‘Kílian Jornet smashes Bob Graham endurance race record’

Myth: Billy Bland’s 13-53 Bob Graham Record will never be beaten.
Fact: Kilian Jornet took 1 hr 1 min of it on Sunday on a boiling hot day.

Monday’s Guardian reported the news under the misleading headline above (it is NOT a race), and included this marvellous picture of Carl Bell leading Jornet down what looks like Blencathra’s Halls Fell ridge on leg 1.

guardianpicI am still getting over the intensity of the occasion, even though I wasn’t there. I spent a great deal of the day (Sun 8 Jul 2018) watching different social media feeds for updates on Jornet’s progress. Judging by this (admittedly filtered view), it was interesting to observe how the mood of the day seem to swing from a certain amount of ‘he won’t do it’ (and even ‘I hope he doesn’t do it’) to one of amazement at the predicted time as the day went on, and the sense of ‘history being made’ as Jornet ran through a Tour de France-like throng to touch the door at the Moot Hall.

jornetThe setup: It all started with Kilian Jornet posting a picture of himself ‘on Dale Head’ on Friday, with the rumour-mill taking over from there. [The best posting I saw was ‘what is Kilian Jornet doing in the Lake District?’, to which the very first reply was ‘visiting the Pencil Museum’]

The rumour strengthened and then he was ‘definately doing it’ according to some, with Sunday morning a favoured start time.

The day: So it turned out. Someone in the know confirmed that he had set out at 6am from the Moot Hall, and there was a video clip showing Keswick AC’s Carl Bell as main pacer. They were making great time over the Skiddaw-Blencathra section and arrived at Threlkeld a few minutes up on Billy Bland’s schedule already.

dannyrichardsonUKCNewsI had reason to contact Billy Bland about another matter, and his wife Ann replied that he had cycled over to Dunmail to ‘see him come flying through’. By now a confirmed pacing list had leaked out through the ether, and it was clear that he had got absolutely top runners supporting him. Jornet gained more time over the Helvellyn range, and there was a photo (courtesy of Danny Richardson) of Billy shaking Jornet’s hand as he started off up Steel Fell – a fine gesture from Billy.

The finish: It is not for me to decribe the round as it unfolded. There are reports out there, and will be more (particularly from Salomon). Search on Google and take your pick. What was amazing was the build-up to the finish. Live video streams were promised. One of the best was grainy phonecam video shot by Matt (?) of CFR of the run-in from Portinscale.

finishsalomonThe crowds around the Moot Hall were amazing, and parted like a Tour/Giro mountainside crowd as Carl Bell led Jornet up to the finish (photo from Salomon). A pacer reckoned him at about 7min/miling on the road section. I do wish I been there to see it.

charlottemellortwitterBilly Bland was there atop the steps to meet him, and he sat down with him for this iconic photo of the previous and new record holders (photo Charlotte Mellor). On a video from Wild Ginger Films Billy seems to reach behind himself and produce a bottle of champagne to give Kilian, another fine gesture. I’d love to have heard their first words together. (Photo below Trail Running Magazine)

trailrunningWhat was most impressive was that Kilian went off for a shower and shortly came back to talk with people who had come to watch him take on the BG challenge. For 40 mins or so he talked with individuals, signed autographs and patiently sat for photographs (on the bottom step of the Moot Hall).

Background: as the day unfolded, and in subsequent reports, a picture emerged of how Jornet had gone about planning to take the BGR on. He decided to do it only on the Monday beforehand, having recovered well from his recent broken leg, having tested it in winning the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. Being fit, not too tired from other events (due to the layoff), and knowing the conditions were ideal seemed to seal it. Martin Stone was helping coordinate pacers, but was having trouble getting sufficient high quality ones. But Rob Jebb was apparently planning a round himself on the Saturday, but bailed as he thought it to be too hot. He offered several of his pacers to Jornet which completed his team.

petebarronThe man: Jornet seems to be very aware of the tradition of the BGR and is big on the history of mountain running. He planned as low-key a round as a person of his stature could achieve, with virtually no presence from his sponsor, and certainly no big advance publicity. He acknowledges that he knew about the BGR from back in 2008 when people like Ricky Lighfoot were going out to the Alps. Although he didn’t reccie it all he says it is ‘powerful to discover the mountains’. What he did do was call on Billy Bland to have a chat, and says that the first time he called Billy was out on a bike ride! But they met up on the Friday. His approach and demeanor certainly endeared him to many observers.

