Calder Valley athletes show that it's never too late to start running

Kate Pope and fellow club members on a Tuesday night runKate Pope and fellow club members on a Tuesday night run
Kate Pope and fellow club members on a Tuesday night run
It’s never too late to start running - that’s the view of Calder Valley Fell Runners’ regular Kate Pope.

During lockdown, many of us will have considered running to improve our fitness and Pope has followed a similar path, having started only six years ago.

She was inspired by her younger cousin, a new convert to running herself following a successful couch to 5k programme that led to her training for a half-marathon.

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Despite feeling rather unfit and old, Pope plucked up the courage to go out for a first, early morning, short run that she kept secret, even from her husband.

Nine weeks later, she was finding 30-minute runs liberating, enjoying the change of pace from going everywhere with small children in tow.

Pope said: “I had always been happy in the bottom of the valley and the moors gave me the heebie-jeebies.

“Living where we do, eventually braving the hills was somewhat inevitable. I was so proud the first time I reached Stoodley Pike and I called my mum from the top.”

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In spring 2015, six months after starting and now running six miles, Pope joined Calder Valley Fell Runners’ ‘Back to the Fells’ six-week introduction to fell running.

The club’s members include everyone from elite Great Britain runners to social runners but all united by a love of running and the countryside.

Pope said: “I found everyone so welcoming and encouraging and I was relieved that it was perfectly fine to walk up steep bits.”

Pope was now hooked on fell running and learned that having embraced the elements and the seasons, even sideways sleet and bogs after dark, the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) she’d suffered from for years was gone.

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In 2016, to ‘hit the ground running’ for her 40th, Pope and a group of friends from the club celebrated her birthday with a sunset to sunrise overnight run from Pendle Hill to Stoodley Pike.

Since then, the adventures have got bigger and better and Pope has completed half marathons, mountain marathons, Lakeland races and a first ultra race.

Fellow local runner Jilly Walstow has also gone on to achieve great success after signing up for a couch to 5k programme with Todmorden Harriers in January 2012.

Only nine months later she had run her first ultra marathon and in 2017, she signed up for the legendary Spine Race, widely regarded as the world’s toughest running endurance races in which runners travel non-stop along the full Pennine Way in winter.

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Bad weather forced Walstow to retire from the race but during lockdown, she’s completed four virtual 100-mile events to keep her motivated.

She is currently competing in UltraBritain’s Virtual Spine race, in which runners have one month to cover 268 miles and she is thankful for the support of fellow runners.

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