Classic Win

Different races are great for different reasons. Everyone has their favourites. It could be the landscape, maybe the long history of legends who have won it. It might be the pie & pint in the pub at the end. It could be that they’re just really bloody hard. Then there are a few special races that are all of these things rolled into one, and therefore romantically referred to as The Lakeland Classics. An elite series of races. All tough, all long (or super long) and all on every fellrunner’s wish list. Originally set up to save a collection of races from extinction, due to runner numbers being on a steep decline, a time based (not position) scoring system was set up as a series and The Lakeland Classics Trophy was formed.

Most people just love having a go and being part of these great races, perhaps dreaming of a top fifty. Imagine a top ten? But then, somebody has to win them…

So when Sam Tosh was the first Rossendale Harrier to do so in as long as anyone at the club can remember, I thought I’d ask him about his best season to date.

You’ve had some good results in recent years but it seemed like you went up a notch last season. What was different about 2015?

First and foremost I’d say consistency, both in training and racing. From May through to October I was able to race regularly whilst keeping up some decent volume/quality in training. It was the first time in a number of years that I’d managed this, with 2014 being a virtual write off in racing terms. Of course the five months of winter I spent in New Zealand, working and travelling, did no harm either!

Apart from your time spent travelling. Did anything else get in the way of achieving consistency? And how did you overcome this?

Returning to the UK I started full time work again in June. As almost everyone can appreciate, this in itself provides a challenge. Whilst the average day leaves me with plenty of time to train, a busy period or bad traffic soon sees me squeezing training in at all hours. Further to this being based in Birmingham half the week did my climbing legs no favours! Other than that it was mostly a case of trying to stay healthy and injury free. Whilst I had to manage some ongoing niggles during the season I was still able to train throughout with certain adaptations i.e. No downhill running / more cycling. Anyone who trained with me will have definitely noticed the contrived routes and sessions.
You must of been feeling pretty confident going into Langdale, but did you think that you could actually win the race?

With it being towards the end of the season I knew what sort of shape I was in, I was confident even with it being my longest race of the year. After managing wins at a few shorter races earlier in the season. I was standing on the start line of all my races aiming to win.

The only small doubt I had was route choice. Being between both the Ian Hodgson & FRA Relays I didn’t get chance for a recce. Whilst I’ve run most of the course before, it was 7 years ago! This was the main influence on my tactics as I knew there were some experienced runners likely to be at the sharp end.


Photo by Andy Jackson


Onto the race itself. How did that pan out? Did route choice play apart in the end and how did you get on with the infamous Bad Step? 

A front group of 5 formed early on including local and past winner Ben Abdelnoor. Up to Esk Hause a pattern emerged of me leading the climbs whilst he would pick up the pace on the descents and rougher ground. It was a clear day so there were no difficulties with nav and his route choice seemed sound. I stole a few meters on the stepped path to Esk Hause so waited for the others, making sure I got the right trod under Esk Pike. I was surprised here when Ben and Morgan Donnelly decided to go up and over, I stuck to my guns with Tom Brunt and Andy Fallas, trying to keep pace on the race trod below. It paid dividends as we opened a 30 ~ 60 sec gap on the other two. Although it was short lived and a slight error contouring from Three Tarns saw us all re-group on the final climb to Crinkles high point.  Here I was happy to follow as we stuck left, tip toeing above a big drop before swinging back in below the Bad Step. Having not been down it before I was more of a beached whale than mountain goat; substance over style! No real time gaps opened but Ben managed to gain a small amount by avoiding it to the right. Following the short (but agonising) kick up Blisco the final descent was tactical. I picked a good line off the top and dropped the others. Not knowing the lower half meant I was reluctant to go it alone so slowed to re-join the train. Finally crossing Blea Tarn road, the pace went from steady to eyeballs-out in a matter of seconds. It was after negotiating the endless gates I managed a cramp filled sprint to pip Morgan and the others by one second.


Langdale is one of the true classic races of the sport. You must’ve been over the moon?

Together with my win at Burnsall and getting my local race record at Knowl Hill it was a real highlight of the year. I’ve been racing on the fells 10+ yrs now and even as a junior I aspired to win a Lakeland Classic. Over the moon would’ve been an understatement!
With it being a fairly long and close fought race I was knackered immediately after but I soon recovered with a pint and pie, after which I was able to appreciate it a bit more. Adding more significance was that I’d started the race 7 yrs ago, that wasn’t such a good day and ended with my first DNF after a fall coming off Bowfell. As such to finally come back and win the race made it even better.


