Archive | February 2018

Billy Bland: “I wasn’t the best by any means, but I was a tryer”

20180218_145500Billy Bland was on top form at the Due North ‘Conversation with Billy Bland’ event at the Skiddaw Hotel (Keswick) on 9 Feb. After a brief introduction from me, he fielded questions from the audience and entertained them royally for over an hour and a half. Thanks to Billy, and to Due North, and especially the audience for making it such a great evening.

I met with Mel Steventon (from Due North) and Billy in the bar beforehand to go over the plan for how the event would hopefully go. I was having a pint to try to settle the nerves I get before these events, and Billy sipped an orange juice. He was as calm and accommodating as you like saying, “let them ask whatever they like”, and “yeh of course you can tape the responses for later”.

withMelandBillyThe questions from the floor, and a few prompts thrown in by me, were wide-ranging and meant that Billy covered topics such as his background, training, rivals (with some exquisite put-downs, including some of his own family!) and current lifestyle. Looking back at the transcript there is a masterclass in training and preparing from an (old school) elite endurance athlete in there, such were the depth and reach of some of the responses.

Just one example was when he was asked what he would do differently, with hindsight. His reply included:

I would always say to anybody who was a winner immediately that I was sorry for them. Because I think you need to get beaten a lot of times, and serve your time. Then there is a lot more enjoyment when you get to where you want to be, or as good as you can be. I wouldn’t want to change owt really.

Billy actually wasn’t a very good runner early on, finishing nearly last in his first race, and took several years before he was able to win his first race.

1982 Billy B with Martin StoneA real bonus was Martin Stone being in the audience, as he was one of the pacers on Billy Bland’s 13-53 Bob Graham Round record run in 1982. He gave a real feel for that epic event from the inside, so to speak. I had interviewed Martin [in the long track bottoms in the photo, which is of the run-in to the Moot Hall from the 1982 round] for my book The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps. In responding to Billy on the night he said that he was privileged to be part of it, and pointed out something that I wasn’t actually aware of.

It was quite possibly one of the very few BGRs where no vehicle has gone round to Wasdale. Billy insisted that was too over the top, so Bob Whitfield and I had to walk over from Borrowdale with bottles of Mackeson and his wife’s fruit cake in our sacks.

IMG_5356I am transcribing the audio file, and will be writing the event up for the next Fellrunner (and later this blog). Suffice it to say for now that it was a marvellous evening, which I heard some excellent feedback on. Billy spent ages talking to people and signing books.

I will be working with Due North on another ‘Evening with Billy Bland’ at Skipton, on 11 May. [Details and tickets] Come along to that event and ask your own questions.

IMG-20180212-WA0002My wife and I stayed on a couple of days to experience the Lakes in snowy conditions. Doing a couple more Wainwrights even though the weather wasn’t great, the best experience was coming off Barrow, where it had been blowing a hoolie. Down towards Barrow Door it was more sheltered and the scenery just magical (photo above, no filter or adjustment).

Bob Graham at Wilf’s

Having had a really good ‘Conversation with Billy Bland’ in Keswick last week*, I am now prepping another talk in Cumbria next month. This is part of the ‘Slide and Supper Evenings’ at Wilfs, in Staveley, on Thu 8 March.

slidesupperThe illustrated talk is at 7pm on Thurs 8 March, and will be entitled ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ and will:

detail the history of the Bob Graham Round & explore the what, why and how of this classic fell endurance challenge. It will cover its development from a more or less idle challenge to its present status as a rite of passage for endurance runners. Interspersed with this detail of the round are snapshots of many of the event’s most significant individuals: innovators, record setters, recorders and supporters. Finally, some thoughts on why Billy Bland’s record time for the BGR has lasted since 1982, whether someone will soon beat it, and also concerns about the impact it’s challengers are having on the environment.


Cost £8.50
• Starting with a light supper & brew at 7pm. Talk starts 7.45pm prompt
Booking with payment required
• Some tickets may be available on the night
• Email :
• Credit / debit cards
Cafe: Staveley Mill Yard, Back Lane, Staveley, Nr. Kendal, Cumbria LA8 9LR. Tel: 01539 822329

The talk is based on my book of the same name, which was shortlisted for the TGO Awards Outdoor Book of the Year 2015 and the Lakeland Book of the Year Award 2016. A few signed copies of the book, and my other books (‘Its a hill, get over it’ and ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’) will be available on the night.

there will be a short blog on last week’s Billy Bland evening (with great quotes) shortly, and news of a second Due North event with Billy.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

CFSsnapshotFollowing on from the interviews for my last book (‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’), I have been doing some research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This resulted from talking through the issue with Kenny Stuart and Steve Birkinshaw, who have both suffered the debilitating effects of CFS, and ‘recovered’ to varying degrees. I floated the idea of writing something about it, and Steve agreed it would be good to talk to another couple of high profile runners we knew, and write up the four case studies resulting from this. The link below is the article Steve Birkinshaw and I wrote.

The case studies show both similarities and differences, and although drawing no particular conclusions, we feel the stories are worth hearing, and may strike a chord with some readers. There are also a couple of resource links, and a note of some more scientific research being done on the subject. Following the interest shown in the article I am now working with Dr Rebecca Robinson (a top fell runner and consultant in sports and exercise medicine) on writing a paper for a prominent medical journal on the topic.

A copy of the full original article (which was in the Summer 2017 issue of
The Fellrunner) may be viewed and downloaded here: [PDF of the article].

A future blog post will include a download of an article I wrote entitled “In Profile: Dave Cannon” (a former top fell runner and 2-11 marathoner), which was also recently published in The Fellrunner.