Making a Bob Graham Round last a lifetime
Time/date: 15:00 hours, Tuesday 9 July. Location: at home (Ackworth, West Yorkshire)
I’d promised myself not to start checking the weather forecast until 48 hours before my planned start time. Ultimately this proved impossible with forecasts appearing everywhere: in newspapers, on the radio and on social media. Long story short, the days up to and into the weekend were dominated by a ridge of high pressure meaning that the weather pattern was stable with calm conditions dominating.
The Mountain Weather Information Service forecast suggested that Friday afternoon would become dry and Saturday 13 July would start largely dry, with a few showers developing from mid-morning. While some areas might have rain for an hour or two from slow-moving scattered showers, other areas would remain dry. Winds would not be high enough to cause a problem. The only down-side was that the chance of cloud-free summits was rated as 40% and ‘banks of cloud might shroud summits above 600-800m for many hours’.
Assessing this information I knew that the planned 22:30 hours start time on Friday had a green light. I would not need to inform the support team of a weather related delay. My aim was to finish atbany time within the 24 hour limit: my detailed schedule was for 23 hours, 38 minutes.
Time/date: 10:45 hours, Friday 12 July. Location: passing Lancaster, northbound on the M6
The Lakeland fells came in to view for the first time. The Coniston range was clear all the way to the summits. Stunning.
Time/date: 12:15 hours, Friday 12 July. Location: Queens Head Hotel, Troutbeck
Having entered the Lake District it was obvious that there was more cloud over the northern fells and the Helvellyn ridge. Ho hum. It’ll be what it will be. Time to stop worrying and just focus on the task at hand. After a quick lunch break at the Queens Head we completed the journey to our Keswick base and I spent a couple of hours doing final kit checks.
Time/date: 17:30 hours, Friday 12 July. Location: Casa Bella restaurant, Keswick
A small and select band of us met up for a quick carb-load before a couple of hours of shut-eye and on to the main event. Five support runners, two for Leg 1 (Jim and Robbie), two for Legs 1 and 2 (Kristina and Mark) and one for Leg 2 (Dave) plus Jim’s wife Lesley and my long-suffering spouse Gill from the road support crew. It was nice for us to be able to meet and mingle before the ‘off’.
Time/date: 22:10 hours, Friday 12 July. Location: Keswick, Moot Hall
The task of organising the party crept up on me until it became the dominating factor in my life. I hadn’t anticipated that. Luckily my ‘road support’ remained rock solid. With a week to go the road support plan was locked down. All I had to do was balance the roster of support runners.
Party time in the centre of Keswick. Greetings, hand-shakes, introductions and snatched conversations. The party has been several months in the planning. A handful of those on the original invitation list are missing now for a variety of reasons. In their places are some new arrivals. We are quorate. There are enough of us – and probably one or two to spare in case ‘events’ overtake us.
Dave Allison of Ackworth Road Runners had kindly volunteered to act as ‘Road Support Chief’ once I’d given him a bit of background. Dave was planning the heroic task of travelling to each of the road crossings where support runners would change over and I could access my spare kit and food supplies. Just time then to give Dave a few last minute directions about the contents of the plastic box I hand him containing the kit and food. Supporters Vicky and Allan and Leg 2 support runner Callum have joined the rest of the gang from the Casa Bella carb-fest.
Next up we all approach the famous Moot Hall steps and I enable the Open Tracking tracker device. The green lights flash. Good, all set.
Just before the count-down, we all line up in front of the steps for the obligatory photo.
I climb the steps, ready for the last few seconds to tick away, standing up there on my own.
Time/date: 22:30 hours, Friday 12 July. Location: Keswick Moot Hall, BGR Leg 1
Easy-oisy across to Fitz Park with the full gang in tow then, after those not coming the full Leg 1 distance have dropped out, on up Spooney Green Lane on the side of Latrigg Fell. Me leading the group, talking to the others and giving advanced notice of where to run and where to walk when the gradient kicks up. Asking Jim to remind me to take a gel every 45 minutes.
