Three Peaks 2011 - preview: Loaded fields should make for wide-open racing
This weekend sees the 57th edition of one of the most iconic fell race or mountain races in the world. The Three Peaks race is one of those races that is on a fell runner’s ‘must do’ list, and represents a true fell running classic…
The race has got its fair-share of legends amongst its role call of winners – Jeff Norman, Ian Holmes, Hugh Symonds, Gavin Bland, Kenny Stuart, Andy Peace, Rob Jebb, Angela Mudge, Carol Greenwood, list goes on and on. However, all is history as the 999 (entrants) take to the start line at Horton-in-Ribblesdale this Saturday at 10 o’clock sharp.
The fields for the mens and womens races are absolutely stacked with fell and mountain running talent, with the likes of Anna Frost (now relocated back in NZ) making the long trip to Yorkshire to have a crack at adding this monument of a race to her fast-growing CV of impressive world-wide wins.
The men’s race is headed by recent British Champs round one winner Tom Owens, 2008 winner and Owens’ Shettleston team-mate, Jethro Lennox and the current master of the Three Peaks race, Rob Jebb.
The 2009 winner Jebb will be aiming to put himself even further up the Three Peaks hall-of-fame rankings as he goes for his fifth win. Only Mike Davies and Jeff Norman have won more than 3 Three Peaks races.
Jebby has had a steady, rather than spectacular start to 2011, though with the class that the Bingley man possesses he will be hard to beat on this, one of his favourite races. Whether he will ever get anywhere near Jeff Norman’s six-wins remains to be seen.
Owens comes into this race full of confidence, after a great winter, a win at the classic Carnethy 5 in February, and his win just two weeks ago at the Mourne Peaks race. Ahead of Saturday’s race Tom told us:
My Three Peaks race prep has been going really well. A great result in the long Brit Champs race in Ireland has been a big confidence boost. However, anything can happen on these long races, especially on hot days.
I’ve run this race a couple of times before and it demands the utmost of respect as do the other participants – the field is totally loaded with past and potential future winners. There will be an excellent group traveling down from Scotland. I’ll take the race as it comes & hope to finish in one piece.
Another interesting participant from North of the Border is young Robbie Simpson. This is the first year that the Deeside runner has been allowed to participate, and there is no doubting his pedigree. After a dazzling set of results as a junior, representing GB on numerous occasions, and dealing hefty defeats to his senior counterparts in Scotland, Robbie had two great runs at two of the UK’s highest peaks in the Summer of 2010.
His awesome win on Snowdon in July was followed by a runner-up slot at Ben Nevis in September. There is no doubting his maturity, climbing ability and stamina in the longer races, so it will be very interesting to see how he goes on Saturday.
One doubt is 2009 runner-up Ricky Lighfoot. The Ellenborough athlete has had a difficult start to 2011 with achilles niggles, and although he has had his fair share of wins already this year, he is a doubt to make the start-line on Saturday.
2010 runner-up John Brown is back again this year, looking to go one step further and lift this coveted crown. Others to look out for are Dark Peak’s Oli Johnson, Calder Valley’s Karl Gray, Joe Symonds, Graham Pearce, Eryri’s Richard Roberts, Pete Vale, Brown’s Salford team-mate Billy Burns… the list goes on.
The women’s race looks like a wide-open affair too, with 2009 and 2010 winner Anna Lupton absent this year, and probable pre-race favourite Angela Mudge now a non-starter due to a calf injury earlier in the season. GB international mountain runners Victoria and Mary Wilkinson (both Bingley Harriers) should therefore start as favourites, alongside Anna Frost and 2010 British Championship runner-up Helen Fines – with all once again facing some strong opposition from those Scots raiders.
Clare Gordon (HBT) and Fiona Maxwell (Shettleston) make the trip to Yorkshire in the hope of a high placing. Add to these Hazel Robinson, and Mourne Peaks third-placer Sarah Ridgway, and the women’s race should also be a cracker.
The Three Peaks has become known for its monumental battles over the years and this year’s racing could prove to be so once again. MST will be there and this year and aim to bring you as much of the live action (reception permitting) as possible via Twitter, along with our usual post-race report and the odd exclusive interview if we can grab one or two.
Everything a competitor could need to know is on the Three Peaks site, including the start list, and make sure that you check in to MST early next week as we aim to bring you all of the results and reactions from this great race.