At the double at Kilnsey Show

FIT AND READY: Ted Mason, farmer and fell running champion at home in Appletreewick.   Picture: Chris Berry
FIT AND READY: Ted Mason, farmer and fell running champion at home in Appletreewick. Picture: Chris Berry
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A LOCAL farmer hopes to achieve a life’s ambition next week in the lung-bursting annual race up Kilnsey Crag. Chris Berry talked to him.

He started when he was 10 years old, finishing last in a local race. Now, at 32, he leads the BOFRA (British Open Fell Runners Association) championship.

Having already won at Kirkby in Furness, Cracoe and Farleton Hill, last week, Ted achieved a lifetime’s ambition when he won at Burnsall Show and Sports.

“I’d always wanted to win there because it’s my most local race,” he says.

“Although it didn’t count towards points in the championship it now means that my name is added to the plaque in the Red Lion.

“There’s nothing better than fell running. Cross country races are generally run in parks, but the scenery when you run in these races is beautiful. It’s the best sport there is.”

Ted has been crowned national champion in 2002 and 2003, but he has played second fiddle to Cumbrian quarry worker Alistair Dunn for the past six years.

Ted is determined to regain his crown this year and build on the slender lead he has opened up on his rival so far.

“There are 15 championship races and the points from your top eight races decide where you finish at the end of the season.

“I train six days a week, alternating between running and cycling.

“If I run more than 30 miles a week I start to damage my knees. I’m quite a heavy fell runner at about 12 to 12 and a half stones and so I need to be careful.

“What I’ve found is that cycling is my best form of training. It’s very beneficial to my running.

“The act of pedalling down is very similar to running up a hill, but without the pounding effect that can cause injuries.”

He won his first race when he was 19, running up Beamsley Beacon, but the one that has always eluded him, and he has longed to win since he started competing as a teenager, is next Tuesday.

Kilnsey Show is one of the county’s largest one-day agricultural shows and hosts probably the most spectacular fell race of the year.

Kilnsey Crag is a rough, tough and yet very fast test of endurance where skill and local knowledge plays its part.

“This will be my fifteenth attempt and I’d love to win there.

“There is always a massive crowd and in comparison to others in the calendar it is such a short race and keeps everyone gripped.

“It’s only one and a half miles but the atmosphere is brilliant and you have to know the course.

“Everyone wants to win at Kilnsey. Mick Hawkins’ record time is 7 mins 35 seconds, set way back in the 80s. I cannot see that ever being beaten. Just winning it will do for me.”

Ted has chosen not to run on the following day at the Great Fremington Edge Fell Race that forms part of Reeth Show. But he is running the day prior to Kilnsey at Hebden. Is this a wise move bearing in mind his ambition to win at Kilnsey?

“It’s an 11 minute run normally so I should be okay. I won’t be doing anything else between the two runs so I should still be fresh.”

Ted races in the colours of his local club Wharfedale Harriers based at Silsden and born of a merger between two Keighley racing clubs.

“When the two clubs merged to become an athletics club there were runners who preferred to be involved in a club that was committed to fell running.

“These days Wharfedale Harriers is quite a big club and has runners of all ages. It is a terrific sport to be involved with. Often it’s a very lonely sport too because you’re running for yourself, but there are team events and relays.

“Those kind of races bring about a great camaraderie.”

Matt Mason, Ted’s father, is the chief sheep steward at Kilnsey Show and a noted Swaledale breeder.

Ted, Matt and Ted’s mother Helen all work on the farm of 1,500 acres with land at Appletreewick and Kettlewell.

They run a flock of around 1,000 Swaledales and a herd of 200 cattle.

Ted also helps out at Kilnsey before show day, preparing the sheep pens and generally ensuring that the showground is ready.

The show is the largest agricultural event in Wharfedale and attracts Yorkshire’s leading cattle and sheep showmen.

There are many sheep men and women who regard Kilnsey as their show of the year.

One of its major advantages is that it provides entertainment for longer than most.

Where many agricultural shows start to fizzle out around 4.30pm Kilnsey moves into overdrive.

The fell races for juniors and adults provide absorbing contests. Their racing commentator, Roger Ingham, adds colour to the proceedings with his knowledge of the athletes.

And once the fell races have finished it is the turn of the horses and sulkies.

A full programme of harness racing then takes centre stage as the bookmakers set up for the early evening.

Ted’s prize money is usually gone by the end of the show.

“As luck would have it I usually come home in the top three or four at Kilnsey, so the money I win goes straight from me to the bookies at the harness races.”

Lord Sebastian Coe might do worse than pop along to Kilnsey next Tuesday. The fell races of Yorkshire and Cumbria would provide a wonderful alternative to the track and field events of the 2012 Olympics.

And they might just provide a UK winner.

* Kilnsey Show, Tuesday, August 30 . Reeth Show, Wednesday, August 31.