Race Report by Jez Brown
April 25th 2015 – 61st Three Peaks Fell Race
7 days of unbroken blue skies, one day of heavy rain, hail and snow, no prizes for guessing what the conditions were like when Simon Roberts and I travelled over to Horton in Ribblesdale for this classic fell race. 23 miles and 5270 feet of ascent over the hills of Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, with long stretches of track and fields in between the climbs.
The Three Peaks race has a real sense of occasion, and history, and it is a race I have wanted to do for many years, after an early start we arrived an hour before the 10.30 start and desperately tried to keep warm in the excellent marquee and other facilities provided by the race organisers. It was good to see a strong turnout from other local clubs including Helsby and Tattenhall runners, as well as elite and club runners from the whole of the UK.
More used to a field of less than 100 runners at fell races, it was great to see a field of over 900 runners, at least there would be no chance of getting lost, during the race there were always people nearby to run with or behind, with a friendly atmosphere.
After the race briefing which no one could hear anyway (probably along the lines of” be careful out there, and take all your kit”), we set off. After a mile of road, we turned up a track which gently climbed, then climbed steeply until the top of Penyghent. It didn’t take long before we were surrounded by cloud, and it was a relief to turn away from the strong wind at the top and carefully descend down the rocky path. Nice to have the support of some of the runners who were on their way up, and unusual to see a 5k marker on a fell race (30 minutes for a 5k not great, but there was a hill in the middle !).
The leaders were well ahead by now, with a stream of runners ahead in the distance, along a stony undulating track, which led to the spectacular sight of the Ribblehead viaduct.
Incredible support here and at all the other checkpoints too, including on the extremely cold and windy summits. I was running alongside (then well behind) the first lady for a lot of the route, so I pretended the support and shouts of encouragement were for me as well, which really kept me going!
As if we were not yet wet enough, a shallow river crossing was next, then the steeper climb of Whernside, which was boggy and tough going. The 20k marker was here, I worked out in my head that that meant there was still a long way to go! After a rocky climb to the top, and a brief few seconds of anxiety where I felt cramp coming on, I got in to a downhill pace, and it was only a few miles before this levelled out, another check point then the final ascent of Ingleborough started.
Downhill all the way from the summit I thought it was, but it seemed a lot further than it looked on the map, and the legs were becoming tired, lots of rock dodging at this point along the limestone landscape.
After a few miles of this descent I could see the welcoming sight of the marquee and a 10 minute run in down the gentle slopes towards the village. Being very ready to finish, I thought of Dave Boothroyd, who was doing the Fellsman race in the same area today, in the same conditions, and over double the distance, and likely to be out a few more hours still, well done Dave!
Simon came in shortly after me, having thoroughly enjoyed the race, and, taking the descents far more sensibly, suffering less sore legs than me. The coffee and chilli at the end was greatly appreciated, though it took a few hours to properly feel warm again. I can definitely recommend this event to anyone who fancies giving it a go next year, it is so well organised with spectacular scenery, that would be even better on a clear day.