Brighouse’s Gray excels for GB

World Long Distance Mountain Championship 2016, Solvenia.
The GB team before the race with Calder Valley's Karl Gray on the left
World Long Distance Mountain Championship 2016, Solvenia. The GB team before the race with Calder Valley's Karl Gray on the left

Calder Valley FR’s Karl Gray was part of a Great Britain team which took a silver medal at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia.

Competing against the world’s top mountain runners, “Earl” Gray clocked a fantastic 4:00.19 to finish 12th overall last Saturday.

The 42,195km course included a whopping 9000 feet of ascent. Throw in the heat, altitude, and a host of elite rivals used to competing on alpine routes and you have some idea what our local hero was up against.

Runners gathered from across the globe in bright sunshine, taking in the fresh alpine air of the spectacular Podbrdo mountains.

With a mixture of technical terrain, complete with rocks and mud, the footing was challenging on many parts. Those with tentative descending skills were left behind by the sure-footed mountain goats.

The best runners on the day were those proficient in all types of mountain running technique. Gray’s years of experience competing at the highest level in UK and in international races ensured he maintained a strong position as those around him faltered.

Early leader Andy Wacker (USA) dropped out of the race at 28 kilometres, having set a solid pace and took a lead of nearly four minutes at the top of the first long climb. There were many positional changes after that.

Alessandro Rambaldini won in a record 3:44:52. With Marco De Gasperi second (3:46:12) and Fabio Ruga 14th (4:01:15) Italy took gold in 11:32:19 by more than five minutes.

GB had Tom Owens in fourth (3:49.34), Ricky Lightfoot sixth (3:53.30), Andrew Davies ninth (3:54.39) and Rob Hope 16th (4:01.59).

Gray gained selection after finishing fourth at Yorkshire Three Peaks race, knocking two minutes off the veterans 40 record. He lives in Brighouse and works at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in outpatient physiotherapy.

He said: “I’ve been lucky to run for England before but getting selected for GB is another level and I am really proud to have achieved that.

“I have been training really hard so that I didn’t let the very strong men’s team down.

“I had a fantastic run. I managed to pace myself well by not overdoing it on the first climb and descent.

“I think I was in 26th place at the first summit and steadily made my way up to 15th before the last climb.

“I had lost a couple of places by the summit but gave it everything on the final descent to pull through to 12th.

“It was a fantastic team performance with all five of us in the top 16 and one I am really proud to have been a part of. A fantastic experience!”