I’ve reccied Leg 1 beforehand all the way with Jim, with mist on top of Skiddaw and Blencathra. We managed fine then, both for time and navigation, so there are no worries now.
The moon is three days short of a full moon and climbing up the gradient it hangs high over Keswick and Derwentwater – a spectacular sight over our left shoulders.
Above Little Man we see clag (or mist) hovering and I make the call to don a waterproof top at the first fence. Sure enough, from here all the way to the summit visibility is poor. More than that, there is damp in the air so our headtorches reflect light back off the water vapour and the rock we’re running on is now damp and slippery.
With Jim and Kristina calling the shots on GPS we hit the summit trig point and soon find the path for the initial descent followed by the slight right off to hit the fence for the descent to Hare Crag. Spot on.
As we descend the visibility becomes better and the ground dries out. It’s probably the best conditions I’ve experienced on the descent and then the ascent up to Great Calva.
A momentary hesitation considering which side of the sheep-pen to go round after the descent from Great Calva. Then through the peaty path towards the River Caldew. Mark Harber loses a shoe in the bog. Much hilarity but we try our best to disguise it. At the river Robbie makes a big leap to keep his feet dry, Jim achieves the same by a slight detour while Kristina puts both feet in and I immerse my right foot. So three damp feet altogether. As we start the ascent to Mungrisdale Common the ground is suddenly waterlogged all around.
There is mist again around us on the climb. As we reach the higher slopes and traverse on the contour line just below the Blencathra summit ridge we see that there has been a cloud inversion. The moon is setting in the west with a rosy red glow, casting light on the cloud-tops in the Caldew valley below us. Very atmospheric.
Summiting Blencathra we take another photo and crack on with the descent to Threlkeld via Doddick. Robbie had struggled on the ascent of Blencathra, probably due to insufficient nutrition and hydration. A Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer gifted by Jim sorted him out and now he’s following me down as I lead, calling out each rock step as we hit them. At one point my foot and leg disappears into a vacuum surrounded by grass: I take an easy tumble. It’s enough to force Robbie not to follow me!
The track along the contour at the foot of Doddick is covered in bracken high enough to obscure the path. Sure enough, my toe hits a rock and I make another elegant tumble, a forward roll leading with my right shoulder. Unscathed again.
On past the kennels and down to the road. Mark comes up and checks I have fresh pacers lined up for Leg 2. When I confirm that I do, he suggests that, if I don’t mind, he’ll persuade Kristina to stop at Threlkeld so they can save their legs for their own BGR attempt the following weekend. I tell Mark that’ll be fine, knowing I’ve got Callum and Dave ready for Leg 2 and knowing I’ve reccied the whole of the Leg with them.
Time/date: 02:30 hours, Saturday 13 July. Location: Threlkeld Cricket Club, BGR, Leg 2
After a quick re-fuel at Threlkeld in the company of Dave Allison and Lesley I’m off on Leg 2 with Callum and Dave Hughes. Again I’ve reccied Leg 2 with Callum and Dave earlier in the year, albeit in brilliant sunlight on an April day with snow lying on the higher ground – a slight contrast to this ‘middle of the night’ affair. Still, I’ve confidence in their ability. Headtorches on, visibility is good as we complete the short road section and the initial lower slopes of Clough Head.
Looking back we can see the headtorches of another set of runners descending Blencathra across the valley behind us. Probably the group rumoured to have set off at mid-night on an eighteen hour schedule. Then, as we ascend, we enter the clag again. The path to the Clough Head summit is still easy enough to follow.
Trig point touched we descend towards Calfhow Crag confidently enough and take the trod bearing slightly left to avoid Calfhow Crag itself. Still confident at this stage that we’re heading in the right direction and we start the climb up to Great Dodd.
