Hebden’s Victoria Wilkinson was almost a record-breaker in the 60th Three Peaks Race, which was held in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday.
She finished 17th overall on the course which takes in Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough to win the ladies’ trophy, making her the second-highest placed female runner since the race was opened to ladies in 1979.
The highest-placed female is Sarah Rowell, who was running for Leeds City in 1992 when she finished 15th over the 24-mile course which has 1600 metres of ascent.
A Diamond Jubilee £500 bonus was also on offer if the ladies’ winner broke the record time set by Anna Pichrtova, of the Czech Republic, when the Three Peaks hosted the World Mountain Running Challenge in 2008.
It was Rowell’s 1996 ladies’ race record of 3hr 16min 17sec which Pichrtova broke in 2008 when she set 3hr 14min 43sec.
Wilkinson, 35, from Bingley Harriers, finished in 3hr 21min 32sec, more than 15 minutes – a massive difference – ahead of Shona Robertson, 39, of Glasgow’s Shettleston Harriers.
It was the fourth best women’s time ever, and Wilkinson said: “I was pleased. I was aiming for a sub 3hr 30 min, so I was quite hapy to get 3hr 21min.”
She never expected to win the £500 bonus. “The record is do-able on the right day in the right conditions. But today conditions were pretty hard. “It was fairly muddy and I have only done it twice. It was pretty ‘gloopy’ in places and it was windy.
“Going up Whernside was fairly wet and there is that tricky bit coming down. You have walkers about, and those steps, so that was probably the bit I did not enjoy.
“You have just got to get your pacing right, and that is hard. It is a hard race because going up Pen-y-Ghent you are thinking ‘I had better back off and not burn out’, then you are thinking I had better press on to get a decent time’.
“I was running with the men, and men are good pacemakers so I was happy. There were a lot of good spectators out there and I had Bingley Harriers shouting me on.”
Wilkinson, the only woman to have won both the Three Peaks cyclo-cross and running races, was focusing on setting a manageable pace with the hope of not ‘blowing up’ on the final climb on Ingleborough.
Feeling strong, she was able to gain a few places on Ingleborough and, working with her Bingley team-mate Andy Jebb, she finished among some of the top men.
Ricky Lightfoot, of Ellenborough, won the men’s race in 2hr 53min, with Bingley Harrier and four-time event winner Rob Jebb third in 2hr 59min 57sec.
Norwegian Thorbjorn Ludvigsen may be the fastest runner to the top of the Empire State Building but Salomon International team-mate Lightfoot beat him.
Although £500 was also on offer if the winner broke Andy Peace’s 18-year-old record for the current course of 2hr 46 min 3sec, the money was also unclaimed as Lightfoot completed the event in 2hr 53min 16sec.
In fact, Ludvigsen, 25, who won the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York in February – taking 10min 6sec for the vertical dash up 1,576 steps from the lobby to the 86th floor – came home in sixth place, 12min 53sec slower than Lightfoot.
Running only his second Three Peaks race, Skipton AC’s Luke Maude had a stellar day to win the under-25 category.
Overcoming recent injury, he exceeded his own expectations to finish 33rd overall in 3hr 34min – a fantastic result – and hopefully there will be more to come from the former junior England champion.
James Craig, from Barlick Fell Runners, came 37th in 3hr 37min, just beating second woman Robertson.