Monday 2 May 2016

I will lift up mine eyes to the hills.......

      Fast uphill walking and downhill jogging, amounting to little more than ten miles, is all that got done in the way of energetic pursuits last week.  In truth, a lot more time was spent watching others rather than doing anything worthwhile myself.
      The inaugural Tour de Yorkshire was a damp squib so far as I was concerned. We’d walked a mile towards Greenhow to a place we thought would be a good vantage point and sat on a cold mossy wall for around an hour - waiting.  It was a spot where we’d see them coming in the distance and have plenty of time to focus our cameras and get some good shots as they zoomed past.  A good idea, but it became a little boring after countless Police outriders flashed by intermittently with no sign of the actual peloton of international riders.
The breakaway leader approaching Hebden. I've no idea who he was!      
 (Click on pictures to enlarge)
A helicopter eventually heralded their arrival - ¾ hour behind schedule. I focused my camera upon them but – sod’s law - the video mode failed to function and I got nothing! For me the event went by unrecorded. Fortunately, my wonderful partner sensibly shot one or two ‘stills’ – if you can call them that of riders sweeping past at over 40mph!  In seconds they were gone and we recognised not one of them.  A waste of time really.
The peloton. It was all over in around 5 seconds...
After all the waiting in arctic conditions we were frozen to the marrow, my bum was soaking wet from damp moss on the wall, and we’d to run home as fast as we could to get changed and thaw ourselves out.  Most sensible people in the village watched the race on telly with a reasonable commentary to explain all that was going on. They knew exactly where the riders were so could nip out into the road just minutes before the peloton swept through. Next year, I wont bother. And telly is not an option... I rated it 1/10      
Feeding time for sheep and lambs by Horton in Ribblesdale
Saturday was far more interesting. We set off early to Horton in Ribblesdale to watch the 62nd running of the Three Peaks race. We arrived 1½ hours before it was scheduled to start at 10.30am, so had time to walk up Penyghent - the first and lowest of the Three Peaks before Whernside and Ingleborough - and hopefully get there before the runners.
Penyghent - first of the Three Peaks, but the only one for us..
It was sunny but bitterly cold as we set off up the stony track towards the snow capped towering giant in the distance. A local farmer was feeding a noisy flock of hungry sheep and lambs.  A large party of friendly, enthusiastic Sikhs were on their way down having conquered the first obstacle of their annual Three Peaks Challenge.  Race marshals were already manning their stations to open and shut gates and direct runners as they came through.
Well togged up nearing the slippery, freezing summit
Inevitably, as we rose higher, the weather deteriorated. Wind increased, snow swept across the hill, then it hailed and the temperature dropped noticeably. Very noticeably! We’d maybe walked a little too fast to get to the top before the runners, so spent quite a lot of time hanging around before they came. A bit like in the Tour de Yorkshire.     
Walking in the Air - with the snowman
Snow was around 10” deep in parts so a couple of younger generation girls passed the time building a snowman. Older people took cover behind a wall, rubbed their hands and stamped their feet.
Marshals waiting for runners.  Ingleborough, the third summit, in background
Marshals in all their winter gear gazed expectantly for race leaders emerging from fast moving snow showers to materialise on the summit.   Eventually, they came.
Ricky Lightfoot shadowed by Swiss orienteer, Marc Lauenstein
Salomon runner Ricky Lightfoot was in the lead, just, from another Salomon runner from Switzerland competing for the first time. In shorts and vest I reckoned Lightfoot was a little under dressed for the conditions.  He’d no doubt be carrying full body cover, in accordance with the rules, but maybe felt he couldn’t waste time putting them on with such a slender lead. After winning the previous two Peaks races there was a £500 bonus on offer if he could make it three in a row.     
First lady to the summit, Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley Harriers
First lady to pass the summit was our own Victoria Wilkinson, English fell running champion and former British champion. I say ‘our own’ because she once lived next door but one to my wonderful partner and we’ve watched her grow up from school days into the very impressive runner she is today.   
The Nepalese runner, Mira Rai, chasing Victoria
Just behind her was a real threat in the form of Mira Rai, a Nepalese runner from the Salomon team who’d been first female finisher and set records in many long distance races and Sky Running Championships. She’d feel at home, we thought, in the snow and icy conditions of the past few days.
Bleak conditions for the back markers
Once again frozen to the marrow we began our descent – running - long before the 800 runners had snaked over the summit, passing many concerned looking back markers on our way down. Around a hundred failed to finish, many being timed out at various check points, others finding it all too much.
A very happy Marc Lauenstein leading the field home
Arriving back to the Start/Finish area we had lunch and a hot drink in the car while sheltering from the freezing rain that began to fall. We didn’t envy the scantily clad runners who’d be slipping and sliding over icy Ingleborough as we sat snug.  At around 1.15pm we strode across to the finishing funnel to cheer in the winners.

