Joe Faulkner Retrospective - The Early History of the Great Lakeland 3Day™

5th Sep 2011

The EARLY History of the Great Lakeland 3Day™

By Joe Faulkner (5th September 2011)


The first 3Day event was in 1998 and called The Great Lakeland Trail Race. By 2000 the name had evolved to The Great Lakeland Challenge and this name was used for a few years until we learnt that there was charity bike/trek event with the same name. Consequently, the new name of the Great Lakeland 3Day™ or GL3D™ was born and used from then on – it also described the event much better.

Above: Day Three finish in 2005 at Coniston School. From left to right: Joe Faulkner, Pauline Richards and Lindsey Houlding. Photo: Shane Ohly.

The inspiration came from personal experience of many mountain marathons and especially The Dragon’s Back Race™ that I had completed in 1992.  My partner, Linz Houlding and I organised all twelve events with the exception of the 2007 event (the 10th), which our friends Keith and Pauline Richards and Gill and Phil Harris planned in North Wales; this was done so that I could take part without any real prior knowledge of the route.  Keith, Gill and Phil were also more familiar with North Wales rather than The Lakes.  And Pauline makes excellent cakes!

Skiddaw Summit Day 2 in 2006. Marshals Sandra Ducker, Geraldine Creaven (sitting at the back) and Chris Coy (sitting foreground) and Competitor in the blue LAMM t-shirt. Photo: Shane Ohly.

Good friends Sandra Coy and Geraldine Creaven have also helped with most events from the early years; indeed, Sandra met her husband Chris Coy through GL3D™ and recently married!

It always remained a small team who hosted the GL3D™ and we resisted any urge to make the event bigger than 60 people.  It has always been self-supporting without sponsorship (apart from Shane Ohly’s assistance via planetFear between 2005 and 2007).  The GL3D™ remained low key and not overly marketed in order not to attract unsuitable entrants.

Above: Three GL3D regulars at the Day Three finish in 2006 at Rydal Hall. From left to right: Nick Williams, Mark Barns and David White. Photo: Shane Ohly.

Some top names have run the GL3D™; Mark Seddon, Ivor and Al Powell, Steve Birkinshaw, Heather Dawe, Shane Ohly, Tim Laney, Chris Near... but we have also had a good loyal following of strong and unsung athletes such as Phil Rigby, David Aspden, Stephen Skelton, Richard Townsend and David White.

The 1998 Great Lakeland Trail Race had just seven participants, including myself, as I managed to do some of the route each day.  Ronald Turnbull, Mick Cooper and Garry Perratt took part that year. Ronald was last to finish day one, as he had included several additional tops  “as it was such a nice day!”  Mick and Garry raced hard against each other for the quickest overall time, including a sprint finish on Day Two. Garry Perratt was our most regular competitor clocking up approx 9 GL3D™s over a ten-year period. His website – - is a useful resource for GL3D™ info.

Above: GL3D 2001 / Day 2. Paul, Garry Perratt (centre) and Bryan on Green Gable. Photo: Garry Perratt.

The 1998 route epitomised that ethos of the event – three long linear days, with a minimum of checkpoints giving great route choice.  The start was at Dockray and the only Day One control was Helvellyn summit on the way to the camp at Turner Hall Farm in the Duddon Valley.  Linz remembers driving the baggage van down the Duddon valley and passing Garry on the last bit of road and only just getting to the campsite before him.  Garry shouted, “Where’s the finish?” To which Linz replied,  “Err... Here Garry, it’s me!”

Above: 2002 Day 1 - The descent to Cockley Beck - Blue skies, mountain scenery, nice turf, good company - real running! Nick, Bill and Meredith. Photo: Garry Perratt.

The Day Two route took in Scafell and Scafell Pike, and I had set off early to place one or both controls.  Once everyone had passed me on Scafell Pike, I raced after the runners and completed the day’s route.  Apparently, Garry and Mick had a hard run racing each other from the top of Scarth Gap along Buttermere and screeched into the camp at Syke Farm.  This time Linz was there and had set up a small finish line.  However, she had also gone of to the Farm shop to source 20 pence pieces for the showers, so wasn’t actually there when they finished. Naturally, Garry was a little concerned that the clock hadn’t been stopped and his time recorded but Linz calmly asked them both, “How long have you been here and what time did you finish?”  Of course they both knew and each had a stopwatch time of their own, which was good enough for us.

After that year we did get a little bit more organised, especially once Sandra Coy, Geraldine Creaven and Chris Coy, and then Keith and Pauline Richards and Gill and Phil Harris became involved.  My brother, Brian Faulkner also made a few appearances usually along with a minibus, mess tent or hot water boilers or all three. However, I remember one event, perhaps 2004 or 2005 when we were struggling to ‘compute’ the Day One and Two combined results  (runners start when they want...). The answer was to stick the raw data on to the side of the van and ask each runner to fill in their times, etc, knowing full well that no mistakes would be made and equally so no-one would ‘cheat’.   Within ten minutes or so Tim Laney and a few others had gone through the list and written all 30-40 out neatly!  Who needs a results service!

