Cumbrian runner Adam Perry posted a hat-trick of wins in the gruelling Fellsman event with his victory in this year’s race, run in difficult conditions.
And a newcomer to the long-distance challenge, Jasmin Paris, smashed the women’s records with a new fastest time and highest ever place for a female runner.
Heavy rain, winds and low cloud faced the 374 participants in this year’s Fellsman, which takes in most of the hills in the southern half of the Yorkshire Dales national park in a course over 97km (60 miles) with more than 3,350m (11,000ft) of ascent.
The original entry list had 479 names, but there were 105 non-starters, some of whom may have been dissuaded by the unpromising weather forecast, which offered rain, wintry showers, strong winds and falling temperatures.
Perry, who won the event last year jointly with Kim Collison and on his own in 2013, set off strongly, ahead of another three-times winner, Jez Bragg.
Remarkably, 31-year-old Paris, a member of Edinburgh’s Carnethy Hill Running Club, would stay in touch with the winners throughout, to finish fourth with a record female time of 11hrs 10mins, breaking Nicky Spinks’s 2011 time by 41 minutes.
She admitted she didn’t even know if she would be able to run the whole course, never having tackled a race of the Fellsman’s length, and had packed warm clothing in case she ended up walking to the finish.
Sedbergh resident Perry’s local knowledge of the hills paid off, with a victory over class runner Bragg of about 20 minutes, finishing in his fastest ever time of 10hrs 23mins.
Konrad Rawlik was third, and for most of the course ran together with Paris, until he broke free after the Cray checkpoint.
The threatened heavy weather, including showers of sleet and snow in the late morning, made for difficult conditions for the entrants, most of whom are now runners, though some still walk the route, in times that stretch more than 24 hours and involve long stints of night navigation across the bogs and fells of Upper Wharfedale.
Speaking to grough, Perry, a senior planning officer with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said this year’s event, its 53rd time of running, was challenging.
“Conditions were rough,” he said. “It was only over Fleet Moss that they picked up a bit and it was nice over Great Whernside at the end. There was a lot of rain, then it turned to snow.
“Then it dropped quite cold on the tops. I even had my coat on and that’s not like me. But then the wind really dropped and it was a nice finish for me.
“It was nice that the wind turned from south-westerly to north-easterly. Last year we ran into the wind all the time and that was hard work.”
For the duration of the 2014 Fellsman, Perry ran with fellow Cumbrian Kim Collison and the two crossed the line together to claim a joint first place.
This year, Collison switched to the Three Peaks Race, run on the same day and sharing two peaks, Ingleborough and Whernside, with the Fellsman runners. Collison finished 10th in the Three Peaks.
But Perry was out on his own for virtually the whole race this year, which he said benefited him in some ways. He said: “The time this year is a good half an hour quicker, but the difference is being on your own all day. It’s good in a way because you can just run your own race. If you feel really tired at any point, you can just slacken off a little bit whereas if you’ve got someone with you bounce off each other.”
He looked comfortable on the course and relaxed at the finish.
“I really enjoyed, probably, from the middle of Fleet Moss. I stopped looking over my shoulder quite so much and really started to enjoy myself.
“I might have seen [Jez Bragg] off Buckden Pike but I wasn’t sure. I saw him at Redshaw. He was just getting round to Snaizeholme and I thought I could just see him then. I felt there was a good six minutes there and I just kept going.
“Six minutes on that terrain is a lot to make up. If you can keep moving, you just keep making it harder and harder for them.
“Obviously, when there’s someone like Jez behind you, it keeps you looking back.”
He didn’t see the finer weather in the second half of the Fellsman as necessarily a good thing.
The race winner said: “I was kind of hoping for a little bit of mist over Dodd Fell and Fleet Moss. I felt I had a good line; I thought it would give me a good advantage but: so, so.
“I thought that would play positively into my hands, but you just take what comes.”
He admitted two previous wins put some pressure on him in this year’s event.
“It was even more difficult this year,” he said. “Mentally it’s very difficult setting off. The first four or five hours, you’re just thinking: there’s a long way to go; I know what’s coming.
“You’ve just got to run strong and keep a really good rhythm. There’s no point in going faster than you can do but at the same time you’ve always got to just push yourself – stay just inside of the red.”
When we suggested he was becoming a Fellsman fixture, in the mould of 11-times winner Mark Hartell, he laughed off the suggestion. Adam Perry said: “I’ve got a long way to go to fill Mark Hartell’s boots.”
When asked what’s next, the 27-year-old quipped: “The pub.” But then he revealed he has plans to challenge Hartell’s Lakeland 24-hour record of 77 summits in one day, after coming close in 2014.
The Helm Hill Runners member said: “I had a go at the Lakeland 24-hour challenge last year so I think I’m probably going to have another go at that to try to beat Mark Hartell’s record.”
Three-times winner Jez Bragg, a member of The North Face’s athletes squad, had to settle for second place, one better than last year. He agreed the event was hard this year.
“It was tough conditions. Pretty windy and wet to start with, the first four or five hours. I think you’re using more energy than usual, just to maintain your body temperature.
