Reigning king of the Three Peaks Rob Jebb lost his crown today to first-timer Jethro Lennox who beat a world-class field to win the 24-mile race across some of the Yorkshire Dales’ toughest terrain.
Jethro Lennox wins the Three Peaks Race 2008
The Shettleston Harrier, who had never competed in the race before, beat a field of 754 runners to take the title and a cheque for £1,000, along with the status of world long-distance mountain running champion. His fellow Glasgow training mate Tom Owens was second, with Slovenian Mitja Kosovelj third.
First woman across the finishing line at Horton in Ribblesdale was Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic, who set a new women’s course record of 3hrs 14mins 43s. 32nd overall; she too collected a prize of £1,000.
Lennox’s time of 2hrs 53mins 39s was almost two minutes slower than Jebb’s 2007 time. The three-times winner could only manage fourth today in conditions made tougher by a strong wind affecting the tops of the fells.
Lennox, speaking to grough after his victory, said: “I didn’t even know the course; I didn’t have a look at it, but it went pretty well.
“The first hour, I just sat in a group. There were some really good athletes in the group, and I thought, someone’s going to be really strong in this group and that’s who the winner’s going to be and, fortunately, it was just me who was strong on the day.”
The fact that the Three Peaks Race was this year’s world long-distance challenge drew the 31-year –old to the race: the cream of long-distance fell- and mountain runners were there to be beaten.
He continued: “I kept thinking ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die’ but I just was strong. The last ten, 15 minutes were hard, but I just managed to stick in there.”
Lennox took the lead on the ascent to Ingleborough, the final of the three peaks tackled.
“It was quite useful when the route flipped back, because I could tell how far ahead I was. I knew the Slovenian guy [Kosovelj]; I wasn’t worried about him, but I thought Tom’s going to catch me and I thought ‘I’m not going to let Tom beat me’.
“It was a really good course – superb; a bit of road-running – I felt strong in the road running; the cross-country bits, and a bit of climbing.”
Women’s winner Anna Pichrtova made the wrong choice of shoes and almost paid the price: she said she was sliding all over the place on the Pennine mud.
Speaking to grough, she said: “I’m not used to so much mud and I fell!
“Sometimes I wanted to push a bit but I couldn’t. It’s a different experience running here, but it’s good for us mountain runners to come here and experience what fellrunning is about.”
The Dales scenery made an impression on the 34-year-old. She said: “When I was running on top of Whernside it was a beautiful view. I really loved it. It’s totally different from the Alps, but I really enjoyed it.”
The threatened heavy rain held off for the event, and 685 runners completed the gruelling course, which takes in the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The race, in its 54th year, was granted World Long-Distance Mountain running Challenge status for the first time this year.
Nearly 2,000 flags were used to mark the full 24 miles of the course, and officials were on hand at Horton to test runners for drugs. Race director Paul Dennison said of organising an international event: “There was a lot of apprehension early doors, but we have an excellent committee and I felt quite relaxed all day because people were doing their jobs so well.
Runners make the climb to Pen-y-ghent
“It’s really put Horton on the map – we’ve had excellent support from Craven Council and we’ve had 21 countries represented: USA, Australia, from Europe, from Scandinavia.”
Final runner home was over 60s veteran Stephen Batley of the Skyrac club in West Yorkshire, with a time of 5hrs 41mins 56s.