''My Bob Graham'' -Steve Hopwood
19th July 2020
These next 4 minutes took an age, stood at the foot of Moot Hall steps. Lauren, Jacob and myself. Small talk, nervous chuckles and confirming minor route details. 03:59 my heart sank, today was the day I'd do it, third time lucky. Lessons had been learnt, hopefully. Just enjoy it, it's what you enjoy doing.
Off we went. I'd only properly met Jacob an hour or so before, we'd passed each other once or twice in Kendal whilst out running but now he was out supporting me on my Bob Graham on the first two legs.
The first bit of the round up to Latrigg car park passed quickly, too quickly. Jacob suggested we curb the pace a little, excitement had got the better of me, but that's to be expected I guess. We hit Skiddaw as the sun was rising, surprisingly around a dozen people already there wrapped up in big jackets and sleeping bags admiring the scenes of the dawn's pink clouds clipping the summits of the Northern Fells, we trotted past
1 down, 41 to go, Great Calva passed and we started to settle into a good pace, fast but efficient. Wet feet and the climb up to Blencathra next, down Halls Fell. For the first time in my life the ridgewas dry ensuring a smooth and nippy descent.
The first road crossing of the day, barely warmed up and feeling strong. We'd pick up Harry here and James would be there to shout abusive encouragement at me in passing. We landed 20 minutes up on my best case scenario schedule. The guys were nowhere to be seen, Lauren was there though. 4 minutes and a face full of food later we left, just me and Jacob again. Whilst still on the road to Clough Head a car came screaming up behind us. It was James, with Harry diving out of the passenger door to catch up. It was a well timed distraction as I'd already started to dread the upcoming climb. By the time pleasantries had been exchanged we were half way up.
The Dodds came and went as did the clag that shrouded them. Over to Helvellyn, Jacob left us here and dropped down towards Thirlmere. Harry and myself cracked on for the remainder of the leg. As we passed Grisedale Tarn we unexpectedly passed Lauren who'd gone for a swim to pass the time between road crossings. Up and down Fairfield, up and down Seat Sandal. Dunmail Raise next, 40 minutes up on my best case scenario. 6 hours and 25 minutes to reach Dunmail. That was too quick, far too quick! I knew I would pay for that later on, nothing I could do about it now though.
A change of shoes and socks, a good brew and plenty of food fixed me up for the next leg, the long one and arguably the toughest, on my own. I knew it was coming so I treated it like any other long run in the mountains. Running with friends is great but running on your own in the mountains, just you and your thoughts, you can’t beat it. Getting into that zone, the happy place. That was me for the next few hours…
There were parts of leg 3 I was a little unsure about in terms of the nav, Calf Crag to Sergeant Man and the trod up Bowfell. Both went smoothly. I’m known for my occasional navigational errors so I was a little nervous, I couldn’t cock up my BG! There were a couple of very minor errors throughout the day, just not getting the fastest lines in one or two places, not to worry though. I’d stay positive for the whole day, apart from after a slip coming down the scree from the stretcher box towards Foxes Tarn. I cracked my shin badly on a rock. I sat there for a minute holding my shin whilst taking deep breaths through my teeth. It hurt, like really hurt but I knew I had to at least get to Wasdale, couldn’t sit there forever. I cleaned up the cut in the ghyll coming out of Foxes Tarn and felt fine. Onto Wasdale.
“Have you just run up Scafell Pike?”
“Aye, sort of”
Boy, was I glad to get here, time to eat a proper meal, veggie chilli with a hot chocolate brownie for dessert, scrumptious! I’d allowed myself the 20 minutes break people on a 24 hour schedule have here to eat and rest properly but my head started spinning and the day caught up with me in an instance. 27 minutes I sat in that camping chair in the car park, then hobbled off up Yewbarrow. I hit the top a minute quicker than the split on my schedule, a big boost of confidence.
I did have support sorted for leg 4, however as I reached Wasdale an hour up on my schedule neither could make it in time. I knew Jack was going to run out from Honister and meet me somewhere on the leg. I could feel myself slowing, the pace declining, I was getting tired. I didn’t check the schedule but I knew I was moving slower than the scheduled pace.
Jack messaged saying he would meet me around Great Gable, brilliant! I was on Pillar and the imposing giant was close (Gable, not Jack). I finally had the chance to fill up my water at the top of Black Sail Pass. A small stream hidden in the grass James had shown me some time ago was a saviour! As the gradient eased at the top of Kirk Fell I heard a shout off to my left, it was Jack! A big hug lifted my spirits, I’d actually dropped off more than I thought I had but seeing Jack perked me right back up again. Time to get the legs spinning again! We skipped over the Gables and the rest of leg 4, making sure to hit the true summits of Brandreth and Grey Knotts, a little bit of zig zagging around and we made the dash down to Honister.
Loud whistles and hollering filled the air, spirits were high. It was in the bag, now the question was, “How fast?” 7 minutes break and I decided that due to the time lost on leg 4 that sub 20 hours was out of the question. It hadn’t even crossed my mind until Dunmail so it wasn’t too disheartening. I decided to enjoy the last leg rather than be stressed and chase minutes.
It all changed when we hit Dale Head on schedule still. Game on. The pace skyrocketed. Hindscarth was but a blur. One to go, Robinson. I took it all in for 30 seconds once I’d hit summit number 42. Unless you’re chasing records I think you have to stop, albeit briefly.
Then, the mad dash home. It was going to go in less than 20 hours… Nope, we’ll never make it. I think we will just miss it. We must have a few minutes to play with. Easy, definitely make it in time for a sub 20! Nope, not going to happen. It was like this from Dale Head to Portinscale. As we came into Portinscale I looked at my watch. I’d been on the move now for 19 hours and 42 minutes. It’s going to go!! 18 minutes to get back…
I’ll never forget that last mile. It’s one of the most forgettable miles going, a dead straight trail cutting through farmers fields then on to the road into Keswick town centre. But that night it was a mile I’ll remember forever. The weight lifted from my shoulders, the stresses disappeared, my legs felt light and fresh. I could taste the beer. I almost got emotional. I knew I was going to climb them famous steps after my Bob Graham, sit down on them and have a beer and that is exactly what I did 19 hours and 51 minutes after leaving them.