Snippets: finally a few other snippets cleaned from watching from afar. One thing that was great was the way the fell running community embraced him and the event. Coordinator Martin Stone had been a pacer on Billy Bland’s record round. One of Jornet’s pacers was Martin Mikkelson-Barron, whose father was also a pacer on Billy’s round, and was there to watch, along with Kenny Stuart, who had paced Billy on his leg 1, which finished right near Kenny’s house.

katecarterOn a personal level it was rather cool to see that he had got two books to read as part of his prep, and one was my history of fell running ‘It’s a Hill, Get Over it’. The book covers the BGR and I concluded that I would certainly like to see him try for the BGR record.

He has, and the result has certainly caught the wider world’s attention. Apart from the Guardian article (noted above) it has been on the Radio 2 News, and Jornet appeared on the Chris Evans breakfast show this morning. All a bit much for some of the traditionists in the sport, I suspect.

The future: so what next? Will it close the door on any record attempts from UK runners, or spur them on? Apparently Jornet was heard to say that two of his pacers (Carl Bell and Rob Jebb) were capable of running as fast as he had. We will see. Will Jornet be tempted to other UK events, challenges or races? A Ramsay Round for Jornet was mentioned at some point or other.

stuartTalking with him after, Kenny Stuart suggested he have a crack for his Ben Nevis race record (now 34 yrs old), to which Jornet replied ‘I would love to do that’. He also said that his girlfriend, Emelie Forsberg, would love to do the BGR, and in an interview that he would love to have a go at Billy’s Borrowdale fell race record. So, watch this space.

The Round front coverThanks to everyone for the media, videos and photos, which have been acknowledged where possible. And don’t forget if you want to know more about the man Bob Graham, how the original round happened, and how it developed, together with some of the heroes and innovators, then get hold of my book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’, available from all good bookshops, and online from Amazon. [It has been described as ‘something very special’ (by Joss Naylor); ‘essential reading’ (Kenny and Pauline Stuart); and ‘unfailingly inspiring’ (Claire Maxted).]


Cartography. Some thoughts

cart_lgKen Field’s ‘Cartography.’ [note the full stop] has now been published and copies are winging their way out to early purchasers. But, what is it really like, and is it worth the hefty price tag?

Disclosure: I made a small contribution [of a double page spread] and also was one of  a small group of people who were asked to review a working copy of the book in its early developmental stages …… and I am a friend of Ken.

I always take the request to be a critical friend of someone’s work very seriously and duly I set about making notes, with suggestions for clarification and emphasis to (hopefully) enhance some of its 500+ pages. This produced a 1,000 Word file which went back to the author for consideration. One example will suffice to show the detail. There is a page on ‘map traps’ – deliberate errors included to try to catch copyright infringement. I suggested: Map traps – maybe an aside in this page about cartographers ‘signatures’ in maps. See page 105/6 in Mike Parker’s ‘Map Addict’ on OS names of surveyor in cliff drawings on IoW.

I hope the critiquing was useful, though I’ve not been back to see if any suggestions were taken up.

howtouseThe most impressive thing about the book is the radical approach taken. Ken explains its different take on structuring the information on the mapping process. This is not likely to be a book that is read in a traditional way. Folk are likely (positively encouraged) to dip in and out, the layout has linked navigation aids. There is a colour-coded thematic index, and an alphabetical index, together with multiple ‘see also’ links on each double page spread.

What else is in there? A neat idea is the inclusion of 25 ‘guest spreads’, where emminent cartographers were asked to provide examples of maps that interest them, with short explanations of why. Seeing the names of Waldo Tobler, Mark Monmonier, Danny Dorling and Menno-Jan Kraak alongside my own gives me a quiet sense of pride. My contribution is a map of ‘Airspace: The Invisible Infrastructure’ commisioned by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which coincidentally one of my sons has just finished training with.


