3 Towers Ultra (virtual) 2021 report

As previously announced the 3 Towers Ultra didn’t take place this year as an organised event. As it turned out, Karen was the only one masochistic enthusiastic enough to run it as a virtual. The ground was waterlogged at best and submerged for lots. The rain came and went all day. Others who had hoped to run all failed for  a variety or reasons- ill health, lack of driver, working away etc.  We feel that as the route is very slightly shorter than the race two years ago (as the ‘books’ are missing and two paths are now blocked) that Karen should have no more points than two years ago even though her time was a little faster. Report follows below.


It doesn’t always go to plan

 Last weekend was my last real opportunity to complete my run on the 3 Towers Ultra course. Without a RO the race as such would not happen this year but we at Runfurther had decided it could be run ‘virtual’ on any date within a week of the original race date. The weather on Saturday was pretty dreadful so I waited until Sunday- this was drier but still damp plus the ground was soaked from the previous days rain.

Great Hill

To save diesel I opted to start where the route crosses the Bolton Road. The tiny streams were over full as I headed to Great Hill but it was dry and warm. I was soon over this hill and heading down to White Coppice and the flat running along the valley to the next road crossing. Somewhere here the first of the rain started- not too heavy but enough for me to dig out my cag and burry my phone. The climb to Jepson’s Gate didn’t seem too bad and in the end I stuck to the ‘original’ race route. We had agreed this and various other sections could be modified. A last minute decision also saw me stick to the trod that would eventually lead me to Lower Hempshaw ruins; it was less overgrown and tussocky than I remembered. The drop through the woods was a bit muddy but the big track up towards the pigeon tower and Rivington Pike was fairly dry. Then the rain turned heavy and the Pike was not the place to hang around. I was soon at Pike Cottage where the cafe was the quietest I have seen it, probably because most people had fled the rain. The rain was now off/on. I resigned myself to keeping the cag on and just doing the best I could to vent in in the dry interludes. Winter Hill came and sent before dropping down to the Bolton Road. The section after this was very wet underfoot and it was a relief to turn south on the big track towards Longworth Rd and Dimple.

The paths CAN be dry

I felt I was moving well and keeping up a good pace. From here I used our new ‘variant’ route and climbed directly onto the ridge and then along the top to the trig at Cheetham Close. It was totally water-logged and over my ankles for much of the way. From here it was mostly downhill to Turton Tower (number one today) and then Jumbles reservoir and the path to Turton Bottoms. This too was very wet and very muddy. The rain was still off/on but I was enjoying my day out. I used the alternative path to avoid Birches Farm and although it was totally waterlogged and splashy I was soon up at Bury Road and heading over the tops to Hawkshaw.

Somewhere around here I started looking at my watch and got worried. I had in my head that we had raced the route in just over 7 hours. In retrospect I should have checked more carefully but we had only been back home from France for a few days and I never found the time. I now calculated that I was moving far too slowly, yet it didn’t feel like that? I crossed the army ranges and camp and speed and headed up to Peel Tower as fast as I could.

Peel Tower and Howlers

I couldn’t go any faster and if anything I was tired and getting slower. Oh well, keep plodding. There were very few people up on the moor as I headed for Pilgrims Cross and even fewer as I set off on the looping and mostly contouring Rossendale Way.

Nice part of the Rosendale Way

This was incredibly wet underfoot but once you’re wet there is not much point worrying. I was busy enough beating myself up about how slow I was compared to the race two years ago. On the plus side without a race there were no books to visit so we had agreed it was OK to miss out the short out and back to the first book and also to miss out the loop to the second and instead to head for the chimney and then run along the ridge- much nicer. It saves about 2.5km.  The path along the top was wet and the flagstone path after Musbury Heights was under water. Worse was to come when I reached Hog Lowe Pike and the boggy moor across to Edgerton Moss. By now I was despairing about what my final time would be. Hoddlestone came and went before my least favourite section of the route. It might be that I know this section least well or it may be that it is pretty awful on very underused paths. It was wet, muddy and slow. Then on my way to the A666 I reached a flooded gateway. I did try to climb along the fences but it didn’t work. I had to wade through the huge puddle that reached the top of my thighs. I could at least now see the end and calculated that I might be able to make 9 hours. Pathetic I thought but the best I could manage. The first section of the Witton Weavers way was under water and things were not much better when I reached the start of Darwen Moor.

Darwen Tower

The Tower was shrouded in scaffold and plastic sheeting and I was grateful to reach the drier tracks heading for Slipper Lowe. I was safely back at the car just inside 9 hours after a desperate final push. I almost cried- surely I wasn’t so rubbish. Perhaps it was the two big European races with walking up big mountains? I drove home pleased to have completed the route but a bit despondent. I also seemed to have damaged the front of my groin/hip abductor area. Back home I checked the race results. What an idiot. 7 hours would have been the men’s record.

Fiona and I had taken just over 9 hours in the race. It’s not quite the same route and very slightly shorter but roughly the same time which without any food CPs or others to motivate me seemed pretty good. Perhaps I am not rubbish after all. I felt better (especially knowing it was a few more Runfurther points) – except that is for whatever was wrong with my hip abductor area. (photos from the race 2 years ago and a reccee run in the heat with Howlers).