The 3 PEAKS RACE is a somewhat more of A CHALLENGE! Faced with ascending the 3 summits of PEN Y GHENT, at 694 mts, WHERNSIDE at 736 metres (having passed the famous Ribblehead viaduct) and finally INGLEBOROUGH at 723 metres over 23.3 miles it truly is a trial especially with a cut off target before the final ascent.
Back in the '70s when I ran it 3 times, one as a "reccie" and twice in the race itself the field was very much a mix off fell and road enthusiasts. On Saturday the swing was very much to fell runners but the race is really somewhat of a hybrid race: miles of good runnable stretches with 3 very hard climbs, shunned by fell purists as lacking tussocks and bogs whilst still attacting many more frequently seen on tarmac.
Conditions were very much as forecast last Saturday with very bright sunshine but marred for competitors and spectators alike by a chilling, gusting easterly wind. Strong enough to make running "perilous in places" as one runner reported and had watchers like myself seeking shelter in hollows in the fields or behind the charteristic dry stones walls of the Yorkshire Dales.
In 1977 387 started, 352 finished, 35 retired with 63 non-starters. This year the race reached capacity at 999 entrants, 762 of whom started with 676 finishing. On a slightly different course, JOHN CALVERT of Blackburn won in 2:51.04. This year TOM OWENS of Shettleston won in 2:53.54. But this year the gaps at the front were considerable. My 3:13.07 in 1977 was only good enough for 49th place. This year it would have been good enough for 12th place. So great to see the tremendous increase in the numbers with an appetite for this very exacting challenge; much the same as with road racing but no impact on performances at the sharp end.
So not a race for the faint hearted or ill prepared particularly in such testing conditions. 1977 was much the same except we didn't have gales to contend with. The following year we faced torrential horizontal rain; such is the nature of the area and obviously the heights reached.
One thing that struck me significantly on Saturday was the amount of food being consumed as I watched at the Hill Inn as runners faced the final summit. A veritable picnic was going on!!
The ubiquitous gels and "Go Bars", bananas, jelly babies etc. I just recall scoffing jam sandwiches 20 minutes before the start, settting off feeling somewhat bloated, but can't recall taking in anything after that. No doubt recovery took longer but lack of on route consumption didn't seem to hamper us much.
Yesterday....more to follow....I passed a runner carrying a 500 ml. bottle of energy drink around a 5K.....challenging or what?!!
Plenty of friends and locals turned out of course......
The final challenge.....Ingleborough