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Yorkshire Three Peaks Fell Race 2015

3 Peaks Fell Race – 25th April 2015 – 23.2 miles / 5,276ft

A Love & Hate Relationship

I’ve done this race 4 times now & I wouldn’t be the first to say that I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.

Its part fell race, part trail race & part road race, so you could say something for everybody. However it’s also one of the hardest races to pace that I know. The short sharp climb up Pen Y Ghent followed by an hour or so run up the valley to the next climb up Whernside.  The valley being where it is so very easy to go too fast on the gently undulating trail, & then suffer the consequences later.

I have a vivid memory of Neil Armitage doing just this. He ended up flat on his back, gasping like a fish out of water, at the top of the hands on knees rocky climb up to the saddle of Ingleborough.

A liberal dosing of water & jelly babies eventually got him moving again & he tottered off towards Horton hopefully a wiser man.

People do love it though, coming back year after year, some for 40 or more, incredible really.

In a strange way it’s kind of addictive, because of its length & prestige, you are drawn back seeking a PB, hoping for perfect training, followed on race day by perfect pacing & weather. The lure of a first class certificate – anything between 3hrs 15mins & 3hrs 40mins – like the crack cocaine of fell running.  An elite certificate of below 3hrs 15mins being beyond the majority of us mere mortals.

This year Ricky Lightfoot certainly proved himself to be some kind of mythical creature by returning to win it for the second time in a row, in a time of 2.51.42, and then shooting off early to get back to his night shift as a fireman.

The maroon & gold performances weren’t quite so epic but we did come up with some of those elusive PB’s. Pretty impressive really as the visibility was poor accompanied by a good deal of lashing cold rain.

A top run then by Niall Bourke for a PB of 3.34.51 (1st Class Certificate) shortly followed by Martin Hurst in 3.39.48 (1st Class Certificate) Another PB I think as it’s the first time he’s done it.

Also a special mention to Graham Pilling, for a PB, of 4.04.59 (2nd Class certificate), knocking just the 35 minutes off his previous best and Rachel Pilling also got a PB of 4.23.51.

I trotted round with my new Pudsey & Bramley buff keeping the chill from my brain as I mulled over the pros & cons of this iconic race.

Things I hate about the 3 Peaks:

  • The tarmac roads, gravel bridleways & stone flagged paths – every year there are more & more to accommodate the pesky walkers. Soon it will be just the last few steps to each summit on actual mud & rock.
  • The cost – in the fell racing world £25 is steep for a couple of marquees & some food. By contrast the Tour of Pendle at 17 miles manages to provide the race entry & T shirt for £7. Maybe lots of money goes to charity or something and I know it requires a good deal of organisation because of the number of competitors but either way I prefer my races small & simple – still way better value than any road 10k though!

Things I love about the 3 Peaks:

  • The organisation – like clockwork & plenty of marshals
  • The atmosphere – doesn’t seem to matter what the weather does, there are always plenty of folk about to offer sweets, drinks, & warm words of encouragement. So in order of their appearance this year thank you to Mick Hill, Mathew Seddon, Clare Green, Jamie Noon, Suzy Sharman and Alex Jones. Plus a mystery guest spot from Harry Dalby at Ribblehead.
  • The location – when not obscured by the mist or horizontal rain it is a most gorgeous part of the countryside.
  • The challenge – see above about PB’s

So which runs out as the winner for me. Well as I said I’ve raced it 4 times now, but equally been round it, or parts of it on numerous other times. I think I have enjoyed it most when not actually racing it………….running round with Andrew Birkinshaw trying to get him his PB, or the time when I went up Pen Y Gent & then Ingleborough to watch the top boys in full flight.

On balance then, & as I really am not a fan of tarmac/trail running, I think I’m falling on the side of hating it. I guess I’m harking back for simpler times when, as Paul Stevenson says, you would tie your kagoule around your waist & set off hoping to get back in time for the pub closing for lunch.

So paraphrasing Sir Steve Redgrave, ‘’anybody who sees me on the start line of the 3 Peaks Fell Race again has my permission to shoot me’’.


Niall reaching for the keys to the Land Rover just before Ingleborough.


Andrew is clearly enjoying the drink more than 489 on the left.


Charlie full of smiles despite being behind a Pacer…Leigh Hinchcliffe


Graham looking strong in the early stages at High Beckwith


Matt looking solid at High Beckwith


Rach smiling as Dave Woodhead cheers her on (Photo by Dave @ Woodentops)

Niall Bourke 69th 03:34:51 (1st Class). Martin Hurst 94th 03:39:48 (1st Class). Charlie McIntosh 114th 03:44:38 (2nd Class).  Graham Pilling 232nd 04:04:59 (2nd Class). Rachel Pilling 372nd 04:23:51 (2nd Class). Andrew Birkinshaw 542nd 04:49:34 (Standard).  (Matt Lockyer had to drop out due to injury.)

Full results available here

PS Mistaken identity of the day, by a race photographer on Ingleborough – Matthew Seddon for Ricky Lightfoot.

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