I am currently reading Nick Burton’s Wainwright’s Way: a long-distance walk through Alfred Wainwright’s life from Blackburn to Haystacks. When he describes AW’s first trips to wander extensively around the Lakes on his holidays in 1930/31 (well before starting his iconic Pictorial Guides) I got to speculating as to whether he might have known of or even met Bob Graham. The wandering accountant (AW) certainly roamed widely in these early visits, including Helvellyn for instance, and surely the Keswick B&B owner (BG) recced widely before doing his eponymous Bob Graham Round in 1932. Despite looking at my extensive material about AW and limited stuff about BG I can find no reference to a meeting, so it remains a mere speculative fantasy of mine.
In my recent talks about fell running I have included a photo of BG and also one of the well-known Londoner Hugh Munro. HM of course explored, listed and popularised Scotland’s 3,000 foot mountains – producing the famous Munro tables. In his book Burton makes a comparison/connection between AW and WW (William Wordsworth). He argues that they had in common ‘a passion for Lakeland and a desire to express this creatively’. WW wrote a guide book too (A guide through the District of the Lakes), and both WW and AW had a biography of themselves written by Hunter Davies.
However, I would make a strong connection between AW, BG and HM. Obviously lovers of the hills, their legacies are now inextricably linked to popular endurance challenges. Walkers often spend years (a lifetime sometimes) ‘bagging’ the 214 Wainwrights that are listed in AW’s 7 Pictorial Guides, or the 282 Munros, and the 42 peaks on the Bob Graham Round has become something of a fell runners’ rite of passage. Moreover, records have inevitably been established for the fastest completion of each challenge. Currently the fastest ‘continuous man-powered completion’ of each challenge is: Wainwrights – Joss Naylor, 7 days 1 hour 25 minutes in 1986; Munros – Stephen Pyke, 39 days in 2010; and Bob Graham Round – Billy Bland in 13 hrs 53 mins in 1982.
What has just caught my eye is the fact that there are currently challenges being mounted on two of these, and perhaps all three. Dan Duxbury is starting his continuous traverse of the Munros on Mon 14 April. It is being bigged-up by UKHillwalking as an attempt on the record, but Dan himself plays it slightly differently. On the FRA forum, he says: “Spyke’s record is awesome and he’s in a different league to me”. There is a tracker to follow progress on. In mid-March Steve Birkinshaw’s blog noted that “hopefully I can get close to or beat this [Joss's] time” for the Wainwrights. His next blog entry gave details of the route and ways he hoped to shave time off (predominantly by route choice and taking less sleep!). He starts on 14 June, and will also have a tracker, and will be blogging regularly. Finally, there has been a rumour of Scott Jurek and Rickey Gates attacking all the 4 main national rounds. There have have been sightings and FB mentions of them recceing the Paddy Buckley Round, and an interview in the Guardian last October quoted Jurek (author of Eat and Run) as thinking of “an attempt at a Bob Graham …… as well as the Paddy Buckley, Ramsay and Wicklow rounds (the Welsh, Scottish and Irish equivalents)”. Rickey Gates is obviously fit, as he was second to Jebby at the Coledale Horseshoe fell race today. Watch this space for developments on their rounds (IF they happen).
UPDATE: Scott Jurek and Rickey Gates did the BGR on Mon 14 Apr (on last day of their trip). After starting in good weather it turned bad towards the end. They complete in 23.44 according to Scott’s twitter feed, aided by Ricky Lightfoot. Dan Duxbury did start his Munro traverse on same day and the (adjusted) tracker noted above is active, and is a fine time-waster if you get hooked!
The third book talk for ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ was at Altrincham AC on Friday night, superbly organised by Neil Walker. After a great curry, provided by Sale caterers Just Like Mother and a calming pint, I took the floor for a run thru of some stories from the early and recent days of fell running. The talk provoked some interesting questions, which I did my best to answer.
