Tag Archives: Bob Graham Round

Bob Graham Round, Saturday, June 1, 2019

Mark Davinson (Derwentside AC)

Sometimes setting yourself a challenge seems like a good idea. In spring 2011 I first took up running to get fitter and faster for my 5-a-side football. Mainly so John Calvert and Gary Messer wouldn’t complain as much about the number of late tackles I caught them with. I soon found the running was more about what I could do and less about everyone else. I had always been almost the last one picked at school sports and walked more than ran cross country, but this felt different. Perhaps I was in the wrong game? A year later I had done a marathon, won a club cross country trophy and competed in a few fell races. I decided I was retiring from football while I could still walk and took up running full time.

Fast forward to early 2019. I’ve got a seven year Harrier League race streak (every one since I stopped playing football), with a few near misses for a place in the fast pack, I’ve done a few short ultra-marathons, ran a road half marathon in under 1hr25 and completed every distance from 800m to 10,000m on the track in 2017. To be honest though everything else I have competed in is just a sideshow or a warmup for what life is all about: a day out on the fells.

As a man with a short attention span and little patience the monotony of road running was never going to be my thing and any enthusiasm I had for tarmac quickly dissipated. As a member of a traditional road running club since 2012 I’ve always felt like an outsider, a man on a mission to convert the heathen roadies to the joys of big hills and wild descents. Fell running is simple, get from A-B as fast as possible without getting lost. On the uphill’s put your body under as much stress as you dare, stay on the edge of being oxygen deficient for as long as possible before walking regaining strength and increasing oxygen flow to start running again. My general rule is stop when the runner behind stops, start running again when the runner in front starts running. On the down hills the strategy I use is to move my feet as quickly as possible and be prepared for a loose rock or trip hazard. I’ve always understood injury is potentially just around the corner, but you just need to put that to the back of your mind and be confident.

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Bob Graham Round, Lake District, Friday, May 24, 2019

66 miles

Tricia Everett

The Bob Graham Round; the 66-mile circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District within 24 hours.”

For me the Bob Graham Round (BGR) was simple: I love to run and I love being in the mountains. As I started supporting BGRs, in my mind it became less, “If I attempt a BGR” but more of “When will I attempt?” Around November 2018 and within a week of each other these friends independently said to me of the BGR…

“You’ve got to do it,” Stuart Scott
“You’ve got the right mind for it, you can do it,” Kim Loney
“You’ve just got to give up 6 months of your life to it,” James Garland
“You were made for it, just get on with it,” Chris Everett.

About a month later a conversation with my job share partner made me realise I maybe working more in September and I realised that there was a 6 month window in front of me.

I had to attempt.

Elaine Bisson, who has supported me through the whole process, wrote a training plan for me and I stuck to it. From January to April I spent at least one day a week, sometimes more running in the Lakes. For me, this was a real luxury. It became the norm and highlight of my week that I ran in the mountains. Overall my training went well but I started to struggle in April. My children were ill, I inevitably caught their bugs, I was exhausted. My last key training run was a disappointment, so I prioritised getting fully well and resting before the big day.

Leg 1 Keswick to Honister

Standing outside Moot Hall, I felt numb, overwhelmed and not sure what to do! My supporting runners were Mark Davinson who I had trained a lot with in the Lakes, John Donneky and Susan Scott. I was thrilled Susan was there, we have spent countless mornings meeting at 5.30am to run around Houghall Woods with head torches and there was something very reassuring about her presence. It hit 7am and we were off. My sister, Siobhan, and her family were ready and waiting at Newlands Church for a change of shoes. It was a gorgeous run; the sun was shining, we all knew the route well and soon enough we had been up and down Robinson, Hindscarth and Dalehead.

Leg 2 Honister to Wasdale

There was a chair waiting for me at Honister and I ate my porridge quickly, too quickly I was later to find out! Then Elaine Bisson, James Garland and myself set off. Overall, I think this is the leg that I fully enjoyed the most. I had trained on this route a lot with Elaine and it was good to catch up with James. I started to relax, not actually aware of how much tension had been building up. Then I vomited, I had eaten too much too quickly at Honister but I think there was also a release of tension. I had not realised how much stress had built up in planning and organising the BGR, and my anxiety about being the centre of attention. Now, I was on a leg I knew well with the sun shining and in good company my whole body relaxed and I enjoyed the running and the views. Grey Knots, Brandreth, Green Gable and Great Gable soon passed. The route around Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple and Red Pike swoops around the Mosedale Valley; it is a gorgeous run that has it all, you can stretch your legs whilst contouring, dodge and balance on rocks whilst descending, get into a rythmn ascending and enjoy the view of the Scafells as a backdrop. Elaine and James were great at keeping me eating and drinking, particularly as I was quickly going off solid food, apart from James’ ginger biscuits! From Yewbarrow we ran into Wasdale over one hour ahead of schedule.

Leg 3 Wasdale to Dunmail

The changeover in Wasdale felt relaxed. Tim Gilkinson, Jake Gilkinson, Chris Everett and Sarah Whitley were doing a brilliant job and I felt well cared for. Tall Paul, Rob Eaton and Penny Browell were ready to go. We had a steady rhythm going up to Scafell, thankfully Penny took photos whilst the sun was shining! As we neared the top I first felt some rain and realised that the visibility was low, it was about 2.30pm on Saturday.  From Scafell, we clambered down and across to Lords Rake to reach Mickledore and then Scafell Pike, which was a lot emptier than usual. I’m not sure exactly when, but conditions had become pretty brutal with low visibility, high rainfall and wind as we were attempting to travel at speed across the rockiest section of the Bob. At one point I attempted to eat and move but instead I fell, or was blown, on the slippy rocks, this was a good wakeup call that more than anything we wanted to stay safe and well.

