A little wrangling of the figures that BGR club post on their website for registrations and completions for the Bob Graham Round shows that the completion percentage is trending downwards at present. For 2018, 199 people registered and 84 completed, which is a 42.2% success rate. I have graphed the figures for the last 7 years* and the picture shows the trends for registrations, completions and percentages (the three dotted lines, which for the mathematicians amongst you are simple linear trend lines).
Comment: Registrations have been steadily increasing, with a high of 233 in 2017. It was a small dip last year, but still the second highest. Completions mirror the registrations pattern, again with a high of 115 in 2017, with last year again the second highest. Despite these fluctuations and trends, the % of completions does seem to always remain pretty much the same. It varies from 53.7% in 2012 to 39.6% in 2014, and as noted is marginally trending downwards. Speculative (and possibly controversial) cause – more less-prepared aspirants having a go these days.
A second graph shows the number of completions for every year since 1971.
Comment: the graph shows a strong trend for more people completing the BGR (solid red line is the linear trend) over time, but also how it fluctuates from year to year (dashed blue line is a 6-year moving average). 2001 was the year of foot and mouth disease, when there were no completions. It is interesting how long it took to get back to previous levels after that, presumably as folk weren’t able to get on the hills to recce. In the 1990s the numbers fluctuated greatly but were in fact trending down for some reason. The graph also shows that the 115 completions in 2017 were the highest ever number.
*NB: these are the only detailed ones I have access to
Notes/links: For more on the Bob Graham Round see the club website at: http://www.bobgrahamclub.org.uk/. For more on the BGR and its history see my book: ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’. For more on Kilian Jornet’s outstanding new record of 12-52 for the round, which he set in 2018, see: ‘Kílian Jornet smashes Bob Graham endurance race record’.
Caveat: I am aware that posting this I may be accused of ‘promoting’ the BGR, something the Bob Graham Club disapprove of. They rightly point out on their website some of the issues that increasing numbers cause, one of which is illustrated below.
I have always have a high regard for endurance runners, but a couple of things recently have seriously increased my respect for those that ‘run far’.
Firstly, I was working with ultra runner Damian Hall at a speaking event the other day, introducing him and compering the Q&A session.
I knew a little of his background already, as he had reached a career high 5th place in the tough Ultimate Tour de Mont Blanc in the summer, and I had been dot-watching as he and Beth Pascall set the FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the 230 mile Cape Wrath Trail this winter. But what really impressed me was his account of what life entails for an ultra runner training for this high level of performance. His talk modestly, and humorously, highlighted the problems of fitting in the training hours, juggling a domestic life, and keeping motivated and suitably energised with sufficient good calories on ultra events. Although I am not sure I will be recommending his top food choice of peanut butter and balsamic vinegar to any athletes I am working with! This was just one of the obsessions he was prepared to admit to. In a previous interview Damian had this to say about another of his obsessions:
I used to be obsessed with the Spine Race, but UTMB replaced it. Every year I think doing it one more time may help me get over it, but it doesn’t work. It’s just the biggest and best race ever. I can’t bring myself to tell anyone how often I think about it, or watch videos about it. It is not healthy behaviour.
His talk encompassed some good advice for aspirant ultra runners, and more can be found on the web, including: Damian Hall’s UTMB Kit List & Secrets To Success.
Secondly there has been the simply awesome achievement of Jasmin Paris in winning the Spine Race outright, in a new record time.
A lot has been made in the media of her being a woman, and of her expressing milk at checkpoints as her young daughter is still being weaned. But to me there are other aspects to the performance that should be lauded first. One is her mental commitment. She admitted in one interview that she had shortened her stop at early checkpoint (where she could get food on board, and sort clothing, before re-charging herself for the next stage) in order to get out in front of a main rival who was there at the same time. Later her self-imposed sleep deprivation regime (she had just 7 hours of ‘down-time’, including her feed stops in the 83 hours 12 minutes of the event) began to catch up with her a bit and she:
kept seeing animals appearing out of every rock …. and I kept forgetting what I was doing out there.
Jasmin rightfully received massive media coverage for the achievement, including being on Breakfast TV and Woman’s Hour (and being tweeted about by Chelsea Clinton). But the best reporting was by Sean Ingle in the Guardian, who reckoned that ‘Jasmin Paris’s feat of endurance was a welcome antidote to modern sport’.
Jasmin Paris has a mightily impressive list of achievements, including holding female records for all three major UK rounds (and fastest overall for the Ramsay Round), in 2016 won the Skyrunning World Champs, and was 2018 British Fell Running Champion. I wrote a blog about her Bob Graham Round record performance (with a downloadable article from The Fellrunner about her linked to it) at: Peak performance – Jasmin Paris’ new Bob Graham record.
There is also an extended piece about this, and Nicky Spinks’ double Bob Graham Round, in my book The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps.
NOTE: if you want more on ultra running, you might look out Adharanand Finn’s new book The Rise of the Ultra Runners, which comes out in May 2019, and has more on Damian Hall and other top ultra runners.
CREDIT: two photos inov-8.com
I am pleased to have been asked by Due North Events to introduce (and MC the Q&A session) Damian Hall at an event in Penrith on Thursday 10 January. Judging by what I know of ‘Ultra Damo’ and by the title of his talk – ‘A Midlife Crisis, a Toilet and the Power Sob: what running long distances in lumpy places has taught me about life, the universe and everything’ – this should be a fascinating evening. Tickets are available from this link, or just rock up on the night and pay.
I am planning some more talking events for the rest of 2019 as well, so if you would like me to present my thoughts on fell running, and its characters, at your festival, running club, race, book club, social event, or wedding, then please contact me. The topic could be linked to any of my three books.