Beating Dave Lewis’s record at Knowl Hill (photo by Steve Bateson)

Moving onto 2016. How do you plan to build on from what you achieved last year?

When I look back on my training I think there are some significant improvements that can be made. 2015 was far from perfect in this regard so if I’m able to learn from mistakes I’d like to think I can see better results. From racing in 2015 I’m also well aware of where my strengths & weaknesses lie, hopefully over winter I’ve been able to work on the later whilst not diminishing and of my fortes. Likewise at 24 I’m relatively young (especially in fell running terms!) so each year I’m still seeing improvements in strength regardless.

If you look at the men’s championships over the last decade, the top end of Fell running has been dominated by a the same three or four names (Jebb, Bailey, Hope, Taggert etc). As they get a little older (but not much slower as yet), do you think it’s time for a fresh group to emerge? 

Yes, their consistency is what I probably find most impressive, churning out results year after year! I think there are now some younger runners starting to challenge, Tom Addison’s 2014 English Championship win was good to see. There are a number of others who are becoming increasingly competitive and at the same time it’s good to see Rossendale’s own improving, in both relays our average age must have been in the mid 20’s. From a personal perspective yes I’m definitely aiming to be in and amongst the group of names mentioned, to have their longevity would be great but first and foremost I’m focussed on enjoying and making the most of 2016.


Many thanks to the following photographers for the use of their photos. Please check out their sites here.

Stephen Wilson at Grand Day Out Photography

Steve Bateson at Running Pix

Andy Jackson





Wadsworth Trog

Wadsworth Trog 7 February ‘15

20m with 1220m/4003ft climb

The first proper long race of the 2015 calendar drew a good field, including several Rossendale Harriers. The race has a reputation of being a bit tough. Mainly due to the time of year, I suppose. Conditions on the day however seemed pretty good to me. The recent heavy snow had started to clear but with still enough ice about to keep the infamous bogs, well some of them at least, at bay.

The course changed slightly this year to avoid some sensitive land issues with Natural England. Most of the original navigation section, across large sections of pathless moor, was to be avoided. This was a shame because that was a big part of the character of the Trog. This has been replaced with, what I have to admit, is a nicer route and nicer to run on, but is fell running supposed to be nice? Either way, it’s still a cracking route and one of my favourite races.

Michael Higgins on the heels of Davina Raidy

Michael Higgins on the heels of Davina Raidy

156 runners assembled at the new start (you don’t have to do that silly loop through the woods now). The fast Calder lads Grey, Logue and Crossfield set their stall out early doors. Flying up the lane towards Wadsworth Moor. I managed to join a pack of half a dozen runners or so runners behind the front three.

Jon Tinman striding out

Jon Tinman striding out


The return of Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Turner

Following the man made drain to CP 3, I shouted out my number and did the usual “Thank yous”. I was determined to stick with the pack, so cracked on, but was distracted by the marshals’ repeatedly shouting something. I turned round to see the numpty behind me had headphones in. Totally oblivious he was. So I stopped and shouted at him whilst pointing back at the marshals. They must have missed his number. Now I’m not 100% on the FRA ruling on this, but for a start he is obviously making the marshal’s life more difficult than it needs to be. Not only that but It got me thinking as my stride tried to find the more solid bits of ice. He is really putting his own safety and others at risk. Say the clag was down and a runner became stranded. He isn’t going to hear them blowing their whistle while he listens to Taylor Swift or whatever other shite he’s got in his ears. Safety aside, why would you want to? Is fell running not about taking in the surroundings? This definitley includes sound. The crunch of the snow under foot must be up there with the best of them.


Patrick Brennan sticking with the pack

By the time I reached Top o Stairs I was still hanging on to Ian Symington (Calder Valley). Which was a good thing, I thought. As a new bit of the course is coming up. It’ll be interesting to see which way he goes. I’d recce’d it twice over Christmas, but still not being hundred per cent sure, I’d planned to aim off, slightly up stream of checkpoint 6. Then I couldn’t miss it by following the stream down. To our surprise this section was fully flagged and went nowhere near the checkpoint that we had been given. Glad I recce’d it twice then eh.


Jason Craven running for his life at the moment because….