The harsh weather continued and I knew that it slowed everything down… it made navigation harder, you had to be so much more careful on all the rock and it drained your energy. Tall Paul and Rob Eaton were great at navigating and seemed to keep in high spirits. It was hard conditions but there was still something I loved about being out there. As we went over Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End and Esk Pike it was wet, windy and hard to keep together as we manoeuvred over the rocks in clag. We reached Bowfell, explored Bowfell a bit more and then went on to Rossett Pike. It was a relief to get to Rossett Pike as I knew the ground ahead of us was easier to run on, I also knew that the first section of Leg 3 had cost us a lot of time. At Pike O Stickle, Penny went down into the Langdale Valley. The rain and clag continued, and I was only impressed as Tall and Rob navigated swiftly through Harrison Stickle, Thunacor Knott, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Calf Crag and then Steel Fell. We were a touch behind schedule, but it felt such a triumph to get to Dunmail and I was longing for Heather’s soup!

Leg 4 Dunmail to Threlkeld

Heather’s soup was perfect and after about ten minutes Seat Sandal was calling. I love Leg 4, it has a bit of rock and some good ascents at the start which contrasts to the run across the Dodds where you can stretch your legs and enjoy the undulations. Geoff Davies led the way with Mike Hughes, Fiona Brannan, Chris Little and Kathryn Davies. I knew they all must have been waiting at Dunmail for a good few hours in the rain but they brought such positivity and smiles, it was amazing.  Fiona kept me focused and as my communication decreased I knew Fiona would keep me right and she did just that. It was soon dark with the rain getting heavier, I remember Fairfield, Grisedale Tarn and marching up to Dollywagon Pike. I had been on this leg plenty of times and I knew it well but I’m afraid on this night the peaks merged into one. There was real thick darkness, wind, rain, and there were smiles and encouraging words in abundance. Geoff’s navigating was beyond amazing. He had rain pounding his face in the real thick darkness and yet he kept us on track. We came over Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Lower Man, Whiteside and Raise. After we crossed Sticks Pass and for the first time on my BGR I started to struggle mentally. It was somewhere near 2am and I had been running up and down England’s highest mountains for about 18 or 19 hours and for about 12 of these hours I had been battered by wind and rain in the mist. I actually didn’t know how much more I could take. The support team were brilliant, they carried on feeding me and smiling. I couldn’t see much at all, but I remember warm words and smiles.   The combination of the dark, rain and lights reminded me of a motivational video Stuart Scott sent me the previous day with the word ‘BELIEVE’ in white letters with a black background. It lifted my spirits, and from somewhere I had a quiet whisper in my head telling me, “You can, you can, just one foot in front of the other, keep going,” and that’s what I did I kept going over Stybarrow, Watson, Great Dodd and Clough Head. Coming into Threlkeld my sister Sarah was waiting for me on the corner, she had travelled over from Paris to be there and I knew without a shadow of doubt that she believed in me. I don’t think I managed to say anything to her.

Leg 5 Threlkeld to Moot Hall

Rejuvenated with warm porridge from Heather and refocused after Kim Loney’s prep talk which reminded me that I was good at ascending and could do it. On leaving the Gilkinson’s campervan I asked Tim to pray for me to have strength and speed, I knew he would. As it neared 3am it was time to take on the scramble up Halls Fell and two big climbs with Chris Everett, Jake Gilkinson, Sam Renwick and Fiona Brannan. I knew I had a chance to get to Moot Hall for 7am but it wasn’t guaranteed, it was tight, too tight. I was going to have to work really hard and I couldn’t imagine a better team to do it with. Halls Fell was dripping and it was great to see the sunken ring on the top of Blencathra, but there was no time for pausing so we ran across Mungrisdale Common, tripping over the tufts and straight to the river crossing. It started to become light and I had two big climbs ahead of me. My team were amazing, Chris kept ahead showing the way and avoiding abuse from me(!), whilst Fiona kept checking I was warm and fuelling. Jake was helping Chris, and Sam kept giving me small focused comments that were just what I needed. It was time to climb Great Calva. I’m not sure how Sam and Jake did it but they were so encouraging and positive, yet realistic about the effort that was needed. As we neared the top of Great Calva, I knew that if it was around 5am I could touch the green door of Moot Hall by 7am. Sam told me it was 4.55am. This thrilled me, but I knew I had to be focussed and work really hard. A great descent over the peat from Calva and then up and up to the stile in the fence that marked the beginning of the end of the climb up Skiddaw. I have never been so relieved to see a stile in my life! It was so windy on Skiddaw, but Sam and Jake were there right beside me as the wind bounced me from one of them to the other. I love the run from Skiddaw, and on this day I had to run the undulating descent like I had never run before, over the rocks, through the trees, through the heavy rain and in the streams. As I came through the car park in Keswick I saw Susan and Geoff jump out of their car and my children Caitriona and Charlie with my Mum and Sarah. Caitriona ran through the alley with me to Moot Hall, up the stairs and to the green door of Moot Hall for 6.39am closely followed by Charlie. It was the quickest time I have ever completed that leg. I looked around and was amazed that there were so many friends who had waited in the heavy rain to cheer me in. It was done; the most incredible journey imaginable in 23 hours and 39 minutes.

