Report from Edward Davies:
The Calderdale Hike is really four events in one. There is a long route of 37 miles and a short route of a mere 26, starting and finishing in Sowerby. Both runners and walkers can do either route, with the walkers setting off earlier, followed by the runners at nine o’clock. Thanks to the smooth organisation and volunteers, it works out very well. For a number of years now, the long route has been popular with runners and is one of the races in the Runfurther Championship series.
I first did the long route as a walker in 1999, taking over eleven hours. The next year, I tried as a runner but ended up dropping out due to blisters and getting lost in the fog. That remains my only DNF and probably contributed to me being overawed by the difficulty of the event and it was not until 2008 that I ran the race again. I managed to finish eighth that time and in subsequent attempts in 2011, 2014 and 2015, I finished respectively fifth (after leading at halfway and blowing up), third and second. After the latter two races, I felt I had a handle on the event but to win I would need things to align in terms of my fitness and the competition. The route is defined only by checkpoints, with the way between them being up to the competitor. This year’s route was largely the same as last year’s and having reccied the living daylights out of it I was fairly confident that my choices would be effective except for slight concerns about the section between 32 and 35 miles where there was no obvious best route.
I took a quick route after the first checkpoint at Longley which avoided a lot of mud and found myself in the lead at Fiddle Lane. It was far too early to try to head off on my own and risk overcooking things so I took the opportunity to just go steadily until I was caught and had someone to run with. This didn’t take long and, after another route choice split between Ryburn and Green Withens Reservoirs, we were running as a group of four including Steve Radcliffe (fifth last year) and Kevin Hoult (winner in 2013).
After descending to Sladen Fold, Steve and I headed north on the Rochdale Canal and then on the road before turning up to Ramsden Wood to get to the next checkpoint at Coolam. The other two took a route over the moor which was more difficult underfoot and we arrived at Coolam ahead of them. After passing the trig point at Trough Edge End, the route joins Limers Gate to Slate Pit Hill before a big descent to Cornholme and a tough climb up to Mount Cross. I was feeling tired by this point and as we ran the muddy gradual descent to Cross Stones, Steve had a slight lead on me. This was the section where Ian Symington had opened up a gap on me last year. I didn’t want the same thing to happen again so I did my best to keep Steve in sight but was beginning to think that I was in line for another second place. At Lumbutts with about eight miles to go, Steve was about a minute ahead. As we contoured round Stoodley Pike on the good tracks I could tell the gap was no longer growing and I very gradually caught him and overtook just before the penultimate checkpoint at Erringden Grange. He wasn’t going to give up without a fight and we still had the most difficult climb of the route to complete, from Mytholmroyd up to Nab End Quarries. I could feel cramp starting to appear in my calves and just before the last checkpoint I had to stop to stretch. Steve was still only a couple of minutes behind me so I hid behind some trees while I tried to get rid of the cramp so that he wouldn’t see how much I was struggling. After Nab End, it’s just a couple of miles of track and road down to the finish. With some more stretching on the way, I just about managed to keep up a reasonable pace and fortunately for me, Steve was also suffering from cramp by this stage. I held on for the win in 5:36 with Steve coming in four minutes later, followed after about another ten minutes by Kevin.