Latterly, Keith Richards generally become our results guru and started computing times on a laptop after that but it has always been nice that our low-key / old school / pen and pencil methods have worked even in the worst of weathers.

Above: Day One start in 2006 at Rydall Hall. Each competitor’s dry bag is weighed before being accepted! Photo: Shane Ohly.

The route was also billed as 3 x 25 mile days and very much linear so that it is large ranging tour of The Lakes.  The routes changed every year, and we only release the day’s route on the evening before. Another key GL3D factor was allowing runners to start when they wanted, rather than generate a list of start times; this lessens the stress factor as you can’t be late for your start.  We aimed to keep our overnight campsites very simple and remote, with limited vehicle access just for the baggage van, and have discouraged ‘support teams’.  Baggage was limited to a one hundred-litre Drybag weighing no more than 12kg.  We also always aimed to have a start/finish on the edge of The Lakes, and so keep entrants cars out of the Lake District National Park and basically adopt a green eco policy.

Above: The amazing first day weather of 'The GL3D on Tour'... the 2007 excursion to North Wales. Carmen Elphick heading along the Carneddau. Photo: Simon Caldwell

After the tenth anniversary in 2007, in Wales, which had been slightly short but to the usual high standards, it was suggested that the event should get longer mainly because of the growing interest in the UTMB.  This was pre-Lakeland 100 days and so it was decided that 100 miles in three days was attainable.  The following year (2008) the route started at Bampton, one of our favourite start/finish or overnight locations, and went all the way to Turner Hall in one very long day.  Checkpoints included High Raise near High Steet, before descending across the Ullswater Valley and heading up Deepdale and over to Wythburn.  I think Rossett Pike and Three Shire Stone featured, before the last control on Dow Crag.  It was a long day and had ‘broken’ a few people, but one competitor finished with just one shoe, so it couldn’t have been too bad!  Day Two headed north via the Central Fells and Buttermere, over Robinson to finish near Watendlath.  Once again a few finished in the dark, and it had rained heavily.... but this was character building stuff.  The Watendlath campsite was a very simply site but idyllic and a clear bright day followed.  Watching the Day Three starters begin their journey home was a very poignant moment for me as I watched Matt Kowlaski-Hicks jog off down the road; I knew Matt had patiently guided a small group including his running partner through a tough and long Day Two, finishing well into darkness.  Sadly, but wisely, his partner decided not to start Day Three so Matt was running solo and definitely ‘on a bit of a mission’ to make up lost time. It was a beautiful morning after the previous day’s storm, Matt looked strong and I knew he would finish well. It gave me a tremendous sense of pleasure and satisfaction to see all our hard work over the past few years come to fruition.  

Neither was the Day Three route a short easy day. It took in Fairfield, Kirkstone Pass, Mardale Ill Bell, Branstree and a finish along the ridge south of Haweswater.  It gave me great pleasure to see Sarah Jones and Angela Sykes finish on Monday evening and to see them do well in subsequent Mountain Marathons.  After the 2008 event we reverted to the 3 x 25+ mile days as consecutive 33 mile Lakeland fell top days proved to be just too long for many.

There has always been a very high finish rate at GL3D™; there are two reasons for this.  Firstly it only attracts the best and most competent mountain runners.  These are runners who can navigate, be self reliant in all weathers and suffer with the best of them.  Nor do we offer supported roadside controls or a sweep bus!  The event has only been open to solo runners although naturally people sign up as pairs or mix and match during the days.  Some great friendships have been formed over the years and the sense of achievement has been tremendous.

Above: Fantastic running in lesser known areas of the Lake District. Carmen Elphick eyes up the best line to Seatallan (the rounded one in the middle). Photo: Simon Caldwell

The 2009 event was the last GL3D™ we organised and my most satisfying.  We had two excellent remote overnight camps and routes to match, and some challenging weather on Day Three. Indeed, so perfect was the event that we reckoned we couldn’t improve on it and decided twelve years was enough. The number of events in The Lakes has increased dramatically over the years, and it was also time for some things to change – electronic timing, pre-marked mapping, etc. And to put the event on a profitable and sustainable future.

I’m very pleased that Shane Ohly has taken up the reins and even more so that he is keen to keep the same simple ethos.  The GL3D™ should always be about the route and the challenge and not about the ‘race’.   Yes, some very good athletes have raced the GL3D™ but it has given me more pleasure watching the slower runners finish and then going on to bigger and better things than pure results.