NB: It is a still from a video, so for best effect check the video it comes from:

One other thing that really pleased me was to see that Roger Anson had been asked to write the Foreword. He was the Senior Lecturer who ran the cartography course at Oxford Polytechnic/University who inspired me in my career, and obviously did for Ken too.

See what do I think of the book?

First off, may I say that I am very impressed overall with the book. I like the concept and the delivery.

These were the first two sentences of my feedback when critiquing the early version of it. When I saw a further iteration I pronounced it a ‘game-changer’, and I really think it is the best text on cartography in recent years.

But don’t just take my word for it . When writing about the book in the Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers, Chris Wesson concluded his detailed review:

What Kenneth Field has created here is a brilliant reference book on behalf of our field of cartography. Finally! A book that truly represents Cartography in 2018.

See his full review, which is thorough and considered, at this link [PDF].

Finally, is it worth the cover price, which is admittedly on the high side. I feel that it is, given the breadth of coverage and particularly the most excellent illustrations, many of which have been created especially for this volume. Buy it if you can afford it.

moocPRO TIP: and if you CAN’T afford it, then sign up for the next Esri Cartography MOOC, which I can guarantee will include loads of stuff from the book, as it is run by Ken, plus his colleagues at Esri who worked on putting the book together.



The rise of great single-event athletic meetings: the MK5000

I have said elsewhere (when writing about the Golden Stag Mile) that events like the Night of the 10,000 PBs at Parliament Hill have shown that concentrated single event evenings are great fun, AND produce great results for the competitors as they are graded races. The success of Highgate Harriers’ Ben Pochee at organising the 10,000m event has caused a brilliant ripple effect, and other such events are following on from this great work, and coming soon is what promises to be a great event for the 5000m.

posterheaderThe details of the inaugural ‘MK5000 PB Special in association with the BMC’ on Saturday 11 August show how clubs like Marshall Milton Keynes AC are gearing these events up to meet the athlete’s needs, and very much putting them first:

  • a day/evening of high quality 5000m races at the track in Milton Keynes. ‘A’ races are BMC Gold Standard; races leading up to that will be graded based on PBs.
  • put on by club runners for club runners; everything will be geared towards helping fellow athletes run as fast as possible.
  • on track support, a food and drinks festival as well as music to help inspire you.

trackOnly 500 places are available, so enter as soon as you can.
BMC Gold Standard entry (14.40 for men / 17.35 for women):
UKA club entry (Currently 17.59 for men/ 20.59 for women:

One of the organising team, Elliot Hind, commented:

It’s great the BMC were so keen to be involved and we are able to take a step forwards giving club athletes the platform to really push themselves.

He also confirmed that, ‘we will be providing pacers, taking official results at 3000m, and have got clocks every 200m and are looking to get predicted finish times on the screens too’.

SO, if you are looking for a 5000m PB, want to try a track 5k for the first time, or just want to watch athletics close up (for free), MK14 6DT is the place to be on Saturday 11 August 2018.

Joss Naylor and I share a stage at the Buxton Adventure Festival

JossandIonstage2smallerJoss Naylor was on great form at the Buxton Adventure Festival gig at the Buxton Opera House (on 19 June 2018), as we shared stories of his life and times.

operahouseI arrived early to book into the marvellous Old Hall Hotel, have a bite to eat, scope out the Opera House and meet BAF organiser Matt Heason and Joss to setup the visuals, do a soundcheck, and check how the timings of our parts of the event.

soldoutIt was a lovely sunny evening and it was great to see the SOLD OUT sign on the doors as they set up an outdoor bar for the audience who were starting to congregate on the space outside of the theatre. Six hundred was apparently the auditorium size.

firstslideAfter an intro from Matt, and a few words on The Brathay Trust, which it was Joss’s wish that all the profits should go to, I took the stage before possibly the largest crowd I had given a talk to. I ran through my presentation on The Bob Graham Round, its history and heroes, interspersed with stories and photos/videos from my friend Neil Walker’s recent BGR. We then had a short break for drinks, and for a chance to sell and sign a few books.

audienceThe audience were perhaps surprised when Joss chose to give them what he called a ‘little lecture’ to start the second half. His theme was badgers  and foxes and how we mistreat the animal kingdom, with specific examples local to him.