My BGR was only possible with the support of the following people, who were all amazing and I am very thankful to all of them:

Road Support
Tim Gilkinson, Jake Gilkinson, Chris Everett, Sarah Whitley, Siobhan Whitley, Heather Hughes, Susan Davies

Running Support
Susan Scott, Mark Davinson, John Donneky
Elaine Bisson, James Garland
Tall Paul, Rob Eaton, Penny Browell

Geoff Davies, Mike Hughes, Fiona Brannan, Chris Little, Kathryn Davies
Chris Everett, Jake Gilkinson, Sam Renwick

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Stuart’s Scott’s Biggest Adventure (so far…). The Bob Graham Round, Lake District, Saturday, May 5, 2018

66 miles & 27,000ft of ascent

Stuart Scott

It has taken me a while to put this report together as I’ve really been struggling to write a report that does justice to the enormity of the challenge that is The Bob Graham Round. I really wish I was a better writer to get across fully what this challenge has meant to me, but here’s my best shot at it…

I’ll start with the generic boring bit:

The Bob Graham Round is a fell running challenge that involves completing a route of approximately 66 miles and 27,000ft of ascent over 42 of the highest peaks in The Lake District. The round was first done in 1932 by Bob Graham, a hotel owner in Keswick, who at the age of 42 wanted to complete a circuit of 42 lake-land fells, within 24 hours. The round is known as the testing ground for the supremely fit and being a lover of extreme challenges, from the second I heard about it I knew I had to complete it.

After a little research into what exactly the round involved, I knew I had to become a member of a running club if I wanted to have any chance of completing the round. This is when I decided to join Elvet Striders.

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Bob Graham Round, Saturday, May 26, 2018

66miles, 42 Lakeland peaks, 27000ft elevation gain

Elaine Bisson

66miles, 42 Lakeland peaks, 27000ft elevation gain (like climbing Everest)
1 contender (me), 4 navigators (Geoff Davis, Mike Hughes, John Telfer, Steve Birkinshaw) 16 Pacers (Mandy, Katy, Jules, Mike, Jon, Stuart, Scott, Mark, Rob, Fiona, Gibbo, Mike, Penny, Steph, Nigel, Danny), 1 professional cook and road crew (Heather), 1 Road support and bodyguard (Susan), 1 family (husband, 3 children and a dog), stunt driver Katy Walton and sidecar Lesley Charman.

I first heard of the BGR after a run with Katy, shortly after I joined the Club (2014). She had been involved in the club’s Billy Bland challenge (the BGR run as a relay with pairs on each leg) and, having realised my love of hills, had jokingly said I would do it at some point. I’d come home and googled it, marvelling at the extreme challenge. My husband had then bought me the map as a Christmas present.

After London Marathon 2016 I’d had enough of tarmac. I’d been reading…Steve Chilton The Round, Runner by Lizzy Hawker, Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith. All fed into my habit and dream. I must admit now, I love the Lakes; it’s been a part of me since I was tiny. I’ve spent my childhood summers walking in sunshine or torrential rain…whatever the weather I loved it, it was like a second home. The only time I would complain was if we were going anywhere steep. I think it grew from my mother’s nervousness but I had a deep fear of heights, one that I have only just conquered.

Having done well at Swaledale Marathon in 2016, I’d offered to help on Mike’s BGR, I did leg 1. I’d taken a photo of him on top of Robinson (the first peak.) From here nearly the whole round is visible and I was in awe of the challenge he had striven to achieve. It felt superhuman. That put my training into perspective; the fells were something else.

On January 21st, 2017, a birthday treat, Geoff, Mike and I went to recce leg 5 of the BGR … Continue reading Bob Graham Round

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Mike’s Bob Graham Round, Friday, June 17, 2016

72M / 27,000'

Mike Hughes

The “Bob Graham Round”, or simply “the BGR” or even just “BG” – there is plenty written about it so no point going into details here, suffice to say is not a race, you are the only entrant, you go when you like, you start and finish at Moot hall in Keswick. To be successful you have returned there after visiting the 42 named peaks of the BGR in under 24 hours.

My report ended up being quite long, the short version; I trained lots, tried hard, had loads of people to help and did it with just minutes to spare.

My full BG story….

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Tom’s Bob Graham Round, The Lake District, Saturday, June 5, 2010

72M / 27,000'

Tom Reeves

For those of you who don’t know about The Bob Graham Round (BGR) it is a fell running challenge in the Lake District. The idea is to complete the round of 42 tops (including all the highest in the lakes) in less than 24 hours. The round must start and finish at the Moot Hall in Keswick and can be completed clockwise or anti-clockwise. The distance was originally measured at 72 miles, although it is probably a bit shorter than this. The total height gain over the round is 27,000 feet and remember – what goes up must come down. Just ask my knees! The BGR is not a race and anyone wishing to have a go can choose any date they wish in order to complete it. Most people do it late spring/ early summer when the days are long and the bracken is still low. Of course some hard cases like to try it in winter and some also like to do it unsupported.

