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24th UKA British Fell & Hill Relay Championships 14-10-2012

24th UKA British Fell & Hill Relay Championships – 14/10/12

This year’s Championships were hosted by Mercia Fell Runners and centred on the Shropshire town of Church Stretton and the surrounding hills of the Long Mynd. The event is a firm favourite in the fell-running calendar & drew over 150 teams from all over the UK, competing in teams of 6, featuring many of the top fell runners in the country.

The race itself is a 4-leg relay, presenting different tests and terrain on each leg, with part of the challenge being to match runners’ strengths to the demands of the course. With a few of our senior runners moving up a Vet category, we decided that we would enter a V50 team for the first time, as well the usual Mens & Ladies Open teams & Mens V40 team. As is traditional, the composition of the teams changed a number of times through injury & absence, but thankfully, we were able to field 24 relatively fit runners on the Sunday morning, some making their debut on the fells, never mind at a relay!

Incredibly, after the summer we’ve had, the weather on the day was perfect – starting off cold but clear and warming up as the race went on. The first leg at 6.7 km & 500m was a fast & furious solo leg, with some teams opting to put out their fastest athletes to try & get a good start. The leg was won by Howgill’s Carl Bell in 35.44, but Holmfirth’s result of the day came from the in-form Katie Walshaw, who finished a superb 25th overall & 1st lady in 41.59 to give the team the best possible start. Jonny Sykes (for the V40’s), Julian Rose (for the V50’s and away from his usual road racing environment) and Geoff Hall (for the Open team) all found the going a little tougher, but all put in great performances to bring their teams back in 69th, 99th & 103rd respectively.

Leg 2, at 13km & 900m, was a pairs stage and was where the real battle for the top placings began, with the top 4 teams all within a couple of minutes of each other - fastest time went to Pudsey & Bramley, who raced round in 1.08.58. John Ewart & Andy Hauser running for the V50’s had a great leg, finishing 32nd overall & 1st V50 team in 1.24.69. Gavin Baxter & Dan Stewart had a little dibber trouble en route, but still finished well up the field in 59th place. Ian Goulding & Andy Keast slogged their way round, happy to finish 105th overall for the V40’s, whilst Helen Berry & Karen Sinkinson overcame their injury worries to finish 109th for the Ladies.

Leg 3 was the navigation stage, which meant that the pairs were not allowed to look at their map with details of the checkpoints until they had started running. With the weather being kind, this was not as much of a problem as it could have been, although there were still plenty of twists & turns to catch out the unwary on the 11.25km, 640m course! The host club Mercia had called up Graham Gristwood, one of the country’s leading orienteers, to help their cause. His team & the following 3 teams covered the ground so quickly that the marshals hadn’t even arrived at Checkpoint 5, so there was no control to dib! Happily, the race referee ruled in their favour, so their winning time of 55.23 stood. Tom Brunt, fresh from finishing a superb 3rd at the Langdale Horseshoe the day before, was partnered by Jim Durrans and they tore through the field, finishing 19th overall in 1.08.43. The V50 pair of Julian Rank & Andy Shaw maintained the team’s good showing, finishing 23rd overall & 1st V50, whilst Lucy Needham & Fran Whitworth confidently knocked off the 6 checkpoints, overtaking a number of other teams on the way round, finishing 85th overall & 7th Ladies team. Phil Hobbs & Nigel Moran took the scenic route, adding an extra climb to make the most of their day & finished 114th on the stage.

The final leg was also a fast solo sprint – 7.1km & 500m and the top teams had saved their big guns until the end. Mercia relied on Simon Bailey, the 2012 English Champion, to bring them home, but he was challenged all the way by the 2012 runner-up, Morgan Donnelly from Borrowdale. In the end, there was only 30 seconds between them, with Bailey’s winning time of 32.35 enough to clinch 1st place – a thrilling conclusion to the day. For Holmfirth, Nathan Martin had a superb run, finishing 29th overall in 42.42, pulling the Open team up to 45th overall. Next back was Paul Fearns, finishing 91st overall for the V50’s, just ahead of Dave Knight, 120th overall & Jean Shotter, back from injury & sporting a new pair of Walshes, 139th overall.

Mercia won the Open event by just 50 seconds from Borrowdale, with Dark Peak in 3rd. Calder Valley Vets claimed the V40 title ahead of Dark Peak and Horwich RMI, whilst Dark Peak retained the V50 prize ahead of Clayton-le-Moors & Eryri. For the Ladies teams, hosts Mercia (39th overall) were edged out by last year’s runners-up, Hunters Bog Trotters (37th overall) by less than a minute, with Dark Peak (44th overall) only 2 minutes further back.

This event showcases all that people love about fell running, with runners of all standards from all over the UK coming together to compete. Particularly poignant was the minute’s silence before the start to remember Darren Holloway from Pennine Fell Runners, who sadly died during the previous weekend’s Ian Hodgson relay. The race provided a fitting send-off & there was a great atmosphere throughout, with all runners cheered in, wherever they finished. Next year, it’s a trip to Snowdonia & Llanberis – it’s already in the diary!

Results: 1st Mercia, 3.16.25; 1st V40 & 5th overall, Calder Valley, 3.33.44; 1st V50 & 32nd overall, Dark Peak, 4.12.01 and 1st Ladies & 37th overall, Hunters Bog Trotters, 4.13.49 (151 teams overall).

Holmfirth Mens Open, 4.16.49 (45th):
Leg 1 – Geoff Hall, 52.20 (103rd)
Leg 2 – Dan Stewart & Gavin Baxter, 1.33.04 (59th)
Leg 3 - Tom Brunt & Jim Durrans, 1.08.43 (19th)
Leg 4 – Nathan Martin, 42.42 (29th)

Holmfirth Mens V50, 4.18.07 (49th overall & 5th V50):
Leg 1 – Julian Rose, 51.53 (99th)
Leg 2 – John Ewart & Andy Hauser, 1.24.39 (32nd)
Leg 3 – Julian Rank & Andy Shaw, 1.10.02 (23rd)
Leg 4 – Paul Fearns, 51.33 (91st)

Holmfirth Ladies Open, 4.58.38 (93rd overall & 13th Ladies Team):
Leg 1 – Katie Walshaw, 41.59 (25th)
Leg 2 - Helen Berry & Karen Sinkinson, 1.49.23 (109th)
Leg 3 - Lucy Needham & Fran Whitworth, 1.25.34 (85th)
Leg 4 – Jean Shotter, 1.01.42 (139th)

Holmfirth Mens V40, 5.07.35 (104th):
Leg 1 – Jonny Sykes, 47.34 (69th)
Leg 2 – Andy Keast & Ian Goulding, 1.48.30 (105th)
Leg 3 - Phil Hobbs & Nigel Moran, 1.35.16 (114th)
Leg 4 – Dave Knight, 56.15 (120th)

Phil Hobbs

Photos courtesy of Norman Berry

Pre-2012 news, results & reports are on the old sites: 2009 to 2011, Pre-2009

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