JossandIonstageI then sat down with Joss and fed him some questions, which I hoped would bring some good stories out from him, and later took questions from the audience. This produced some fascinating responses from Joss, only some of which I can remember.

Some examples will have to suffice to show the range of topics, and highlight Joss’s humorous and informative replies.

On being asked from the floor what the Queen said to him when he was presented with his MBE (for his charity work) he replied without blinking: “You are a good looking boy!”.

When I asked him why he hadn’t beaten the UK 24 hour track record when he attempted it he replied it was the physiotherapist’s fault. I think I heard him correctly, as he said ‘he was massaging his leg and stuffed it up my arse’. He had been tracking at 2-38 marathon pace before that happened and reckoned he would have smashed the record without that painful intervention.

extendedroundsAfter dissing those that planned endurance challenges ‘on a computer’, he revealed that when he did his Lakes 72 peaks extended BG record in 24 hrs  in 1975 he ‘ran out of peaks’. (This was subsequently raised to 77 by Mark Hartell, quite possibly with the aid of computer planning!).

I thought I knew Joss pretty well, but he surprised me when he said at one point that he had done 30 mins for a 10k road race once. His witty put-down of slow latter day fell ‘runners’ who chatted all round the course was based on how long he had to stand around in wet and cold conditions marshalling them in races.

He replied to the question: How would you like to be remembered? – “As a man who enjoyed life”.

He gave his thoughts on nutrition and hydration (salt water apparently being his secret), and training, and described some of his many race successes but also was not afraid to mention the less successful days out. He closed with the advice: “Be nice to each other”.

JossbooksigningWe then repaired to the foyer where Joss patiently signed absolutely loads of books and autographs, speaking with and posing for photos for everyone. The photo shows the queue going out of the foyer entrance as people waited patiently for their turn.

A fabulous evening. What a legend he is and a fabulous human being too.

brathayBAF-logoFor more information on my book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ (and my other 2 books), see my page at Sandstone Press.

JossquoteThe image is part of the cover quote for ‘The Round’ from Joss Naylor.


Fell legend Joss Naylor at the Buxton Adventure Festival

Really looking forward to sharing a stage with Joss Naylor next week (Tues 19th) at the Buxton Adventure Festival. I will be talking about The Bob Graham Round – ‘an exploration of the what, why and how of this classic fell endurance challenge’. I will then introduce and interview Joss and encourage him (as if he’ll need encouraging!) to talk about his life of running and farming, before taking questions from the audience.JossforBAFsmaller

Having interviewed him a couple of times for my books (available on the night), I know him to be riveting to listen to, as he recalls some of his amazing exploits on the fells. Co-founder of the London Marathon, Chris Brasher, described Joss Naylor as ‘The Greatest of Them All’, a title he bestowed on Joss when he ran 72 Lake District mountains in 24 hours.

It may be possible to snap up the last few tickets for the gig at:

brathayAll proceeds from Joss’s talk will be donated to the Brathay Trust. They work with children, young people and families to help them fulfil their potential and make positive choices, working with them in their own communities and at their residential centres in the Lake District.

Run a mile, the classic distance

The Golden Stag Mile is back at Finsbury Park on Friday 6 July 2018. Re-arranged for Fri 20 July 2018 [entries still available], because of a:

clash with the huge Wireless Festival in the park, a potential England WC Quarter Final (jinx), and electonic timing being no longer available on the 6 July date

Come and try the greatest track distance, the mile. Events like the Night of the 10,000 PBs at Parliament Hill have shown that concentrated single event evenings are great fun, AND produce great results for the competitors as they are graded races.

