Harriers who made the trip.
John Lloyd continued his strong start with sixth out of the 400 runners.
Paul Brannigan was the next Harrier, despite fractured ribs, in 19th place with Trevor Davis 31st.
Sarah Glyde set the pace for the Todmorden’s women, finishing seventh lady and 91st overall. Elise Milnes and Issy Pollard crossed the line in quick succession for 225th and 226th positions.
Todmorden results: 6 John Lloyd 36:16; 19 Paul Brannigan 38:21; 31 Trevor Davis 39:39; 58 Richard Butterwick 42:20; 73 Paul Alexander 43:11; 91 Sarah Glyde 44:07; 94 Jonathan Daniels 44:24; 105 Andrew Bibby 45:08; 118 Phil Cook 45:45; 134 Guy Whitmore 46:30; 178 Paul Cruthers 48:53; 225 Elise Milnes 51:40; 226 Issy Pollard 51:47; 241 Julie Wyant 52:38; 265 Nigel Hanson 54:32; 275 Moyra Parfitt 55:14; 285 Mandy Goth 55:31; 308 Melanie Whitmore 57:12; 324 Graham Milnes 58:20; 344 Myra Wells 1:00:12.