The weather gods smiled sweetly upon Kirkby in Furness on Saturday, in contrast to many other parts of Northern England. Sunshine and skittish clouds filled the sky as 54 seniors and 70 juniors lined up for their respective races as part of Kirkby Gala. The senior route starts, and ends, in the gala field and is a challenging, 4.3 mile, double summit race taking in Out Park and Bank House Moor. The race starts with a mad sprint as runners aim to be first through the narrow stile to leave the gala field. Now on the road, there is a climb to the fields at Beck Side and a now seemingly endless steep climb through grazing fields, over barbed wire fences and walls to reach the fell proper and the first summit at Out Park. Turning right, the course soon becomes undulating moorland as runners descend to the cattle grid, and the second climb through heather to Bank House Moor. A sharp right turn onto a gnarly track commences the first of two return descents. Runners meet the cattle grid again and now have to climb back up Out Park and the steep descent back to the gala field. If runners avoided the thistles on the way up, they can’t on the way down. Speedy descents through steep, thistle filled fields leave many with multiple prickle marks to display as badges of honour. For those who like it, there are even ample bogs around the course to wet and cool the feet on a warm day! In previous years it has been known for novices and the experienced alike, to lose their way along the heather moorland and return via alternative routes.
This year’s winner certainly didn’t get lost. From the start, the senior race was a battle for supremacy. However, by the time the return had begun, Mercia’s Simon Bailey, described as “an animal” by his closest rival, had a clear lead over the rest. In the event, he stormed around the course to set a new record of 29:49 mins. 2nd place went to Barlick’s Jimmy Craig (32.04) and 3rd man home was Kirkby local, Josh Hartley (35.08).
Winner of the ladies race was Barlick team mate Angela Donlan (41.46), followed by Pippa Barrett (U/A) (43.15) and Mercia’s Kirstin Bailey (43.52).
The U17 race was won by Helm Hill’s Jacob Aubrey (19.09). 2nd and 3rd boys were Dallam’s Reuben Copley (19.16) and Wharfedale Harriers’ Adam Gibson (20.23). 1st girl was Clayton le Moors Briony Holt (22.57), continuing her excellent form this season. 2nd and 3rd girls were Wharfedale’s Emily Jones (36.14) and Settle Harriers’ Emily Carpenter (27.37).
The U14 boys’ race was won by Settle’s Thomas Marshall (14.47) with Wharfedale brothers Alex (15.14) and Will Thompson (15.20) in 2nd and 3rd place respectively. The winner of the girls race was Wharfedale’s Alice Jones (17.02), followed by Rossendale Harriers’ Lauryn Gregg (17.51), 2nd, and Helm Hill’s Lottie Beardwood (18.00), 3rd.
The U12 race was another clear win for Helm Hill’s Henry Hunter (9.07) with Calder Valley’s James Duffy (9.27) and Ilkley Harriers’ Lewis Carr (9.30) 2nd and 3rd respectively. The girls’ race was won by Clayton le Moors Ella Dorrington (9.53). 2nd and 3rd girls were Keighley and Craven’s Beth Roberts(9.59) and Broughton Runners Emily Swarbrick (10.04).
In contrast to the other races, the U9 race doesn’t leave the gala field. This year, the senior winner, Simon Bailey, hared the U9s round their course to avoid confusion and collisions! The race was won by Settle’s Jack Sanderson (2.39). Simon’s son, Oliver Bailey was 2nd (2.42) and Hoad Hill harriers’ Oliver Oldham was 3rd (2.54). 1st girl was Keighley and Craven’s Neive Roberts (3.02). 2nd and 3rd girls were Pudsey and Bramley’s Melissa Walker (3.16) and Teesdale AC’s Rosie Dry (3.24).