The night before at the campsite.

For the purpose of logistics the BGR is split into 5 legs and for supported attempts such as mine each leg has a set of runners who act as pacers, navigators and packhorses carrying all the Bob Grahamers’ food, drink and kit. For more info check out the links below …

My Bob Graham Plan:

I decided to run an anti-clockwise round (the usual way of doing it is clockwise as originally completed by Bob). My rational was Geoff Davis (the striders Bob Graham Guru) did it that way. I like to be a bit different, and for me it made sense to be able to start at a reasonable time of the day i.e. 7am, and treat it as a long day out (a very long day out). The start time is important as this then influences which parts of the round you are going to do in the dark unless you are superhuman and expect to complete it all in day light! Ha!

Ready for the off.

I set off on a beautiful warm sunny morning with Geoff, Jamie Wilkinson, Phil Owen and Phil Middleton. I had the cheers of my road crew Joan, Mandy and Janet as well as pacers for later legs Graham and David (Gibbo) ringing in my ears – I couldn’t fail with such support.

The Real Start:

On the 17th of May 2008 I joined Geoff Davis and Will Horsley on leg two of Peter Moralee’s BG attempt (Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise). Geoff somehow persuaded me to join them although I can’t remember how. Anyway I had heard of the BG and there I was early in the morning, very early in the morning awaiting the arrival of Peter and Will via Halls Fell Ridge off Blencathra (one of my favourite mountains). Geoff had briefed me about the importance as a pacer of having food and drink ready as and when for Peter so as to not cause any delay. In due course Peter appeared with Will, sat down, gorged his face on god knows what and in what appeared very few minutes we were off. I introduced myself and then ran out of breath as we absolutely romped up Clough Head. I had done a recce with Geoff of the leg in the preceding weeks but the pace of this was another thing. I was struggling to hang on to Peter, I later found out so was Geoff, but I must admit I really had doubts as to whether I would be able to get round the leg. We reached the top and I noted the time on the sheet I had been given by Michelle, Peter’s wife and off we set running along to the next top. Thankfully Peter was not as quick going down hill as he was up so I managed to get my breath back, offer him some jelly babies and that was it for the rest of the leg. Struggle up the hills and jaunt down the other side.

We eventually reached Dunmail Raise, I had a butty then headed off home to Durham. Later that day while wandering around Durham city centre I looked at my watch and thought “he’ll (Peter) still be plodding round” then at teatime I looked again and thought “he’ll still be plodding round”, then when the news at 10 was on you guessed it …

I turned to Joan and suggested people who did BG’s were a bit nutty. I feel I am able to say this given my profession?

Anyway Joan turned back to me and suggested it wouldn’t be long till I would want to have a go. Needless to say I said that was a silly idea and I would never ever do a BGR.

Back to my BG attempt …

Leg 1: 10.6 miles (5 miles on the road) and 3 peaks
[Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head]

Oooh that hurts and I haven't started yet. I’d been watching the weather closely all week as, other than accidents, this is the only part of the BG you cannot control. I was pretty confident that I had trained enough (more of which I shall describe) but you just never know what the weather is going to do. I was concerned during my training that I’d get a terrible weekend with low cloud rain and wind. Now I was concerned that I was going to suffer from the high temperatures which were forecast and indeed occurring.

The run along the roads toward Newlands church was very leisurely and provided a nice gentle warming of the legs. Geoff and I changed our road shoes to fell shoes just prior to Newlands church courtesy of Graham, and I managed a full bottle of water and a Mars bar.

My first training runs:

At February half term 2010 we hired a cottage in Borrowdale and I had two firsts; my first BG recce and my first run on a leg other than leg four (leg two clockwise). I decided to start at the beginning and did leg 1. It was so exciting to be heading out onto the fells on my own – just me and my map and a description of the leg. It was cloudy all the way round and I was so chuffed to hit all three peaks spot on. The run along Hindscarth Edge was particularly exciting in shin-deep fresh snow. I ran it again 4 days later on a bright sunny day and did it only 5 minutes faster.

Back to my BGR …

Coming down to Honister.

It was great to get off road and feel like I was starting properly. The pull up Robinson although steep was a real pleasure, as I now felt in full BG mode as I stomped off with Geoff taking up the lead! We reached the top of Robinson 3 minutes down on my schedule (maybe the run along the road was too leisurely) then gave it some welly on the decent to the col before the traverse up to Hindscarth. Jamie and his mate Phil missed out Hindscarth and met up with me on the final climb to Dale Head – the views were fantastic and we could make out virtually the whole route of leg 2. The run down to Honister got me back on time and Geoff kindly slowed down to let me run in to the applause from everyone waiting, and there were a lot of folks.

