Heptonstall Fell Race: 1-2 for locals

Heptonstall first three with winner Annie Roberts in the middle and Jo Buckley on the right. Picture: Woodentops
Heptonstall first three with winner Annie Roberts in the middle and Jo Buckley on the right. Picture: Woodentops

Annie Roberts and Jo Buckley notched a local 1-2 in Sunday’s 15.4-mile Heptonstall Fell Race.

An entry of 290 eclipsed the previous record by far and there were some very fast times in excellent conditions.

Todmorden Harriers’ Roberts not only retained her ladies’ title but smashed her 2018 time by 22 minutes, crossing the line in 2.09.18 for 31st place overall.

Calder Valley FR’s 2014 and 2017 winner Buckley also raised the bar to beat her 2017 time by 14 minutes to take second place and the female over-40 prize.

There was a hotly-fought battle for first place among the men. Winner Phil Marsden of Horwich RMI Harriers finished in the third fastest time recorded in nine editions of the race, but only seconds ahead of Robin Howie of Wharfedale Harriers.

Ten runners broke the two-hour barrier, including Stainland Lions’ Ed Hyland in sixth and Calder Valley’s Martin Howard in seventh.

This event packs a punch and runners need navigational skills plus plenty of stamina to make it around a partially flagged course that includes steep-sided wooded valleys, upland pasture and pathless moorland, thick heather, deep bogs and a lung-busting 3170ft ascent.

There were some stunning views to take runners’ breath away, for those that had any left after the gruelling climbs. It was all worth it for the post-race black treacle flap jack.

Other strong runs from Calder Valley FR runners came from Jonny Croston in 27th and Iain Illstone in 42nd.

Twenty one Harriers took to Heptonstall’s cobbles and Graeme Brown led their men home in 13th place. He was second MV40. Jon Wright came next for the club in 19th.

The race was the second in Stainland’s new fell racing championship and Tanya Blake had a good run on her return to racing as the club’s fourth finisher.

Proceeds from the race (around £2,500) will be donated to the Scouts, Church, and Calder Valley Search and Rescue.