Tag Archive | Kenny Stuart

Book IV, Reveal #5 …… what was left out of the book, and why?

I can now confirm that the launch date for my book ‘All of Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland‘ is Thu 20 Aug. I hope you are dying to know what is in the book. But here I want to tell you of some things that are NOT in it, and why.

20190116_160858As I was doing the research for this book, there was a lot of stuff that I accumulated that had no chance of being used – but I filed it anyway. Other material was interesting but off topic. And there were some good images that I chose not to use.

There may have even been something that was potentially libelous, perhaps not surprising as there are some quite outspoken characters in the world of fell running.

One thing I spent quite a lot of time research was rewilding, and in particular the Wild Ennerdale project, whose vision is:

to allow the evolution of Ennerdale as a wild valley for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology

They were thinking of introducing pine martens to the area. We did have a fairly long discussion about it but in the end only a short piece about how Billy somewhat surprised me by not being fully in favour of some of the Wild Ennerdale work.

Another aspect that I thought would be included was an analysis of Billy’s training diaries. At one interview Billy said he had got them them somewhere. When he did find them and he showed me a typical example they were a little disappointing (especially compared the detail shown in diaries of Kenny Stuart and John Wild [and Billy’s nephew Gavin], for instance). There was just a note numbers of miles run each, including weekly cumulative totals. Days often included details of horse racing events too! The image below (which is not in the book) is a summary at the back of one diary, that lists races competed in, with position and a few words in comment – eg Moffat, got lost after 5th checkpoint should of won – and on the opposite page a list of his race finish positions for the 1979, 1980 and 1981 seasons (with 7, 10 and 10 wins respectively).


There were some little snippets that I found interesting that didn’t make it to the final manuscript. For instance, there is a listed building across the field at the bottom of Billy’s garden. It is at Grade II level and is a folly bridge by a footpath. It is a “narrow single-span humped-back bridge”, according to its listing. I also was surprised when Billy and I appeared at the Keswick Mountain Festival in the Theatre by The Lake, when he told me that he had not been in that theatre before.

There was actually a whole chapter taken out of the manuscript right at the end of the writing of the book. I had this idea of trying to get Billy into a lab for physiological testing, as he is still mega fit through his cycling. The whole backstory of that, and some thoughts on ageing and declining lab test scores (such as VO2max) will be the subject of a separate blog, or an article somewhere (if I can get it published). In the end (it was going to be a Postscript chapter) it was taken out and I included a chapter on Kilian Jornet’s BGR record and his meetings and discussions with Billy.

There were several photos that I came upon that were not included in the final set. One that Billy showed me was a photo of Bonny (the horse he fell off as a child), with his uncle Nat bringing in a load of bracken for bedding. Then there was a picture of the Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to Honister Mine (where Billy worked) but not with Billy in the photo.

ShearingOne photo that I really liked was another that Billy showed me. It is of sheep shearing at Nook Farm, Rosthwaite where Billy was born in 1947. Photo is from 1945 and is Billy’s uncle Nathan (on left) and dad (right). The quality of the photo wasn’t quite up to it being included, unfortunately. I was also uncertain of the copyright details of that photo.

1984 presentation (TonyC)One more, which just made me laugh. It was given to me by Tony Cresswell when I did his interview. He had been involved in Billy’s various BG efforts, and also when he and Billy appeared in a TV program called Survival of the Fittest. This one is of the two of them larking about at the awards presentation for that show, which is covered in detail in the book.

“I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.” This was advice that Maya Angelou offered about the writing process. She was talking in particular about the act of finishing a book. Unaware as I was of this quote at the time, I was uncertain as to when I had finished this book. As noted above, when I thought I had finished I STILL took some things out.

It is a difficult decision sometimes, but after three other books I am beginning to have a feel for what is fluff or inappropriate, or just not adding anything to the story. Having read the above, and hopefully/eventually the book itself, you will perhaps have got a feel for what a writer can go through on the path to telling their particular story.

Note: I wrote an earlier post called ‘When is a book finished’. This was all about the many tasks an author has to be doing, or be involved in, once the manuscript is finished, and before the book can come out.