I then did a short interview with Altrincham AC legend (and former British Fell Champion and Olympic marathoner) Jeff Norman. I prompted him to talk about his early start in school sports, and then in fell and marathon running – revealing that he had in fact done 62 marathons (to the surprise of many of his clubmates who hadn’t known he had such an appetite for the event). I finished by asking him who he thought would win the Manchester marathon in two days time. This raised a laugh as his two sons Dave and Andy were in the audience and both hoping to be in the mix in the race. Jeff smiled and politely declined to answer the question. He did have some fascinating stories about his race tussles with the likes of Joss Naylor, Mike Short, Harry Walker and Alan Blinstone. The question I forgot to ask Jeff was how was he getting on with his long term project to compile a history of the club. He had mentioned it when I interviewed him for the book, and admitted privately later that it was ‘ongoing, and possibly never actually going to see the light of day’!
Afterwards, another beer and socialising with Altrinchamians – who were variously thinking about their prospects in the Manch marathon, organising their marshalling for Manch mara (an impressive 71 volunteering for this), tapering for the London marathon or just probing on particular fell running issues. A great evening. [Dave and Andy Norman were 4th and 8th respectively in the marathon in the end. Race was won by Andi Jones, who also has a great mountain running pedigree.]
I spent the weekend staying with one of my sons in Thurlstone, and socialising and eating in Sheffield. I managed to fit in some climbing with a couple of the boys at the Matrix Wall at Sheff Uni sports centre on the Saturday. It seemed an appropriate activity as a) I was in the city that is sometimes ‘marketed’ as the Adventure Capital Of The UK (for instance, according to Matt Heason: ‘Sheffield’s S7 postal code is reputed to have the highest density of rock climbers anywhere on the planet, and it has 4 nationally significant climbing walls’), and b) I was talking about fell running the next day at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF). The wall trip told me too things; (i) that my aging body is now too unsupple, and unconditioned, to do climbing, although I enjoyed some of the easier routes, and (ii) that all of my boys are well capable of climbing to a better standard than I ever did, if they choose to keep at it. We all had a fabulous Saturday evening meal at Spoon, a highly recommended small cafe-bistro in Woodseats.
On Sunday afternoon I was talking again, this time at ShAFF, to a small but enthusiastic audience, trying not to think too much about the members of my family in the audience. Again some good responses, including questions on another book from me, my thoughts on trail running, and the future for fell running. It was good to meet up with Claire Maxted (Trail Running magazine’s editor) and Tony O’Donnell (of theoutdoortimes.com).
After a coffee and chat with family and friends it was in to the Emma Clayton session. It was billed as a lecture, but turned out to a be short film compilation of her races followed by a Q&A. It was very interesting to hear her talk about her training, injuries, attitude and future ambitions. Both the video and the answers highlighted the difference between (European) mountain running and (UK) fell running. It got a bit bogged down in the politics of sponsorship and governing body athlete support towards the end, but overall well worth attending. In retrospect, I wish I’d had time to have seen some of the films, particularly the running ones which clashed with my talk.
THANKS: to Neil Walker for setting up the Alty gig and introducing me, to Matt Heason and Lissa Cook for ShAFF invite, and to Claire Maxted for introducing me.
Two more talks this weekend, in Altrincham and Sheffield. There are seats still available at both. The Altrincham one is at Timperley Sports Club at 6-45pm on Fri 4 April, and is open to all. It includes a curry meal, and an interview with Olympian Jeff Norman. Pre-booking is required, and can be done via 07581002367. Any surplus from this event is being donated to Mountain Rescue. The Sheffield one is at ShAFF (Sheffield Adventure Film Festival) at 3-30pm on Sunday 6th April. It is free, and you can just roll up. To quote from my own publicity, for both talks there will be: “tales of naked runners, via the World’s Greatest Liar contest and the establishment of the Bob Graham Round.” Hope to see loads of you there. [Event details]
WILFS: The first two of the book talks took place last weekend in the Lakes and in Scotland. On Thursday evening I talked at Wilfs in Staveley as part of their slide/supper series. The talk went well and sold a few books, and I signed a whole load more for people who had already bought it. A lot of good banter before and after – I remember talking to athletes from Ambleside, Helm Hill, Coniston, and even Bowland. Two minor coincidences occurred regarding the slides I included. Firstly, I included an image from Jim Mann’s recent magnificent winter BGR in 18 hrs 18 mins, showing 2 of his pacers – one of whom was at the talk and recognised themselves from their bright duvet. Secondly, there was another slide of two runners who had strayed off route and were scrambling over some crags, and one of those two was in attendance as well. Small world. I have a video of some of the talk and am currently considering whether the quality (the room was dark) is OK to edit down to a sampler.