I sat down in the national trust car park behind the Youth Hostel and stuffed a bacon and egg butty down followed by a cup of tea and a sports drink. It was a hive of activity all well co-ordinated by Joan my wife who I suspect was in her element marshalling the runners. I said hi to everyone and in particular Kevin who was navigating the next leg. I’d only had a brief meeting with Kevin at the top of the difficult step on Broad Stand previously when I was supporting Peter Moralees’ mega impressive attempt at 60 peaks three weeks prior to my attempt. Louise frying up! There was me, Peter (of course) Dave Atkinson and Alan Welsh we got to the bottom of Broad Stand which for those who don’t know is the shortest way of getting from Scafell pike to Scafell or vice versa. It may be the shortest way but it ain’t a walk. It involves a few metres of moderate rock climbing which if it was on a small crag would be straight forward but in the exposed position it’s in is pretty daunting. One slip and you would go a mighty long way indeed. Because of the risk people who are going up or down Broad stand often have someone put up a rope for them to use. Well there it was, a rope with a harness attached. Peter attempted to put it on but none of us knew how to fasten the damn thing! I should have known from my years of climbing but my temporarily befuddled brain just wasn’t having any of it. In the end Dave and Alan heaved Peter up while he pulled hand over hand on the rope. Dave then had ago with Alan pushing from below with little upward movement. I did a quick calculation and figured I was going to be left behind on a sloping block with a dirty great big drop to my left, so picked up the harness unfuddled my brain and figured out how to tie it. I showed Dave and Alan and buggered off up the corner saying a quick hello to Kevin who was on the other end of the rope and catching up Peter who was already nearing the top of Broad Stand.

Leg 2: 10 miles and 9 peaks
[Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirkfell, Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike & Yewbarrow]

This is my favourite leg.

Heading up towards Grey Knotts. So off we set up Grey Knotts with Kevin, Nigel Heppell, David (Gibbo) Gibson, Mike Bennett (and Benjie), Dave Hall and Nick Spencer. This was to be the largest team of the day. Geoff told Kevin to keep me from striding off too fast which was something I said I didn’t want to do prior to the start. Unfortunately or fortunately Kevin couldn’t stop me stomping off and the team was soon spread out and I got to the top of Grey Knotts 5 minutes up, the first time I had been up on my schedule so far.

I recall Kevin shouting the advice to take it easy as I ran off toward Green Gable. Did I listen to such good advice? Like hell did I!!! I had the bit between my teeth, I felt strong and I got my head down and started ticking off hills. Nigel and Dave Gibbo were duly sent along Moses Trod to meet up with us at Black Sail Pass while the rest of the team paced me up Great Gable. As usual it would seem there was cloud on top of Great Gable, but it was warm and with a light breeze unlike the day of my first recce of this leg.

A Leg 2 Recce

My first training run on this leg was a mid week affair with Nigel and Peter Moralee. Nigel and I drove across together and met up with Peter at Honister Youth Hostel in less than perfect weather. Once we reached the top of Grey Knotts we realised it was going to be a wet and windy day. I was soaked by the top of Brandreth and went from sweating buckets to shivering cold for most of the day. The going was pretty much ok till Kirkfell where we struggled to find the summit. I certainly got rather cold wandering round on the top there. Eventually we retraced our steps and found the summit and more importantly the ridge down to Black Sail pass, we struggled on as far as Pillar in low cloud and driving rain and called it a day at wind gap running back down the valley to Wasdale. We then trudged all the way back up Styhead Pass and down into Seathwaite back up to Honister. Nigel not being used to the long ascents and descents over that ground suffered with cramp at various points and I just hoped that the day of my attempt would be nothing like this as it would be a non starter.

Afterwards I knew I would need to have another run round in better weather partly so I could finish the leg and find the route off Yewbarrow which incidentally is a real knee wrecker but also to get a better idea of the route finding in general.

A quick note on training:

Unless you are a super fell athlete then the training for a BGR is not so much about speed as endurance and familiarisation with the route and the terrain. A good road runner or indeed cross country runner will not necessarily be any good on the Lakeland fells! The terrain is steep loose and unrelenting. The weather can be superb one minute and absolutely dire the next.

I decided that I would try and train at least 4 times per week. I did a run on a Wednesday with the Striders, a tempo run on a Thursday and two long runs on a weekend Saturday and Sunday. My long runs started at about 10 miles and gradually increased to 26 miles before I then concentrated more on time running rather than distance. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get over the Lakes for a lot of runs on the actual route and there is simply no substitution for this in terms of navigation, pacing and familiarisation with the terrain. 26 miles around Durham’s hills is absolutely no competition for 10 miles over the Gables and Pillar, and as for the slog up Scafell? Well more of that later.

Another leg 2 recce:

I was able to get back over to the Lakes not too long after my run out with Peter and Nigel. I was on my own and planned to do leg 2 from Honister then come back up over Styhead. The weather was lovely, a beautiful clear day I could see the whole of the leg once I was up on the tops and it makes such a difference to be able to see where you are. Coming down the North West ridge off Great Gable down to Beck Head I overtook a bloke on his own veering off to the left. I didn’t think any more about him till he caught me up on Kirkfell I looked him up and down – “Bob Grahamer” I thought. Sure enough he was. We struck up a conversation and completed the rest of the leg together. He was called Mark and was planning an anti-clockwise attempt about a month after mine. This is one of the really pleasant added bonuses of doing a BG – you get to meet some smashing people from such a wide diversity but with one thing in common (no not madness) – a love of the fells.

NB: Mark had to cancel his BG this year and is planning an attempt for next year (2011) which I hope to help him out on.

