Inspirational Trails 8: Yorkshire 3 Peaks
Written By: SportsShoes
Here, in part eight of a series featuring inspirational trails, Salomon athlete and international mountain runner, Emma Clayton, describes one of her favourite memories of competing in the iconic Yorkshire 3 Peaks Race, UK.
Over the past 10 years I’ve been lucky enough to race in some of the most iconic mountain races across Europe and run in the most amazing places, yet it is somewhere slightly closer to home that has the most special feeling.
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks, one of most famous walking routes in the UK. The 23+ mile loop with over 5000ft ascent, traverses the 3 peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park. Thousands upon thousands of outdoor enthusiasts visit the area each year to complete part or all of the route, yet on one special day in April, up to 1000 runners congregate in Horton-in-Ribblesdale to take on “The Marathon with Mountains”.
Yorkshire is home to me and so The Yorkshire 3 Peaks was always going to be my first venture into a long- distance challenge and whilst I was not as physically prepared as I would have liked to be, I was not disappointed.
From the moment you set off from Horton, with Pen-y-ghent (PYG) as your back drop, you can’t help but feel the excitement amongst the runners. The horn goes and you’re running through the wall of sound from the spectators lining the starting field and through the streets of Horton and up onto the trail.
For me, the highlight of the race comes after you’ve reached PYG summit and started the undulating 5 mile stretch to Whernside. During the descent from PYG, you track the same route you’ve just climbed for around a kilometre and the comradery amongst runners is something special. Those descending encouraging those still climbing, and those climbing congratulating those descending. It’s a great mental boost in advance of one of the quieter sections of the route.
Approaching the 2nd climb of Whernside and the first major aid station, you are greeted by arguably the most iconic section of the route, Ribblehead Viaduct. You can pick out the viaduct on the descent from PGY but running alongside the structure is truly awe-inspiring.
On race day the 3 Peaks Route climbs the face of Whernside and it is on this climb where many spectators gather to cheer on the competitors. Some of the greatest images can be seen from this point, runner’s hands on knees tackling the climb with the viaduct and peaks of PYG or Ingleborough in the background.
Heading south after summiting Whernside and descending out towards the Chapel Le Dale, the final climb of Ingleborough faces you dead. There’s not much time to think about it as almost as soon as you’re meandering your way through the farmers’ fields, the climbing starts. Reaching the summit of Ingleborough brings about 2 emotions, one of sheer delight at having summited your final mountain of the day, but also a realisation that there’s still a 4-mile tough descent left to the finish. I endured two tumbles during this descent and sat on a rock for a while, before completing the race.
And what a race it is. A race every runner should try once. A route that everyone should walk at least once. A true Yorkshire day in the Dales.