Long-running running champs

DonnellyWMRAA week or so ago the World Masters Mountain Running Champs were held in Puglia, Italy. There was a UK winner in one of the age group events that subsequently has got very little publicity. This is not unusual, as he is a runner that often goes under the radar, yet is an outstanding example of someone running at the very highest level throughout his long career. I am talking about Colin Donnelly, who won the v60 category at those WMRA Masters Champs [image above].
Donnelly won by just over a minute in a time of 33-10 on a course described (by the organisers) as one that was, ‘a tough technical track and made a true test of mountain running ability’. [There were two other UK winners: Adam Osborne in the M40 category, and Geoffrey Howard in the M70s, plus there should be an honorable mention for Ben Mounsey, who was second v35]
Colin Donnelly has been winning races since he was 20 years old. At that tender age he won the Ben Nevis race, at his first attempt. So, he has had a winning career spanning 40 years (as he has just moved into the v60 category). Is that unusual for fell runners?

BlandLangdaleI was prompted to look back at some of the other top fell runners that I have written about and to see how long they were winners for, and also at what sort of age they retired (or stopped being competitive at). Taking Billy Bland first, he won his first race at 17 years old and his last when he was 50, giving him 33 years of winning. His career had been winding down actually from the age of 45. His nephew Gavin Bland also won his first race when he was 17/18 and his last (at a Champs race in Northern Ireland) when he was 42, giving him 24 years of being a winner. Again though, he had some fallow years in there where he certainly didn’t win any races.

Kenny Stuart and John Wild are another two of the very best fell runners that I have looked at the careers of. But they are both slightly different as the fells were not their surface of choice for their full careers. Nevertheless, it is intriguing to see that they both had relatively short careers, compared to Colin, Billy and Gavin.

from John mather FB linkJohn Wild won his first serious race when he was just starting his RAF career, a services cross country when he was 17. His last win was also an RAF race when he was just 31 years old, a span of 14 years. As to the fells he won races from 1977 (Worcestershire Beacon) to 1985 (the Offas Dyke race), a mere 8 years. After the amazing tussle with Kenny Stuart in the 1983 season, John Wild came off the fells, tried for a good marathon and his running career never really hit the heights again.

Kenny Stuart Location not knownKenny Stuart’s first win on the fells was as a 17 year old, in a pro race in 1974. His last fell race win was probably Butter Crag at the end of the 1985 season, as he abruptly came off the fells to go marathoning in 1986. His last significant win was the Houston marathon in 1989, giving him a 15 year winning career. His fell winning span was 11 years, including his time racing in the pros.

This random selection of athletes is chosen just to offer a base line for assessing Donnelly’s achievement.

What it highlights is that Colin has kept his enthusiasm, and fitness, over a remarkably long time. When I interviewed him recently he explained the background to that continued enthusiasm:

Running is about the experience, the wind in your hair and the different seasons. A few years ago, I had a serious cartilage injury and I thought that was the end of running. I got it operated on and I have now come back. Doing mountain biking while injured kept me about 80% fit. I have gone back to cycling a lot now. I live in a town and don’t like running tarmac, so I cycle out a few miles and go for a run and cycle back. I probably cycle every day and run every day. Someone asked if I HAD to run every day. I don’t have to, but I like to.

He also added that it is about deeper things than just running. It is for his mental health as much as anything else. ‘Thinking time’, as he puts it. He also added his thoughts on still being competitive through the age groups, which turned out to prescient:

Going for the v40 or v50, they are new challenges mind. You must accept you were right up there, but that is finished. I am eligible for the v60 category at the World Mountain Running Trophy, so I think I will have a wee crack at that and see if I can do something here.

FellDonnellyIf you want to read more about this very interesting character I have written a longish piece on him, which is being published in two parts in The Fellrunner magazine. The first part appeared in the Spring 2019 issue [extract to right], and the second part is in the issue that is just about to come out. When that has been published I will post the full article [as a download] on this blog, as the editor had to cut quite a bit out due to its length.

Meanwhile, marvel at Colin Donnelly’s achievement in being a World Champion in his sport. If you want to share any examples of similar longevity in running performance then feel free to do so via the comments for this blog post.

running-hard-front-cover-proof-2016-oct-21If you want to read more about John Wild and Kenny Stuart then I can do no more than point you to my book Running Hard: the story of a rivalry, which covers their parallel careers in depth. The book was described by Steve Birkinshaw (author of There is No Map in Hell): ‘This meticulously researched book is a compelling and fascinating account of their lives, and their rivalry and friendship.’