My BG again …

We picked up the North West ridge of Great Gable with ease and followed a new route for me which was down a big scree shoot. I don’t think Bengie was too keen on it but we got down in good time. I caught up with Nigel and Gibbo on the path up to Kirkfell. Coming off Kirkfell down the ridge to Black Sail Pass a message was passed to me from Kevin (who took his instructions to slow me down seriously) warning me I was even further up on my schedule. Again I still felt fresh so I kept on going at the same pace. The path up to Pillar which is the next top isn’t particularly steep but goes on for a helluva long way. Every time I’ve done it I still expect the top to arrive before it actually does. Again I got away from some of the team on the ascent; I was going strong uphill. They cut out Steeple and I met up with them on the descent from Red Pike. The last time I’d been along this part of the leg with Geoff we’d missed the start of the traverse from Dore Head across the screes to the summit of Yewbarrow – this time I was spot on and we got up in great time and great shape. The descent off Yewbarrow is a bugger on the legs and knees but importantly I knew a good path down. Kevin asked me if I knew which way I wanted to go I said “Yes” and he said, “Get on with it”. He also noted when we hit the path like a true Bob Grahamer of old, “There wasn’t a nice path like this when I did my round”. Times were tough in those days!

I think I caught Joan and the next team, namely Dave Atkinson and Lewis Grundy, by surprise getting to the car park 34 minutes up on schedule. They hadn’t even got a brew on yet …

I spent a very pleasant 15 minutes sat under the trees in the shade with my feet in a bowl of cold water eating pasta. We were now in probably the hottest part of the day, just what I needed for what was going to be the hardest climb and hardest leg of the round. I’d heard several tales of pain and cramp from people who had completed the BGR. Indeed either way up or down Scafell it’s tough.

A midweek recce with Geoff:

One of my midweek trips across with Geoff started at Seathwaite – we planned to do leg 2 from Green Gable onwards and leg 3 up to and including Great End. That would mean I could have another look at the best route between Scafell and Scafell Pike and have a good long run out. We made good progress all the way round leg 2 – the weather wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad i.e. cloud but no rain. Coming off Yewbarrow, or maybe going up Yewbarrow, Geoff decided he couldn’t face the drag up Scafell so I gave him me car keys and he planned to go up over Styhead Pass, possibly meeting me coming off Great End. I didn’t see him till I got back to the car. Turned out he decided to pop into the pub at Wasdale for a pint which stretched to two. Charming. I think he had a nice nap on the way home!!

Leg 3: 15.2 miles and 15 peaks
[Scafell, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Rosset Pike, Pike o Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacar Knott, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Calf Crag & Steel Fell]

I wasn’t looking forward to this first part of leg 3 – actually I was a bit nervous about all of leg 3. I’d run it twice before: once in an anti-clockwise direction with Geoff on one of our midweek excursions and once three weeks prior on Peter M’s 60 peak attempt when I completed 3 legs. The day was getting hotter and the drag up Scafell was long and arduous. One of the great things about helping or indeed completing a BGR is (cliche alert) all the people you meet.

Wasdale, before the start of Leg 3.

I’d only ever corresponded with Lewis via email and he seemed a pleasant chap in our exchanges (it turned out he’d just flown back in from America the previous evening), but you just never know … A hot day potentially tired and grumpy, could be a bad combination. Well I need not have worried – both he and Dave in between nattering about various ultra marathons kept my spirits up with words of encouragement and we made it to the top of Scafell in 70 minutes – 15 minutes faster than my schedule! Superb. Now for the hop across to Scafell Pike – not as easy as it might look on a pleasant early summer day.

Two weeks before:

I met up with Dave and we headed over to Wasdale from Seathwaite up over Styhead Pass. Dave was going to navigate leg 3 (the toughest leg) which goes from Wasdale to Dunmail Raise over Scafell, Scafell Pike, and then through the Langdale Pikes on my attempt. There are some tricky navigation decisions and we wanted to make sure we both agreed on the route. It was warm going up Scafell (as it turns out very similar to the temperatures on the day). The route from Scafell to Scafell Pike as the crow flies looks very straightforward but for those without wings it is pretty tricky either involving some mild rock climbing down or up Broad Stand (on an anti-clockwise it would be down), a descent down to Foxes Tarn then a climb up the other side to Mickledor, the col between the two mountains or (my choice) a rocky scree-filled gully then along the west wall traverse under some seriously impressive rock outcrops. We had to scramble down the very steep, loose gully then climb under a load of snow which had still not melted in the depths of the gully. We got to Scafell Pike to meet the usual crowds and then ran across via several tops to Bowfell and the fairly intricate decent down to Angle Tarn.

The plan after that was to head back to the car in Seathwaite which required another pull almost up to Esk Hause then a long decent down Ruddy Gill. On the way back to Seathwaite Farm the path goes over a small stone bridge and a very enticing stream with deep pools. Dave suggested we cool off in the stream. I assumed the shoes would come off and we’d have a plodge, but oh no, Dave was stripped down to his shorts and fully immersed in seconds. We managed to frighten off a young woman and her boyfriend who were sat by the stream but boy was it pleasant to sit in the middle of the stream and dip your head right under!!

I was dry by the time we’d covered the last mile or so to the car …

The traverse was of course very loose but finally free of snow. It was nice and cool out of the sun in the depths of the gully and would have been quite pleasant if it wasn’t for the huge boulder at the top of the second gully leading to the traverse which looks ready to go any minute and kill all in its path. We got a move on and were soon back in the sun and the heat – Scafell Pike was packed, standing room only, so we got a wriggle on and ticked off the next few hills in good order.

