Archive | September 2022

Thinking about the BGR record

There has been some interesting stuff around Jack Kuenzle’s recent Bob Graham Round record, including a report/write-up by the pacers, and a podcast in the Singletrack series. The following are a few thoughts from me on it and a couple of quotes from Kuenzle (but if you are really interested it is worth listening to the podcast, which is linked below, as is the report).

It was quite a shock when Kilian Jornet rocked-up in 2018 and took an hour off Billy Bland’s record, which had stood for 36 years. I reckon it was even more of a shock when Jack Kuenzle took another 29 minutes off in on 2 Sept 2022. This is not to say that Kuenzle was not a good enough athlete to hit that time, but more that he was very much an under-the-radar runner to most people before then, despite having done some pretty impressive FKTs elsewhere [Edit: under my radar].

So, how did Jack get those 29 minutes over Kilian, who was acknowledged to be running pretty damn fast on his round. In the podcast Jack explains in detail how he was over here (from the States) to get prepped for the BGR, and how his setting of a new record for Tranters Round was part of that physical preparation. He also reckons he did the BGR in sections almost three times in prep. Before the BGR attempt he says he must have done 3 weeks of 100 miles and 47,000 feet of climbing each week. As part of the build-up he was networking with local runners to create a bank of potential pacers. This included one day when he ran Legs 1 and 2 of the BGR (some 26 miles or so), then hitchhiked back up to Keswick to go on an 8-mile Keswick AC club run.

Talking with Billy Bland at the Moot Hall after finishing. Photo: Paul Wilson

Like Kilian had, Jack met up with Billy Bland to chew the fat about the BGR and what it had been like in Billy’s day. Jack seemed to really hit it off with Billy, and suggested that “there was no way that anyone could run that fast [over the BGR] in the 1980s”. He argued that the revolution in fueling, the way the route has changed to be easier to follow and tun over, and the tendency to not stop at road crossings, all made a huge difference now. He added that he couldn’t believe Billy had a drink of beer en route and stopped for a sandwich, and also that the BGR hadn’t really been Billy’s focus that for that year. All this added together made Jack suggest that, “Billy Bland was generations ahead of his time, and this was the craziest achievement in fell running”.

Jack boldly opinied that “Kilian’s time was a little soft”, and set out to prove it by attacking Leg 1 aggressively. How this panned out and some near-catastrophies that occurred on the round are highlighted in the pacers report (http://keswickac.org.uk/jack-kuenzles-record-breaking-bob-graham/). Jack concludes his own lively description of the round (on the podcast) by saying his view that when he was suffering a couple of bad patches during it he was thinking, “I’m gonna make it as painful as possible for the next person to break it”.

He also makes a couple of interesting observations on consumerism and professionalism. At one point recently he was given some Inov8 running shorts costing something over £50. He said he didn’t really need those fancy ‘technical’ shorts, as “shorts just need to cover your genitalia”. Talking about Inov8 and the fact they help him, he accepts the conflict there is about this when he says he wanted to do the BGR “without the consumer spray on social media”.

Jack Kuenzle finished by talking about any ‘mistakes’ he made on the BGR, who might beat the record, and what he might be tempted to do next.

The mistakes were really small, except saying he probably didn’t drink enough, and might have benefitted from more ‘waterboys’. As to time savings they were SO marginal: a better line off Halls Fell could have saved a minute or so, and he rues the 90 seconds changing shoes for the run-in as “time wasted”. For ‘who next’, he just mentioned three names: Jonathon Albon, and repeats by Finlay Wild and Kilian Jornet. As to his own ambitions, he mentioned several prominent USA FKT targets, but also thought that possibles would include: Kim Collison’s Lake District 24hr Peaks Record, Kilian’s Mont Blanc Record, and Finlay’s Cuillin Ridge Traverse Record (although suggesting it might be too technical for him to run fast enough over). All would require him to train harder and smarter. A fascinating guy.

The Singletrack Podcast: (it is a long one, with poor picture later on) – Youtube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1_h7z2bRIU Audio only version: https://www.runsingletrack.com/jack-kuenzle-fastest-known-time-bob-graham-round/

Extra: for more about the Bob Graham Round and its history, see The Round: https://sandstonepress.com/books/the-round-1

For more about Billy Bland, see his biography – All or Nothing at all: https://sandstonepress.com/books/all-or-nothing-at-all-1