[Maybe I’ll write a book about Billy Bland next, or Colin Donnelly.]

Telling stories

I have been doing loads of interviews for Book IV recently and there is always way too much material to use. The following are five tales from the hills from five of the finest fell runners, and alround entertaining interviewees.

These stories may or may not make the cut into the manuscript. Enjoy.

Kenny Stuart

In 1982 Kenny won the Ben Nevis race at his first attempt, a very rare feat. He had been up to Red Burn the day before, but didn’t have time to go any higher than that. He explains how the race went. ‘I ran it tactically in a roundabout sort of way. That day I knew that Billy Bland was going to come and catch me, it was inevitable. I played with him a bit after Red Burn, and I tried to get him to do a lot more than he was wanting to do. He was up for it as he was nearer me than he thought he might be. On the way down he caught me, and I stayed with him until the Red Burn and on the grass bank he belly-flopped. I thought he would get up from that as he had plenty left but I went right past and he didn’t come back. Whether he was winded or he realised that he had spent his lot, I am not sure’.

Joe Ritson

He says he never really concentrated on fell running, but did quite a lot of track running, and road running and cross country. ‘Fell running I did just because there were some fell races on, it was just part of life. I never actually won a fell race, but got a good few seconds and thirds. I did win one in France, believe it or not. That was more of a trail race though really, and it was marked so you couldn’t get lost. My problem was that if I got to the front then I wouldn’t have a clue where I was going. That is despite having a Geography degree! My best performance was possibly Latrigg because I almost won it one year. Billy Bland was the man that beat me. I ended up third behind Malcolm Patterson. They both passed me on the way down.’

Tony Cresswell

Tony I did his first BGR in May 1980, and it was the seventh fastest time at the time (19-40 something). He talked about his other Bob Graham exploits. ‘My second Bob was later the same year as part of an attempted double BGR. I did it clockwise because everyone in those days did it anticlockwise. I still advocate that. Clockwise is not the right way. I knew I had to do the first round in about 20 hours to give 28 hours on the return trip. We ran into rain and electric storms on Kirk Fell and I finished the first part in 23 hours and forget about the second part. My third round was in 1985 with my dog Glen which was a Wainwright rescue dog. I think it was the third dog to do a round. I hadn’t intended to do it all but did in the end.’

Gavin Bland

Gavin reckons his 1993 Three Peaks was the luckiest win ever, as he explains. He had gone round the course a fortnight before, as he recalls. ‘There were three of us – me, Scoffer and Paul Sheard. I was absolutely knackered and hanging on like. I thought, “what am I doing this for?”. Scoff fell off a sink and he couldn’t run. Paul Sheard went wrong half-way round and me and Mark Roberts ran round with Paul Mitchell thinking we were running for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, or whatever. We got to the last field and Mark Croasdale appeared behind us. He had been in the lead but got lost coming off Ingleborough. Me and Mark left Paul, who had showed us the way round, and had a sprint finished in that last field and I won it.’

Dave Hall

He tells me a story about how he went up to the Lakes for a week’s holiday with a girlfriend. She didn’t know anything about fell racing, what Dave called a ‘London disco type of girl’. He decided to do the midweek Tebay fell race. ‘I had never done it before and we got to this ridge at an angle and I went one way and the guy I was with knew the way and he went the other way. I was so annoyed that I hammered this climb and caught him and finished second to Hugh Symonds. The girlfriend went out to watch, as there was a road near the course, and she saw what went wrong and had a right go at me for going wrong. She said if he had gone the wrong way you would have told him. I said no I wouldn’t!’

Got them navigation blues

Walking up the lane through Jonny Bland’s farm I bumped into Billy Bland and Carl Bell, as we all variously watched the finishing stages of the Dale Head fell race. The ensuing conversation covered nearly as much ground as the runners had, and eventually turned to upcoming races. I suggested to Carl that his Keswick AC team were a shoe-in for the British Fell Relays the following month. Carl replied with a surprising statement that made Billy splutter, “but no-one can navigate in our team.”