A not so happy Ricky Lightfoot having missed out on a £500 bonus - by 10 seconds
First into the field was the newcomer, Swiss dentist Marc Lauenstein, in a time of 2:48:58 – just ahead of his Salomon team mate Ricky Lightfoot who missed out on that £500 bonus by a mere 10 seconds. It’s unusual for a first timer to win the Peaks race for local knowledge is all important, but orienteer Marc played cat and mouse with those who clearly did know the best lines and outran them at the finish. Another Salomon runner, Tom Owens finished third in 2:52:14     
Winning lady, Victoria Wilkinson storming to the Finish
Victoria Wilkinson came storming into the field way ahead of Mira Rai to win the ladies race in an impressive 3:26:14 and 35th overall of the 703 finishers. A great result for our local lass.
Mira Rai was 30 places behind Victoria in 3:35:55.

Helen Berry in third
FV40 Helen Berry in the yellow vest of Holmfirth Harriers filled third place behind Mira in 3:37:20.
A very happy trio - Helen, Mira and 4th placed Annie Conway of Ambleside Fell Runners
All in all it had been a wonderful day when nostalgia overflowed. Memories came flooding back, as I wandered round the Sports field, seeing familiar faces, hearing old voices, looking across to that sleeping giant of a mountain dominating the eastern skyline, the first brutal climb of that challenging trio around the 24 mile circuit of the Three Peaks Race. It was always my favourite race.
That trophy - we used to put daffodils in it!
What moved me most was one of the trophies on display, the Clayton-le-Moors Rose Bowl, which has my name engraved on it three times for the years I won it.  Now, a few days away from my 84th birthday, I find it hard to believe I could have run such races over demanding terrain - in my 60's - but the proof is there on that rose bowl.
On the second leg at the Clarendon - having demolished the breast
We returned home with faces glowing and wind burnt after the icy blasts around the summit. It was a good time to celebrate 'things' past' and what better way to do it than a meal at our renowned village pub, the Clarendon. My wonderful partner chose local trout whilst I opted for pheasant. I wasn't expecting getting a whole one, but that's what it seemed like. Both choices were absolutely wonderful - but neither of us could manage a pudding.
I rated the Peaks day 10/10 - and may there be many more of them.
They can keep the Tour de Yorkshire....


  1. ........from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1 and 2
    Couldn't help but think of the Bible verse. : )
    Wow that was some run!! Amazing that anyone can run it. : ) What happy memories knowing you ran it and won three times!!
    An early happy birthday. May is my birthday month too.

    1. Yes, I love that Bible verse Karen, but on Saturday it was more like 'from whence cometh the snow, hail, wind and sleet'.
      The Peaks is an iconic race, the one I really wanted to do when I began running aged 54.
      Happy birthday to you too.

  2. The weather is so strange ... family get together at the weekend and it was nice and warm sitting out in the garden ... very different from your photo's here.

    We have another family gathering this coming weekend and they are forecasting a mini heatwave!!! We shall see.

    Sorry the Tour de Yorkshire wasn't too great.

    What was great was the picture of your lovely meal, The Clarendon looks and sounds an excellent eaterie.

    Early Happy Birthday Wishes

    All the best Jan

    1. Thanks for your birthday wishes Jan, You're only two days early, it's on 6th.
      Enjoy your family gathering in the mini heatwave, let's hope it's the start of a major one!
      Wishing you all the best too......