The Bob Graham Round.

So then. It’s time. All the months…well, years of planning, training and preparation is over. The day is here. Time to shut out all distractions and focus on myself and my team that’s around me. It’s very humbling to know that around 30 people are descending on Keswick and surrounding areas just for one man to realise his dream. It was also remarkable the amount of support I had on social networking sites from friends, family, fellow runners and adventurers. Many not a clue what I was doing, I was just doing something “crazy” in their eyes. Maybe but through the next 24 hours or so they would share the pain. For sure by the end of this day all would know of “The Bob Graham Round”….

Well I wake up at seven o’clock in the morning. Six hours sleeping pill induced sleep. That’ll do considering. I assume most BG contenders suffer worse nights prior to attempts. Breakfast, van packed and we head to Cumbria around ten o’clock. We are heading to Dale and Denise’s static caravan not far from threkheld (checkpoint 1). Marvellous views of Blencathra from here. Mountain number three. A nice undisrupted journey. I fill my face with chilli and rice and relax for an hour, I then jump in my camper and grab a power nap. A little red squirrel comes out to greet me. 🙂 Surprisingly I nod off for a bit. When I wake up it’s time to don battle uniform and into my Team Raidlight kit. As soon as I’m dressed I seem to enter another mindset and Adrenaline kicks in. So do the nerves!!

We make our way to Keswick, I pick up my leg one navigator and friend at threkheld. We park up just around the corner from the start at moot hall. Not long before the rest of my leg one team start turning up.

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So I switch on my tracker and make my way to the start with crew. The support crew for this leg are Chris Webb, Matt Plant, John Wilock, Brian Carr(with dog) and Mike perry. Of course Dale Colclough is there, he is going to oversee everything and would jump in on any problems that arise along with Denise who is helping Lisa out at checkpoints. You forget that it isn’t just yourself going without sleep, these folk are depriving themselves too just the same. Everybody is putting a shift in on my behalf. Some a double shift.

I’m constantly looking at my watch counting down each minute…..a few lads from the BG forum turn up to see me off and Adrian Strand who is my leg 3 support at Wasdale along with Andy Bellamy.

Me waiting to go

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So we are away, it begins.

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Section One: Keswick to Threlkeld
A short amount of road to the small carpark on Latrigg then a steep pull up onto Skiddaw itself. A steep descent to the track leading to Skiddaw House, straight over this and up Great Calva, then a beeline for Blencathra. Finally a descent of the steep Halls Fell to Threlkeld. Once on the fells the going is at first a slate/shale path then boggy or heathery with a rocky final descent. Distance: 12.5 miles, Ascent: c.5150ft, Time: 4hrs

Chris takes me out at quite a pace….. Sub 8 minute miles for BG lol…. It was just to get my blood flowing. I did feel a little stiff actually as I hadn’t run since Saturday. It wasn’t long until we slowed to a jog and then power walk around Latrigg and up Jenkins hill…..Dale was there to watch us up. We flew up skidders in 72 mins from town centre, Pete Mcnulty was watching on the tracker he told me he went to get his race shoes out for his leg lol.

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The weather on the top was horrific as expected with stiff gale force winds in clag but we were soon off the top and on route to Great calva.
Probably my least favourite part of the round now. It’s always a boggy marshy mess even when it’s dry. Up and over calva and down to the river caldew to get our feet wet.

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We then start on our ascent to blencathra over mungrisdale common. All of a sudden I’m absolutely freezing. This is a miserable barren place at times.

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I layer up and make a beeline for the summit, we are up on time which is good but it’s getting really cold. This is going to be a long night over the cloughs I think to myself………..unfortunately I’m right. I decide that I’m going to change into a merino wool baselayer and my thicker raidlight leggings for leg 2. Anyway I can’t think about leg 2, I still have the dangerous descent of halls fell in the dark with 100 metres of the parachute drop to cut out the hands and feet stuff at the top. Although it’s nothing new to me I’m worrying about the support crew for this section.

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We reach the summit and make for Halls fell a bit lively. Me and Chris are gradually pulling away from the rest and I’m caught between a rock and a hard place so to speak. I look behind and they’ve disappeared. We shout and nothing!! …..F*** I think. A few minutes and they appear. I find out later that Matt had taken a tumble but alls ok. Once on the decent runnable paths we go for it knowing I’m having 10 mins at the threkheld checkpoint and the rest will catch up.

