Neil Talbott on his way to victory in the Fellsman. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Neil Talbott on his way to victory in the Fellsman. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The winner of this year’s gruelling Fellsman event in the Yorkshire Dales said he was thrilled to bits to have won the race at the first attempt.

Cumbria-based Neil Talbott headed the field of 341 starters to take the winner’s trophy in the 60-mile race over 10 fells in the Yorkshire Dales.

He arrived at the finish in Threshfield in a time of 11hrs 16mins 23secs, 28 minutes ahead of second-place runner Stuart Walker. Lawrence Eccles took third place, completing the course almost 40 minutes behind Talbott.

Fastest woman was Jessica Richardson who finished in 18th position with a time of 14hrs 9mins 40secs.

A total of 261 competitors completed the course, with Andrew Fowler last man home in 28hrs 52mins 32secs.

The victory for the 36-year-old software programmer was the more remarkable as he had never run a single-day ultra-marathon previously, though he has completed 24-hour challenges the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley Rounds.

The Ambleside AC member said he was ‘pretty pleased and surprised’ to claim victory on his first outing. He admitted he was hoping for bad weather, which suits his style.

“It was a bit hot for me,” Talbott said. “I feel bad saying this, but I always hope for lousy weather on races – that gives me an advantage.

Stuart Walker arrives at the Fellsman finish in Threshfield. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Stuart Walker arrives at the Fellsman finish in Threshfield. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“A week ago I was thinking, brilliant, and then it got better and better but by today there was no rain forecast, so I think today was the first time I’ve won a race on a good day.

“I struggled with hydration. I picked up a litre of water at every checkpoint, but still got dehydrated. But otherwise it was a nice run around Yorkshire.”

Problems with one of the late checkpoint locations almost derailed his progress.

“Approaching Yockenthwaite Moor, or Middle Tongue as it’s called, I was feeling a bit average there. I thought, it’s not that far to Hell Gap and then to Cray. I feel like I nailed the line from Fleet Moss to Middle Tongue and I came over the crest and thought, I’m going to see a tent here and there was no tent.

“I didn’t know what to do, because I knew I was in the right place, so thought, well maybe they’re a bit low, so I went down. I went round the side, went back up and got my map out and I was panicking. Then, because you’re panicking, you’re probably working a bit hard.

“It felt like 15 minutes; it was probably less than 10 but eventually I thought, I’m going to have to go, so I went and five minutes later I saw the two guys and got my tally clipped. But the damage was done. That extra time made me feel very low so I felt pretty bad at Cray.

“But I also knew there was a big climb coming up and I’m better at climbing than I am at running so I thought just ease into Cray. I had a coffee at Park Rash and I felt much better than I expected coming down off Great Whernside.

“I thought that bit from Capplestone Gate to Yarnbury, I would absolutely detest, but I felt I was doing quite well. But the Tarmac was awful; I hate Tarmac – all the Tarmac but especially the last bit.”

The event entails navigating a route round some remote fells and moorland, but Talbott said preparation was the key to his win. “On the bits that are open access or rights of way, I’ve done one recce.

Lawrence Eccles took third place. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Lawrence Eccles took third place. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“I’ve studied the map very hard, so I knew what was coming. I knew what I was going to do. The first four hours I was with Lawrence Eccles. He’s done it, I don’t know, about the eight times, so he knew the short cuts so that was quite useful. But after that it was just based on preparation.

“I had a bit of a lead coming into Dent, then I somehow managed to take the wrong road out of Dent. Of all the places to make a navigational error, on a road, it’s pretty embarrassing. So I went from probably being two minutes up to a minute down there. But I think I got a very good line at Blea Moor and I don’t think Lawrence got a great line and I actually overtook him on that climb.

“I didn’t see him again until descending off Great Knoutberry where you backtrack, so I knew then I’d got maybe three minutes on him.

“I was actually more worried about Stu Walker, who was in third, because he looked really really comfortable early on. I thought Lawrence was probably going a bit too fast. I thought I was going a bit too fast to be honest but Stu just looked really comfortable.

“But I didn’t pass Stu until I was at the bottom of the hill and I thought, that’s more than I was expecting. From that point on, I didn’t see anybody.”

The Fellsman victory in part compensates for disappointment in the Dark Mountains event where a late navigation error led to non-placement in the leaderboard.

“We were leading coming into the finish, made a daft navigational error, went slightly off-bounds and got disqualified. I still can’t quite believe we did that.

“Until this year, I’ve always thought this kind of event was too ‘runnable’ for me. I don’t really do ultras as such. I’ve never done a half marathon or marathon or 10k; I’ve never done a trail race. But I thought this was just rough enough that it might suit me. If it had been twice the climb it would certainly have suited me but I didn’t know how I’d cope with the running.”

Conditions on the Yorkshire Dales hills were relatively benign. “It was fine underfoot.” Talbott said at the finish. “I just have more insulation than most fellrunners and I know I’m really dehydrated now and I can’t drink any more. I was really struggling with stomach cramp, particularly on the road coming down. I couldn’t have eaten or drunk anything else but I’m dehydrated so I don’t know how to deal with that.

“It feels surreal really, to have won. It’s certainly the biggest running event I’ve ever won, because I tend to do rough terrain events such as mountain marathons and rough fell races. It’s only really been in the past six months that I’ve started to improve my running a bit.

“I did the Dragon’s Back last year and what that showed me was that the guys who were winning that, the top couple of guys, were just much much better than me at pure running. So I’ve made a conscious effort at getting a bit better at that.

Neil Talbott starts his ascent of the final fell, Great Whernside. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Neil Talbott starts his ascent of the final fell, Great Whernside. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“Until this year, I’ve always thought this kind of event was too ‘runnable’ for me. I don’t really do ultras as such. I’ve never done a half marathon or marathon or 10k; I’ve never done a trail race. But I thought this was just rough enough that it might suit me. If it had been twice the climb it would certainly have suited me but I didn’t know how I’d cope with the running.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to bits.”

He’s now looking forward to tackling a mountain marathon again. “I’ve won the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon A-class a few years ago. That was in 2011 and I haven’t done the LAMM since, but I’m going to do it this year on the Isle of Harris, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

The Fellsman was first run in 1962 and involves about 11,000ft of ascent over Ingleborough, Whernside, Gragareth, Great Coum, Blea Moor, Great Knoutberry Hill, Dodd Fell, Yockenthwaite Moor, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside. The event starts in Ingleton and finishes in Threshfield and is organised by Keighley Scout Service Team.

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