Connections: A. Wainwright, B. Graham, H. Munro and endurance challenges

wainwrightI 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. [Wainwright photo copyright: Homer Sykes]

Bob-grahamIn 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.

HTMunroHowever, 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!

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