Move on a month and Keswick have won the Hodgson Brothers Relay, having never been headed, and are surely favourites for those British Fell Relays. But things don’t always work like out like that, and favourites do not always win. On the first leg Keswick came in equal first, with Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds. By the end of leg two [photo: Mountain Fuel] they were leading by 1-22 from eventual winners Pudsey and Bramley.

Keswickleg2Then came the navigation leg, with its 5 checkpoints that are not known in advance. By the end of the leg Keswick had slipped dramatically down the field, coming home in 71st place, now 31-29 down. To put it bluntly they had a ‘navmare’ finding the second checkpoint. At that 2nd checkpoint they were 201st (being only 231st fastest on that sector), then recovered to be 3rd, 12th, 3rd and 6th fastest on the sectors to the leg’s finish. The team ‘won’ the fourth leg by 1-27, managing to finishing 10th overall, 20-31 behind the winners.

This is all by way of illustration. It demonstrates that margins of error are very small. Even within that navigation leg it was only one sector that caused such a huge problem for the team. I asked one of the pair of Keswick athletes on this nav leg for their thoughts on what had happened. They are recorded anonymously, as it is in no way my intention to lay any blame for how events turned out.

If you are involved in the sport you will probably know who they are anyway, but thanks are due to them having the guts to share their pain

We found checkpoint one with no problem, with my partner taking the navigational lead. He had put in his homework and had been out and about on the fells on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday familiarising himself with the area, and was committed to doing his best for the team. Full credit to him for taking the initiative to work on his knowledge of the area and also his navigation skills in the run up to the relays, whereas the rest of us have only really focused on getting as running fit as possible. Admittedly I failed to make any effort to improve my navigation skills before the relays and didn’t get a chance to run in the area, so that decreased our map and compass literacy levels somewhat.


Between checkpoints one and two we took a contouring line around and ran across rough ground into a thickening fog. It was soon disorientating, but I had vowed not to interfere with the nav, as I would have been guessing and didn’t want a too many cooks situation. After longer than expected, we hit the fence and stream we were looking for, but not at the place that we thought we had in relation to the map. We went up and down the stream looking through the fog for the sheepfold, but it just wasn’t materialising. We tried moving along the hillside to see if we could find another stream, and listened out for the sound of the falls marked on the map, following a couple of false leads.

At this point it crept up on us that we may be a bit lost. A couple of runners passed lower down, we dropped towards them and then some more appeared. ‘Checkpoint two is way back that way,’ said the next pair. It was disappointing, but we ran against the now steady flow of runners, who shared some sympathies when they realised what we had done. Once we found the sheepfold it was pretty straightforward, but the first misjudgement had set us back a fair way.

We were able to make up some places, and Jacob had an exceptional final leg, to run the fastest time and make up 60 places I think. We were really gutted with what had happened.

Thinking about the above story brought to mind that the best runners have all had navigation issues at some point or other. A swift trawl through my book research notes came up with an example each for the three guys that I consider the finest of all fell runners.

Ken_NIMRABilly Bland was renowned for his ability to route-find in the Cumbrian races but wasn’t so sure about both Kenny Stuart and John Wild’s natural abilities in that area. “Kenny couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag if the top was open! I have said it many a time. To a certain extent John was the same. They were both racers and a lot better runners than I ever was, but they weren’t mountain men if you know what I am saying.” And yet Billy chose Kenny as his sole pacer on his leg 1 for his Bob Graham Round record in 1982.

BlandLangdaleBilly Bland admits that if he went out of Lakes he might not be so good at finding his way. On one occasion at the Chew Valley Skyline race he admits he followed somebody: I remember in particular going down there and I was very fit and I went up the first hill and down into the ghyll and Bob Ashworth had broken free and there were 4 or 5 other pretty good runners and I said, ‘does he know where he is going?’, and they said ‘yeh, think he does’. So, I set off after him. In the mist Bob could have run me to Manchester, I didn’t have a clue where I was going.

