Thomas Roach and Catherine Taylor were the respective male and female winners of the 68th edition of the Three Peaks Race supported by inov-8 – and remarkably both were racing the fabled event for the first time.
Roach, of Lewes AC but now based in Austria, led from start to finish and clocked the fastest splits up Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough into the bargain to cross the line in 2:53:28, just outside the ‘revised’ course record.
Taylor was fourth behind Scarlet Dale coming off Pen-y-ghent but had moved to the front by the second peak of Whernside and never looked back from that point.
She stopped the clock in 3:34:44, nearly 10 minutes ahead of runner-up Catherine Williamson.
Roach a class apart
First run in 1954, the Three Peaks is one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the UK off-road running calendar.
The route, which was slightly increased in distance this year to nearly 39km, traverses the famous Yorkshire Dales mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough – and it was run in ideal conditions this time, relatively dry underfoot, virtually no wind and comfortable temperatures.
But Roach’s performance was still remarkable – and shattered the previous best for the MV40 category, even with the additional kilometre as a result of the route change.
He’d flown in from what’s now home in Austria and had never seen the course before but belied his inexperience with a dominant display – though he admitted the route up Whernside proved the most challenging from a navigation point of view.
He was a minute and a half ahead at the famous Ribblehead Viaduct but had a five-minute cushion at the summit of the third and final peak of Ingleborough.
And he extended that to nearly seven minutes by the line, with Alexander Chepelin (Carnethy Hill Racing Club) taking the runner-up spot and Daniel Connolly (Mercia Fell Runners) rounding out the podium in third.
Last year’s winner Brennan Townshend (Keswick AC) was sixth.
Home World Champs for winner
Speaking to RUN247 afterwards, Roach – who came to the fore in impressive company at the Golden Trail Race Series late last year – said: “It was my first time here so the plan was to follow the leader as I didn’t really know the course and I didn’t know how well it was signed.
“But I always like to run my own pace and I felt like I could push a bit more on the first climb so I took off!
“I lost my way on the second climb a bit [Whernside] but I managed to find it again and then was able to finish it off on the last one.”
Asked how much he’d enjoyed his first experience of this iconic race, he added: “I absolutely loved it. This is my passion so I’m always smiling.”
The first two automatically qualified for Team GB at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in June – and it’s at a significant location for Roach.
“The aim today was to qualify for the Worlds, which is in my home town of Innsbruck, so that’s the next big target – and the Golden Trail Race series too.”
Taylor times it perfectly
Catherine – or ‘Cat’ – Taylor, of Black Combe Runners, ended up a clear-cut winner too, but the first third of the women’s race was a closely-fought affair.
Scarlet Dale was first up Pen-y-ghent in 33:24, with Taylor in fourth and she’d remain in that position through Ribblehead. But going up Whernside she made her move and from then on was out on her own – in stark contrast to Dale who would drop out of the race.
Catherine Williamson (Loftus & Whitby AC) and Holly Wootten (Keswick AC) were second and third respectively, around 10 minutes back.
And course record-holder and Three Peaks legend Victoria Wilkinson was fifth.