Jez Bragg on his way to victory in last year's Fellsman

Jez Bragg on his way to victory in last year's Fellsman

One of Britain’s top ultrarunners has confirmed he will defend his title later this month in one of the country’s toughest long-distance challenges.

The North Face athlete Jez Bragg will return to the hills and moors of the Yorkshire Dales in an attempt to repeat his record-breaking win in the Fellsman, a 97km (60-mile) race celebrating its 50th running.

The Dorset-based runner smashed the event’s 20-year-old record last year, reaching the finish at Threshfield in 10hrs 6mins, five minutes faster than A Ratcliffe’s 1991 time.

With favourable conditions, Bragg must have an eye on breaking the 10-hour barrier in the event, which crosses Ingleborough, Whernside, Gragareth, Great Coum, Great Knoutberry, Dodd Fell, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside, and entails almost 3,500m (11,480ft) of ascent. The route passes through three counties.

The race, which began as the Fellsman Hike in 1962 with 57 starters and only 15 finishers, has been moved forward two weeks from its traditional May date after concerns about the effect on moors used for shooting from land managers on the route. 500 walkers and runners are expected to start the event in the village of Ingleton.

The Fellsman has been run for all but its first four years by Keighley Scouts Service Team.

Bragg is a past winner of the gruelling Ultra-Tour du Mont Blanc, the 166km (103-mile) circuit around western Europe’s highest peak.

He said: “I’m delighted to be running this year’s Fellsman and joining in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary event.

“It’s remarkable to think the event has been going so long and continues to go from strength to strength with sell-out fields and brilliant organisation.

“The real draw of the Fellsman is the true test it provides not only through the distance involved, but also the wild terrain, navigation and elements of self-sufficiency. It’s a great test for any endurance enthusiast and it seems to lure me back time after time like it does many others.

“Setting the record last year was a big highlight of my season, but I know the standard of competition will be even greater this year, as will the expectation to do something special in the 50th anniversary year.

“As ever the weather forecast will play a big part, and plenty of respect for the course is also an absolute must to even finish. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be another great event.”

The last to finish the event are expected to take up to 30 hours.

The race starts at Ingleborough Community Centre, Ingleton, at 9am on Saturday 28 April, with the last competitors expected at the finish at Upper Wharfedale School, Threshfield, by 3pm the following day.

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