Andy stands proudly among fell runners

Andy Cox of Moorfoot Runners on the Alva hill run.
Andy Cox of Moorfoot Runners on the Alva hill run.

Moorfoot Runners athlete Andy Cox attained a top four finish in an outdoor challenge mounted by the British Open Fell Runners Association.

BOFRA organises a series of fell races and an annual championship. Most races are derived from the traditional ‘guides’ races and tend to be short, steep and challenging, to test climbing and descending skills to the absolute limit.

The series of 16 races is mostly in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales and entrants need to complete a minimum of eight to count for an overall championship place.

Andy took on the challenge this year and the first race took place back in May at Sedbergh, in the North Yorkshire Dales.

In this beautiful setting for proper fell running, Andy placed high in the field to get the championship off to a flying start.

With the races coming thick and fast, July brought the Famous Alva Games race, the only Scottish race in the series, which is a lung-bursting 1200ft of climbing packed into 1.6 miles.

It is a unique event, with almost every inch of the race, from starting pistol to finishing line, being visible to the crowds in the arena below, and has always captivated the runners and the audience alike.

It is also titled the ‘British Championship Hill Race’ and was named in the era when there were separate races for amateurs and professionals (meaning entrants could win prize money or equivalent which, of course, is common at the majority of races now in the ‘open’ era) and it was won by the Moorfoot’s own Michael McGovern in 1990 and 1993. His personal best (PB) is 20 mins 10 secs.

Being Andy’s favourite of the series, he ran a PB (22:41) finishing sixth in a high-quality field and was making steady but good progress in the overall points table.

Fast forward to October and Storm Callum certainly made his presence felt at Wasdale Head Show on Saturday past, being the last of the championship races.

With Andy having completed seven races, he had to put in a good performance to get his eighth counter to jump up the points table, especially with other runners having already completed all 15 races and having the benefits of selecting their eight best scores, as per the rules.

The rain varied from heavy to torrential as the runners waited to take on the beast that is Kirk Fell. A decision was taken to shorten the course to the scree at Highnose Head, which proved sensible, as the visibility above this point was zero.

Despite the shorter route, it was still a tough ask, packing 1300ft of climbing into the 0.6 miles to the top, and then

the descent.

The start, in classic BOFRA fashion, was through a field, over a dyke, then straight up the hill, turning at the top and heading straight back down, trying to stay upright in the process!

Easier said than done with the ground sodden, which made for some interesting slides and positions being exchanged.

The race was won by Simon Bailey (former British and English fell running champion) in 18:11. Andy came fourth in 20:45, managing to stay vertical on the descent.

Andy also finished a superb fourth place overall in the BOFRA Championship series results, scoring 427 points (out of a possible 480) from his eight selected races – a brilliant return for his efforts and commitment.

The overall series was won by Simon Bailey of Mercia, with Ted Mason of Warfedale Harriers (last year’s winner) taking second place.