Somewhere on this climb at around 04:00 hours and with low visibility I lost faith that we were on the correct path and made a call to pull us right and up to the top of a ridge. Then, realising we probably had been on the right path after all, we yomped steadily along the highest part of the ridge until we hit the Great Dodd summit cairn. Not much time lost but a loss of confidence.
At the cairn marking the summit of Great Dodd I was sufficiently worried about our ability to find the path down to Watson’s Dodd in the mist that I pulled out my compass and the notebook in which I’d recorded all the key compass bearings. If we were at the shelter just to the south west of the cairn we would want a bearing of 210 degrees. Since we weren’t at the stone shelter, presumably we could bear a little to the left of the 210 degree bearing?
After descending for five minutes we hadn’t spotted the track. After another five minutes, during which we both descended further and searched both to our right (uphill) and left (downhill) we still hadn’t spotted the track and alarm bells were beginning to ring in my head. We spread out and did another sweep both left and right. No joy. There were absolutely no features of any kind for us to focus on or offer assistance.
Dave made the very sensible call to ‘set the map’ so that’s what we did. Obviously we then had to make an assumption about where we were: a big call at this point. We assumed that we were still on the ridge connecting Calfhow Pike to Great Dodd and, with that in mind, we set a bearing of 180 degrees, due south. In theory this meant we should hit a stream before too long and, after crossing the stream, ascend a steep bank on the other side to reach Watson’s Dodd.
I set Callum and Dave off in front of me and kept them on a heading of 180 degrees. However, after descending for at least five minutes there was no sign of a stream. I called us to a halt. Perhaps our assumptions about our initial position had been wrong. Perhaps we’d somehow started out on the south side of the ridge between Great Dodd and Stybarrow in which case my scrambled brain told me we would be tearing down the hillside with nothing between us and Ullswater at the bottom. In that case all was lost. So what should we do?
That’s when I started thinking about the other fifteen people, support runners and ‘road supporters’, scattered around the Lakes. Although the day was first and foremost about me completing the Round in under 24 hours, I couldn’t just ignore everyone else involved.
The least I could do was re-focus and ensure I reached the three key locations, Dunmail Raise, Wasdale and Honister, at a time as close as possible to my planned times. That way no-one would be left hanging around waiting for too long.
And I knew a way to achieve this goal. Miss out the out-and-back section of route between Grizedale Tarn and Fairfield. I’d still achieve 41 peaks within the 24 hours and everyone would be kept ‘on schedule’.
Right then in the silence I realised I could hear a stream. I shouted this out to Dave and Callum. Within a minute Dave, on my left hand side, had spotted the stream and we called out to Callum, lower down and on my right, to come back up and traverse to the left with us.
Staying on the contour now, we saw the other side of the bank. Dave was fired up and charging up the bank, Callum following and me behind. The mist was still enveloping everything as we climbed.
Popping out on top of the grassy bank we soon found the track connecting Great Dodd with Watson’s Dodd, almost exactly at the point it starts a very gentle rise up to Watson’s Dodd. We made it to the summit at Watson’s Dodd and almost miraculously the mist started clearing.
I touched the summit of Watson’s Dodd at 04:50 so the ‘round trip’ from Watson’s Dodd had taken thirty nine minutes compared with the scheduled nine minutes. Thirty minutes lost.
My expected times between each summit were lodged somewhere in my brain: a very quick calculation convinced me that everything, all 42 summits-worth, was still achievable. In fact, as we left the Threlkeld change-over point earlier in the morning, at 02:40 to be precise, I’d said to Callum and Dave that I’d be happy if we got to Dunmail Raise by 07:30 and ecstatic if we arrived there between 07:00 and 07:15. My brain might have been ignoring the fact that my schedule required arrival at Dunmail Raise by 07:10 and departure by 07:25 – but I think those stats were wiped out by the memory of a Round where I’d supported on Legs 2 and 3 in mid-May. That run in mid-May had really given me confidence and right here, on Watson’s Dodd in the early morning with the mist lifting, it was still working for me.
