Irish Mountain
Running Association

Three-Peaks 08 - Runner's Account

Mick's Account

The 3 Peaks race has been described as 3 mountain runs joined together by 2 cross country races. As a late starter to mountain running where by skills are moderate at best, and with only 1 cross country run ever under my belt I was probably a fish out of water in this event. On the other hand in the last no. of weeks I had done a marathon in a PB and done okay in the Wicklow way trail so I’ve some steady recent form. That recent form however was to betray me later on. We were lucky with the weather on the day which was pretty good. I was happy to be able to line up at the start with the new imra vest to show off. It got a few shouts on the day from Irish supporters!
This was a race of 2 halves for me. The first peak (Pen-y-ghent) was a pretty conventional trail up / trail down hill. Nora and Larry were at the top having walked there to give us some support. Thanks guys. The next section was a cross country, road mixture which went pretty okay.
It was after 20k when the great wall of grass that is the face of Whernside peak rose up ahead of me that I started to feel the effects of the run and my splits show that is where I started to fall backwards in the standings. At some point on that climb, Rene moved past me looking strong. It took a lot of effort to get to the top where the Union Jack blew strongly in the breeze. It was mighty good to see that flag because at least you knew the climb was over for the moment.
From there it was mostly downhill through the valley between this and the next Peak (Ingleborough). However, I struggled badly on the descent, as the onset of stomach cramp stopped me dead in my tracks (I blame the jellies ate on the run) and it had me thinking almost positive thoughts of doing an DNF. I battled on in any event and kept some sort of pace going. A strong Kevin Grogan had passed me on the descent of Whernside. I didn’t think I passed anyone here but I learned later that I had retaken my lead of Rene on this section.
Ingleborough was the last peak in line. The pace up was painstakingly slow as we inched up granite steps cut into the face of the mountain. Spectators lined the top sections to cheer us on. It took a lot of effort to reach the top. From here it was all downhill.
Ordinarily a downhill descent would be a matter of some relief. Not to me I have to say as I failed to muster any great pace on the rocky mucky uneven ground. Half-way towards the end Moire went steaming past me. With a few k to go we caught sight of the tents marking the finish line so the heart lifted. With 1k to go Rene sprinted past me (I had pictured him as finished the race in my minds eye) but seeing him go past at least made me pick up my pace for the final bit where we encountered one of the only decent downhill sections of pure grass all day. I was relieved to be announced as I crossed the line with a sub 4.30 time, but utterly wasted afterwards. My splits are here with my relative position (moving backwards in the field) shown J.
In retrospective this race demands great respect and hats off to all those who took part and strove to finish. It is bloody hard and no doubt needs dedicated training and shouldn’t be done on a whim (as I did) but you live and learn.

Clock Time
Elapsed Time
Position (relative to field)
Race start
26/04/2008 10:00
1st Peak
26/04/2008 10:38
283 (754)
26/04/2008 11:39
280 (734)
2nd Peak
26/04/2008 12:22
316 (712)
Hill Inn
26/04/2008 12:49
342 (711) 
3rd Peak
26/04/2008 13:35
363 (684)
26/04/2008 14:28
413 (685)
Moire's Account

Well, it was over the commiseratory / celebratory pints of cider and coke that we all decided to individually pen a few lines over how the Three Peaks went for us.

To be honest, my first hour in was a disaster… everyone set off like the clappers on a country track that was fast running. I struggled to keep up but, with serious anxiety attacks about the two tight cut-offs at Ribblehead and Hill Inn, I pushed on as hard as I could: having said that, people just seemed to keep passing me. Getting to the top of Pen-y-Ghent in 42 minutes and being way back in the pack, all the negative statements started: I’ve not brought enough water. I’ve not done enough training. I’ve worn the wrong gear. Anyhow, I struggled on over the undulating hills in order to reach the first checkpoint in 1hr52, under the cut-off time and within the 4 hours completion time. Maybe things would get better… and they did.

Up Whernside, guys seemed to be flaking. And I was in my element: wet grass, bog and a steep climb up. And then the best present of them all; a long, steep rocky descent which people ahead of me were stuttering and stammering over. My confidence regained, I just kept going. Seeing Pete, a friendly face with encouraging words at the two check-points also definitely spurred me on.

 At the top of Ingleborough, I saw Mick Hanney descending whilst I was still on my way up. It was great to see the IMRA singlet being modelled in such style. It was a 8km descent from Ingleborough, and dying to get home, I just stuck my head down and trudged on along the boggy, stony, grassy track. At the finish, they awarded us these stone cut medals, to remind us of all those sharp rocks that had successfully bashed and bruised my toes on all those descents. Apart from that, just a few sore legs and minor dehydration, but nothing those evening pints with Joe, Mick, Nora, Rene, Larry and Pete couldn’t cure.

 Overall, great race, tough course, beautiful hills, and amazing organisation… a definite recommend.

Rene's Account
We made each other a promise after the race to post little race reports to the site to ensure that future runners of the race have proper warning!

I've got a lot to say on the race, so an overly dramatic report will all the nitty-gritty details will of course be posted on my blog in due time.

For now, I can just say it's definitely a race that can move your perception of hardship. The last 25k of the race were misery for me as it felt like half of London passed me by and every little niggle or cramp plays havoc with your mind from the moment Whernside starts blocking your view.

I did a lot right and a lot wrong in my approch to the race and will be happy to share the experiences with other long-distance enthusiasts (one is, watch your feet while eating!)

Good news is I'm just back from the hospital, and will be back running within 7 days after my fall. It's a tough race, so treat it with respect, don't just throw it into your calendar on a whim, but it's a worthy challenge in a lovely place and to call the organisation top-notch is an understatement, there's much too learn from these organisers (PS. The profile does not do the race any justice!).

Oh, and apologies to Mick for swirping a branch into his eye!

Joe's Account

The three peaks of the race title does not describe it very well. In between the peaks there is serious distance. Between the top of peaks one and two there is 15 km, mainly over farmland. So like the film three weddings and a funeral it should be called three peaks and two cross country runs. Peak one was not bad a gradual climb up track and down the same way, peak two was very steep at the top with many of the runners struggling. Anyone who has been to the Mournes would have like this and would have picked up places. Peaks three had steps all the way up; think of a 20th century version of the way of the cross on Inis Michael. Long run home with finish tent visible but not getting any nearer. Great event, very well organised, not your average hill run would require specialised training. Will not be going for the framed photograph for 21 finishes in this race