Monday, 24 August 2015

Facing my fears - a challenge of a lifetime - the Bob Graham Round

Since Daniel was born life has been crazy.  It always seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done.  To train for my running races whilst being a working parent of two small children means I have had to become an expert in time management.
 Recently somebody made the following comment to me, "Paul must be giving you too much time off to train."  I laughed it off at the time as it was clearly meant as a joke, but the comment has remained in my thoughts weeks later. In all honestly I could write an entire essay (with distinctly feminist overtones) about my considered response to the comment, but my time management skills don't extend that far at the moment.
Training around work and family is difficult, but if it is something you really want, then you find a way (within the personal restrictions of your life situation).  I make sure not to impinge on family time or on Paul's training time.  I also make sure that the events I am racing mean something to me, and that will fit into my life.  With that in mind I have recently let it be known what my plans for 2016 are.  I already said I was planning on entering the Lakeland 100 (if I am fast enough on September 1st!) but I am planning on a 2nd Lake District adventure in 2016; the Bob Graham Round!!   I am going to combine my training for these to hopefully help me achieve something amazing next year.  It will be my biggest ever running challenge by a country mile.

A mountain to climb...

So what's it all about?

The Bob Graham Round is often described as the grand-daddy of UK ultra distance fell running. This is what it says on the Bob Graham Club web-page:

First done way back in 1932 by Bob Graham, hotelier of Keswick, Cumberland, at the age of 42, the 42 Peak Round has become a testing ground for the supremely fit. Each summer around 100 of the most highly tuned ultra-distance fell runners will attempt the 27,000 ft of ascent within the allotted 24 hours. Only one in three will return to the Keswick Moot Hall before the clock runs down. Most of the rest will be back again ...!
Have you got what it takes?

Depending on what routes you choose between summits the distance can vary between 66 and 72 miles with obvious variations upwards of 27, 000 feet of ascent and the same of descent.

The 2014 Stats.

Here is a short summary of this year's attempts and successes
  • There were 144 registrations (19 ladies) with 57 successful rounds (6 ladies).
  • There were 56 successful clockwise rounds (6 ladies) and 1 successful anticlockwise round (0 ladies).
  • Fastest times were 18:47 for the men and 22:46 for the ladies.
  • The average age of successful contenders was 39yrs 4months.
  • The age of successful contenders ranged from 27 to 53.
The table below shows the number of previous attempts made by each successful contender.
Notable completions this year included the first two rounds by Americans: Scott Jurek and Ricky Gates were successful in April

As you can see just from looking at the success rate, this is a challenge not to be undertaken lightly.  The BGR is not a race though.  It's is a personal challenge in the purest sense.  There is no bib number, no finishers medal, no race t-shirt. There is a biennial dinner you can attend and receive a certificate if you succeed.  But really what you get is the satisfaction of pushing yourself to your absolute limit and seeing if it is good enough to get your name on a rather exclusive list.  It is like many things in fell running - understated, simple, running for the sake of challenging yourself against the stunning landscape in which it is set.

Beyond the straight-forward enormity of the task, there is an added element for me.  I never saw myself as a person who would even contemplate a BGR attempt.  I'm terrified of heights! The first time Paul attempted to take me across Mickledore I froze with fear, collapsed to the ground, full on panic attack ensued as I was literally clinging for my life to the grass on the ground. #dramaqueen I recall afterwards joking about how I would never attempt a Bob Graham Round, to which Paul replied "that wasn't even one of the scary bits!" So that was that.

Mickledore down in the bottom of the picture ahead of the ascent options of Scafell. Photo courtesy of

Fast forward to the start of 2015. After spending some time in the Lake District and rediscovering my love of the area and the being in the fells a small seed was planted in my brain. I already knew that the Lakeland 100 was in my 2016 plans and I started wondering if it would be possible to combine the two challanges. So I started doing some local fell races, including the British Champs race at Durisdeer (and managed not to finish last!) to see how I felt.  Then I arranged a recce run of part of Leg 3 with Susan and Howard, and my mind was made up.  In all honesty it was made up back in July when I was running the Lakeland 50.  I was just so in love with where I was and how the fells made me feel that I just wanted more! Greedy I know ;-)

We didn't manage to climb the correct route up Bowfell - as it wasn't completely safe to do so when we got to that part of the route due to the clag. I was really disappointed but at the same time seriously relieved.  That climb is one of the crunch points of the route (of the parts that I know so far).  I had been really nervous about doing the climb but ready to suck it up once we got there.  But I was annoyed with myself for being so easily dissuaded from doing the climb and as I repeatedly looked at it when it peaked out through the clag I could almost feel the mountain laughing at it's victory over me.

Bowfell summit

 We summited from another route and we continued to Scafell Pike before needing to head for home but that climb is still on my mind, despite a really successful and thoroughly enjoyable day out in the fells with lots of navigation practice.

So I have a huge task ahead me with many months of fell and ultra training to try and fit into my already busy life, but because this is a challenge I feel passionate about then I am willing to make the sacrifices needed to give it my all (eg. no social life and stupidly early alarm clocks!).

I am even going to have the opportunity to learn from the absolute best when I get to spend time with fell running legend Nicky Spinks later this year! Holy cow, I'm going to be completely starstruck for the second time this year!!

Nicky is the ladies record holder for the BGR - 18 hours and 6 minutes. Here is the link to the video of her record breaking run: 

Find your passion and find a way.

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