With no further ado, Dave, Callum and I were off and covering the summits which come thick and fast between here and Dollywagon Pike (summit 13). Although we were robbed of a glorious sunrise by the mist we did eventually see the sun shining on top of the clouds which were sunk down in the valley above Haweswater. We could also see across to Scafell Pike where the tops were clear of cloud in this early morning. Not a word was said about the navigation error: we just concentrated on hitting each target as it came in front of us.
Dave was leading us along in powerful style. At Sticks Pass, between Stybarrow Dodd and Raise a crack team of three Cumbrian-sounding lads went smoothly past us, exchanging a few pleasantries. They had minimal kit and must have been the guys we’d heard about who had set off at midnight on an eighteen hour schedule. From their comments they needed to confirmation we were attempting a Round rather than a recce: one of them expressed surprise that each of us was carrying kit as clearly they didn’t expect the person making an attempt to have any kit with him! Stung by these comments Dave simply went faster and quieter!
By Nethermost Pike just after Helvellyn we had recovered seven minutes against our scheduled times. We then lost three minutes on the section via Dollywagon Pike to Fairfield, held our own going up Seat Sandal and gained back nine more minutes on the descent to Dunmail Raise. We hit the road crossing at 07:30: absolutely spot on as far as I was concerned. The escapade between Great Dodd and Watson’s Dodd was firmly consigned to history and it definitely wasn’t going to affect the outcome of this Round.
Time/date: 07:30 hours, Saturday 13 July. Location: Dunmail Raise, BGR, Leg 3
Arriving in to Dunmail Raise twenty minutes down on the schedule we shortened the rest stop by seven minutes from the planned fifteen and set out thirteen minutes down. Since my schedule was for a 23 hour, 38 minute total time, we were already pushing against the limits of a sub-24 hour finish.
While daylight had broken three hours earlier there was plenty of cloud around, including the coverings on the higher summits. At least this should help keep temperatures down.
Once we’d climbed and made the summit of Steel Fell the team for this Leg was well and truly forged. Senior man Declan took a natural leadership role and quickly barked out instructions to the rest of us. For me it was simple. Give my race vest and all it’s contents to someone else. Eat and drink when required to do so and either run (when I could) or walk at maximum speed.
Mick was navigating so needed to be up front. Peter and Will were acting as mules, water-carriers and photographers while Declan was my personal mentor, instructor and self-appointed inspiration. Peter and/or Will were also instructed to carry out a time-check to confirm whether I was gaining or losing time on every one of the remaining fourteen summits on the Leg.
Everything now had focus. Me and getting me round. Nothing else mattered.
There was very little chat from me as I conserved energy to keep moving forward as fast as I could. Much of what I did express was either assent or rejection of yet another piece of food. Declan had made it part of his personal mission to ensure I ate some food and had a drink every ten to fifteen minutes. Little and often.
One exception to my silence was the moment when I proudly announced that “come what may today, I was going to get myself back to Keswick, however long it took”. Obviously I intended this to be hugely motivational for my devoted support runners, re-assuring them that I wasn’t some sort of flaky ‘quitter’ who would bale out half way round if things got difficult. If I was a support runner this is exactly what I would want to hear.
What actually happened in response was that my ‘bubble – of pride – was quickly burst’: Declan promptly told me to stop thinking thoughts like that. He went further for emphasis: ‘you’ve got everything lined up perfectly today so you just have to do it: if you don’t do it today, you’ll never do it’. So that was me put in my place. Sub-24 hours or bust!
It was time to buckle up and ‘get with the programme’. Notice the way I avoid using the phrase ‘enjoy the ride’! That would come later but, for now, it was just too intense for enjoyment. At one point I’m sure even Declan uttered the phrase ‘I hadn’t expected it to be this anxious…’
Did Declan not know what had happened on Leg 2?
