Last year's winner Garry Greenhow is doubtful for the start. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Last year's winner Garry Greenhow is doubtful for the start. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Hundreds of runners will be hoofing up and down the hills of the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, as the Three Peaks Race returns to its traditional spring slot.

Four former winners of the event are expected to take part in Saturday’s challenge, with a £500 bonus on offer for beating the men’s and women’s records.

The overall fastest time has stood for 24 years, with Andy Peace setting the record for the 37.4km (23¼-mile) course over Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

The Bingley Harrier set his 2hrs 46mins 3secs time in 1996 and it has not been beaten even when the event hosted the world long-distance mountain running championship in 2008.

Victoria Wilkinson, 43, also of Bingley Harriers, holds the women’s record. The inov-8 athlete won in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Her record of 3hrs, 9mins 19secs was set in 2017. She had been expected to take part in this year’s race after injury prevented her participation in 2021, and she had completed her training, including a week at altitude in Tenerife. Wilkinson, who also holds the over-40 women’s veteran record, was looking forward to returning but picked up an injury a week ago and has said she will not start.

Garry Greenhow, believed to be the first over-40 winner in the race’s history, claimed the £200 first prize in last year’s race. The event was postponed to October because of the Covid-19 pandemic. His time was 3hrs 5mins 22secs, but he too has an injury and, though he has posted and entry, may not be able to take part. Greenhow beat another first timer, Jonathon Cox, of Eden Runners, by exactly one minute.

Last year Cumbrian firefighter Ricky Lightfoot, who won the race in 2014 and 2015, finished in third place. Lightfoot, 37, and 28-year-old Brennan Townshend, the 2019 winner, of Keswick AC, are among 600 competitors entered for Saturday.

Jasmin Paris on her way to victory in the 2019 Spine Race: Bob Smith/grough. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Jasmin Paris on her way to victory in the 2019 Spine Race: Bob Smith/grough. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

In Victoria Wilkinson’s absence the favourite for the women’s prize could be Jasmin Paris, 38, of Carnethy Hill Racing Club in Edinburgh, who won the 2013 race in a time of 3hrs 33mins 4secs. The former British fellrunning champion is now best known for ultra-distance competitions.

The small animal vet at Edinburgh University set a new race record in the 2019 Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing the 268 miles (431km) in January weather in 83hrs, 12mins and 23secs.

She was the first woman to win the winter endurance event overall, smashing the previous record of 95hrs 17mins set by Eoin Keith in 2016 and Carol Morgan’s previous female record of 109hrs 54mins in 2017. At the time Paris was nursing her second baby.

But Three Peaks Race organisers said those in the know are saying Eleanor Davis, 33, of Stockport Harriers and Athletics Club, is a female runner to watch. She will wear the race number 576. Davis is a road marathon runner with an impressive time of 2hrs 33mins, who switched her attention to mountains during the Covid-19 layoff.

Runners will set off from Horton in Ribblesdale at 10.30am on Saturday, and leaders are expected at Pen-y-ghent summit about 10.55am; Ribblehead about 11.40am; Whernside summit at 12.10pm; the Hill Inn, Chapel-le-Dale at 12.25pm and Ingleborough summit about 12.50pm. Frontrunners should reach the Horton finish by 1.15pm.

The Three Peaks Race, which has outdoor brand inov-8 as its main sponsor, is a selection event for the GB trail team, for those hoping to qualify for the European championships in July.

Prizes will be presented by Geoff Norman, who ran for Altringham and District AC when he won the Three Peaks in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. His 1974 time of 2hrs 29mins 53secs was a record for the shorter race route which started at the Hill Inn.

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