Calder Valley runners and cyclists to take on epic challenge in aid of whale conservation

A group of Calder Valley runners and cyclists are taking to the hills to raise money and awareness for the plight of Orcas in captivity.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 10:24 am
Organiser Helen Curtis

On Saturday, April 24, a ‘pod’ of runners and cyclists will be covering 100 miles of Calder Valley hills and valleys.

The running pod consists of 12 women from Calder Valley Fell Runners, all of whom will run sections of the route.

It’s an exciting team attempt to run 100 continuous miles in 24 hours, and in doing so recreating the distance an orca might swim in a day in the wild.

It will begin in the early hours of Saturday, April 24 and will be run throughout the 24 hour period.

The carefully mapped 100 mile route takes in the hills and moors of Calderdale and is split into three legs of just over 33 miles each.

Each leg is suitably named to connect them to orcas (Tilikum Leg and Blackfish Leg – representing orcas in captivity) and the WDC Leg (for Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the charity working to protect the creatures). 

The running pod is made up of mixed ability runners who will be completing a full leg or half a leg each and will consist of no more than four runners at a time. It also includes support crew involved in logistics and fundraising. 

The Orca 100 was inspired after ‘pod’ member Helen Curtis watched the documentary ‘Blackfish’, which highlights the plight of Orca’s in captivity. Deeply moved by what she had seen, Helen decided she wanted to do something to help Orcas.

She said: “After discovering that in the wild Orcas can swim up to 100 miles in a day, something which is impossible in a concrete tank unless they swim constantly in circles, I hatched the idea of running 100 miles as a human ‘pod’. So I approached fellow runners in my running club, Calder Valley Fell Runners.

“Protecting whales, dolphins, marine life and the ocean environment resonates with a lot of people, and the response was swift and enthusiastic with 11 runners instantly signing up to the challenge.

“We’re aiming to raise as much money and awareness as we can, to help protect whales, dolphins and orcas from suffering in this way. It’s vital that they remain wild and free in their ocean homes – both for their own sakes and, crucially, for the future of our planet.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve almost reached our fund raising target of £1,000 for whale and dolphin conservation and feel optimistic that we’ll exceed our target.”

Joining the runners is also a pod of seven cyclists (three women and four men) who will ride the hills of Calder Valley and beyond, climbing 2900m and covering 100 miles. This won’t be done as a relay - they will all pedal the 100 miles and hope to complete it in within 10 hours.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Community and Events Manager, Sharon Stevenson, said “We’re in awe of Helen and the Orca 100 pod for taking on such an incredible challenge. More than 3,000 whales, dolphins and orcas are currently held captive in tanks, being forced to perform tricks for our ‘entertainment’ in what must be akin to a life in endless lockdown.

“The money raised by this challenge will support WDC’s work to keep them wild and free in the oceans, where they belong.”

If you’d like to support the running and cycling Orca pod, visit their fundraising page at