TWO female athletes who were on their way to breaking the record time for a challenging 37-mile race missed it by seconds after they were held back by a herd of sheep.

On Sunday around 140 entries in teams of two took part in the annual Old County Fell Tops race, an event organised by the Achille Ratti Climbing Club.

Female runners Elizabeth Richardson and Lonsdale Fell Runners’ Jessica Richardson were on a mission to break Nicky Spinks and Jean Brown’s record of 8-17-15.

They were well on their way to smashing it before they were stopped by a flock of sheep just five minutes from the finish.

A farmer was moving his flock when the runners were stopped.

While they waited, the athletes were eventually joined by Black Combe Runners’ Anna Lupton and Hollie Orr, who sportingly gave them a headstart once the sheep had been cleared.

Elizabeth and Jessica were the first female runners to cross the line in 8-18-39, just one minute and 24 seconds behind the record.

They were followed by Anna and Hollie who crossed the line in 8-18-46 and then Helm Hill’s Joanna Rycroft and Jenny Rice came third in 08-59-57.

The race saw runners start in Great Langdale then take on a gruelling course over the tops of Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old Man before returning to Great Langdale via The Three Shires stone at the top of Wrynose Pass.

The overall race is around 37 miles and involves about 10,000 feet of ascent, and was first held in 1988.

Ambleside runners Paul Tierney and George Foster were crowned champions as they crossed the line in 6-58-08.

And they were swiftly followed by Ambleside’s Tom Simpson and Helm Hill’s Josh Jardine in 06-59-55.

In third place and 30 seconds behind was Mercia Fell Runner’s Huw Davies and unattached Jack Scott in 07-32-41.

Staveley’s Rob Jebb and Ricky Lightfoot currently hold the men’s pair record at 6-21-00.

The first mixed team to cross the line was Lonsdale Fell Runners Rowan Wood and Claire Nance in 8-15-49, followed by Eryri Harriers Mary Gillie and and Dark Peak’s Simon Mills in 8-23-55 and Keswick’s Catherine Spurden and Simon Netherway in 8-35-27.