Usually I’m glad to see the end of the year, it’s always nice to look forward to a fresh start. However, this time it was different. 2015 has been especially kind to me and I’m sorry to see it finally come to an end.
I began 2015 with similar expectations to any other year – to compete in the English and British Fell Running Championships both individually and also as part of the Calder Valley team. We’ve been threatening to be the best team in Britain for some time and this year I had a strong feeling we’d break through and fulfil our potential. I didn’t however bank on the unprecedented individual success that I’ve enjoyed since the very beginning.
JANUARY: The season started with the Hebden 22, my favourite local race which takes in the very finest hills around the Calder Valley. I always run this race with my good mate and training partner Gav Mulholland A.K.A. Mad Legs Mulholland and this year was no exception. We were also joined by our other good friend Johny Helliwell A.K.A. The Painted Stallion. True to form we stormed round the course to win as a triple alliance and set the tone for the rest of the year with a fine team performance.
MARCH: My first real test on the fells was the Flowerscar fell race, the first English Championship counter held in Todmorden. The race also doubled up as the Yorkshire Championship and I desperately wanted to retain my title despite fearsome competition. Somehow I managed to hold off my mate and English champion Tom Addison to finish 5th overall. It meant I’d become only the 3rd person in history to successfully defend the Yorkshire Fell Running Championship trophy, a very proud moment indeed! The icing on the cake was also winning team gold with Karl Gray and Gav Mulholland, another repeat of the 2014 championship result.
Pictured above: (L) The prestigious Yorkshire Fell Running Championship Trophy with individual and team gold medals and (R) Karl Gray, myself and Gav Mulholland.
MAY: This excellent run of form continued with convincing victories in a few other local fell races including Heptonstall and the Saddleworth Cake race. It was these results, as well as winning the Yorkshire Championship that earned me selection for the Yorkshire team at the Inter-Counties fell race. A race which would prove to be the springboard for all other major achievements in 2015.
Pictured above: (L) Climbing up to Blake Dean in the Heptonstall Fell Race and (R) About to hit the final descent in the Saddleworth Cake Race.
A couple of weeks before the Inter-Counties my season was in danger of ending prematurely after picking up a hamstring injury at the end of the Cake race. After 7 days of rest and intense physio I was just fit enough to run and had it not been for my sponsors Back to Fitness Physiotherapy, I’d probably be sat here now wishing away 2015. Thankfully they patched me up and I pulled through. A 7th place finish and team gold in the Inter-Counties was enough to earn me a spot on the England team for the Snowdon International. I was over the moon. This was without doubt my most important result of the year and I feel very lucky to have been fit enough to compete that day.
Pictured above: (L) Briefly chasing winner Andy Douglas at the Inter-Counties fell race and (R) Yorkshire team Gold! (Karl Gray, myself, Tom Adams and Tom Addison)
JUNE: As soon as I received the England call up I instantly stepped up my training. I’d run in the Snowdon International before back in 2011 and finished 12th. It was a good result but I always knew I was capable of more. This time I didn’t just want to turn up and run in an England vest I wanted to make a big statement and try to challenge for the win.
Pictured above: Repping the infamous Scammonden Steps.
I’ve always been a good descender but the difference this year has been the improvement in my climbing ability. I knew the only way to earn a top 5 at Snowdon was to include plenty of steep hill rep sessions in training and try and lose some weight. During the last year I’ve managed to shed nearly a stone and it’s been a major factor in helping me to compete at international level.
Pictured above: (L) Before the race with my England teammate and friend Lindsey Brindle and (R) Proudly wearing my England vest.
JULY: When race day finally arrived I was more than ready. A sensible start, a brilliant climb and an even better descent saw me challenging for the win. In the end I had to settle for 3rd place, hard to believe but I was disappointed. There was a point where I thought I could win but unfortunately the final mile was absolute hell. In the words of the Terminator…“I’ll be back”.
Pictured above: (L) The climb and (R) the descent
AUGUST: Just when I thought the year couldn’t get any better I received another England call up for the Home International in Betws-y-coed. It was also a selector for the GB team for the World Championship but the chance of making the top 6 was more like a dream than reality.
Pictured above: Training in Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy.
I like to dream big. The thought of earning a GB vest motivated me more than anything. I’ve never destroyed myself as much in a race but it was worth every second of pain. I held onto 6th place by just 11 seconds and the feeling of achieving that dream was indescribable. Needless to say I slept well that night.
Pictured above: Racing for GB in the World Mountain Running Championship, Betws-Y-Coed, North Wales
SEPTEMBER: If I had to choose my most memorable moment of 2015 it would have to be competing for Great Britain in the World Mountain Running Championship and winning team bronze. It’s the first time that the men’s team have ever won a medal of any colour, so to make athletic history for my country on home soil is something I’ll always remember for the rest of my life.
Pictured above: (L) My WMRC team bronze medal and (R) the Great Britain WMRC team
OCTOBER: My other favourite moment of 2015 has to be my trip to Morbegno in Italy to compete for the Snowdon GB team in the prestigeous Trofeo Vanoni relay. It was just an amazing experience from start to finish.
Pictured above: Playtime in the mountains. Val Di Mello, Northern Italy.
The race itself was probably my finest achievement of the year. Finishing 2nd fastest leg and 2nd team was way beyond my expectations. This is a race I desperately want to do again. Mountain running is huge in Northern Italy and the experience was completely life changing. Whenever I need some motivation I’ll be thinking about the 5 days I spent there. Having the opportunity to train and compete in such a beautiful part of the world with like minded people is something I’m very grateful for.
Pictured above: (L) Me, Julian Rancon (France) and Alex Baldacinni (Italy) and (R) the Snowdon GB team, Robe hope, myself and Tom Adams
As well as enjoying plenty of individual success, it’s also been the finest year in the history of Calder Valley Fell Runners. After years of growing and improving as a team we finally lived up to expectation by winning (almost) everything in 2015. English champions, British champions and British Relay champions. Next year I’m hoping we can add the Ian Hodgson relay to the list 😉
Pictured above: (L) Calder Valley British Fell Relay team – Me, Daz Kay, Math Roberts, James Logue, Tim Ellis and Karl Gray and (R) the British Fell Relay trophy
So farewell 2015. You’ve been a perfect year and I’m very sorry to see you go. A HUGE thanks to everyone who has helped make it so special, let’s hope 2016 is just as good!!!
My Strava Story 2015: http://2015.strava.com/video/msj7euX