Medals haul for fell running veteran who conquered the mountains

ON THE PODIUM -- Rick Houghton (right) receives his third-place veteran 50 prize, alongside winner Dave Taylor (centre) and runner-up Mark Palmer.
ON THE PODIUM -- Rick Houghton (right) receives his third-place veteran 50 prize, alongside winner Dave Taylor (centre) and runner-up Mark Palmer.

Fell runner Rick Houghton, of Buxton, has proved it’s never too late to become a top athlete. For he has been awarded a sparkling haul of five national medals from the English and British Championships of 2015.

Houghton, who started fell running at the age of 35 with Buxton and District Athletics Club, is now 51. But that didn’t stop him finishing the season in third place in the veteran 50 category in both the English and British events.

He also picked up team medals after competing as a member of the Pennine Fell Runners team who were runners-up in the British Championships, second again last month in the British Relay Championships and also third in the English Championships.

He says his success has made all the years of training worthwhile in what is one of the toughest, but most enjoyable, sports on offer.

“It takes many years to reach peak form at fell running,” said Houghton. “This is because there are so many aspects to try and improve on -- from navigation skills and picking out good running lines to being able to endure the pain of long, sapping climbs and also being able to ‘let go’ on fast descents where a moment of indecision has the potential to lead to a serious fall.

“Although it is arguably a highly competitive sport, one of the great enjoyments of fell running is the camaraderie among those who take part. Anyone out in the mountains is in a fundamentally quite dangerous environment and so will look after his or her fellow runners as priority over the urge to finish well.”

Houghton’s 2015 season took in a total of ten races, starting in March with the five-mile Flowerscar Race at Todmorden in west Yorkshire.

It culminated with the gruelling 19-mile Seven Sevens race in Northern Ireland, which was probably the most difficult test of the year. The route comprised the seven highest peaks of the Mourne Mountains with nearly 10,000 feet of climb and descent, which he completed in a time of four hours, five minutes and finished a superb 18th overall.

Other races this season have been in Snowdonia, the Lake District, Scotland, the Long Mynd in Shropshire and the Isle Of Man.

Houghton collected his medals at the Fell Runners Association’s annual dinner and presentations at Grasmere, Cumbria. He took the opportunity to thank many people who have supported him, including Nick Allen, of Buxton Physiotherapy, who has sorted out his many injuries and niggles during the year.

“I also want to thank anyone who has trained with me, especially the Tuesday night crowd of Pennine Fell Runners Colin Wilshaw, Mark Pursell and Noel Curtis and Buxton AC runners Chris Smith, Bryan McKenna and Sol Clark,” he said.

“I reckon more younger people should have a go at fell running because there is not much more enjoyable than a day out running in the midst of our beautiful British mountains.”