Early on he’d asked me if I had any ‘proper’ food. I’d replied that I had a selection of ‘wraps’: smoked salmon and hummus, avocado and brie, salami & cheddar cheese and strawberry jam with peanut butter. Much mirth ensued. Even more so when a search of all the bags we were carrying failed to reveal any of my wraps. This could have been the result of incomplete and hurried searches by my support runners (if I’m being kind) or perhaps there was a little jealousy coming in to play? Either way, I was literally relegated to eating the crumbs from Declan’s table. These turned out to be finger-nail sized chunks of brioche filled – I think – with marmalade. Apparently the egg in the brioche is the magic ingredient. I shouldn’t moan. They kept me going. And I was eating Declan’s snap.
Although we dropped a further three minutes in our progress to summit number 18, Sergeant Man, (to arrive there sixteen minutes down), from that point on our spartan regime and organisation meant that we were only four minutes down by summit 28, Broad Crag, just before Scafell Pike. Part of Declan’s motivational spiel was that we could only have a break at Wasdale if we made sufficient progress. By Broad Crag the break and a cup of tea (kettle-willing) was on the agenda.
There were one or two moments of tranquility during the route-march. Firstly, near the top of Rossett Pike I had to sit on a rock and allow my stomach to compose itself after I drank a too-concentrated concoction of High 5 electrolyte. Dr O’Duffy described the cause of the problem: “stomach cramps”.
Secondly, in a small pool on the approach to Billy’s Rake on Bowfell I kneeled down and immersed my face then head in the delicious cool water for refreshment. And promptly found myself held under for longer than anticipated!
Except for a very slight wobble approaching the summit of Sergeant Man the navigation and lines we took were well-nigh flawless. Visibility of the trods and paths wasn’t a problem and we were still benefitting from temperatures kept down by the low cloud base clinging to the summits.
After the peace and solitude on most of the other fells where we never came across more than a couple of folk together, Scafell Pike was predictably busy. In the photos I count at least forty people around the summit. Scafell Pike was just another ‘touch the summit and go’ moment for me as we headed off for Mickledore. Lord’s Rake and the West Wall Traverse took us to the summit of Scafell and, after the exhilaration of the scree-running descent, we were down in Wasdale, nine minutes down on the scheduled arrival time.
Time/date: 13:30 hours, Saturday 13 July. Location: Wasdale, BGR, Leg 4
Like a slick, well-oiled machine, support runners James and Sam stepped in as mules, water-carriers and photografphers in place of Peter and Will while Mick and Declan prepared themselves for their second supporting turn on Leg 4. Dave Allison was also now ‘in the groove’ churning out hot liquids by rubbing two cars/sticks/battery packs* together (* delete as appropriate). Vicky and Allan had survived being ‘lambushed’ to reach Wasdale along with Rose and Edward, there to greet Mick.
At Wasdale I changed into my Bowland vest and took my shoes and socks off for the first time in fifteen hours. A much needed five minute ‘drying out’ session for my feet before a fresh pair of socks and then the same pair of shoes. They were doing well so I saw no reason to change.
Cutting five minutes off the planned twenty in Wasdale we set off again four minutes behind schedule. The sun was breaking through the clouds and the trudge up Yewbarrow and then Red Pike would coincide with the hottest part of the day.
Legs 3 and 4 really are the ‘heart’ of the Bob Graham Round and I knew that many of the people who fail don’t get beyond Wasdale. I knew that wasn’t going to be me.
Yewbarrow was tough. There’s no denying it. By the summit I’d lost another five minutes against the schedule so was now nine minutes down in total. We all had a quick pause at the top and I took up my now customary position, sitting on a rock. Then we were off again, descending to Dore Head and climbing up to Red Pike.