We were there where were you Tom? I was hoping to meet up with Mandy Dawson, Janet Raine and John Metson at Esk Hause, hopefully for a brew and something to eat, oh and some witty banter to keep the spirits up. John was then planning to complete the second half of the leg with us. Oh dear! I was going a bit faster than expected and unfortunately they didn’t arrive till I was long gone. I did however meet up with my brother in law, Tom, and his girlfriend Liz. How about this – he’d only just landed in the country the day before from his job in Abu Dhabi, mind you he wasn’t over just to say hello to me on a Lakeland fell. We had a brief chat and off we went.

Bowfell was to be the next potential banana skin as we would need to find the way off down through the face that is Hanging Knots. I need not have worried – the trip down with Dave two weeks before paid off, we found the route down in good time and were soon on Rossett Pike, peak number 20 on the round. The run across to Pike O Stickle feels like quite a long way after the pretty rapid ticking off of peaks since Scafell Pikes. This can be very boggy but it wasn’t too bad at all after all the dry weather. Lewis dropped behind while he tried to get a signal to ring his wife Jane. I’m not entirely sure where he got to but he suddenly appeared up in front of us, he’d taken a sneaky route which he and Dave knew about.

It was somewhere along the Langdale section that I started to feel a bit sickly and my food intake began to dwindle. I kept the fluids up but as for eating anything substantial – nope, it wasn’t going to stay down. A hot mid-afternoon turned into a beautiful summer evening and we met up with Jane, Lewis’s wife, just before Calf Crag – she was lovely giving me loads of encouragement and to top it off I was now 1 hour 40 minutes up on my schedule.

Happiness is your wife and a banana!

The run down off Steel Fell to Dunmail Raise and the next changeover is steep and I really felt it in my knees. I had been on the painkillers but couldn’t have anything for at least another hour – ouch! Dave ran off ahead at this point and I did think “eh up he’s keen to get to the car”. Actually it turned out he’d been taking note of my fantasising about another cold foot bath, a cuppa soup and a cup of tea. What a guy! He ran ahead to shout out the order to Joan and sure enough it was there when I arrived. This was a lovely stop – I was way up on schedule and all my chums were there to chat and give me a great boost of morale. I think I had an extra couple of minutes luxury of soaking my hot sore feet and enjoyed my cup of tea and soup.

Leg 4: 13.2 miles and 13 peaks
[Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Dollywaggon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Helvellyn Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson Dodd, Great Dodd & Clough Head]

This leg is the one I’ve covered the most times – I think even I could almost manage this one in the dark, but I wasn’t going to take any risks on my round.

More training:

In my training I did this leg 3 times in an anti-clockwise direction – once on my own in full winter conditions, which was brilliant. The sun was shining and I was running across and at times through knee-deep snow. I also did this leg as part of my first attempt at running two legs. This was a midweek jaunt out with Geoff and David (Gibbo). We made good progress to Threlkeld and stopped for lunch – I was testing out fell food and was thus eating a Melton Mowbray pork pie. I’d been waxing lyrical about it all the way along the Dodds Ridge – unfortunately in reality the pie proved just a little too much to eat given I still had all of the final leg to run. I surreptitiously threw the crust away and thought no more of it till I was roundly admonished by Geoff who’d noticed my littering while he was stretching in preparation for the treck up Blencathra. Geoff was very disappointed in my towny attitude and would not accept my suggestion that a passing dog would love my pie crust as a treat. Needless to say I picked it up and carried it with me only to get caught by Geoff again catching me trying to ditch it a little further up the lane. Have I heard the last of this behaviour? Have I heck as like! Running on Lakeland fells is tough and David felt the pace as we headed up Halls Fell, so much so that at the summit of Blencathra he and Geoff decided to miss out the final two tops and head back to Keswick. I pushed on, and on Skiddaw the final top had the wonderful experience of total silence and solitude in the thick low cloud. It felt like I was in another world completely on my own and in a way I was.

Back at the car the guys were there with Susan who had purchased fruit smoothies and cooked chicken legs – bloody lovely! After 15 peaks and 25 miles they really hit the spot.

All too soon we were off again with the new team. Geoff was back on the fells with me so there would be no worries about navigation. I also had Graham Daglish with me. It had been touch and go for Graham as he’d been under the weather during the week but here he was and he kept up the pace and banter all the way. Finally I had Dave Gunning, another new person to me. I asked Geoff to take the lead up Seat Sandal as I was feeling the pace and wanted to try and take it easier for the rest of the round. As Geoff noted later, he pushed on at a quick pace and kept looking round to see if it was too quick but there I was right behind him all the way. The next top is Fairfield and it’s a real bugger! All scree and it’s a straight up and back down, so from a psychological point of view it can be pretty tough to not really be going anywhere. Geoff and a Cranstons sausage roll. I must admit it was the toughest climb of the round so far and I was glad to be jogging back down to meet up with Graham who’d taken a direct route from the road to the bottom of the climb up Dollywaggon. Dave was laden down with malt loaf, chocolate-covered raisins and high-energy cola-flavoured jelly sweets. Try as he might, and Dave did try to persuade me I’m afraid, I just wasn’t up to the malt loaf (my stomach was not in good shape). The raisins and jelly sweets however went down a treat and I was fed them on a regular basis. I asked the time at the top of Dollywaggon hoping I hadn’t lost too much time only to be informed by Geoff that we’d made up another 20 minutes. I of course told him off as I was hoping to take it a bit easier over this leg – indeed he was the one at the changeover who’d emphasised that this leg would be completed in the time as scheduled, as it would be difficult to make up much time on it. We witnessed a wonderful sunset while jogging between Watson Dodd and Great Dodd. Geoff hinted that this just wasn’t a proper night section as the torches didn’t come out till we were heading off Clough Head – you can’t please some people. He also suggested my climbing style i.e. hands on hips was interesting, and I quote “You look like a demented queen”. Charming! Mind you I noticed he chirped up somewhat when he polished off one of my Cranstons sausage rolls at Threlkeld.

