On Saturday 23rd July at 1am I set off on a series of 5 short runs around the Lakes that I linked together into what is known as the ‘Bob Graham Round’…….BGR for short – you may have already read about it here.
I’ll not lie, it’s become a bit of a fad this thing; the easiest of the ‘Big 3’ to complete. The subject of a recent (mediocre) book and the ‘stuff of legends’ back when it was a little less travelled jaunt around the fells, it’s perhaps just losing some of its charm. That said it’s a right good day out and a great way to see the world, so I’ll get bucked off my high horse.
This then is a report of ‘my’ round (split into two distinct parts, the preparation and the doing – you’re reading part one by the way). Except that it’s not ‘my’ round, it’s firmly ‘our’ round, as in the dozens of awesome folk who helped me have an incredible day out instead of what could, or should, have been an epic, slogging sufferfest. This is a tribute to them and a testament to that old adage that you are, quite literally, the sum of your parts.
Before we get into the meat of it you might like to tuck in to the delicious training prior to the day. I’ve documented it a bit before here and here, but if it’s numbers you want then I’ll take you on a tour of my Strava secrets………….so far in 2016 I’ve run 800.3km with 38,868m ascent over a period of 82hrs 39mins, biked 5,781.3km with 37,812m ascent for 177hrs 55mins.
The vast majority of that was from February onwards straight off the back of 3 months of nordic skiing (full body fuckage!!) from November to February. Wow look at me right?! Wrong, those numbers aren’t for you to go ‘you’re so awesome, have my kids’, they’re to show that this thing is fundamentally achievable if you put the time in. I spent 4 months of that time since February away on courses for work….down South. If you know your geography you’ll be fully aware that in order to get to some decent hills from frickin’ Wiltshire you need to travel at least 200 miles. With Friday rush-hour that’s (including the journey back (and in my experience of the travelling – obviously if you have a motorbike or super car or whatever you’re a better human being than me apparently) brackets within brackets….cool huh!?) 11hrs in the car. It’s bleak. Cycling was the breakthrough. You’ve read my shameful eulogising of two wheels as a training tool so I’ll not bore you again……but it works.
Due to achilles niggles (always seem to get them around the New Year hmmm??) I’ve been running once a week in the form of a race. Everything else has been cycling. The races have been long ones (Welsh 1000s, Wasdale etc) but the cycling has been predominantly turbo sessions to build leg strength given the lack of meaningful proximity to the fells. Once or twice a week would be long rides up to 5/6hrs or 100+ miles to get the mileage and time ‘on’ my legs in but without the impact that running brings. This is good and bad. Good for the reasons stated, bad because your legs need that pounding to harden them up. Not harden in the strength aspect but harden in terms of sheer robustness. This cost me on the day (read Part Two for that one).
So as you know I’ve become quite a sentimental guy of late (think it’s to do with getting married maybe), sentimental being another word for ‘soppy’ or ‘wet’. This little section is a shameless tribute to the pacers and supporters who came out at all hours and carried the day. I had a right old flap trying to get people in place but as it turned out I had the perfect pairings (+/-) for each Leg ably supported throughout by my wife and mum. The dream team, as follows……..
Chris Stirling – what’s to say about Chris? Total beast, extreme triathlete, ex-beast climber who could still crush some rocks if he felt like it…….top bloke all round really. Unflappable with the nav even when it got a touch claggy on Skiddaw and I got a secret bead-on hoping he’d done the research as I should have done! Never in doubt of course. His triathlon experience really showed during the Leg ‘transitions’…….I’d have bumbled about there all morning!
Caleb Reid – as local to Keswick as it gets shy of actually living there. Steady away and totally reliable……and owner of a much better headtorch than mine! Great guy to set you up for the rest of the day and a solid runner giving it the beans in spite of a niggly injury. Nice one man!
Stuart MacLeod – didn’t know Stuart before the night. He’s a mate of Chris’ so that’s all I needed to know to be okay with him tagging along. Does extreme stuff on bikes, on foot and in water….one after the other.
Ben Abdelnoor – awkwardly kind of a secret hero of mine but I managed to hold it together and not faint. Pretty much the guy you want with you at some point on a day like that. Sponsored hero, race organiser, club captain and ‘Mr Lakeland Classics’. Top bloke.