I’m there and Jump in the van to eat my Tea, sweet potato, nut butter with chia seed and coconut oil mixed. Yummy, I get changed and I’m good to go feeling fresh. Pudding can wait until later ;). I’m up about 15 mins so very pleased. I thank Chris and the support crew (a couple are coming with me on leg 2).

Section Two: Threlkeld to Dunmail Raise
A slightly involved section in the valley to gain the slopes of Clough Head, once the summit of this is reached then it is high level ridge running along mainly grassy paths to Helvellyn. At Dollywaggon Pike a steep descent is made to Grisedale Tarn then the two outliers of Fairfield and Seat Sandal are taken before descending to the road at the summit of Dunmail Raise. The going is mainly grassy with some easy stony paths around Helvellyn and Fairfield. Distance: 13.2 miles, Ascent: c.5900ft, Time 4hrs

Support crew. Jon Wilock, Ant (forest) Bethall, Simon Webb, Roger Taylor, Brian Carr and dog.

Off we go into the drizzly bleak looking night. I switch the suunto to navigate mode. John is main navigator but looking at the clag I need back up. Simon has his on too. This is going to be tough but it’s wouldn’t be the Bob graham round if it was easy would it? We drive on for clough head summit and it’s quite a slog and I’m not sure how I feel. I’m getting a sort of cloudy shadow in my eyeline and I’m thinking something is wrong with me!! I then realise I’m wearing my headtorch over my peaked cap and it’s casting a shadow :D. Dozy git!!

After clough head it’s over to Great Dodd which will lift us further into the clag. When we reach the top it’s then we realise how tough it’s going to be. We cannot find the summit cairn it’s just pea soup clag. We spread out five yards apart and sweep the top. A shout from the left, phew….we got it. Relief was short lived as this would be the story for nearly every trig point across the top of the ridge. Even hellveyln trig was tough to find. Incidentally the shelter had a bloke bivvying in it on a mountain bike. Sorry I woke you up fella but you made me chuckle. A nice bit of humour on what was turning into a very stressful leg for me. I was beginning to lose the time that I’d made on the first leg through nav errors. Well not errors just sweeping the tops back and forth for trig points and cairns. Johnny Wilock was playing a blinder by even getting us in the vicinity of them but he was tiring fast and after Dollywagon pike I was pulling away. I had to make a decision to go for Fairfield summit now. I had Ant, Simon and roger with me and Jon would be fine with Brian. As Fairfield is an out and back we would cross paths again. We struggled even to find Fairfield shelter summits. This was getting boring now!!! Fairfield ascent is a right tug by the way but that wasn’t bothering me now. Seat sandal was next and as I was naving myself now I was becoming a bit of a fell Diva and getting stroppy with the lads. Just pure stress. I nearly messed up and almost descended into grasmere off the top. Luckily We saw johns and Brian’s head torches and realised we were on the wrong bearing. Luck more than skill. A quick about turn and we picked up the trod to dunmail. I noticed the checkpoint Van and tent lit up like a beacon down below….what a site for saw eyes…..and pudding awaits :).

I flew into the checkpoint as a stroppy lost soul stuffed down my pudding changed my shoes and socks and was out like a flash. Five minutes!! The trouble was my support wasn’t ready and they were chasing me up Dunmail towards Steel fell….John and Brian hadn’t arrived back off leg two yet and I didn’t have time to thank them but my head was in a spin. I was getting time obsessed so while I’m on the subject, I was five minutes up by cutting my rest short. I was also happier because the clag was clearing, dawn was breaking and I had probably the best leg 3 navigator on the job, Dale Colclough but don’t tell him I said that ;)…

Section Three: Dunmail Raise to Wasdale
This is the longest section and also the roughest underfoot. A steep climb from the road to Steel Fell leads to an undulating section in and around rocky hummocks to the Langdale Pikes. A moorland section then leads round the head of Langdale to Rossett Pike. A cunning scramble leads to Bowfell which marks the start of the roughest section of the round. Speed is difficult to maintain over this terrain as it is mainly composed of large boulders. Eventually Scafell Pike is reached. The quickest way to Scafell is via Broad Stand which is a rock climb, though admittedly easy, where a rope may be required (support team?). It is then a long descent on grass to the car park at Wasdale. Distance: 15.2 miles, Ascent: c.6500ft, Time 7hrs

Support crew: Dale Colclough, Roger Taylor, Simon Webb, Adnan Kahn, Frank Murphy, Clare Holcroft.

