Runner Ian Holmes in action during the Three Peaks Race

Runner Ian Holmes in action during the Three Peaks Race

Hundreds of runners will find the going easier as they take part in a tough annual fell race.

The Three Peaks Race will use a new section of footpath for the first time, making navigation easier and conditions drier under foot.

The stretch of maintained footpath runs over Whitber Hill on the descent from Pen-y-ghent and avoids the notorious bogs of Black Dubb Moss and Horton Moor.

The new route, which takes walkers further along the Pennine Way before turning off and heading over Whitber Hill and Sell Gill Hill, will be put to the test on Saturday when the 59th annual Three Peaks Race gets underway.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Three Peaks area ranger Steve Hastie, who is also the Three Peaks Project manager, said: “This will be the first big event to be staged since we opened the Whitber section and we are hoping it will be a hit with the runners.

“The advantage of this new route is that it’s far easier to navigate and it’s a lot drier than the old route over Black Dubb Moss – and there are fewer stiles and gates to slow things down.”

The race will see about 750 runners gather at Horton in Ribblesdale for the start of the 37km (23-mile) route, which has 1,609m (5,279ft) of ascent over the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

The runners come from as far away as Australia, Spain and the Czech Republic, with the top competitors hoping to beat the race record for the current route of 2hrs 46mins 3secs.

The new path rises from the Pennine Way at Tarn Bar to climb Whitber Hill

The new path rises from the Pennine Way at Tarn Bar to climb Whitber Hill

Race director Paul Dennison said: “The route over Whitber avoids Black Dubb Moss, a notoriously boggy area between the descent from Pen-y-ghent and the drinks station at High Birkwith.

“The consensus is that the revised route should make it easier and quicker for runners, but we will have to see.

“Given the weather conditions over the last few months, it is unlikely that we will see a new race record, which has remained unbroken since it was set by Andy Peace of Bingley Harriers in 1996. As always, the race will be a tough challenge.”

Each year the race association gives £1 from every entry towards the Three Peaks Project, which was set up in 2009 to generate income for long-term management of the area.

It followed a report by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in 1986 which claimed that the Three Peaks’ rights of way network was the most eroded in the UK. This year the Three Peaks Project will receive more than £960 from the race.

The opening of the route last November created the first sustainable circuit for people wanting to do the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. It also opens up a shorter route for families wanting to stretch their legs by walking from Horton in Ribblesdale along Brackenbottom, up Pen-y-ghent and then down the new route and back to the start point.

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