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Caldervale Way Relay

By Alistair Palmer

Sunday the 21st May 2023 was a day when the fell, road and track runners of Preston Harriers united to tackle the challenging but rewarding Calderdale Way Relays. The relays involve teams of twelve runners completing six legs of varying distance, terrain and ascent. Excitingly, Preston Harriers had two teams entered for the day with a total of 84 teams running.

An early start awaited leg 1 and 2 runners as they left Preston for sunny Calderdale in West Yorkshire. Chris Tully was desperately trying to find a coffee in the hope it would ease the pain of being awake at 6am on a Sunday morning. Meanwhile, Steve Taylor was preparing his camera for a busy day of photography on the surrounding hills.

Leg 1 (10.5 miles) pairings were Alistair Palmer and Oliver Heaton (A team) and Camille Hammer and Monica Bando (B team). Alistair and Oli had a relaxed start but picked off pairings as the miles went by. Their final victim was the Clayton-le-Moors pairing including international trail runner Chris Holdsworth. Oli muttered “this is our only chance to beat Chris”. In mutual agreement we painfully picked up the pace to catch them. Thankfully Chris was complicit in the overtake as he kindly ran ahead and opened gates on a few occasions. We arrived at Cragg Vale in 11th place (1:19) with Darren McDermott and Chris Tully eagerly waiting to take the baton. In the B team, relay newcomers Camille and Monica finished leg 1 in a time of 1:54. They were very happy with their run and the fact that they didn’t get lost. Camille got a round of drinks in from the pub. I went for ‘full fat coke’. A strange choice at half 9 in the morning, but it was definitely needed!

Leg 2 (8.5 miles) pairings were Darren McDermott and Chris Tully (A team) and Jim Doherty and Roy Parkinson (B team). Darren and Chris made good progress in the morning temperatures and pushed upwards towards Stoodley Pike. A technical descent awaited! Darren danced down the descent with Chris following a little further behind. What he lacked in downhill running speed he definitely made up for in bright running attire. Darren and Chris finished leg 2 in 1:13 holding onto 11th place overall. Jim and Roy set off in the mass start at Cragg Vale and used their experience of the route to get round in 1:49. The photogenic Jim forced out a grimace smile as he passed the clicking of Steve Taylor’s camera.

Leg 3 (4.8 miles) pairings were Vladimir Wiggins and Alex Venables (A team) and Olga Wiggins and Sharon Wilkinson (B team). Young Vlad put down his football boots for the weekend to share his expertise of leg 3 with fell running newbie Alex. They had a great run and finished in 51 minutes, still 11th overall. Team B consisted of all round fell runner Olga and British record track runner Sharon. Sharon ditched the track spikes for fell spikes and had a very good run alongside a forever enthusiastic Olga. Olga also captured the day on her YouTube channel (Olga’s British Fells). If you are interested in running the event next year, definitely check out the video.

Leg 4 (9.4 miles) was the start of the dual named pairings. John Griffiths and John Rainford (A team) and Mike Burnham and Rob Worsey (B team). John and John were hit with peak heat and struggled with this. They still managed to put in a very good time whilst maintaining a strong position for the team (17th). In the B team, Mike was feeling hungry for racing having recently returned from a 3-year running hiatus. He paired up with road runner Rob to keep up a valiant performance from the B team. They put in a great effort and gained 6th places during their leg.

Leg 5 (7.6 miles) pairings were Tom Brown and Tom Prescott (A team) and Steve Mort and Steve Needham (B team). Darren made a sat nav joke earlier in the week. It must’ve helped – Tom Tom didn’t put a foot wrong and expertly navigated a tricky leg 5 leaving the A team in 19th overall. Steve Steve (yet to break into the sat nav market) had a very good run and were forced to run up a steep climb when they heard the haunting sound of Steve Taylor’s digital camera. They came an impressive 37th overall for their leg gaining 2 places in the process.

Leg 6 (10.6 miles) pairings were Wesley Wilkinson and Luke Suffolk (A team) and Eleanor Palmer and Maciej Jarno (B team). Leg 6 is often referred to as the road runners leg, and rightly so – it is majority tarmac. There are a few bumps in the road which add up to 1300ft of ascent over 10.6 miles but surely a couple of prime road runners can handle that? Luke did a blistering sub-16-minute 5k on the Friday night and used his grit and determination to push up the climbs. Wes was just happy to be running with another road runner as in 2021 he landed in a pairing with me on leg 4. This ended with him practically dragging his legs up the final climb. Not this year! Wes and Luke got round in 25th place with the A team finishing 19th overall (finishing time – 7hr 43min). Meanwhile, fellow road runners Eleanor and Maciej relished the experience to be away from the road, with Eleanor’s Strava captioned “too many hills”. See you next year Eleanor – maybe for more hills. They had a very good run and even managed to smile at Steve as he captured their photo. Eleanor and Maciej got round in 50th place with the B team finishing 59th overall (9hr 42min).

The relay was ended in the grounds of Spring Hall athletics track in Halifax. Many people waited around for the final leg runners, creating the typically warm atmosphere felt at the end of most fell races. As always, the day was excellently organised by Halifax Harriers and Preston will definitely be back next year to try and move our way up the leaderboard. Congratulations to the winning team from Calder Valley Fell Runners and thank you to all runners, spectators, organisers, photographers, and marshals for making it a very enjoyable day!

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