Having made the ascents of Yewbarrow and Red Pike I was beginning to feel that the end was both in sight and attainable. And yet, the voice of my conscience (Declan) was still concerned, pointing out that contenders could lose a whole lot of time getting up Kirk Fell and Great Gable. Queue further laughter and much rolling around when I said I quite liked the climb up Great Gable!
Steeple and Pillar came and went in fairly short order, making up the five minutes gained ascending Yewbarrow and we were soon on to the long descent to Black Sail Pass with its three technical rocky steps. Close to Black Sail Pass James and Sam ran ahead to drop down and fill up our water bottles from the stream. Mick made a belated decision to join them. Declan and I started up Kirk Fell and, when he asked which route I wanted to follow, I had no hesitation saying ‘the gully route where it’s in shade’. In a route previously unknown to me, we headed further left than I’d expected but the reward was a long gully climb completely in the cool shade. James and Sam soon caught us up and Sam explained that the gully was regularly used in the Ennerdale Fell Race. Reaching the flatter area near the summit we soon topped out on Kirk Fell and began the progress across and then down to start climbing up Great Gable. I don’t think I realised it at the time but we lost eight minutes between Pillar and Kirk Fell so we were now twelve minutes down again on schedule.
Somewhere between Kirk Fell and Great Gable I came to realise how I’d been treated for the last ten hours. Essentially I’d become ‘King for a Day’. I didn’t have to think about anything else except ‘being King’ because someone else was there to do it, whatever it was, for me. It might be feeding me, fetching me water, telling me where to go and when I had to be there, changing my shoes and clothing, you name it, it was being done for me. Immediately this realisation hit me I knew that Declan had become my self-appointed Prime Minister and Chancellor for the day, issuing instructions and directions to his cabinet. Peter and Will, then James and Sam had been Ministers for the Environment, checking the food and water supplies. I guess that made Mick Foreign Secretary, reaching out to check we were going in the right direction. OK: maybe the analogies are becoming stretched, but you get the picture.
Fortunately, while tough, the ascent of Great Gable wasn’t the disaster Declan might have feared. Sam led and, with James alongside me, I maintained a respectable pace and pulled back two minutes. We hit Great Gable summit at 18:09 so I had four hours and twenty minutes in which to finish.
We’d actually dropped Mick on the ascent to Great Gable but, knowing the sun was out, visibility was good and that he knew the terrain, we decided to press on without him, confident he’d get to Honister under his own steam. As we made the short ascent to Green Gable we caught sight of Mick again, descending Great Gable behind us. The ridge from Green Gable via Brandreth to Grey Knotts is pleasant running and the descent down to Honister not too challenging. James and Sam ran ahead to get the next crew change-over prepared and Declan briefly fell back (for the first time?) to take a comfort break, exhorting me to stay ahead of him and ‘don’t let him catch me!’
Naturally Declan did catch me. And even at this stage he was imploring me to stay focused, minimise the time in Honister and make sure I didn’t waste the opportunity. He explained that he was going to drop out at this stage and, as profusely as I could in my condition, I thanked him for all his help and assistance.
To properly repay my debt to Declan, I understand that Bella, our white Spanish Waterdog, promptly ate half his food at Honister while he wasn’t looking.
Time/date: 19:00 hours, Saturday 13 July. Location: BGR, Leg 5
Jon, Darren and Jim now rook their places alongside me, to complete the Round via Leg 5 back to Keswick. Jim had rested and refreshed himself after his exertions on Leg 1 support.
It was a glorious summer’s evening and virtually all the clouds had disappeared. The boys were full of energy, constantly repeating that “it was in the bag”. Declan had given them there instructions to keep me fed and watered and I soon gave them individual team roles to keep us rolling forward.
The cairn at the summit of Dale Head was achieved with a small loss of time against the schedule but no big problem. I encouraged the boys to get a selfie as the views are so good from Dale Head in good visibility and I pressed on.