So with Dale leading the way we fly up dunmail raise at quite a rapid pace. I’d seen Frank shivering down at the checkpoint so thought he needed warming up a little ;). Steel fell ticked off then across to calf crag. Getting some really good views now as the clag was lifting to the higher summits. We would be visiting them shortly of course. Everybody seemed fine and I was feeling Ok. A sharp climb to sergeant man and I’m starting to grab a good couple of minutes a peak. I seem to be picking them off quite quickly now. Wonder if anybody is watching the tracker at this ungodly hour I think to myself. I know I do on other contenders rounds:)…

I reach the langdales up on my schedule and it’s becoming clear that I’m stretching the support crew. Although this is a notorious slow leg always, all the easy section was done and the next bit is what you train for….. Bowfell was looming large as well as Other scrambling rocky climbs with massive wet boulder fields to navigate. When me and Dale arrive Rossett Pike we send Adnan back to tell the others to head to Esk hause and then to Wasdale to the support team. It was too risky pulling them around the rocky dangerous terrain carrying my gear as well as their own, the gap would just widen deeper. Myself, Dale, Adnan and Frank would carry on. Adnan stays with frank as me and Dale visit the various crag peaks required until we get to the scafells.

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As we approached Scafell pike the clag clears like somebody has just opened the curtains and the views over Eskdale were amazing. I now wish I’d taken more photos but like I said earlier, time was becoming an obsession.

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Frank looks at the climb up to England highest mountain and let’s out a squeak. I tell him this is the easy bit, it’s what’s after is the problem…. I’m great at confidence building me 🙂

We reach the Scafell pike summit and there is only one person there which is surprising for a bank holiday. In fact he is only the second none BGR support person I’d seen on the whole round along with the mad mountain biker earlier!! I wonder if he had a lock on that bike at the top of helvellyn :)……. I don’t hang around and we head for Scafell. Lords rake was burning demons in my mind. I was sweltering now as I’d left my leggings on from leg 2.Couldn’t wait to get back into my shorts. We pass a few early morning rock climbers on broad stand. I let the others chat, I’m becoming an unsociable T@** now.

So up we go, anybody watching the tracker will be bored now….it’s not going to move for a while.

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Surprisingly the scramble up lords rake goes quite well. I’m using my arm, shoulder and core muscles and giving my legs a little breather. Frank and Adnan have fallen behind but we know they are there. We have to visit the Scafell cairn and might catch them on the way back….

They don’t catch up but I can see them so we begin our descent to wasdale. We get to the scree drop and this is one of the highlights of the BGR. A scree run almost to the beck. I love these as they take the pressure off the quads Geronimo!!!!! We are down quite quickly. We cross the beck and have a quick rinse, it’s very warm now. As I’m standing in the freezing water my calfs cramp up but it goes as soon as I climb out. There must be some science behind it but it’s a warning to me to hydrate and electrolyte up so I reach for my salt caps…

We trot down to the National trust car park to the support crew. No lisa and camper van this time. Adrian and Andy were there but lisa had given them the full brief I’m sure. 🙂

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I had made good time and was around 13 minutes up. The 23 hour schedule had me down for a 20 minute break here……no chance, I don’t do long stays. They’d put a car park ticket on me at that rate :). Tracy and Ant weren’t here for leg 4. Wonder what’s happened there I thought. We would catch up with each other later it turns out. There were still 2 mules and a navigator on the leg awaiting. I stuff my face and get changed into my shorts while I’m waiting for frank and Adnan to arrive off Scafell with my kit. They arrive and it’s time to go.. I now for the first time feel a little tired but it’s the view of the yewbarrow wall waiting for me that’s not helping….

This is her from the viewpoint I’d be climbing

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Anyway, let’s rock. I say my thank you’s and goodbyes…..another faultless display of Nav from Mr Colclough (well almost)….;)

Leg 4 awaits.

Section Four: Wasdale to Honister Pass
This section is another tough section especially since it follows the long central section. It begins with another steep climb direct from the car park at Wasdale to the summit of Yewbarrow. Generally easy running ground then leads around the head of Mosedale over Pillar to Black Sail Pass. Kirkfell and Great Gable (which along with Green Gable is the last rough section) are then traversed before easier ground leads to Honister Pass. Distance: 10 miles, Ascent: c.6300ft, Time 5hrs

Support Crew: Brian Stallwood with Harry the dog, Pete McNulty, Phil Fortrun and Ant Bethall eventually :)….

