The Bob Graham Round

Much has been written of the Bob Graham Round, by better writers and better runners than me.
I will not attempt to emulate them. It is too soon for one thing. 
One week after completing the BG, I am still absorbing the experience, recalling moments on the mountains that I think of as home, moments with friends, moments of discomfort, of pain, of joy and of simply being. To run on the fells for nearly 24hrs is an experience few will ever know. It is one I will never forget.
It is impossible to say where the journey began. The Bob is something that has occupied my mind, at times wholly, for at least five years. It is something that I was aware of, and held muted aspirations towards for many years before that. 
It was, I think, while waiting for friends beneath Rossett Pike to support an attempt in 2015, that I acknowledged my own desire to make a serious attempt. I watched three or four groups come through that day, though my friends never arrived, a knee injury forcing a halt on Fairfield.
Two years later and I found myself running up Skiddaw on my first attempt. As darkness fell, so the clag descended and from there on things got steadily worse. Leg 2 was run on bearings throughout in appalling visibility and strong winds. On Fairfield, after hours of intense concentration in dire conditions, I accepted it wasn’t meant to be and we called it a day at Dunmail. It was the right decision. 
But The Bob is a journey once begun, that needs closure.
Late in 2018, I started to make serious preparations once again. Long runs in all weathers, hard days on the fells in full winter conditions, painful physio sessions, a more disciplined stretching routine than I have ever stuck too in the past…
To the dismay of some, I continued racing until the week before, recording some of my best results to date – 8th at Eskdale Elevation, 8th at Pendle Cloughs – both tough AL races covering some rough ground. Racing is perhaps not the best training for a BG but it gave me confidence. And that confidence is key.
And so after months of preparation, at 7.05am on May 18th, I set off for a second attempt, running anti-clockwise in the Clayton-le-Moors tradition, which suited my schedule and body clock.
The first two legs felt easy enough, and while it was a little harder to get going again after a rest at Wasdale, leg 3 never felt overly taxing and I arrived at Dunmail feeling confident. Leg 4 was hard. Fairfield was despatched in short order but after that things went awry. Dizziness and nausea plagued me passing Helvellyn and for the length of the Dodds. By the end of Leg 3 I was an hour ahead of a 22hr schedule, but on leg 4, moving more slowly than I realised, the buffer I had created disappeared.
Climbing out of Threlkeld, Blencathra hidden in the clag, I clawed up the ridge for what seemed like hours. By the time we reached the summit I had other problems. My left knee was becoming increasingly painful and the descent towards Calva was a blur or darkness, clag and pain. Worse still, we were not in fact descending towards Calva. The pain in my knee was forcing me off the traverse onto a more direct descent which put less stress on the joint. By the time we arrived in the valley we were seriously off route.
There followed a nightmarish traverse, leaping through huge spongy tussocks covered in 3ft high heather, to regain the trod beside Wiley Gill. Somewhere along the way, the pain, nausea and tiredness turned to raw determination and, as though racing, I ran and paced hard up Calva. A fast descent pulled enough time back to ease off slightly on the last climb of Skiddaw and approaching the summit, choking back unexpected emotion, I stood in the bitter wind, trying to understand there were no more.
The descent was long and slow, secure at last in the knowledge I would make it to the Moot Hall within 24hrs.
After nearly 70 miles, 42 summits and some 27,000ft of ascent, at 6.52am I touched the green door of the Moot Hall, completing the Bob Graham Round.
Could I have gone faster, stopped less, taken a better line off Blencathra? Yes. Will I run it again, try for a ‘fast’ round? Maybe. But first there are the summer’s races to come. And then, maybe, Ramsay’s Round.
For now it is enough.
So many people helped along the way, not just on the weekend of the attempt, but in the months and years leading to it and I am hugely grateful to all, for the advice and encouragement given and the confidence shown.
A special vote of thanks must go to Andy Laycock who ran legs 2 & 3, and then turned out again in the early hours to run the final leg in poor conditions. And to all of the support runners, more than one of whom also ran more than one leg and whose support and enthusiasm for my attempt was humbling.

The runners:

Leg 1: Russell Clarke, Matt Perry, Chris Snell, Richard Briscoe
Leg 2: Andy Laycock, David Bagot, Peter Coates
Leg 3: Hayley Evans, Andy Laycock, Andy Webster
Leg 4: Ralph Baines, Andrew Priory, Mark Nutter
Leg 5: Hayley Evans, Andy Laycock, Ralph Baines, David Bagot

And last but far from least, thanks to Sarah Robertshaw for ferrying bags and bodies around Cumbria and making sure everyone was where they needed to be.

Thank you all.

Comments