Run the Dales brings memorabilia and photographs of the legendary Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks Race together including, for the first time, the Three Peaks trophies.
Created by writer and fell running enthusiast, Victoria Benn, the exhibition, being staged at the Dales Countryside Museum, tells the story of the race which was first run in 1954.
Victoria has been immersed in the sport which is synonymous with the Dales since she was a child and her father Roger Ingham took part in many of the races.
“I joke that my whole childhood was spent stood in a field somewhere,” Victoria said.
“Pretty much throughout spring and summer we were all over the Lake District, Scotland, the Yorkshire Dales, at fell races and shows.
“I knew who the runners were, I knew who should win, who the competition would be between and I found it really exciting.”
She added that since becoming a writer it has become her “passion” to capture the stories of fell running in days gone by.
Inspired to stage the exhibition while researching her book, Peak Performance, which covers the history of the sport across the Three Peaks, Victoria has worked with photographer Stephen Garnett and former runners to gather the memorabilia together.
A “scoop” for the museum is having the Three Peaks trophies, which will once again be awarded to the fastest fell runners in this year’s rescheduled race, on display for the first time.
“It’s an amazing scoop for us to have them on display, as the public are allowed nowhere near them on race day,” Victoria said.
She described the men’s ‘Norman Thornber Trophy’ as an “intricately carved” wooden plaque which was invested as the Three Peaks Race trophy in 1959.
Women’s races, however, were not held until 1979 and the women’s trophy – an “impressive” ceramic plaque – was donated by Shirley Hodgson in 1991.
“Along with her husband Dave, Shirley has dedicated a lifetime of service to the race,” said Victoria.
The first recipient of the trophy was Sarah Rowell, a former Olympian who came 14th in the inaugural Women’s Marathon event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She went on to win the Three Peaks trophy four times.
Alongside the trophies are a pair of Roger Ingham’s running shoes dating from the 1950s and photographs showing classic races including one of runner Ernest Dalzell who broke the record for the Burnsall Classic race in 1910 with a time of 12 minutes 59.8 seconds – a record which held for 66 years.
A short film by the Yorkshire Film Archive includes footage from the 1967 Three Peaks Race and bringing the exhibition right up to date are more recent pictures taken by Stephen Garnett who said he wants to “capture the lung-busting rawness of fell running”.
Victoria said she hopes the exhibition will highlight the heritage of fell running which not everyone is aware of. “It’s a traditional sport but it’s one of those that falls a bit under the radar.
“If you’re in the fell running community, you talk about it, but it’s not on the television, people don’t do it at school and it’s a sport that you can do with very little investment – you literally just need a good pair of running shoes.”
Kevin Frea, member champion for promoting understanding at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which runs DCM, said: “Fell running is a very important part of our cultural heritage.
“The British Open Fell Runners Association organises dozens of fell races each year in the National Park and apart from the many races, quite a number of local people can be seen running the fells on a morning and evening.
“The grittiness needed to go fell running is integral to the character of Dalesfolk.
“Some of the very oldest recorded races are in the Dales, such as the Burnsall Classic, dating back to 1860. The history of this sport and pastime, as revealed by Victoria in the exhibition, is fascinating.”
A podcast has also been created which brings the exhibition to anyone who cannot visit in person. Recorded largely at the Hawkswick Dash off-road running event in Skipton, it features
Victoria and her father Roger, known as Mr Sport and Kilnsey Show fell race record holder, Mick Hawkins, as well as fell runners from Wensleydale.
Victoria’s book, Peak Performance, is part of the Stories in Stone programme by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, which focuses on conservation and community projects in the Ingleborough area.
Speaking at the time, she said one of the greatest satisfactions about writing the book was finding out more about the people involved.
“The book shines a light on some real sporting champions who I feel have not received the recognition they have deserved.”