The first recorded traverse of the Three Peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough was in 1887 when two teachers from Giggleswick School, near Settle, claimed to have completed the walk in 10 hours. Gradually the Three Peaks Walk became an accepted feat of endurance and walking times of between five and six hours were claimed during the 1920s and early 1930s.
The first race over the Three Peaks was organised in 1954. It started and finished at Chapel-le-Dale and the winner was Fred Bagley in 3hrs 48mins. There were six starters and only three finishers. The race venue continued to be at Chapel-le-Dale until 1974. By then starters had increased to 280. The numbers meant the start and finish had to be relocated to Horton-in-Ribblesdale where it remains.
The record circuit from Chapel-le-Dale is 2hrs 29mins 53secs by Jeff Norman in 1974. This remains the fastest recorded traverse of the Three Peaks. On the current course, the record of 2hrs 46mins 03secs is held by Andy Peace, an international runner from Bingley Harriers. Since the Race Golden Jubilee in 2014, organisers have offered a £500 bonus prize for men’s and women’s record breakers.
Following a tragedy in severe weather in 1978, revised safety regulations and race control procedures were introduced and minimum experience qualifications were imposed on all entrants. The Race route was modified to cope with larger fields following the move to Horton-in-Ribblesdale and further changes were made to the section between Pen-y-ghent and Whernside in 1983 to meet environmental requirements. A series of changes has lengthened the course.
The prestige of the Three Peaks Race – now billed as “The Marathon with Mountains” - was acknowledged by the World Mountain Running Association in 2008 when it was chosen to host the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge. This involved upgrading many areas of the organisation and the introduction of on-line entry.
The entry limit was increased to 1,000, but this will remain the maximum to protect the environment and ensure safety standards. The popularity of the Three Peaks route makes it a high-profile event that receives considerable media attention and the Race has been featured in several television documentaries.
Ladies competed for the first time in 1979 with Jean Lochhead winning in 3hrs 43mins 12secs. The ladies’ record is held by Victoria Wilkinson, who set a time of 3hrs 9mins 19secs in 2017- beating the previous record set by Czech international runner Anna Pichrtova in 2008 by over five minutes. Victoria, who claimed the £500 record breaking bonus prize, finished 13th overall, the highest race position achieved by a lady.
Today the Three Peaks has the inov-8 all-terrain specialist equipment company as its main sponsor. The Daily Mirror sponsored the Race for 28 years up to 1991. Subsequent sponsors have included BT, Pace Micro Technology, Multiflight Ltd, Northern Rail, Salomon, Hanson, Craven District Council, Welcome to Yorkshire, TransLinc and Pete Bland Sports. Sponsorship enables a generous prize list including men’s, ladies’ and veterans’ team prizes as well as an abundance of trophies.
A special award is made to runners who have completed 21 races (men) or 15 races (ladies). Before the start of the 2018 race, 48 runners, including five ladies, have qualified, but only two have achieved the “double”. In 2009 Dave Scott (Clayton-le-Moors) completed his 42nd race and in 2013 Wendy Dodds (also Clayton-le-Moors) completed her 30th.
The Three Peaks Race Association
The Three Peaks Race Association has past and present members of fell running clubs to ensure its essential character is maintained through its second half century. However, the Race – long regarded as one of the iconic events in the calendar – now brings 21st century expertise to its organising committee in the interests of safety, efficiency and the minimum impact on the landscape.
Those planning the Race include representatives from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the Radio Amateurs’ Emergency Network - RAYNET and Horton-in-Ribblesdale Playing Fields Association. Race Director Paul Dennison will have mountain rescue experts from the Cave Rescue Organisation and the Yorkshire Ambulance Service in attendance and will use the electronics of SPORTident and Boundless Networks to produce individual times from each checkpoint - handed to all runners as they cross the finish line.
But the Race could not be held without the goodwill of farmers and landowners or the work of around 200 volunteers who marshal, carry out timing and provide radio safety cover on the 23-mile course in all weathers. Work in setting-up the Start/Finish area and the course begins several days before the race and continues until Sunday when everything is packed away for another year.
The safety of competitors has a very high priority in race organisation. Changeable weather in the Yorkshire Dales, particularly at the end of April when winter can still return, means it is essential that we are able to take prompt action to help any runner in difficulty. All competitors carry an electronic chip which, with the aid of radio communications, enables Race Control to know everyone’s location on the course.
Mike davies 1933 - 2012
It is with deep regret that we record the passing of one of the true greats of Three Peaks racing. Mike Davies died at the age of 79 from a heart attack early in October 2012.
Race Winners from 1954 to date
Click below for a full list of Race Winners from the inaugural race in 1954 to date
Competitors with multiple completions
Click below for a full list of Competitors who have completed 21 (men) or 15 (Ladies) from 1954 to date.