Tag: Lakeland


It started with a handful of club runners, then slowly but surely, the word spread, a Whatsapp group was created and a few months later 24 fresh legs stood at the bottom of Dunmail Raise ready for a three-day Bob Graham Round.

The Bob Graham Round (BGR) is a renowned route in the Lakes that takes in 42 peaks over 66 miles and 27,000 ft of climb. To join the Bob Graham 24 Hour Club you must (spoiler alert) complete the route in 24 hours. But we thought a “leisurely” three-day attempt would be a good place to start.

The Round is split into five legs, starting and finishing in Keswick. As we needed accommodation every 20 miles or so, we did a slightly different version and started at leg 3 from Dunmail Raise which gave us:

Day 1 Dunmail to Wasdale: 15miles, 6640ft

Day 2 Wasdale to Keswick: 20.8miles ,7171ft

Day 3 Keswick to Dunmail: 25.2miles, 11,145ft

With it being close to the summer solstice weekend we were blessed with long days, green fells, lark song, and mild weather. For many of us this was our first attempt at piecing together all 5 legs and luckily we had some top notch navigators in the group. While the common experiences were enjoying each other’s company, sore knees and consuming more snacks than you could ever imagine, we each have a tale to tell…


Never have I ever eaten so many calories in 3 days! Perks of long-distance running! Sausage rolls, crisps, battenbergs, crisps, satsumas, crisps, Snickers, crisps, bananas. Did I mention crisps? Plus, double pub dinners, living the high life. Sore knees resulted in a few descents on the derriere and day three soggy bogs resulted in some seriously wrinkled toes! Thank you Caroline for the dry socks and Phil for day 3 company. The best thing about doing the BGR is how you get to know the skyline ahead and behind you. I’m proud to say I can now stand atop Helvellyn and name the peaks in my view. 


Ah…The Bob Graham Round. Already I’m viewing this adventure with rose-tinted spectacles and only remembering the moments of euphoria and fun. But everygreat adventure brings challenges and I had mine. For me, it was Hell’s Fell or more commonly known as Halls Fell and our chosen descent off Blencathra. My, I was not happy! I started to lose faith in my shoes and felt quite nervous. Thanks to Andy and Helen for patiently guiding me down and not making me feel like a complete idiot.  But back to the good stuff (and there was plenty of it):  one of my highlights was the injection of energy from new people joining the group on day 2 (take a bow, Hilary, Sheelagh, Caroline and Ian) and Phil on day 3. It really lifted my spirits seeing these guys. Tips for next time? Ear plugs (in case we have the grave misfortune of having a stag party opposite our YHA room again) and more comfortable shoes. Mudclaws were not a wise choice. Thanks to the whole group: you were all magnificent. Special mentions though to Emma the trooper, Helen the captain of chirp and Adam the entertainer/cameraman.


The Bob Graham Round is something I’ve been wanting to do (over a few days) for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was extremely nervous, mostly because we had planned to do it in one big group. I’m certainly not the fastest runner in the club and I knew there were going to be loads of speedy people for me to attempt to keep up with! As it turned out, it was a steady, social pace and my nerves settled almost straight away.


Day One: Banter, food, sunshine, food, rain, mist, food. I fell over on Great End and split my knee open (again). That was fun. Thanks to Phil for the first aid and to the others for reassurance/putting up with me. Bigger thanks to the girls for letting me have the double bed all to myself in the hostel! 

Day Two: £60 taxi, West Cumberland A&E, a doctor scrubbing the inside of my knee with a toothbrush, 5 stitches and a lot less food. Massive thanks to Hilary (aka Mum?—ed) for driving miles to collect me and saving me a small fortune.

Day Three: More banter, more food, a few tears descending Halls Fell (with Helen kindly reminding me that tears weren’t going to help me down!).  STUNNING views, numerous pairs of sore knees, a fair bit of swearing, great company and the feeling of joy in finishing.

Same time next year?


Days completed: 2 (legs 3-5)


For some reason I had it in my head that it would be good practice, though I’m still not entirely sure what for, to follow suit with a few of the party who were carrying full packs for the weekend in preparation for their upcoming Mountain Marathon. The realisation that this was not a good idea and entirely unnecessary hit me about three quarters of the way up Steel Fell, roughly fifteen minutes into the weekend.

The rough weather forecasted for the afternoon of the first day turned what were lovely vistas into a bitterly cold, closed-in day. At no point did it escape me that while the rest of the country was experiencing a heatwave, we were in some truly miserable mountain weather.

Down to some misplaced exuberance, a nice stretch of downhill coming off High Raise, and ultimately a deceptively deep bog, I soon found myself muttering expletives whilst trying to walk off a sprained ankle. It would ultimately cause me to call it quits at the end of day two, having hobbled and cursed my way down Robinson.