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So yewbarrow was gazing down at me challenging me, come on then what have you got!!! This is one of the pivotal moments in a BGR round. Many say crack yewbarrow and you’re there. I don’t buy into that. There is major work besides it to be done after. Stolly and Phil set off in front while peter stays by my side talking me up the climb and handing me water. I think I’m going too slow but peters voice is calm and he’s reassuring me all the time telling me I’ve loads of time. In height this mountain is a baby. Barely 2000ft but it’s sapping me and the summit is getting no closer, I trudge on….and on the heat is picking up too….

Eventually I see Stolly perched on the summit…. Thank **** for that! I get there and touch the cairn with relief. I ask Peter for the time and this is where he puts it into perspective. “You are well up on a 23 hour schedule. If you slow up on two consecutive summits, I’ll tell you”. Well that was it from then on, time didn’t bother me. I just cracked on. As I broke into a jog I got my second wind. Tiredness went and I felt fresh again. Whether it was a mental thing or that the food had digested and filtered through, it didn’t matter. I had bags of energy :).

As I manoeuvre around stirrup crag I look at the whole of mosedale….. I’ll need them bags of energy!! Sometimes you are better in the clag…. There are lakeland giants on this leg all looking down at little me. After navigating the rocky crags it’s time to ascend red pike which was fine and without problems. I can break into a steady trot again now to probably my favourite wainwright in lakeland, Steeple. I think stolly feels the same for it :). It might be because on the three times I’ve visited her, the weather has been fantastic. Forgive me for a few photographs then….

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Steeple is one of the out and backs on the BGR so as per rules I take one with me (stolly) and the others put their feet up and take pics for a while. Then when back we descend to the col and make our war up to Pillar summit. This is a steady climb and it has a prominent trig on a grassy plateau. I’ve wild camped on the top of here before.

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Right, next it’s to two giants, kirk fell and Great Gable….

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I’d been eying Gable from afar. She is a real mountain looking mountain but today I would not be feeling the love for her. Well not until the top anyway. Anyway kirk fell first. Lots of running to be had here. On the way I hear jansssssoonnnn. Forest Bethall 🙂 he’s slept in but had intercepted us on route bringing a nice couple of torq gels with him to shove in my face for the climbs. Although I’m a real food advocate taking gels towards the latter end of an event with easy swallow food is a good tactic for me. I eat some little cocktail sausages also to slow down absorption a little. Up kirk fell we go, passing folk on the scramble which pleases me. Forest comments that even tho you’ve been on the go since …erm, yesterday!! you are still passing these fresh as a daisy folk which brings a little wry smile.

Anyway we get there and now for Gable, bring it on!!…..if you have to. On the way we pass runners reccying the Ennerdale horseshoe which takes place in two weeks……I’m doing that :/ !!! Then another BGR forum member who wishes me luck. Up we go. For some reason I find the ascent of Gable easy. Not sure why, it just was. I’m up it in no time really. When I touch the cairn….that thought is there. I know I’ve cracked the BGR, bar injury nothing is going to stop me from here. Nothing! It now becomes a time thing but I don’t turn it into a race…..yet.

Three more peaks to bag before descent to honister and dinner or is it breakfast? We chalk them off sharpish Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts. Done, down we go…..thanks to the boys for support. All four played a part on this tough leg there was Faultless nav off Stolls and Peter kept me well calm.

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So four legs down one to go. Quite a few peeps here and Tracy Dean has arrived. Should of been on leg four but went to the wrong Car park to meet the others.. Tracy wouldn’t be Tracy without a calamity :D. She’s looking great even with her new Boy haircut ;).

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Into the van I go for some food. Lisa had got my stuff ready in exactly the same position on every leg. I can’t stress how important role this played in keeping my break times shorter than the schedule plans. She was ace. I’m really pleased that I’m eating quite well. Although this is my pinnacle event for the year, I still testing my stomach for longer events and it’s bulletproof on this day.

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I’m good to go,my main man Dale is navving so again I can relax a little. In fact the whole leg turned out to be relaxed….we just took the piss out of each other. It reminded me of the Tour De France last leg procession where it’s in the bag but you have to go through the motion. It’s great to have no stress whatsoever.

