On the summit of Whernside, with Ingleborough in the distanceMore than 500 super-fit athletes will be pounding the paths of the Yorkshire Dales this Sunday.

The annual Three Peaks Race, run over 24 miles (39km) with more than 5,000ft (1,600m) of ascent over the Yorkshire fells Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, will see holder Rob Jebb attempt to keep the title.

On the summit of Whernside, with Ingleborough in the distance 

A good walking time for the strenuous course is around eight to nine hours, but the winner who scales the three fells and the terrain between them usually completes the course in less than three hours.

The race starts at 10am in Horton in Ribblesdale. Expect the first runners to summit Pen-y-ghent in less than 30 minutes. Jebb, a member of Bingley Harriers, also holds the winner’s title for the Three Peaks cyclo-cross race, which is held each year in September.

If you fancy watching the racers, they’re expected on the summit of Pen-y-ghent from 10.25am, Whernside at 11.40am and Ingleborough at 12.20pm. Low-level venues to catch the action are Ribblehead and the Hill Inn, Chapel-le-Dale. Expect to see the frontrunners at 11.15am and noon respectively.

There are more than 600 runners on the entry list and up to 90 per cent of them are expected to start. Attrition rates during the race vary: very warm weather and very bad conditions both lead to a higher drop-out rate. Last year there were only about 40 retirements. The forecast for Sunday is for higher than seasonal temperatures.

Dave Hodgson, president of the Three Peaks Race Association, says Robb Jebb is probably favourite to win the race, with a strong challenge from last year’s runner-up John Heneghan and Lloyd Taggart, who beat Jebb on his home territory in the Edale Skyline race, run in bad conditions and familiar terrain to Taggart.

Only runners who qualify by taking part in other fell races are allowed to enter the Three Peaks Race. Dave Hodgson said: “A lot of people want to do the Three Peaks Race. They walk the route in eight or nine hours and they think ‘I’d like to run it’.

“But it’s a different kettle of fish running the route without fellwalking clothing and gear, which is why we insist entrants have taken part in qualifying Fell Runners’ Association races.”

Helen Sedgwick of Ilkley Harriers is favoured to repeat last year’s win in the women’s category, with Karen Davison and Jo Buckley also in the frame. Oldest competitor is Bryan Pycroft, 68, with Wendy Dodds claiming the oldest woman accolade at a sprightly 56.

The record for the event was set by Andy Peace 11 years ago with a time of 2 hours 46 mins 03 secs, a time that has proved difficult to better.

Organisers say there’s plenty of parking in the field next to the start and finish in Horton in Ribblesdale. Last runners are expected back around 3pm