THREE PEAKS RACE 23.3 MILES / 5279 FT
Imagine a five mile fell race up and down a hill in the Yorkshire Dales. Now imagine a five mile multi-terrain race, now another fell race, tougher than the first, now a five mile cross country race, and now another hill race, tougher still. Add them all together and you have some idea of “The 3 Peaks”. Add in a bitingly cold wind and frequent rain and hail showers and Alan and I could be forgiven for wondering whether dodging the London Marathon for this was such a bright idea. But the 3 Peaks, first run in 1954, is one of the biggest and best races in the fell running calendar.
The first peak, Pen-y-ghent, was ticked off with relative ease and the long undulating trail section to Ribblehead seemed to fly by. I had been looking forward to seeing the famous Ribblehead Viaduct but when it finally emerged out of the gloom it seemed strangely unimpressive, dwarfed by the imposing bulk of Whernside behind it. It is tempting to be over optimistic at this point with the watch indicating that over half the distance has already been covered, and in less than two hours, but as we had been warned the race doesn’t really start until Whernside. The main walkers path and public right of way goes round the back of the hill but on race day the landowners permit a direct ascent which starts off steep, then gets steeper, and is a hands and knees job by the time you approach the summit. After a painfully slow descent in slippery conditions with jelly legs there was time to eat a Mars bar on the relatively flat section before the next big climb to the top of Ingleborough the third (and mercifully last) of the three peaks. From here there are still about five miles to go, mostly down hill and with the wind (and rain and hail) at your back but the rocky terrain is hard to run on especially on tired legs and it was a great relief when the village of Horton finally came into view. The free hot food in the spacious marquee at the finish was very welcome as was the live music and well stocked bar. I will be back!
Of the nearly 1000 entered 752 started and 670 finished, a few of the DNFs required the assistance of the mountain rescue and in one case the air ambulance but as I understand it there was no lasting damage. There were some familiar names at the front of the field including Carl Bell of Keswick AC who won the Edale Skyline earlier this year and Ricky Lightfoot who has won the Borrowdale multiple times, but both were soundly beaten here by relative newcomer Brennan Townshend (also of Keswick AC) in a time of 2:50:22. Victoria Wilkinson won the ladies race for the 5th time in 3:20:01.
373rd Clem Dixon 4:36:45 595th Alan Black 5:07:54