A couple of minutes were recovered in reaching Hindscarth and now it was just the final summit that awaited us. We took the direct trod about 50 metres before the fence line and maybe lost a couple of minutes bearing too far back left once the gradient eased off. Long shadows were now forming on the east facing slopes. Still the 42nd summit was reached and duly celebrated. The boys were all still enthusiastic and confident as we pressed on into the descent, Jon leading the way with Darren following. Jim had now replaced Declan as my close-quarter confidant and mentor.
The atmosphere now changed slightly and I realised that both Darren and Jim seemed a little anxious about the time I had left. Both were indicating I needed to ‘get a wiggle on’. My quads were hurting and the balls of both feet were also sore. I think we had an hour and 25 minutes left and I calculated there were a little over 5 miles to go.
On tired legs the descent of Robinson can prove a little tricky. I think we all slowed slightly, trying to find the best lines on the technical rock steps. With the final grassy steep descent we hit the miner’s track and the fell running part of the Round was behind us.
This needed me to kick up through the gears and get some speed in my legs. The miner’s track wasn’t the easiest place to,do this as it wasn’t a completely flat and even surface as well as having a slight left to right downhill tilt. Nonetheless, I picked the pace up slightly and managed to maintain a jog on the slight uphill to the cottages where the rough tarmac road begins.
Speed was maintained on the downhill section to Newlands Church, despite the extra strain this caused to my quads. Jim reassuringly called out that we were doing 6 minute 30 second kilometres. If I could maintain that pace then the sub-24 hour finish was on.
With Jon up ahead Gill and Lesley, waiting at Newlands Church were able to cheer us on and escort me to Lesley’s car where my road shoes were waiting. A most welcome brief sit down on the back seat while someone, Jon or Darren, changed my shoes for me. Then we were off again with just over 4 miles left. One hour and ten minutes left on the clock.
Most of the tension had now left us. Jim had again provided reassurance by saying that there were only two small uphill sections left and I could afford to walk both of those. Sure enough, we soon got back on the 6 minute 30 second per kilometre pace and held it fairly steady.
At some point talk got round to the pub at Swinside and everybody managed to talk me in to having a drink. It was a lovely evening, there was time in hand, so why not? Order placed, Darren ran ahead to ensure minimal time was lost. Just time for another photo as the drink went down and we were off again, two miles to go and roughly forty five minutes in hand.
As we reached the shade of the trees just before Portinscale Kristina came trotting out to meet us, offering congratulations and following us in. She asked if we’d mind her filming us for the documentary she was making (primarily for her Danish audience?) and Darren, proud of his unique, photogenic looks, instantly said ‘no problem!’.
The traffic on the road was thankfully quiet and I kept taking the ‘racing line’, cutting corners wherever possible.
Jim was still the voice of calm and reason. Now he counted down the distance to go: two kilometres, 1.6 kilometres and then, around the time we crossed the foot bridge at Portinscale, less than one kilometres to go. With about 600 metres to go we could see Lesley on the path ahead, ecstatically shouting ‘only four more minutes to go!’. Then, slightly further on, Gill and Bella, with Gill telling us there were only three minutes to go.
On to the final run in it was just a case of sticking to the pavement, avoiding the bollards and avoiding the cars at the mini-roundabout. Someone (Darren?) made as if to stop the traffic for the runner coming through. One hundred metres to go and I messed up my decision-making about whether to go for the steps on the left or the right. Still thinking like a man on the fells my first reaction was to go left where the ground was higher. Then I noticed that all my supporters were on the right so right hand side it was. Bella made one last valiant attempt to scupper the whole project by wrapping her dog lead round me but she’s played that game before so I was ready, just. Up the steps, touch the door, stop the tracker and sit down. Job done.
My thanks to all the supporters who made this possible:
Dave Allison – Crew Chief
Leg 1 support runners
Leg 2 support runners
Leg 3 support runners
Leg 4 support runners
Leg 5 support runners
Shoes: one pair of Salomon Speedcross 4’s for the whole round until the road at Newlands Church