Richy Campbells’ gonna get him

From Withins the pack begun to get away from me. I managed to pick off one runner but ran the majority of the remainder of the race without seeing a soul, apart from the hardy Marshall’s at checkpoints and Mr & Mrs of Yorkshire fell running – Dave and Eileen Woodhead.


Scott Sadler. Tough at the top.

After a quick chat and drink at the finish. I remembered that there is the rare luxury of showers available for finishers. They spoil fell runners rotten in Calder Valley you know. It’s no wonder they attract runners from further afield to their flock. After nearly Three hours out on the wintery Pennine hills, that warm shower I had at the cricket club was the best shower I’ve had so far this year. You wouldn’t believe me if you saw them but it was superb at the time, trust me.

Race report by Patrick Brennan

Full results

More Photos Huge thank you to Woodentops for use of their photos.

Lee Mill Relay 14 December ’14

Lee Mill Relay. 4 legs . 4 runners.

Report by Richard Stott, Race organizer

Well, that seemed to go OK. The inaugural Lee Mill Relay was held on 14th December as Rossendale’s new 4 runner fell relay event, and hopefully to become an established fixture on the Fell Race Calendar.

I thought it might be interesting for runners to take a look at a race from the organizers point of view. Perhaps providing them with a better understanding of what is involved in organizing a race, rather than just competing in one.

For me, when racing, a winter fell relay was always a great way of ending the year. I’ve done the Calderdale Relay, probably over 20 times, and always enjoyed the relay format and atmosphere of all the club members being involved, but especially the added challenge that winter brings. I have to admit I was quite critical on the Fell Running forum when the event was moved to a summer slot, but its done now, and I realize some of the reasoning behind it. It’s just a shame.

After thinking about the big winter relays, and the logistical nightmare of miles of footpaths to marshal, bad weather possibilities, car parking and land access problems, I thought why not a fell event based on the Cross-Keys four stage format staged by Saddleworth Runners? Logically, a race where all runners run the same route makes sense. Far less marshals. Same start/finish area with the entire event run in probably, 3 square miles of terrain.

The first question I asked myself was where? Earlier on I’d had thoughts of a mountain bike/fell race relay at Lee Mill Stacksteads. So why not just a fell event? I went over one day and had a look, plenty of tracks but nothing that thrilling. I had a chat to Scott Hitchen (Rossendale Harriers) and asked him to have a look. The result is more or less what we have as our race route, far more radical than I came up with! A true fell race was on.

Next step was getting permission for land access, which as it turned out was no problem thanks to Lancashire Council who approved our route and use of quarry area. I set a date of Sun 14th Dec and registered at Sportident for entries.

A nagging voice in the back of my mind told me this was all going a bit to well, and sure enough obstacles started to appear, or not as the case may be. The hoped for ‘Trail Head’ centre, that we were to use as a venue, just wasn’t going to be built. Plus, on- site portaloos were being removed because of vandalism. So, Phil Taylor (Rossendale Harriers) suggested I have a word with Rossendale Council, who the offices on the site belong to. The council guy was great, agreeing to the use of a room on the Sunday for registration and results, as well as some portaloos!

So, after weeks of worrying and sorting out the bitty things that make up for the whole, race day was upon us. Then the ice hit (what do you expect in December? Yeah, thanks, I know). When we went to flag the course the previous day, the lane up to the quarry was treacherous, but fellow course flagger Max Cole (Rossendale Harriers) was confident that there was sunshine forecast and much warmer weather was on it’s way. Err….OK then.

Race Day. Sunday. Up at 5am to pick-up Scott Hitchen to double check and finish off the flagging. Registration opened at 8.30 and with another 6 entries on the day we have 25 teams. Brilliant.

With a bit of a talk to the first leg runners and they were off. Bang on 10am, as planned. Then came a massive fright, straight after, when we thought the leaders had set off on the loop in the wrong direction! Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case.

After what felt like a bloody long day Calder Valley Fell Runners men came home first, along with Clayton ladies. Both victorious teams walked away with unique stone trophy’s cut from the quarry (again thanks to Scott and Daltons printers). All the post race, feedback seemed really positive. With teams saying that it was great for a relay to be that straight forward logistically. As for the route itself, everyone thought it was a great challenge. Ask Darren Fishwick (Chorley) he did it four times, he liked it that much, but then again…

I’d like to thank all the Harriers for help. Rossendale council for office space and portaloos. Pete Bland for race numbers and Dalton Printers for help with the flyers and trophy.

