Support Runners: Bobby Scully, Sinead O’Malley, Euan Boyd, Matthew Curry, Lisa Gamble
Car support: Rachel Middlemiss, Jacqui Ranger
‘It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I’m about to go bungee jumping or something – I’m not. I’m not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.’ Hugh Laurie
I had wanted to have a go at the BG for some time and started training for it in earnest in February. Training was based upon the old adage of 10,000ft of climbing per week and the miles would take care of themselves. I did a lot of recceing of the route so that by the time I set off I had covered the whole route at least twice, including a night run of leg 1, and doing leg 3 and 4 back to back as a final long day.
Despite this, you can never be sure that you have done enough training and there are some fearsome training schedules available online to make you feel inadequate.
I did a lot of fell training with Duncan, a good friend from Manchester. We came to the conclusion that we would set off together but had different support teams so that if one something happened to one, it wouldn’t jeopardise the round of the other.
It had always been in our mind to start at midnight – doing leg 1 from Keswick to Threlkeld in the dark. However, as the week of the heatwave persisted, a fat 8 hour band of thunderstorms and high southerly winds were due to hit Keswick at midnight. We heeded the advice that even if we battled through it and kept on schedule, into the brighter day beyond, the effort that it took out of us may have taken too much toll for later on. So with a lot of stress and early morning phone ringing, we decided to push the time back to 7pm on the Saturday. The implication was that we lost Iain Whiteside from the support runners and had to rejig which legs people did. So much for recceing their routes! It would also mean doing leg 2 in the dark – something I had not given any thought to in the run up. However, as I woke to the torrential rain in Edinburgh on Saturday morning, which then slowly gave way to a cloudless sky and warm evening in Keswick, I was very happy with our decision.
My support runners were enthusiastic, prepared and generally ‘on the ball’ that Saturday evening and I wasn’t let down throughout the whole attempt. We set off in high spirits from Keswick. Skiddaw gave only pleasure as the evening light bathed the fells in a warm glow all the way South to Scafell Pike. My enthusiasm at running without anything on my back got us up there about 7 minutes faster than schedule. At this point Sinead turned back as she had planned and I continued with Bobby and Duncan’s team. To compensate for Skiddaw we took it easy going up Great Calva, skipped over the Caldew with dry feet (a first) and made it up to Blencathra. We went down Doddick Fell and met up with Rachel and Jacqui at the support car. It was great to see them and they were as well drilled as an F1 pit lane. Tape, sandwiches and water were all shoved in the right places and we were off.
There are many reports of BG attempts out there to read. Mine is fairly similar so to avoid repetition, I thought I would just mention a few highlights. I have written a longer account for the journal.
The night leg was reasonably straightforward with Euan’s skilful navigation and after a few minutes slipping behind time, we kept on schedule very well. Climbing onto the Langdales with the sun coming up was a particular highlight. Matthew Curry never seemed to tire of supplying me with food or taking my jacket – no matter how many times I badgered him! He took most of the brilliant photos attached with this. Leg 4, always a favourite of mine, didn’t disappoint except for a bit of tiredness and a sore knee setting in. My intake of food did slowly dwindle, despite Lisa’s best efforts and that probably had an impact as well. I was still managing to keep on time but more in a ‘grinding it out’ frame of mind rather than the genuine pleasure of the whole thing that lasted until about Steeple.
The rain came in just as we set out from Honister car park. Lisa had continued and Euan joined us as well for the final section. The rain was on our back but enough to make the descents on some of the steeper slopes and rocks more tricky and generally just put a chill into weary legs. The final descent off Robinson was quite grim with the knee and it was a pleasure to get onto the flat. Apart from Bob and Sinead, who had to make it back up to Edinburgh, everyone who had helped on the round was at Newlands car park for the final run in. After helping so much over the whole weekend, it was amazing to have everyone still there and keen to do the final bit. The knee was not sore on the flat which was a big relief. The pace from those with fresher legs than me was good to keep me going (Ie I couldn’t be arsed going at that speed but given that everyone had helped me out so much I thought I had better dig in and just try harder not to keep them waiting in the rain! And it was good to get it done).
Duncan and I donned our respective club vests and jogged that last bit up the High Street together to bang on the door at Moot Hall at 18:05 – just over 23 hours and almost exactly on schedule. A great feeling. We had stuck together throughout the whole trip. He had a low point early on leg 3 where he couldn’t eat very much. At one point we were 20 minutes down on our schedule and it was looking like I may have to press on. However, he recovered around Bowfell and got stronger throughout after that and we had made up the time again before Wasdale. As Duncan and I had spent so much time discussing, planning and training together, it was brilliant to be able to see it through together as well.
Given that we now finished on Sunday evening rather than Saturday night, there was just time to get a pint and some sausage and mash into us before the drive back home. I had always wanted to get back in time for last orders – mostly for the supporters so setting off at 7pm gets this worry out the way! Once at home, getting up the stairs into the flat was like hill 43 – which I definitely did not keep to schedule on! An old man hobbling – how the mighty crumble.
I read the quote at the top the day before travelling down. It made a lot of sense and was a strong boost. If you are reading this wondering whether to have a go at anything you’re not sure you can do, then do it. Put the work in and have a go. I would put myself down as a solid mid-pack sort of runner who is pleased when finished in the top third of a race. I know full well that everyone who supported me could complete the round themselves and hopefully will one day. I was delighted to have got round but I can honestly say the enjoyment of the whole weekend as just as good. It was truly humbling to be supported so well by so many people and gratitude is the equal strongest emotion to satisfaction. Thank you so much to those on the weekend and equal thanks to those who gave me so much advice before, particularly Jonathon Whitehead and Olly Stevenson. Finally, the biggest physical gain for me has been from going to Wintervals as often as possible and being pushed consistently week after week. Massive thanks to Iain W for that as well. Get down there!
See you on the hills – in a while!