Now I’ve got my grumblings out of the way, it’s worth saying that the weekend was lots of fun with great company. Legs 3 and 4 are challenging but beautiful and I’m already keen to go back and revisit them.

Kudos & thanks: Fair play to Emma for trooping through to Wasdale YHA, having cut her knee open on the top of Scafell Pike – impressive stuff! And for coming back for more on the final day too. Big thank you to Hilary for kindly lending me some poles for Leg 5, it really helped take the weight off the ankle. And thank you to everyone who joined, both for the full weekend and in part, and made it a wholly enjoyable experience.

Dan icing his knees with an innovative system of buffs.


I have just started to recover from the Bob Graham three-day event, my knees are still slightly swollen, thats almost six months of recovery. However, it was one of the best adventures I have had in my running career and I almost certainly put the injury I sustained down to my own lack of conditioning for this epic.

If my memory serves me well, it was approximately a marathon a day for three days straight, with an enormous amount of climbing on steep sharp fells.

I very much enjoyed every minute of the trip, apart from the final descent back to Dunmail Raise when I could no longer actually run due to the pain in my knees. I especially enjoyed the company of the fellow NLFRs including Nodders who was very cheerful throughout and appeared to be filming the whole thing (release date?), singing Cumbria Ma Lord, Cumbriaah with Andy and a special shout out to Caroline for providing dry socks!

Immediately after we finished I was so psyched for long-distance running (despite my injury) that I entered into the Kong Mountain Marathan on Arran, which I later had to pull out of. Next time I will make sure I am ready for this type of trip before embarking upon it. No regrets though. 🙂


Here are some photos!

​​Big thanks to Helen Freeman for being the Bob Graham write-up High Sheriff

FKT at the Fellpack Triple Expresso (Catbells, Walla Crag, Latrigg)

As 2019 was the year for dubious world records and associated PB claims in athletics (no offence, Eliud 😉), I thought why not celebrate my lovely new NLFR vest by staking my own tenuous claim for a world record, OK fastest known time (FKT), for the Fellpack Triple Expresso.  

My brother Steve and I already held the FKT, and whilst being the only known participants lessens the claim somewhat, our achievements were made without the use of rotating pacers or state-of-the-art Nikes (just our dad on the latter two tops and in my case, Salomons with more miles on the clock than I care to mention) so it’s worth shouting about, right? As our previous attempt was completed in a St Theresa’s AC vest (and Keswick AC who Steve runs for) I thought we’d best go claim some Cumbrian glory in NLFR’s name. It’s probably worth pointing out at this stage, the Triple Expresso doesn’t really exist as a concept outside of the Jones family: We came up with the idea over a beer and Steve christened it as a friendly nod to Fellpack’s near neighbour George Fishers and its Espresso Round. (Expresso after an express train as well as the drink.)

Fellpack is a bar/café/restaurant (https://www.fellpack.co.uk/) on Lake Road in Keswick, and has rapidly established itself as something of a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. For those seeking to refuel after a day on the fells, it offers a comprehensive range of tasty snacks and meals (including lots of GF & vegan options). If rehydration is more your bag, it’s fully licensed with a good selection of lagers and ales, and if you’re looking for inspiration for your next adventure there’s knowledgeable staff, plenty of outdoorsy books kicking about and the walls are adorned with running club vests and photos of top fell runners. 

Fellpack run informal challenges for their clientele to bag some of the local fells. You get on the leader board for running to either Walla Crag, Catbells or Latrigg, taking a selfie at the top, and getting back to the café for a celebratory slice of cake. For a few years now I’ve done the Walla Dash on the weekend before Christmas, and last year we thought we’d try to be the first people to run all 3 of the designated fells, starting and finishing at the Fellpack, and revisiting inbetween! 

2018’s effort was 3 hours 7 minutes 32 seconds. We adopted the same strategy for Christmas 2019: we would tackle the out and back run to Catbells first, which is the biggest of the climbs and has the fastest road sections of the day leading to and from it. I think the weather was marginally worse this year, but there wasn’t a lot in it and I guess we summitted in within a minute or two of our 2018 time. You’ve got a decent run back through Portinscale to the Fellpack, but like last year I soon went from “feeling good, best conserve some energy” to the more familiar “crikey, it’s going to be long afternoon” as I went up the deceptively steep Springs Road on the way to the main climb up to Walla Crag. We were pretty much breaking even on time at the second summit (we’d done leg one 2 minutes faster than 2018, so must have been a fair bit slower to lose so much time up the relatively short climb from town to Walla) but we got back to the Fellpack for the penultimate time with a couple of minutes grace back in the bag. 

After a short run across town you are then faced with the short sharp climb of Spooney Green Lane that will be familiar to anyone who has tackled Skiddaw. The lane is a swine at the best of times but even worse with 20km in the legs. It gets sharper when you pull off the main path and take the shortest but steepest ascent to Latrigg’s summit as per the Latrigg fell race. As is often the case, we saw some hikers mistakenly celebrating getting to the top at the false summit by the bench just shy of the real peak (for those seeking a photo op, for my money this is has the most rewarding ratio in terms of effort against view in the Lakes, but only if you take more windy walkers path!). Steve took rather too much enjoyment pointing out their error and sent them to the true summit in the cloud a couple of hundred metres away. I was too tired to join in the banter, but I’m sure the look on my face said something along the lines of “I know, I can’t be bothered either.” 

We soon met Dad at the top. I can’t be sure, but I think his words of encouragement were along the lines of “best get cracking if you want to beat your record”. Thanks, Dad! By this point I’d forgotten our previous splits for the various peaks/return visits to Fellpack so I don’t know how long it had taken to get from Latrigg back to town the last time, but I was aware we had 19 minutes to beat our PB. On reflection I should have realised how doable it was as it’s just a couple of miles of downhill fell running, and flattish road. (By comparison Kenny Stuart’s longstanding record for the “up & down” Latrigg fell race is a mind boggling 16 minutes 30 odd seconds.) But it wasn’t until we got off Spooney Green Lane and towards the back of Keswick Pool that I was confident of a PB.

So, after just short of 25lm run and 1400m climbed, we got back to Fellpack in 3.04.52; a good two and a half minute PB, a Christmas tradition extended and, perhaps only for a short time, joint bragging rights for NFLR with Keswick AC (there’s worse clubs to share a claim to fame with). I think we tackled the peaks in the best order, but if anyone was using this for a Yorkshire 3 Peaks training run and not bothered about records I’d suggest Latrigg, Catbells then Walla. That way you get the mimic Pen-y-Ghent’s short sharp climb not too warmed up, and some fast road running an hour or two in. If anyone wants clarity on route on rules, feel free to give Steve or me a shout on Facebook.

I’d love to think we can take the record below 3 hours, but there’s nothing to be learned in terms of route really, and perhaps only marginal benefits coming off grassy Catbells and Latrigg in better weather, so I’d be looking at doubling last year’s fitness gains to be in with a chance. With any luck, hopefully someone else will rise to the challenge and take it below 3 hours first. You never know, they may just be wearing a NLFR top?

Richard Jones

Dan and Ollie’s Bob Graham Round

­Saturday 7th September 2019

The Bob Graham Round, as all fell runners know, is steeped in legend by the vast history of attempts from running legends like Billy Bland, Joss Naylor, Rob Jebb, Nicky Spinks, Jasmin Paris, and Kilian Jornet, and the list goes on! Like many runners I caught the Bob Graham bug after reading Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith. So, when my good running pal Dan said he was going to give it an attempt this summer, the itch to give it a go really kicked in. For those who don’t know, the BGR was devised in 1932 by Bob Graham, a hotelier of Keswick. It amounts to 66 miles over 42 Lakeland peaks with over 27,000ft of elevation, all to be completed within 24 hours. It is split into five legs as with four road crossings where you can fill up on food and water if you have a support crew.

Dan asked me to support him on the first two legs, so I began training hard as I wanted to make sure I was fit enough. As he is living in the Lakes, I knew he would be super speedy and strong on the hills. About a month before the proposed start date, we ran a rather wet and windy Abrahams Tea Round which amounted to a tasty 30 miles and 11,000ft of elevation. I felt good on that which showed my training was paying off, and Dan began to fill my head with words of encouragement that I would be fit enough to join him for the entire BGR. The combination of these two elements began to convince me that it might be possible. 

Another two weeks of training passed and during a successful recce of leg 3, I told Dan that I was in, and I would do the round with him. Ooo scary! I only told a handful of people that I was attempting the whole round, I didn’t want the pressure of having to succeed. However, all I actually wanted to do was blurt it out to everyone I met.

Leg 1 Keswick to Threlkeld

Fuelling on some tasty katsu curry at Threlkeld

The Friday was a rush with last-minute packing, finishing work, trying to snooze, and eating lots. Before I knew it, we were standing at Moot Hall awaiting our midnight start. Barry, who was covering Dan’s Saturday shift at Keswick youth hostel, came out to take a snap of us both and wish us good luck. It was nice to start the round without many spectators as it took the pressure off us, it felt like we were just going out for a night run in the fells, no biggie.

As we climbed higher up Skiddaw the clag set in and by the time we reached the top it was difficult to make out the edge of the path. However, thanks to Dan’s knowledge of the first leg we had no issue finding the trods that took us to Great Calva and then onto Blencathra. Even though it was pretty wet due to the mist we decided to go down the main scramble of Halls Fell as we had recently got lost trying to find a cleaner line during a recce. We were slightly down on schedule when we arrived in Threlkeld, but Dan’s parents, Kevin and Lucy, had some hot food and a cuppa waiting.

Leg 2 Threlkeld to Dumnail Raise

Coming down Seat Sandal to Dunmail Riase
A lush cuppa at Dunmail Raise

The clag was the same for most of the leg 2 and we nearly lost Watsons Dodd, but due to a bit more luck than skill it appeared out of the mist after a worried few minutes. It’s crazy how you can get turned around when the visibility is poor and you don’t pay attention to your bearing! Just as we were topping out of Helvellyn the sun began to poke its head out from beneath the horizon and we were both lost for words by the beauty of it all. This gave us beaming smiles as we bounded down to the awaiting crew at Dunmail Raise.

40 miles in and still smiling at the top of Scafell Pike

Leg 3 Dunmail Raise to Wasdale

We picked up Abel and Pete for leg 3 who were both brilliant with reminding us to eat and drink. Also Abel’s nav was spot on. It was nice to relax a bit and at some points I felt like a little lost puppy as I hooked onto the back of Abel’s heels and blindly followed his every step as he guided us through the rocky rough stuff. Some friends, Dave and Sheila, met us on Scafell Pike and were able to get some brilliant pics on the top. We all looked really cheery even though Dan’s foot had somehow managed to fight its way through the side of his shoe. This isn’t ideal when you have a 2800ft descent off the top of Scafell with a fair amount of scree running. But thanks to some trusty climbing tape the shoe held all the way down to Wasdale.

Leg 4 Wasdale to Honister

I can see why they call Wasdale the graveyard of the Bob Graham as the climb up Yewbarrow is not what you want after your legs have been jellified from that descent. Thankfully the gravedigger did not come calling as we set off with our two fresh new supporters Calum and Sam. As we summited Yewbarrow we bumped into a couple who were sipping on white wine in the sun as they had just completed all the Wainwrights in only three years: kudos to them! Leg 4 was tough, and I had a couple of low moments due to feeling bloated from all the food we had been eating. But after munching on a fresh banana I soon felt better and the miles ticked away. It was nice having Calum and Sam acting as our mums constantly giving us water, slices of pizza and sweeties. On the final descent from Grey Knotts, we both knew that completing the round was going to be possible. This gave us a huge rush of endorphins which pushed us down to Honister.

Mouths full of food at Honister

Leg 5 Honister to Keswick

After more tea and hot food, we picked up Abel again and the 5 of us headed up Dale Head in a jolly mood. Only three more tops! The sun was starting to set, and we basked in the golden light for the final hour on the fells. When we topped out on Robinson, Dan and I embraced in an emotional hug as neither of us could believe what we had just achieved. The steep grassy descent off the top hurt the knees, so a bit of bum sliding made an appearance. It’s a great idea until a load of prickles get stuck in your undershorts. We made a quick change into fresh socks, club vests and road shoes for the final 10km along the road and bounded off with excitement. Surprisingly we were all going at quite a pace considering, and by the time we hit Keswick high street we were doing a full-on sprint. What a feeling to climb the stairs of Moot Hall like so many running legends and have all our supporters there cheering and clapping. We clocked in at 20 hours and 3 minutes, over 40 minutes ahead of our schedule! There were more emotional hugs all round and we just couldn’t stop smiling. This certainly won’t be a moment I will ever forget. I did not really realise how much of a welcoming running community there is in Keswick until people I had never met before were congratulating me and Dan. One guy summed it up nicely by simply saying “Welcome to the club lads!” There is no better way of celebrating the best day out on the fells either of us have ever had than by going to the pub with good company for some food and beers.

Hindscarth: second last summit
Coming down from Robinson, the last summit, in the golden hour

I want to say thank you to Kevin and Lucy Cade for their excellent road support and for supplying some of the best cups of tea I’ve ever had. Thank you Abel, Pete, Calum and Sam for their superb leg support and for keeping us smiling when it got tough. And thanks also to Dave and Sheila for the quality photos, they captured the memories of the day perfectly.

So what’s next then?

–Ollie Roberts

Be prepared

Having recently experienced two incidents in the fells, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to remind myself, and everyone else, of the respect we need to give to the mountains and high fells, and the importance of what we need to carry and how to prepare ourselves for all eventualities.

The first incident was when Emma fell and gashed her knee quite badly on Cross Fell Race a couple of months ago. This was initially attended to by me and fellow runners who provided bandages and water etc, and then was efficiently dealt with by the race organisers who managed to get her transported off the fell and forwarded to hospital without the need for fell rescue. No long term damage, thankfully.

The second happened during a recce of Langdale Horseshoe this last Bank Holiday Monday, only around half a mile up Stickle Ghyll.  Sheelagh, Sharon, Emma and me, along with friends from Kirkstall Harriers and Horsforth Fellandale (Izzy and Louise), witnessed what became quite a serious incident, when a walker tripped and fell right in front of Sheelagh, audibly and obviously breaking a bone/bones in his lower leg.

Between us, and the friend of the injured man, we managed to make him as comfortable and warm as possible in the circumstances, with what equipment we had.  As there were a few of us, we each, quite naturally, took on our own roles.  Izzy, who incidentally is currently training to be a mountain rescuer, rang the emergency services; Sheelagh asked questions about medical history, allergies, medication etc. Meanwhile, Sharon and the rest of us were emptying our bags to see what warm/extra clothing we could use to help.  Sharon had a foam mat which we managed to slip under the injured guy’s back/bum, together with his waterproof jacket. He was actually carrying a sleeping bag in his rucksack (as he’d been up to Stickle Tarn in the early morning to view the sunrise), so we covered him with that, along with our silver foil blankets and Louise’s hat. 

Interestingly, and importantly to note, we gave the emergency service operators our “What3words” location, as well as grid reference and a description physically of where we were. It was surprising to hear that the first thing they asked for was “What3words,” even before grid reference. If you haven’t heard of this, please look it up. It is a vital piece of new technology that can locate you to a 3m-square area with a unique three word name, anywhere in the world, and apparently the rescue services love it.

The injured man was clearly in a lot of pain and discomfort, though at times was in reasonable spirits, joking and chatting (he even phoned his mum during this time, saying, “hi Mum, don’t worry, I’m up a mountain and I’ve broken my leg”!). As time went on though, it was obvious his body was starting to object to the trauma and he started displaying signs of shock/shaking/ shivering. Rightly or wrongly (to be discussed further), we gave him a Shotblok and a few sips of water, which very quickly brought him round, though thankfully a short while afterwards, the true heroes arrived.

We left the scene after almost two hours, with the knowledge that our guy was in the safe hands of the amazing Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team (gosh, it was incredible seeing what equipment they carried and how expertly they dealt with the situation). After staying with them and observing for a while, we were then advised that a coastguard helicopter was on its way to winch him off the mountainside. We said goodbye to our friend, who was very grateful to his “Yorkshire Angels,” as he kept referring to us, especially to Izzy who had held his hand for almost all the time we were there. And we went on our way, only to hear the faint sounds of the engine/rotors as we were high up on Thunacar Knott a little later.

Anyhow, I think this showed the stark realities of what can actually turn very quickly from a nice day out to quite tricky circumstances in the blink of an eye. I for certain have made a mental note of what I need to consider when venturing out (though I do appreciate we generally travel a little lighter in fell races) but when out there in small groups or alone, I think we should all:

  • make sure we have enough warm clothing. There is a reason the FRA and race organisers enforce rules: you may actually need to wear your spare clothing, even on a very warm August Bank Holiday weekend when you’re stuck in one place up a mountain for quite some time.
  • carry enough food and water for longer than we anticipate being out.
  • consider carrying a basic first aid kit, as even a very small dressing and a foil blanket may be a life-saver.
  • carry a fully charged mobile phone with ‘What3words’ and grid reference apps downloaded.
  • consider registering on a first aid course or read up on basic first aid and mountain safety.

Hopefully our injured friend will be OK and will make a full and speedy recovery.  The incident is reported on the Langdale/Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team website:

Also, watch out for a Channel 4 production some time soon, as their cameraman was on the scene and interviewed Izzy.

Ed’s note: The club is very proud of you all: bravo for your quick-thinking and for carrying kit.

–Hilary Lane

Abraham’s Tea Round

Saturday 10/08/2019

This brilliant round starts and finishes at the doors of the George Fisher shop in Keswick. It takes in all the tops that can be seen from Abraham’s café window, which sits above the shop, and amounts to 30 miles and 11,000ft of ascent. The tops you cover are: Catbells, Robinson, High Stile, Red Pike, Sand Hill, Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag, Grisedale Pike, Eel Crag, Crag Hill, Sail, Causey Pike, Rowling End and Barrow.

My good running pal from Uni, Dan Cade, is currently living in Keswick, so I decided to pay him a visit to attempt the round. I had first heard of it last year and have been wanting to give it a shot since then. We were both feeling quite fit, and as Dan had already run it solo last month, we knew we would be able to give it a good bash. However, as the weekend approached the weather forecast was not looking promising: constant rain, poor visibility and 50mph gusts predicted on the peaks. Over a beer in rainy Keswick on the Friday night we discussed our options and whether we were mad to even attempt the round. Should we go out? What happens if lightning starts? Could we do a low level run instead in a bid to avoid the worst weather? But it seemed such a shame to drive all this way and not give it a go. So why not, let’s go for it. It doesn’t matter if we get wet because skin is waterproof right?!

After a cooked breakfast and a cuppa to warm us up we headed out into a drizzly and rather empty Keswick. The approach and climb up Catbells was quite pleasant, there was hardly any rain or wind. What had we been worrying about last night? The weather forecasts must be wrong. But as we topped out on Catbells we were hit hard by rain drops that turned to needles, and winds that tried to rip out my contact lenses. Ah well, at least the first 20 minutes were pleasant.

We dropped down into Little Town and then began the climb up to Robinson and into the clag. It’s bilberry season so I helped myself to a few as we climbed. As we dropped down into Gatesgarth we passed a few other runners clad in full waterproofs and looking pretty cold. We later found out that they were also attempting the round but bailed due to the weather. The climb up to High Stile was epic, the little streams had turned to torrents and the waterfalls gave a tremendous roar. We slightly lost the path and so had a fun and slippery scramble. The flat-ish ridge connecting High Stile to Red Pike provided our first nav challenge. Due to the thick mist, rain and wind we really had to trust the bearing even though it seemed totally wrong. The descent down to Buttermere was one of the sketchiest descents I’ve ever done. It might look like a lovely stoned staircase but when it has turned into a river it’s incredibly slippery.

The long slog up to Sand Hill and Hopegill Head was tough on the legs and the waterproofs which we were wearing weren’t really waterproof anymore and I began to feel the cold. After putting on my spare layer and chomping down some more food we both started to feel better and pushed on to Grisedale Pike. Those 50mph gusts hit us as we topped out meaning our hoods whipped and rang in our ears. Whilst clinging on to the rock, we managed a quick high five as this top marked the last “big” climb of the round. We got down as quick as we could before we were blown off. It’s funny how mad conditions like this gets the pair of us: we were singing and whooping with enjoyment!

The scramble up Eel Crag to Crag Hill and Sail came by quickly. It’s crazy how different it was up there compared to the Coledale Horseshoe race back in April. Two figures appeared out of the mist on the top of Crag Hill, these were the first people we had seen in over two hours. It was nice knowing we weren’t the only mad people out on the fells. As we dropped down to Causey Pike we popped out of the cloud and had our first view of the afternoon. The heather was in full bloom which wrapped Rowling End in a purple blanket. Feeling excited as we were nearly finished, we shared my secret supply of Kendal Mint Cake which gave us that final boost for the gentle climb up Barrow. The descent down to Little Braithwaite delivered as always, giving us the momentum to chug out the final few road miles back to Keswick.

After only seeing a handful of people all day it was quite a shock to fight our way through the crowds in Keswick centre. We wanted to shout, “get out the way, we are running against the clock!” We clocked back in to the café in a time of 7hrs and 12 minutes, knocking off 38 minutes from Dan’s solo attempt. We couldn’t believe we managed to get around in those conditions and knock that amount of time off, so we rewarded ourselves with a pub dinner and beer. What a day!

— Ollie Roberts

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2019

I have been wanting to run the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon for a few years now, but due to summer holidays and work commitments I have never been able to fit it in. So this year I booked on early, and I also managed to persuade my friend Josh to take part in the Kirkfell class with me.  This class involves a linear route with an average of 56km, 3300m of ascent and approximately 14 hours of running time over the two days. However, this can change depending on how speedy and how competent you are at reading a map so you can choose the best lines between checkpoints.

For 2019 the location was in the Howgill Fells where neither Josh nor I had visited before. I talked to other people who knew them though, and the main gist of the conversations was “it’s bloody steep”.  So, on Friday 5th July we drove out to the start and camped at the race headquarters. Looking up from the campsite I could see that they were not wrong.

On Saturday morning we double-checked all our kit and headed out to the start, which to our joy(!) was 2.5km away up a hill.  At precisely 8:25 we set off and after 10 minutes of marking the checkpoints on our maps and planning our route we headed off into the hills.

Camp at race HQ. Those are baby hills.

We were blessed with sunny weather and excellent visibility which meant finding the checkpoints came with little difficulty.  The only problem was the steepness of the terrain which meant contouring was painful on the feet. The heat meant we chugged through our water quickly, but thankfully there were many cold and refreshing streams to quench our thirst.  As the hours ticked on, we started to feel the distance and elevation in our legs.  At hour 7 due to tiredness and lack of water we had our first nav error and entered a gully too low down, then had the painful realisation we had to climb back up to the top to get the checkpoint.  But after a sugar hit from some very sour and sweet rainbow laces we were back smiling and the last couple of checkpoints went relatively smoothly. 

After 8hrs, 24miles and 6261ft of elevation gain we clocked in at the overnight camp. After the first day we were pleased to find out that we had come in 16th. The camp was located in a small and quiet farmer’s field by a cool river which provided relief to our feet after the battering they had received that day.  It was great to relax in the sun, fill up on the lost calories and catch up with old running pals from Sheffield.

Filling up on sticky toffee pudding
View from the overnight camp

On Sunday we woke up early, refuelled on porridge and got out running as soon as we could due to the swarm of midges that had descended on the camp.  It was tough to get the legs going again but they soon warmed up. Thankfully the route setters were kind on the second day and the checkpoints came by quickly.  Due to the mass start in the morning we spent the day leapfrogging a few teams, each of us taking slightly different lines.  On the last hill of the day we both dug deep, and we found ourselves opening up the gap between the teams we had spent day with.  This gave us the boost we needed so we gave it all and plunged down the final very steep bank to the finish.  Even though we were knackered, Josh still managed to pull his classic move of a sudden sprint finish to the line.  We managed a cracking time of 4hrs 39mins for 15miles and 4192ft of elevation gain.  This second wind enabled us to come in 8th meaning our overall ranking was 12th. Not bad like!

Josh and me at the finish line: we made it!

Ollie Roberts


8.7 miles, 3494 feet

The Old Man of Coniston was the first ever Munro I remember walking up with my parents. This is despite the fact that it is neither a) above 3000ft, or b) in Scotland. Having grown up North of the border, with parents who would occasionally drag us haphazard gang of children up the odd hill, asking if something was a “Munro” was simply a way of gauging how long and awful the day’s outing would be. It didn’t have specific criteria that must be met to earn the badge, it was just a way of figuring out if our efforts would include a really big hill. It wasn’t until I was far too old for it not to be embarrassing, did I realise that The Munros were a defined set. Anyway, the memory of slogging up to the slate mine in sweltering heat, while pouring with sweat, is very clear in my mind. The steep rocky path seemed neverending. Chimes of “are we nearly there yet?” rang in the air almost constantly. I remember the twisted and rusted metal relics of the old mine and how impossibly cold Low Water felt. I even remember my disbelief watching a Speedo-clad old man happily wade in before pushing off for a swim. I couldn’t keep my toes in the water it felt so cold, never mind popping in to do a couple of lengths. I’m not sure if we even made it up the Old Man, but in my mind, we’d definitely climbed a Munro.

I ran the Coniston race for the first time last year, and I’d been mightily happy with my result. I’d come much further up the field than usual and I simply assumed that the race must’ve suited me really well. In reality, it was because there was a championship race the next day, which had massively thinned out the field. Ignorance is bliss. I had run well though, by my standards at least, managing the steep descent straight off the Old Man and hanging on to the speed right until I ran straight past the bridge I was supposed to cross in the final kilometre. The guy who had been just in front suddenly appeared on the other side of the river about 10m to my left. I instantly recognized my mistake, but enthusiastic descending left me unable to run back uphill to the crossing. In the heat of the moment, I dashed straight down the mini ravine separating the two paths and scrambled back up the other side. I’d lost 10 places and a couple of minutes but at least I’d never make the same mistake again. It’s not a route choice I’d recommend.

An old man of Coniston (John Ruskin, not a mountain).

Race day this year was warm with promise of colder winds higher up, ideal conditions. It went as it always does, heads bobbing up the road in waves before the turn onto the fell. I felt great going up this bit last year, but my legs couldn’t be bothered now. It kept coming. Step, step, step, occasional scurry over a flatter section, step, step, step. Reaching Wetherlam was a relief as I joined my running mate Bill. I was glad to have someone to run with, but also cursing the pace. We leapfrogged back and forth, gaining and losing distance as the terrain pandered to and protested against our merits and shortfalls. Up and over Swirl How, and it sped up again. I was trying to gauge our contours correctly, aiming to skip unnecessary summits without shooting too wide. I’m on the fence about the efficacy of our strategy, but that happens no matter which way you choose. Coming off the Old Man, Bill took the rightward line directly east, and I took a crap line sort of north-east and so we parted company. The steep and tufted grass was hard to descend with its jutting rocks and uneven surface. I found myself cutting sharp turns as if I was skiing moguls, twisting left and right, highly focused on not going arse over tit. The crapness of my line was made clear as I rejoined the path at the disused quarry. I’d barely saved any distance on the path, and I still had most of the awful flagstones to descend. I was however fortunate enough to find myself in sight of people better acquainted with the route, so I followed them as they minimized their time on the unforgiving rocky path. Flying down, last year’s missed turning was at the front of my mind, as I crossed the bridge and joined the path back to the start. The steep and feet-slapping tarmac made my battered feet wince, but I still had enough beans left for a sprint finish.

The rest of the day was spent with a quick visit to the slightly bizarre Ruskin Museum, with its interesting juxtaposition of information about the humble origins of life in the Lake District, and Bluebird, the jet-engined hydroplane. Informed, if a little baffled, we sauntered along to the pub to enjoy a great post-race pint of Bluebird X7, and to chat running-related nonsense with the other runners.

–Andrew Sandercock

Anniversary Waltz

My first Lakeland race
Anniversary Waltz: AM, 18.5K, 1110m

Two years ago I joined Hilary (mum) and Clare on a camping trip to Braithwaite. I was aware that they would be doing a race on the Saturday so I decided I would go with them, have a little walk and watch some of the race. This race was the Anniversary Waltz. It was a glorious day so I walked to the top of Catbells and back to the finish to see them come in. I was totally inspired and in awe of these amazing runners flying into the finish having run all those mountains. Being a bit of an on/off runner, and having only run a couple of road races, I turned to mum and said “I’m going to do this race one day”.

Fast forward two years and I’m standing amongst a large crowd of people about to start the race thinking “what the hell am I doing here? I can’t run this. I’ll be last!” In fact, the only reason I was standing there was because it was the last year that the AW was going to be held and it was literally now or never. A few pleasant words were spoken about the late Steve Cliff, who died of motor-neurone disease in January, and his incredible fundraising achievements. And then we were off.

It was a very steady start as there were a lot of runners on quite a narrow track, though we soon spread out and I began to gain a reasonable (for me) pace on the road, leaving Hilary somewhere behind me (knowing full well she was going to catch me on Robinson somewhere). Reaching the bottom of Robinson, I left the majority of runners and cut off right up the hill fairly early. I knew I was too much of a wimp to face the steeper climb further along so I plodded on up the grass with an occasional glance behind to see if HL was also taking this route (we had discussed options before the race) but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I reached the ridge and jogged along to meet the other runners coming up the steeper section and headed towards the dreaded rock climb. Knowing HL was pretty terrified of the scramble, I looked behind me to see if I could see her, just to give her some reassurance. Couldn’t see her, had I beaten her up the hill? Woo — go me!

Emma Lane (daughter)

Hilary Lane (Mum)

I started climbing and fortunately it was quite dry, so not too difficult to manage. I looked up to see how much further I had to climb and guess who I saw? HL — ahead of me — being coaxed by one yellow and one maroon and yellow vest. Damn!(I later discovered they were Martin Bullock of Pudsey Pacers and Neil Wallace of Pudsey & Bramley). (Editor’s note: we think P&B might sue us if we don’t point out they think their vest is claret and gold, not maroon and yellow.)

After what seemed like forever, and after a few moans and groans exchanged between a few other runners, we finally reached the summit. Then downhill (yay), before the climb up to Hindscarth. This climb was reasonably uneventful and went quite quickly (or so it seemed), as I was able to jog/walk in between mouthfuls of dates and water. Reaching the top of Hindscarth, I was greeted by two female marshals in red bridesmaid dresses (one of whom was staying in our hostel and had shown us the dress the night before). This was to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Wynn and Steve Cliff (hence the name of the race).

Downhill again (yay) towards Dale Head. I saw Sheelagh on this descent and we exchanged a cheerful wave. It felt lovely being able to run properly and to feel that I was actually getting somewhere. En route to Dale Head, I passed Hilary Tucker who had walked around the route to support, and after a few encouraging words and photographs, I started heading up hill again. I knew this wasn’t a big climb so again managed a bit of a jog/walk/shuffle.

On top of Dale Head, there was a lovely group of people sitting next to the trig point singing and playing guitars; how encouraging. Shame I couldn’t stop longer.

Descent again (yey) – or maybe not so “yey”, more like “ow” – the descent off Dale Head is tough and seemed to go on forever. My legs began to turn into jelly and I started getting clumsy. I had a few slips and trips but managed to land comfortably on the padding that is my bum –- no injuries! By this point, I was bloody boiling hot. My hands had swollen up so much, I looked like Elephant Man so was very grateful when I had to cross the stream at the bottom and was able to dunk my elephant hands in and splash my face. I stood up and heard “Go on Emma!”:  it was Ann and Clare, who had also been for a long run/walk. They gave me a good boost, though this was short-lived as I began the climb up to High Spy (urgh). My legs were still jelly-like from the Dale Head descent so this was a struggle; I was definitely feeling it now.

The journey from High Spy to the top of Catbells seemed a bit of an undulating blur but the end felt near. Looking at the descent from Catbells filled me with dread. I remember it being painful when we reccied but what can you do? With my jelly legs and my elephant hands, I clambered down the rock slowly and down the grassy, agonising descent.

Reaching the gate at the bottom, there were some fantastic women cheering frantically which helped me muster the last bit of energy I could find to get down that awful road, which seems to get longer and longer every time you run it….round the corner and into the field, where mum greeted me with plenty of shrieking and a sweaty hug.

After drinking my body weight in water (I finished mine far too early on the run), I heard someone say “free beer in the village hall” Free beer? Yes please! After a couple of mouthfuls of this well deserved and well needed beer, I put it on the floor to change my shoes and knocked the rest of the glass over. Fail!

Things I learned:

– Lakeland races are hard
– Take more water
– Don’t assume you can beat your mum because you are half her age and faster on the FLAT
– Drink beer before changing shoes

Emma Lane