Written by Katie Hateley
The Bob Graham Round was first introduced to me via a raffle prize at the Striders Christmas do 2015. The prize I picked was a book that was gifted by Greg Pettingill called ‘Feet in the Clouds’, so this is Greg’s fault really! The more I read about the round the more I wanted to attempt it.
So what is the Bob Graham Round?! It was developed by, surprise surprise, a chap called Bob Graham who was a hotelier in Keswick. In 1932 Bob set himself a challenge at the age of 42 to climb 42 Peaks of the Lake District in 24hrs. He achieved the 66mile, 42 peak, total ascent of 27,000 ft route on his second attempt in sports wear of shorts, vest, pyjama jacket and tennis shoes! From there on in people have challenged themselves to complete the route just as Bob Graham did but with further development on footwear. There are no medals for completing the round and attempts are submitted to The Bob Graham Club all on honesty.
The round is split into 5 legs with each leg beginning and ending on road level. Recceing the route is a key part of completing the round and many trips to The Lake district were planned as well as further training in The Peak district and also our very own Burrough Hill. The other essential and most important part of completing any run, as we know, is mental determination or just being mental! I am also very lucky to have the best support team ever of dear friends from the Stilton Striders Running Club who I could not even contemplate attempting the round with-out them all.
So after months of preparation the weekend of the attempt arrived, May 26th. The start time of the route is a key factor as this will determine which of the legs would be ran in the dark. So a 3am start was decided from Moot Hall with John and Simon joining me for Leg1. We headed off with nervous excitement to the start after 1.5hrs sleep and was closely followed by all of the other support team who also set their alarms at the ridiculous hour to provide cheers and support from the start.
3am arrived and we were off feeling strong and excited. Our first climb was up to Skiddaw and we were progressing at a great speed. The weather report gave details of a clear day and a wind on the tops of the mountains and sure enough they were correct! We were greeted with 50mph winds that you could lean into and not fall over. The leg continued strongly with a great rocky descent at the end down Halls Fell into Threkeld where we had a wonderful support crew awaiting us with cheers and waves! Kaye, Carl and Celia did a fine job of providing me with all of my essentials of tea, food and more tea and of course hugs. I had great further support from others too that came along to greet us.
Leg 2 began, again in a very strong manner with Paul G supporting me. We kept a great pace up the first peak of Clough Head to face the rest of Leg 2, which navigationally is one of the easier legs. We were met by Chris (Mick A) and Matt after Helvellyn which is part way through the leg with further water and snacks. Chris then joined myself and Paul for the remainder of the leg which soon started to feel tough. The long descent down to Dunmail Raise was made much shorter once I saw the many waving hands of my lovely friends and family. Once refuelled, hugged and feeling stronger again I was ready for the start of Leg3.
A sharp climb greeted myself, Chris and Rich up Steel Fell. It was a slow slog with lots of waving to everyone at the road point on Dunmail Raise all the way to the top of Steel Fell. Once on the top the leg continued at a slower pace with me feeling pretty exhausted again and pain to my knees which was not easing after much pain relief. We reached the half way point, Rossett Pike, where Elaine and Jenny welcomed me with much needed hugs, tea and cake. Greg was also waiting patiently at this point to join us for the rest of Leg3 and also to continue onto Leg4 with myself and Clive. Chris retired at this point so I continued with Greg and Rich. My pace slowed even more with my knees completely falling out with me and the winds still remaining strong on many of the peaks. The further on we climbed the more I realised that I would not be able to continue after Leg3. My first thought was that I was going to come back and reattempt my round, my second thought was a feeling of guilt and sadness for everyone who had come along to support me who could not run their legs that they had spent weeks of recceing for. We decided to complete the leg and recce one of the 3 options up to Sca Fell (Scafell Pikes best friend). The descent from Sca Fell to Wasdale is certainly a long downhill and it was taken at a very slow pace. The support crew were watching through binoculars for our arrival as worry was setting in for our safety, which I did not realise! John and Si joined us all on the descent which helped me so much and then the wonderful crowd of my support cheered us into Wasdale Head. Needless to say my emotions took over as soon as I saw John and then continued once I saw the many lovely faces of my support and family. Several months of training, waking at all hours to scan maps and routes, living and breathing Bob Graham and the overwhelming of support of so many great friends and family had come to a stop.
I headed back to the Hostel discussing the round over and over like I have done for nearly a year now, poor John! (Bob is like my second partner) Back at the Hostel the cheers continued by the other supporters and then the celebrations began. The fact of me completing 44 miles and 17,000ft of climb had bypassed me and I was then reminded that I should be proud of this and I am! The celebrations continued for the whole weekend as in true Stilton Strider fashion, I think I was more exhausted from this than the run!
I have been completely overwhelmed with such amazing support from friends and family and also the friends at home who were watching via the means of Facebook. You all have made this challenge into such an amazing experience.
Thank you to John, Si, Elaine B, Kaye, Carl, Celia, Paul G, Sharon, Rich, Chris, Matt, Paul D, Dan, Jenny, Clive, Greg, Sue, Liz, Tom, Dad, Audrey, Elaine, Pepper and everyone else back at home that offered support. I honestly can-not thank you all enough, it still completely overwhelms me at the thought of level of support which I have received.
I will be back Bob and my next attempt will be September with some changes of route, fresh legs, determination, tea, cheese sarnies and once again immense support.