Last updated: 31-Aug-16
By Ian Corless
The rain had been torrential for almost 12-hours. It was the type of rain that could hurt as it hit you; yes it was that hard. If you are wrapped up in bed the noise of the ‘pitter-patter’ as it hits your roof and windows can actually be quite therapeutic and relaxing. However, as runners assembled at 0400 in Keswick for the start of the inaugural 3×3 80km race in the heart of the English Lakes, therapeutic was the last thing on their minds.
As Noah sailed past, we knew it was going to be a tough day… Ian Mulvey, race director for the 3×3 had consulted with his team regularly during the night and an advance party on the course confirmed that the first summit of Scafell Pike would need to be avoided to prevent any serious problems.
Course changes are always a tough call, no RD wants to do it but ultimately this is only running and safety is paramount. The 3×3 80km was the 3rd race in the Skyrunning UK series and as such had some special criteria. In short; tough!
The 80km route included the three iconic climbs and included the peaks of Scafell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw. Between each peak was a combination of tough, technical, gnarly and very wet terrain that would make the whole race an experience and somewhat of an epic journey. To finish would be an achievement.
Attracting a top quality field the conditions were always going to play a clear factor, especially in the early hours when darkness would add an additional complexity to the experience. Ascending Scafell before the detour, runners mentioned torrents of water that at times reached waist height in depth. Many worried that conditions were similar to 2009 when the Borrowdale valley flooded. As sunrise came, the rain receded and although it didn’t completely disappear it did make conditions considerably preferable for all taking part, marshalling and supporting.
On the ascent to Helvellyn with 40km’s covered, a clear pattern had started to form with Lee Kemp pushing the pace, Donnie Campbell following and Jayson Cavill chasing 20-minutes back.
Lakeland 100 course record holder, Lizzie Wraith showed her strength and form and had a convincing lead in the early stages and was chased by Sally Ozanne and Great Lakeland 3-Day winner, Kerstin Rosenqvist.
Over Helvellyn and then dropping down to Keswick runners headed up to Latrigg and then took on a tough anti-clockwise loop of Skiddaw. Over the summit the wind was gale force and the wind chill was close if not below zero. Cloud bursts; heavy rain and even a hale storm made the day impressive visually but something to endure from a running perspective. The weather was playing a key factor in the whole day.
Campbell and Kemp arrived for the Skiddaw loop together and a battle was about to unfold as eventually one would need to make a break and go all out for victory. Kemp stretched the elastic and pulled away from Campbell, however, somewhere on the return up and over Skiddaw, Kemp made a navigational error; ironic considering the course was exceptionally well marked. This mistake opened the door for Campbell and looking strong he pushed to the line without actually realizing he was the first to cross it! Kemp held on to 2nd and Ed Batty placed 3rd after Cavill withdrew from the race. Ed Catmur placed 4th and local legend and recent Wainwrights FKT record holder, Steve Birkinshaw placed 5th.
Ozanne rallied in the latter stages of the ladies race and closed on Wraith over Skiddaw. However, Wraith never relinquished the lead and crossed the line victorious. Ozanne finished 2nd and Rosenqvist rounded out the podium. Wraith post race went on to say, ‘It was like the Lakeland 50 course on steroids!’
Tough conditions combined with a tough and technical course made the 3×3 80km a real adventure. From first to last, every single runner should be extremely proud of finishing such a tough race. Ian Mulvey and the High Terrain team did a great job of managing conditions, ensuring everyone’s safety and in the process they have made the 3×3 one of the must do events on the UK calendar.
At the awards ceremony, fell running legend Billy Bland arrived to provide a very natural and humble ending to a great weekend of running.
1 Donnie Campbell 8:28:56
2 Lee Kemp 8:38:49
3 Ed Batty 9:00:17
4 Ed Catmur 9:23:48
5 Stephen Birkinshaw 9:29:24
1. Lizzie Wraith 10:42:23
2. Sally Ozanne 10:50:18
3. Kerstin Rosenqvist 11:12:21
4. Jamie Aarons 11:18:02
5. Lauren Woodwiss 12:15:08