Runners ascend Pen-y-ghent in a previous race, with Ingleborough and Whernside in the distance

Runners ascend Pen-y-ghent in a previous race, with Ingleborough and Whernside in the distance

Four former winners will be chasing a £500 bounty for smashing the race record in a gruelling ‘marathon with mountains’ at the weekend.

Organisers of the Three Peaks Race in the Yorkshire Dales are offering the prize for any runner who beats the 19-year-old course record.

Andy Peace of Bingley Harriers set the fastest time over the 37km (23-mile) route in 1996, with a time of 2hrs 46mins 3secs.

This year’s race, which ascends Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, has attracted the maximum 1,000 entrants.

Among challengers will be Rob Jebb, 40, of Bingley Harriers, who won in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. He came home in third place in 2014 behind the race winner Ricky Lightfoot and the 2011 victor Tom Owens, both Salomon International runners – the event’s main sponsor.

The three runners are all on the 2015 entry list. Last year Lightfoot, from Maryport, Cumbria, finished in 2hrs 53mins 16secs. Owens, from Glasgow, took 29 minutes to the top of Pen-y-ghent, 10 seconds faster than Lightfoot, but crossed the line in 2hrs 56mins 13secs.

But organisers said all eyes will be on another Salomon International runner, Joe Symonds, who won in 2012 and 2013 and is returning in an attempt to equal the achievement of his father Hugh Symonds, of Kendal Athletics Club, the winner in 1984, 1985 and 1987.

Symonds, 31, who works as a paediatrician at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, was absent from the Three Peaks Race in 2014. He was brought up at Sedbergh in Cumbria and used to train on the Three Peaks. His best time is 2hrs 54mins 39secs in 2013.

Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic, who holds the women's record

Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic, who holds the women's record

A £500 bonus is also on offer to the women’s prizewinner who beats the record of 3hrs 14mins 43secs set by Anna Pichrtova of the Czech Republic, who competed when the Three Peaks hosted the World Mountain Running Challenge in 2008.

Previous winners Anna Lupton, of Black Coombe Runners, and Victoria Wilkinson, of Bingley Harriers, both 36, are entered in 2015. Based on past form, Wilkinson has the best chance of claiming a new record and the £500 prize. In 2014 she set a time of 3hrs 21mins 32secs – just over six minutes outside the record.

The race, which is being held for the 61st time, is regarded as one of the toughest but most popular events in the fellrunning calendar. Entrants have to satisfy qualifying criteria to gain a place, but many come back year after year. Few have the stamina of 71-year-old Dave Scott from Clayton-le-Moors Harriers. He is returning for his 48th race.

The Three Peaks Race starts from the playing field at Horton in Ribblesdale at 10.30am on Saturday, 25 April.
Leading runners should be on the summit of Pen-y-ghent at 10.55am, at Ribblehead at 11.40am, Whernside summit at 12.10pm; Hill Inn at 12.25pm, Ingleborough summit at 12.50pm and finishing from 1.15pm.

Organisers warned there is no spectator parking on the roadside or on Philpin Lane at the Hill Inn checkpoint at Chapel-le-Dale and it is only available in the quarry west of the viaduct at Ribblehead.

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  4. ‘Mission accomplished’ as Victoria Wilkinson breaks women’s Three Peaks record
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