“Adam went flying off. I thought he’ll either have blinder or he might start slowing up, but he put 10 minutes into me and it just stayed at 10 minutes. Every checkpoint I was asking, and it was always 10 minutes, so I thought: I’ll have a proper go on this next section, and then it’s still 10 minutes.
“Then going across Fleet Moss, I think he must just have had a much better line from Yockenthwaite Moor to Hell Gap and he pushed it away to 17 minutes and that was that really. So all credit to him; he had a great run.
“I threw everything at it. I’m reasonably fit at the minute. Obviously it was a bit slower because it was wet and cold and windy, so all in all I’m pretty pleased with the time.
“It was windy and wet and then it went cold so you’re soaked through and then the temperature drops off and you’re putting on your jacket and you’re soaking wet; and your soaking wet gloves. You just have to keep moving.”
Bragg travelled up from the South-West to take part in an event he rates. “It was a great day. It always is,” he said. “I love it; so many friendly Yorkshire people. It’s unique. The checkpoint staff come out with some absolute classics. One lady said: “If your mother could see you, she’d tell you to get in the bath.”
“I live down in Dorset now, but any excuse to come up here. I haven’t been round any of the course since last year, so I was trying to get my head around it but it does come back, section by section.
“I know [Adam] has some sharper lines. Just 30 seconds, a minute here and there.”
The ultrarunner, who has won the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc and broken the record for the 3,060km (1,900-mile) Te Araroa Trail down the length of New Zealand, revealed he too has plans for the rest of the year.
“I’m doing a Ramsey Round this year: 24 munros at the end of May,” he said. “I’m up there the week after next to spend 10 days just looking it properly. I’m pretty good at it; just a bit of fine tuning really.
“Then I’m doing a race called the Dragon’s Back, so that’s a bit of a classic. Then, there’s a race similar to UTMB around Mount Fuji in Japan. It’s another big one; you get a couple of thousand runners, so my wife and I are going to run that this year.”
But the Yorkshire race keeps drawing him back. “I absolutely love the Fellsman. The trouble is, I won the first three and then the expectation’s there. I was third last year then second this year.” He said he’s been competing in ultrarunning events for some time now. “I’ve been at it for 12 years now. You start to lose your freshness.”
Yet his finishing time would have won the race last year.
First-time Fellsman entrant Jasmin Paris came a record-breaking fourth overall, smashing the women’s record time by 41 minutes. The runner, a native of the Peak District who now lives in Edinburgh, has attempted to take part before. She said: “It’s the first time I’ve run the Fellsman. I have actually entered before but I just got unlucky, getting injured.”
Her goal was simply to get round the course, never having competed at such a distance previously.
“I just went out to get round and enjoy it. I think I’ve managed that. The main aim for me before we set off was to try not to get grouped. We got to Park Rash about six o’clock so we were fairly safe.
“Then the main thing was just to get round and have fun. I’ve not really run that far before. I think the furthest I’ve run was about 47 miles. I didn’t really know what would happen.
“I guess I really just set off on a race and go at the pace I think I can sustain, but having no experience of running that far, I didn’t know what pace that was. I probably went off a little bit fast at the start. I suffered a little bit after Redshaw.
“Adam Perry was out front but we ran with Jez Bragg up from Dent, but as we left Dent and started that climb, that’s when he decided it was time to start running and that’s when he left us behind.”
She was with Konrad Rawlik for most of the race. He came in third overall, a position he has achieved before, but this year he posted his fastest time.
“He knew the way, which was helpful,” Paris said. “At the start I was running a bit ahead of him, at the very first bit.
“Then at Park Rash he left me. We saw somebody potentially coming up behind us. I don’t know if it was a walker, but at that point he had more in the legs. He was running for third place really, so I said just go. I’d been telling him to go anyway.
“I’m really pleased. It’s a race I’ve really wanted to do for a few years, so I’m really pleased to have come and done it.”
She is another fan of the Fellsman. Paris said: “It has the right kind of atmosphere. All the checkpoints are really friendly, and all the volunteers. I think it’s partly because it was primarily a walkers’ event and I think it’s kept that atmosphere about it. So it doesn’t feel like one of the big international races.
“The Three Peaks is really different. I ran that a couple of years ago. It has things that are good about it, but it is really different. I come from a walking background.
“The longest race I’ve done is the High Peak Marathon, which is about 42 miles, but we got lost one year and ran an extra five.
“I’m the kind of person who thought I would rather walk round than not finish. I don’t know if I’ve ever not finished a race apart from when I really got injured.
“I probably would have walked round but I wasn’t convinced I would be running the last bit of it. I took quite a lot of warm clothes with me just because I didn’t know if I’d be walking or running and I didn’t know if I was going to be grouped at the end.”
The Fellsman, run by Keighley Scout Service Network, was originally run in early May, but land managers forced the change to late April.
The route passes over Ingleborough, Whernside, Gragareth, Great Coum, Blea Moor, Great Knoutberry, Dodd Fell, Middle Tongue, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside before finishing at Threshfield.