Leg 5: 12.5 miles and 3 peaks
[Blencathra, Great Calva and Skiddaw]

I was now starting to contemplate actually making it round. I knew that I had plenty of time and probably could have more or less walked it and still got to the end in under 24 hours. Of course, in the dark it can be easy to trip twist an ankle and really screw things up! This was clearly my most attractive support team – sorry lads. I had Susan Davis, Louise Wilkinson, Louise Billcliffe, Dave Gunning and Joe Faulkner (navigating). I was informed later that by Joan, that Joe had previously won a prize in an event as the organisers thought he was a female!

All too soon I had to get out of my chair and start the long pull up Halls Fell Ridge off Blencathra – my legs had stiffened while I was sat, so the first 10 minutes were a bit uncomfortable.

My first bimble up Halls Fell:

This was in February on a fantastic winter day sunny clear and a fresh dump of snow the day before. I must admit I was a little nervous as I left Joan and the boys in Threlkeld and started the long slog up the fell. I wondered what condition the ridge would be in and how challenging it might be in full winter conditions. I’ve never kicked steps along a frozen ridge in fell shoes on my tod. I needn’t have worried the snow was perfect for kicking steps and it was pristine condition not a footstep in it. The exposure in places was pretty exhilarating actually, especially when I got myself right on the crest of the ridge. I met a fellow BG recce-er on the way down from the summit and never saw anyone else for the rest of the leg till I got up onto Skiddaw. There was so much snow that I was able top leap over the gates on the way down much to the delight of walkers on the way up. Great fun, this is what it’s all about.

We got into a good rhythm and got to the summit in a magnificent time of 54 minutes – it was now Sunday! Louise W was in fine spirits and promised that should I start to flag she had a couple of jokes to perk me up – she also had jelly babies. Heading over to Mungrisdale was hard work – I needed to walk for a few minutes and I haven’t a clue how Joe did it, but he got us to the river spot on. Amazing! On the way over Louise W suddenly said, “Hold on” and disappeared into the dark, only to reappear a few minutes later informing us that she had just rescued a lamb from a peat bog!

Great Calva is the next hill and the penultimate peak on an anti-clockwise BGR. I can’t imagine many people go up other than on a BGR, as it’s not the most exciting of hills and is a bit out of the way. Going up it was terrible – I really ground to a halt. The girls all kept on encouraging me and Louise W told me her joke which I must admit I can’t remember at all. What I do recall is that it was so awful that the pain of hearing it did take my mind off my tiredness for a short while. I attempted to eat a caffeine gel and nearly brought it back up. Louise B produced some beef crisps and I had a couple and they hit the spot. We all managed to stick together pretty well up Skiddaw and it was great to see Louise B and Susan make it up in good order. This was their first time pacing and I know they were hoping not to struggle and hold me up – well they needn’t have worried. Susan chatted away to me all the way up and down Skiddaw. On the way down I commented that my running style had become a bit weird at which Susan suggested I was “mincing”, another motivational quote from the Davis charm school? As I saw the lights of Keswick drawing ever closer I was able to speed up a wee bit and mince down with aplomb.

20 hours and 53 minutes!

Here’s one … the Friday night before my round I was chatting with some of the gang at the campsite at Bassenthwaite when Geoff came back over. He told me with a wicked grin on his face that the chap he’d been chatting to commented that I was too fat to do a BGR. Needless to say if I needed more incentive to make it round this was it!!!!! So I was doing my BGR not only for myself but also for all the fat fell runners.

Joan came up and met me on the path down from Skiddaw, just above the car park at Latrigg. The dawn was just about arriving and we were listening to larks on the way down. The run down through the woods was a bit of a blur and I felt rather emotional as I ran across Fitz Park in the early dawn, and there they were: Joan, Graham, Geoff, Mandy, and Janet, still all cheery and chirpy outside the Moot Hall at 3.55am. I managed to stay standing for the photos and Mandy produced a bottle of Cava – not that I could even contemplate drinking it. I’d almost forgot about the time and was so pleased to find out my finishing time to be 20 hours and 53 minutes – this was way better than I’d ever dared to imagine. I had set a time which I felt would be doable and give me a bit of space for errors, tiredness and the usual hassles, so to have beaten that time by over two hours was just the icing on the cake.

Now for the thanks …

It's over ...

To all the guys and gals who ran and supported me on the day.
To all my fellow striders who wished me well.
To my boys for trying to remain interested when I waxed lyrical about the BGR.
To Geoff Davis for superb support throughout, with great advice, encouragement and some grand days out on the fells.
To Susan for letting me borrow Geoff for our midweek jaunts.
Finally to Joan for putting up with my obsession for the best part of 6 months and doing a brilliant job on the day – I wanted for nothing.

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