VICTORIA Wilkinson has achieved her first objective for 2016 by winning the women's Three Peaks Race for the second time in three years.

The Great Britain international mountain runner from Hebden showed her quality as she completed the demanding 23-mile course in 3hrs 26min 47sec.

With the conditions tough after four days of snow and ice, Wilkinson was well outside the course record of 3:14:43 set by Czech runner Anna Pichtova in 2008.

Wilkinson, who had made no secret of her desire to repeat her 2014 win, came home 35th overall in a race which was also a qualifier for the world long-distance running championships.

Wilkinson was 35th overall and finished 9min 8sec ahead of ultra-runner Mira Rai from Nepal who came in 65th.

The win by Wilkinson helped her club Bingley Harriers to take the women's team prize. She was well supported by Ruth Whitehead and Lesley Watson.

Swiss dentist Marc Lauenstein, who claims he is an orienteer rather than a fell runner, won the event in a near-record time in his first attempt at the race,

Lauenstein, 35, finished in 2:48:58secs, only nine seconds ahead of his Salomon team-mate Ricky Lightfoot, the winner in 2014 and 2015. His time was the fastest since the course record was set by Andy Peace, of Bingley Harriers, in 1996.

It meant the Three Peaks Association treasurer Graham Newby, who was team leader of the marshals on Ingleborough, did not have to pay out the £500 bonus prize on offer for a winner who could break the men’s record.

Lauenstein reached the 2,277ft summit of Penyghent from Horton-in-Ribblesdale in 28:19 – three seconds ahead of Lightfoot, but the firefighter from Maryport in Cumbria, then edged into the lead as it turned into a race with their Salomon team-mate Tom Owens, 34, the winner in 2011, closely involved.

At High Birkwith only 42 seconds separated them with Lightfoot in the lead, Owens 14 seconds behind and Lauenstein a further 28 seconds in arrears.

Lightfoot reached Ribblehead in 1:12:13 with Lauenstein, winner of the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2014 and the Marathon du Mont Blanc in 2015, third.

But Lauenstein dug deep on the steep ascent to Whernside’s 2,415ft summit, a climb made treacherous by three days of heavy snow showers and freezing conditions overnight.

Whernside marshals lift a gate off its hinges to allow runners easy passage, but struggled when they found it partly buried in frozen snow.

Lightfoot, 31, knew the tricky descent down the natural rock steps to Bruntscar and reached the valley bottom Hill Inn checkpoint two seconds ahead of Lauenstein with Owens just over a minute behind.

But it seemed to be the ascent of Ingleborough which made the difference. Lauenstein reached the 2,372ft summit 1min 4secs ahead of Lightfoot, but the race was far from over and he and Lightfoot gave spectators at Horton a thrilling finish after a five-mile run for home.

Lauenstein, from Neuchatel, near Berne, in Switzerland, won a silver medal in the long distance category at the 2005 World Orienteering Championships at Aichi and silver at Aarhus in 2006 and won the South African Otter Trail Run at his first attempt in 2015, but claimed the Three Peaks was his first real fell race.

Asked if he found conditions tough over what is billed as the “marathon with mountains” Lauenstein said: “Well, actually it is my first fell race. Really I am an orienteer which is why I had some trouble running the section up to Ribblehead, but running up Whernside it was my terrain.”

He said: “On the way up Ingleborough I was able to get away from Ricky, but on the way down he was so fast. He is such an incredible runner. I really did have to push hard. When he was getting close I was swearing. I used to think fell running was the thing to do and I always wished I could do it. Today was the day.”

Wharfedale Harriers came third in the men's team event thanks to strong runs from Sam Watson, 13th in 3:11:05, Ted Mason, 22nd 3:21:22, Mark McGoldrick 38th 3:27:46 and Nathan Martin, 41st in 3:28:26. The winners were Hunters' Bog Trotters with Pudsey & Bramley in second place.

Barlick Fell Runners had Thomas Corrigan, 19th in 3:17:26 and Luke Maude, 28th in 03:23:53, inside the top 30 while Settle Harriers' Alex Pilkington was 98th in 03:45:05

Keighley & Craven won the MV50 team prize thanks to Shaun Wilkinson who was 116th overall in 03:47:58, Simon Farrar, 207 in 04:05:58, and David Copping, 311 in 04:20:34.