CARNETHY: On the Friday I drove up to Edinburgh to give a talk at a Carnethy Hill Running Club social evening, in Kings Building, Edinburgh University. A good crowd, with some friendly heckling, so guess it went pretty well too. Having left my script/prompts back in the Lakes I was forced to respond to the images, which probably resulted in a more natural delivery. I feel pretty confident with the material and the story I am trying to tell. Still some refinement for the later talks though I reckon. I have just received some nice feedback on the talk from Bob Johnston, and the Carnethy website carries his report of the event.
ONWARDS: I combined the events with visits to friends in Stirling and the Lake District, having fantastic walks at both locations. Whilst in the Lakes, I went in to Waterstones in Kendal and found the book prominently displayed with other running books. In discussion with the shop’s manager we agreed a possible talk here later in the year. On the Sunday I also slipped in to Sam Read’s and Fred Holdsworth’s shops and signed all the stock they had in of the book, so you can always pick up a copy there. The biggest disappointment, however, was to come back to find the latest Fellrunner magazine had been delivered at home and to find it has STILL not been reviewed there, despite a copy being provided by the publisher when the book was published.
MOVING ON: I am doing 2 further book talks in less than 2 weeks now at Altrincham AC (Fri 4 Apr) and Sheffield (Sun 6 Apr). The book will be available at both events, and can be purchased through the ShAFF Bookstore [click ShaFF Books link]. Online stores should also have restocked now, as the 2nd reprint is with the distributors.
I was very pleased to hear this week how well the book is selling. Sandstone Press tell me nearly all the second print run of 1,000 have left the warehouse, and are out with bookshops and online sellers. A third print run of 1,000 hardbacks is now being produced. So, there should be plenty of copies available.
Good to see that book chains like Waterstones are stocking it. The picture above was taken last week in Waterstones in North Finchley. Not a bad place to be – in between Mo Farah and Ray Mears! Remember there are many different sources – Lakes’ independents shops like Fred Holdsworth, Sam Read and Bookends all stock it. The Book Depository, Outside, Play and Wordery all sell it online, as of course do Amazon.
But best of all if you are an active fellrunner is the new shop, Third Step Books. They are “dedicated to offering the widest range of books on Fell Running, Mountaineering, Polar Exploration and all things cold, high or muddy; our aim is to bring together the best of the New, the Lost and Forgotten, as well as the Rare and Collectable.” But even better is that they “are available to provide a stall at races across the North of England. Providing a mix of the latest books with bargain classics, we have the right mix for your field. If you would like a specific book bringing to an event from our online offer, just let us know.” Check them out on the web and Facebook. Their Facebook page has a great pic of the stall at the Flower Scar race last week, with ‘It’s a hill’ prominently displayed. I hope you will support this great new book-selling enterprise (which I have no connection with).
Finally, a reminder that you will be able to get signed copies of the book at the various talks I am doing this month and next. See the Events page for further details of the events in the Lakes, Edinburgh, Altrincham and Sheffield.
Details of a series of talks promoting ‘It’s a hill’ are now being finalised. There are dates set for the Lakes, Scotland, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Any further information will be available on the Events page.
Wilfs, Staveley – Thu 20 March for a slide/supper evening. Fabulous food and venue (next door to the Hawkshead Brewery). Details and booking.
Carnethy Hill Running Club – Fri 21 March at Pi in the Sky, Edinburgh University, Kings Building campus. Possibly sharing a stage with Finlay Wild (Cuillin Ridge record holder).
Altrincham AC – Fri 4 April @Timperley Taverners, sharing the stage with Jeff Norman (Olympian and former Fell Runner of the Year). MC’d by Neil Walker.
Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – Sun 6 April @Showroom Cinema. A great gig. Programme includes other running-related films/talks, including Heather Dawe (Adventures in Mind) and Emma Clayton. Details.
There should be book signings at each event. Other events may be arranged, particularly one at Keswick AC in the summer, and hopefully a launch for the paperback edition when it comes out towards the latter part of this year.