Section Five: Honister Pass to Keswick
This is the shortest fell section with only three summits to cross before the final road section is reached. Follow the fence up to Dale Head, there then follows a high level ridge over Hindscarth and Robinson before a long ridge is descended to the road. Generally grassy underfoot. Distance: 10.6 miles, Ascent: c.2500ft, Time 3hrs

Support crew: Dale Colclough, Tracy Dean, Matt Plant, Jonathon Melia and Forest Bethall to Dale head

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Up we go then. We walk the steady climb to Dale head in relaxed mode. There would be plenty of running in this leg to come as far as BG goes. I realised then that Dale himself had practically been awake for the duration and was tired also. As well as doing two legs he had ran over Moses trod to honister from Wasdale meeting Den on the way. He’s a diamond and master minded most of the behind the scenes stuff with Lisa along with the two legs.

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We get to the cairn and forest leaves us here. He’s had 12 hours in the mountains himself. We continue to hindscarth and break into a trot a slow one at that but I’m still running ok if a little stiff…..that would change. I bag the cairn and nearly fall into it 🙂

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And now to Robinson. Number 42 of 42!!! Let’s do it. We run to the climb all is good. When we get there we try to take a pic but the batteries go…..doh, o well. Everybody get their phones out but none will work because it so cold…..nevermind, onwards to the road section. The descent first tho, all I can say is OUCH!!! It’s the only part that hurts now. My quads are officially trashed. Tracy gets me some painkillers from Jons pack and they work a treat. I should of done it earlier. Although I try to live life holistically, From now on drugs will be used along with a few gels on events or races.

We come to another scree slope which takes the pressure off immensely and it leads us to a track. We are down!!! Approx 4 to 5 miles of running to do. Dale looks at his watch. I have a task for you…. You have an hour and a quarter to break 22 hours. Tracy chucks me a bannoffee pie gel. Let’s do this!! Now Tracy says it as it is, on the way back she says I’ve never seen anybody “so with it” towards the end of this sort of challenge. I don’t think you’ve pushed yourself!!! Now it was tongue in cheek of course but as I sit here writing this…..I totally agree!! It’s ringing in my ears. Particularly as the next day I watched a runner come in completely on his arse. That’s how you should be. Anyway back to the task. I quickly broke into a trot, then a little faster then when I looked at my watch I was 8 minute mileing after being awake for over 30 hours, climbing over 27000 ft and ATM I’d moved over 63 lakeland type miles!!! She was right.

Roger and Simon had parked up the road to cheer us on which was cool. Then came the road signs Keswick 3 mile…2.5 miles 1.75 miles, portinscale turn right onto the footpath. Den is waiting to run in with us. She says the market Is busy which I expected really. If I’d come in on schedule it would be quieter. I can’t grumble though it is a bank hol and I was going to clock a faster time. I turn onto the high street, I can see moot hall. Dale steps into the road at booths roundabout and stops the traffic which tickled me. I’m now moving quicker to moot to my supporters clapping me in. Unfortunately lisa had chose the wrong side of the market but heard the cheers as I came up the other side. I reached the steps, climbed to the green door and kissed it! It was done!!!! 21 hours 48 mins. The tracker registered 22:01 for some reason but who cares. Time to celebrate with the bubbly with friends, family and my wonderful support crew who had made the journey north to help me to do this.

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I have to thank all my support crew for making this happen. Special mention to Dale Colclough for reasons listed earlier and likewise to my wife Lisa Heath for her hardwork not just on the day but througout the week and putting up with the stress of my training regime. Here are the rest of them and thanks to them all again.

Leg runners: Chris Webb with lawrie his friend, John Wilock, Matt Plant, Mike Perry, Brian Carr, Forest Bethall, Roger Taylor, Simon Webb, Frank Murphy, Adnan Kahn, Clare Holcroft, Peter Mcnulty, Brian Stalwood, Phil Fortrun, Tracy Dean, Jonathon Melia.

Road support: Adrian Strand, Andy Bellamy, Denise Broom.

Other support: Sheila Mcnulty, Connor Heath, Teagan Heath, Stacey Coupland, Jo and Andy Pedley, Lisa Perry. To the guys from the BGR forum and to Opentracking Robb and James for the use of their trackers.

Nutrition used: Generation Ucan, sweet potato mixed with coconut oil, nut butter, chia. Paleo cake and custard, nine bars, nakd bars, macadamia nuts, medjool dates, baby bel cheese, Ella pantry baby food, chocolate coated coffee beans, cocktail sausages, chorizo and 4 torq gels towards the end.

To Bob Graham

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