The Golden Stag Mile is open to all clubs/individuals, but entries are filling fast. Entries: https://www.entrycentral.com/goldenstagmile

GSM-LOGO-2018smallerNow in its fifth year, The Golden Stag Mile will always be for athletes of all abilities, from ten minutes or more to four minutes or less. The races are graded so that you get to race people of a similar ability as we love a close finish! Previous editions have seen British, European, and even World age group records, with a large crowd cheering our athletes on from lane three of the track.


The races start at 18:45 and the pace of each race goes up as the sun comes down. At the end of the night the final races will decide the Golden Stag Mile titles for 2018. We hope you will come for the whole evening to cheer on all of our milers.

Entries for the Golden Stag Mile will remain open until 30 June, or until the races are full. Races will be seeded based on your predicted time.  The time you put will determine which race you go in, so please be realistic.  You can change your predicted time as many times as you like, but no changes will be accepted after 30 June.


New for 2018 – Our final two races will be for elite men and elite women.  We are pleased to offer the following prize structure for these races:
1st  – £100 cash,  2nd – £50 cash,  3rd – £25 cash

Link for full results for the 2014-2017 races.

Golden Stag Mile roll of honour

2014 – Michael Wright, 4:29.76 – Jo Kent, 5:28.47
2015 – Michael Wright, 4.24:69 – Claire Elms, Dulwich, 5:04.93
(1st B&DAC – Kath March, 5:26.17)
2016 – Thomas Butler, 4:41:36 – Claire Elms, Dulwich, 5:13.08
(1st B&DAC – Kath March, 5:44.52)
2017 – Thomas Butler, – 4:24.9 – Kelly Thorneycroft, Heathside, 5:21.8
(1st B&DAC Nina Atherton, 5:45.4)

Did I really write that?

didireallywritethatI have had conversations with two friends with books out in May and June about that long wait from write/edit to publication, and the notion of feeling divorced from the whole process during that time. When researching it seems all consuming, in my case a seesaw of pleasure and pain, and signing off the proof can be some kind of relief.

When you see the end product there is the tangible pleasure of holding a book, and thinking how much of you it represents. You are then embroiled in the round of publicity that is absolutely necessary if you want to get the book known about, and hopefully purchased in decent numbers. Some find that easy to do, and others less so. You have decide for yourself how blatant your self-publicity should be, and accept being called a ‘media tart’ if you manage some spectacular paper, radio, or podcast appearance.

You want reviews to appear, but can’t bear the thought of a bad one. I still cringe inside when I think of the worst book review I have ever had:

If you want a copy of xxxxx, mine is in the bin at Geneva airport.

Actually I find it funny now, and often relay the story when talking on the subject.

It is even possible to lose your connection with your own work. One of the friends mentioned above recently said,

I haven’t really looked at it since receiving the hard copies. It seems surreal that I ever wrote it.

I have had similar feelings, but usually after a somewhat longer time has elapsed. I do know that something can come to me and I will want to refer back to one of books to get the story. This can produce two strange situations. Firstly, I might not be able to recall which book it was in (oh come on Steve, they are similar but not that much so!); or secondly, when I find it and re-read it I think, ‘did I really write that?’.

These thoughts have arisen because I have recently been mulling over the possibility of writing Book 4, and have been trying to write the synopsis. Possibly starting the long haul of another book also took me back to something I wrote earlier on this blog about finishing one of my earlier books [https://itsahill.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/when-is-a-book-finished/].

So, who were those two friends? Well, they have
written books on subjects very close to my heart.

muircoverJonny Muir’s ‘The Mountains are Calling’ is (as I have noted elsewhere) written a lyrical style that brilliantly evokes the emotions one experiences in what Boff Whalley called running wild. It is the story of hill running in Scotland, ‘charting its evolution …. heralding its characters and the culture that has grown around them, ultimately capturing the irresistible appeal of running in high places.’ Jonny also writes a very entertaining blog.

cart_lgKen Field’s ‘Cartography.’ is (in publicity speak): ‘an inspiring and creative companion along the nonlinear journey toward making a great map. This sage compendium for contemporary mapmakers distills the essence of cartography into useful topics.’ I was critical friend, contributed a miniscule piece, and think it is a game changer. Ken also writes an interesting blog.