The first recorded traverse of the Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside 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 which time the number of starters had increased to 280. The start and finish was then 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.
Following a tragedy in severe weather conditions 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. These changes and subsequent ones have lengthened the course. The record of 2hrs 46mins 03secs for the current route is held by Andy Peace, an international runner from Bingley Harriers.
The prestige of the Three Peaks Race 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 organization and the introduction of on-line entry. Although the entry limit was increased to 999, the need to protect the environment and ensure safety standards will prevent any further increase. 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 Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic, who recorded a time of 3hrs 14mins 43secs in 2008 when the Race hosted the World Long Distance Mountain Challenge. In 1992 Sarah Rowell, who was an English international runner, finished 15th overall, the highest race position achieved by a lady.
Today the Three Peaks has the Salomon outdoor 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, 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). 42 runners have received this award up to 2013 but only 2 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 race.
The Three Peaks Race Association
The Three Peaks Race Association has past and present representatives from fell running clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire 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 59th Race included 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 on standby 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 scores of volunteers who marshal, carry out timing and provide radio safety cover around the 23-mile course in all weathers. Their input begins in setting-up the course several days before the race and continues through Sunday.
The safety of competitors has a very high priority in race organisation. Changeable weather in the Yorkshire Dales 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 communication, enables Race Control to know everyone’s location on the course.
Click link below to read Mike Davies' account of the 1965 Race from a Competitiors point of view:
Click below to link to a list of 3 Peaks Race Winners from 1954 to 2017:
Click below to link to a list Competitors who have completed 21 (Men) or 15 (Ladies) Races from 1954 to 2017: