The Bob Graham Round – 42 Lakeland peaks, 72 miles, 27,000 feet of climbing – all in 24 hours.
When Steve Jones said he wanted to do it, we all thought he was mad. How could a Harrier who gets lost in Sainsburys car park and trains on the Middlewood Way, navigate his way around the Lakeland fells?
The answer: find a group of runners who know where they’re going (Dark Peak Fell Club) and some other willing but blissfully naïve runners (Stockport Harriers) to run alongside with food and drink – no problem!!
So, despite all of our reservations, on Friday 19th June at 6.45pm, Steve set off from Keswick Moot Hall with the Dark Peak runners and supported by Lee and Tony from the Harriers.
Leg One, which included Skiddaw, Great Calva and Blencathra, went very smoothly and they arrived at Threlkeld in buoyant mood and 25 minutes ahead of schedule.
After a quick fuel stop and change of clothes, Steve, accompanied by Neil and Paul, set off on Leg Two heading towards Helvellyn. Unfortunately, as night fell so did the rain. Visibility on the tops was non existent and the conditions underfoot were tricky to say the least. However, 5 hours later, cold and wet, the runners arrived at Dunmail right on schedule.
Leg Three and it was over to Simon to support Steve on the longest leg. All went well, with Steve and Simon up with the main pack until, on Scafell Pike, they got spilt up from their Dark Peak guides in the mist and cloud with zero visibility! Fortunately, Simon was the one Harrier who could read a map and, despite losing nearly an hour off the schedule, he guided Steve to Wasdale Head and the start of Leg Four.
Now it was time to bring on the expert! Ian Hughes, a friend of Paul Stepto and a Bob Graham veteran, was called upon to run the last two legs. Ian had a real mountain to climb – the clock was ticking very fast and Steve was tiring and on the brink of retiring. So, assisted by Sarah, Ian cracked the whip and they headed off on Leg Four, up a very, very steep Yewbarrow and towards Honister Pass, taking in Pillar and Great Gable en route. The road crew waited with baited breath at Honister with binoculars fixed on the hillside – was it them? Yes-no-yes. and they had made up enough time to get them back on track. Poor Steve, after over 20 hours of running, wasnt even allowed to stop at Honister – they couldn’t afford to lose any more time. So, Ian and Sarah, joined by Lee and Gerry, fed Steve on the go as they started the final leg back to Keswick.
After a sluggish start, Steve downed a few energy gels which seemed to do the trick and he picked up the pace, coming down the final descent on his backside as his thighs were in so much pain! On reaching Newlands, the route hits the road for the last 4 miles into Keswick and the final slog – but it was no slog for Steve and his support crew as they ate up the final few miles, overtaking several other groups on the way – they are road runners after all!
Finally, after 23 hours and 20 minutes of true grit and determination, Steve touched the wall of the Moot Hall, back where he had started the night before. A truly tremendous achievement, Steve now joins an elite group of less than 1500 runners who have completed this arduous task.
Several celebratory beers were enjoyed in the evening and, of course, next year’s attempt was already being discussed – who will be next?!
A very big thanks to all the support runners and road crew and a massive well done to Steve.