Bob Proud – ‘mad’, ‘crazy’, ‘psycho’……all words that he lives by (it’s a private joke, and one that I realise isn’t all that funny if, like all private jokes, you’re not in on it yourselves). Possibly the funniest person I’ve ever met?? Got two gears has Bob…..’fast’ or ‘stop’. Fast no matter what the terrain too i.e. as fast uphill as he is down it. Obsessed over the route and, together with Gary, ensured that I literally didn’t have to think once on what many consider the hardest Leg of the lot. That’s 5+ hours of concentration without putting a foot wrong and carrying about 20kg worth of flapjack and sandwiches for me!
Gary Thorpe – Gary is someone I’d heard a lot about but had never met. What I’d heard was good though…very good. Completed his two BGs (clockwise and anti-clockwise) in very impressive sub-19hr times. Can be known to talk a ‘fair bit’ but personally that’s just what I needed on that long middle section. Also happens to be an absolute oracle when it comes to the Lakeland fells.
Todd Oates – just a nerdy orienteer right?! Yes….but also a heck of a lot more. Owner, but thankfully this time not wearer, of some lovely lycra shorts and an equally fantastic looking visor/hat thing. Impeccable ‘navver’ and a great front-running pacer. Not a bad bodger either as my dicky leg would testify should it ever mutate some form of mouth – it’s amazing what you can do with a bit of zinc tape.
Karl Steinegger – just mad keen on running! Quiet and dependable with bags of talent. Glad he wasn’t in charge of the navigation though else we’d have been screwed as between us we’d struggle to get out of a one door room.
Todd and Karl – very glad to have these guys carry on through to Keswick with me.
Billy Gibson – the epitome of the ‘sum of your parts’. This guy drove all the way from Dundee to Keswick (that’s the business end of 200 miles each way) to help me run just 12 miles, and all I got him was a bag of chips and a pint. Humbled doesn’t come close. What a top guy. Quiet and unassuming but a total beast of a runner and further proof of what a special club Dundee Hawkhill Harriers are.
Esther – my wife. Didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked her if she’d be cool giving up the vast majority of her Saturday to drive around meeting me at random road crossing points across the Lakes. Not to mention the days, weeks and months where I’d be trying to compromise between spending a day of our weekend (having not seen her at all during the week – cheers Army!) running/cycling around the hills over spending a day seeing her. She gave up a lot for me and I owe her one.
Mum – my….well, yeah my mum. Drove up from the Midlands to catch fleeting glimpses of her son looking miserable and demanding food. Similar to the previous 30 years and 326 days of my life really! I’m super lucky to have a mum who totally ‘gets it’ when it comes to this kind of thing….being not shy of a triathlon or long run herself.
Dave Gill – so we started off with grand ideas of making a film about fell running. This then became a film about the preparation and completion of a BGR, which then became a film about just the completion of the BGR, which then became stills of the BG. I’m sure you’ll agree though…..what a knack this lad has for shooting a camera! High-tailed it from London to meet me at Moot Hall at 1am, before following me around all day getting these awesome shots…….bon effort!
Ben Robinson and Jake Rogers – put their rope access and years of rock bothering to awesome use with a fool-proof and bomber rig up Broad Stand. Hiking up from Langdale with all that rope and gear, plus food and water that I robbed off them, to then sit around waiting for me to get up and past them in less than 5mins. Sum of the parts.
David – my step-dad with the pooch.
Wayne – Karl’s dad.
Andy – dropped Bob off and had some good words of encouragement.
Some random lady who massaged my leg – Gary’s wife??
My favourite part of the planning process. I’m only an hours exposure to an open, fully stocked fridge away from being morbidly obese. One thing about the BGR is that unless your name starts with ‘B’ and ends with ‘illy Bland’ you’re gonna be on your feet for at least 13hrs 53mins. You’re not gonna give two short ones about how many calories something has or even whether it was farmed sustainably or mixed in a warehouse that had a whiff of peanuts about it; you’re just gonna wanna (I like how that rolls off the tongue) get it in you like some sex-starved sailor on a run ashore.
There were Frijj milkshakes in there, tins upon tins of rice pudding, bananas, flapjack, tuna sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches (yes, you read that right), cheese with chicken and hummus sandwiches, George’s own protein power cake (recipe for sale to the highest bidder), fruit pots, coffee (only the best), milk, electrolytes (I didn’t get cramp once…not once), tea, Cuppa-Soups, Eccles cakes, homemade bircher muesli…….and so on. You get the picture I think. Basically if it used to move or grew out the ground I tried my best to eat the bastard.
So there you have it. The preparation was done. The team assembled. The scran sat waiting. The next part looks at the details of the day itself. Maybe see you there…….to be fair you could probably run a BG faster than you could plough through this mundane drivel. Jokes on you though because you’re the one still reading this.