The Three Peaks Race, often called the ‘marathon with mountains’, is the longest standing ‘long’ fell race in the UK. At a length of over 23 miles, and with over 5,000 feet of ascent, it is an iconic part of the fell and mountain running calendar. From a field of just six entrants in 1954, it has grown to the point that there are entry requirements to be met, and it now attracts up to 1,000 entrants each year to this iconic Yorkshire event.
This is a history of the event from its early foundations, through two cancellations (one due to foot and mouth, the other Covid), being chosen as the venue for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge and lately being nominated as a qualifying race for UTMB World Series. The Three Peaks Race is THE mountain race that UK runners, at all levels, want to compete in, in a similar way that marathon runners want to run in the London Marathon. Some want to do it just the once, others strive to do it enough times to get the 15/21 completions award, and a crazy few keep doing it until they are no longer fit enough to make the cut-off times.
In parallel with the detailed history of the race, the stories of many characters from the seven decades in which the event has been held are explored in some depth. Historical accounts and contemporary interviews with the author tell of the individual approaches and differing success levels of many participants in the race. The many interviewees include six-time winner Jeff Norman and five-time winner Victoria Wilkinson, but also extend to runners throughout the field, and also members of the organising team, past and present.
As well as the triumphs of race winners, accounts of perennial second-placers, and of iconic running champions who never managed to win this race, there are stories of runners getting lost while in the lead, of being knocked over at a stream crossing, of stepping on a rock that turned out to be a dead sheep, and of stopping because they couldn’t take it anymore. This is the history of the race and the many characters that have stood on the start line.
Steve Chilton is the author of five previous books on fell and mountain running, all highly regarded both inside and outside the sport. He took up writing about the sport whilst still working in academia, as an Educational Development Manager. His first book, It’s a Hill, Get Over It, won the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition. He is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association. He has run in many of the classic fell races, as well as mountain marathons, and has completed the Cuillin Traverse and the Ridgeway 40. Although never having raced the Three Peaks, he did have an epic banana-fuelled training run round the course one year with three club mates. Steve is a UKA qualified middle- and long-distance coach and has coached and mentored many men and women, and young athletes, over the last four decades. He shares his life, and an allotment, with his wife Moira.