I’ve changed the race date for 2015 to last weekend in November. The 29thh to be exact. So hopefully the event can grow. It’s a much quieter weekend, fixture wise and hopefully weather as well. The race route is also to be first in the Rossendale Harriers Mid-week series, along with Whittle Pike, Pilgrims Cross and Golf Ball, best 3 out of 4 format.



Results can be found here

The Good Shepherd

BL – 15 miles (24.14km) / 2000ft (609.6m)
27th September 2014, 10:30am

We were treated to warm autumnal sunshine for the drive over to the dark side for the Good Shepherd race from Mytholmroyd in Calderdale. After several races, with what some might say a higher profile in more ways than one, it was a relief to get back to this type of low key fell race. No early rise. No M6. No problems parking or queuing for safety pins. Just proper Pennine moorland racing.

Three Rossendale runners took their place at the start just off Cragg Road, which was part of Le Tour back in the summer. The BL category race is part flagged and part navigation. I hadn’t done the route previously but still felt pretty confident of finding my way over the relatively familiar ground.

After looking at the ever-useful site I noticed that the route has 4 main climbs. So this is how I broke it down in my mind. The first of which being a long steady slog right up over Erringdon Moor to Stoodley Pike. This allowed everyone to settle into their own pace. I looked up to the horizon and could just make out the front lads turning left at the monument, already a couple of minutes in front. I knew Jason Craven (Rossendale Harriers) wasn’t too far behind although I didn’t need to look back because that was definitely his daft laugh. Weather this was shared with a fellow runner or just to himself I can’t be sure. You’d have to ask him.

The laughing man Jason Craven. Photo Courtesy of

The laughing man Jason Craven at Stoodley Pike. Photo Courtesy of

The next section from the pike isn’t flagged but the fast decent down to Withens Clough reservoir was obvious. Then a sharp right turn along its bank. I knew the second climb was coming up but wasn’t hundred per cent sure of the best line. I could however see some front runners, in local vests, snaking up and over the open moorland. I sheepishly followed with a small pack of four including local Todmorden and Calder Valley runners, which I’d caught up with, thanks to the decent. At the second climb I was reminded that Pennine bog, tussock and ditch do not make for good running. We cursed and laughed at our predicament. There must be a better way up than this. Of course there was. Confirmed by the sight of runners making up huge amounts of ground away to our left and doing so with seemingly far more ease than us. I later realised that the pied piper of this fortunate group was Chris Goddard (Todmorden Harriers), the author of the brilliant West Yorkshire moors book So it’s safe to say he probably has more than half an idea of his way round these parts. He was telling me after the race that there is a perfectly good trod, if you know where to look that is.

Richard Campbell. Photo courtesy of

Richard Campbell dancing down towards London Road. Photo courtesy of

From checkpoint 4 there is some great fast running along the tops until you drop down (the reverse of Shepherd’s Skyline) onto London Road and back up again to Stoodley. Somehow on this third and penultimate climb I’d managed to catch up some usually quicker runners. They must of gone wrong at some point. How, exactly is beyond me as, ok its not flagged, but it’s pretty obvious and considering they must run round here week in week out (yep Tod and Calder again). I struggled to figure this one out. Anyway – passing Stoodley again and it’s more fast running over moor and track until you pop down to Cragg Vale for the last climb up to Robin Hood rocks. By this late stage the field had stretched out a fair amount and I was weary of not going wrong on the run in. My Eyes remained peeled for the next luminous flag, and then the next, right until I spotted the finish funnel with relief. I was back at the Good Shepherd community centre.

Patrick Brennan. Photo courtesy of

Patrick Brennan. Photo courtesy of

Some good runs from Rossendale with Jason Craven coming back from a summer long niggling toe injury. The injury is reportedly very similar to Gary Lineker’s famous toe injury that hampered the later stages of his career and resulted in him moving to Japan. I can’t see this happening to Jason and this is only according to his physio anyway (Jason’s, not Gary’s). A special mention to Richy ‘God is a Manc’ Campbell, who managed to knock off a whopping 18 minutes from the last time he did this race. Which is a huge 11% improvement. If you’re interested in that sort of thing.

The Good Shepherd is a cracking route with a nice mix of fast footpaths and open moorland. Without any stupidly big climbs. All with belting views over Calderdale. Finished off with homemade soup, tea & cake. Which is lovingly served up by the ladies from the community centre, and all for just a donation. What a good do.

Full Results

Click to access Good-Shepherd-20142.pdf