Towards the end it was possible for Bland to leave a tiring Ashworth, but in recognition of his path-finding, he sportingly held back and let the Rossendale man take the honours. Billy adds:

we came off last top together and because he had showed me the way round, but I had let him know that I could beat him, we still came over the line right together. Someone like Kenny Stuart would just sit on you, then beat you at the finish. Fair play to him, it didn’t bother me, in some ways he was a better runner than me.

josswithbookJoss Naylor won the Mountain Trial 10 times, but got well lost on his second one, in his home valley at that. In 1961 Joss was just 22 years old, and ran in his second Mountain Trial, which was based in Wasdale. He was in the lead all the way and finished fifteen minutes in front of the next man, George Brass. Unfortunately, Joss had got lost after the third checkpoint, and thus didn’t win as he had missed the last two checkpoints. Joss claimed that his sheep didn’t range that far!

Footnote: If you want to read about my navigational inadequacies, and also a bit about how some top fell runners approach navigation then you might like to read an earlier blog posting: Bob the navigator: thoughts on maps and navigation.

NB: if you want a nav course there are various ones around. See for example: Nav4/Due North and Fellrunningguide.

Men’s fell race course records

Blogger Meanwood Rambler recently wrote an interesting piece about Victoria Wilkinson’s record breaking spree, and the (relative) stagnation in men’s fell race course records [Link to his blog post]. It prompted me to look back at the situation, and I decided to share my thoughts from my research for ‘It’s a hill, get over it’. The following is an extract from the relevant chapter in the book:

Record breakers and champions

“My whole feeling in terms of racing is that you have to be very bold. You sometimes have to be aggressive and gamble”
Bill Rogers

This chapter covers some of the male fell champions and the records they set. Mind you, analysing fastest times for fell races is a somewhat tricky area, as there is so much that can change, not least the conditions that an event is run in. Even more important is the fact that courses necessarily have to change, due often to access issues, or changes in start points due to facilities/parking etc.

Over time who have been the top record breakers? Three of them have been Billy Bland, John Wild and Kenny Stuart. In 1980 Billy Bland won his only British title and had a record breaking spree, which was followed by the next two champions over the next five years – John Wild and Kenny Stuart, who hold ten records between them still, with Bland holding two still.

However, these three record breakers have quite different racing profiles. Bland’s two records are both categorised as long and are both in the Lakes – Borrowdale at seventeen miles and Wasdale at twenty-one. Wild’s three are all short and in Northern England – Wrekin (5.5 miles), Rivington Pike (3.25 miles) and Burnsall (1.5 miles). Stuart by contrast has seven records, or which three are short, three are medium and one is long, and they are in Wales, Scotland and the Lakes. They are Wansfell (2.5 miles), Latrigg (3 miles), Eildon 2 Hills (3.5 miles), Skiddaw (9 miles), Snowdon and Ben Nevis (both 10 miles) and Ennerdale (23 miles).

Obviously records get beaten, and those above are ones that have held up. An interesting comparison is given by figures produced by a statistician in 1989. He counted the number of course records held at that time for all races in that year’s FRA calendar. The results are pretty startling. For the men, Colin Donnelly, who was in his triple British title winning spree at the time, had sixteen, to Kenny Stuart’s twelve and John Wild’s nine. For the women Carol Haigh, who never actually won the British title, had a staggering forty-three, to Angela Carson’s seventeen and Vanessa Brindle’s eleven.

However, many of the major races, for example Wasdale and Fairfield, have had significant changes to their courses. Sadly, when change like this happens the holders of the records for a previous course are then down-graded when a new record is subsequently set on a shorter or longer course. Who is to say that in some cases they wouldn’t still be the record holder if the change hadn’t happened? Having said that, there is a certain fascination in knowing who has set the fastest time for a course and in which year. The list of men’s records for the ‘classic’ courses (see Appendix 3) shows three that have lasted from 1977 – Langdale, Lantern Pike and Eldwick. For the women the oldest are four that date from 1984 – Ben Nevis, Pendleton, Saddleworth and Lantern Pike.

In the Sept/Oct 1990 issue of Up and Down magazine Neil Shuttleworth speculated on improving standards in an article entitled ‘The Record Has Stood …’. He noted that fell runners have only a once a year opportunity to break records, unlike track and marathon runners (when comparing records for the distance, not the particular marathon). Shuttleworth concluded that race conditions were probably the most important factor to consider, that is to say both the weather and the underfoot conditions. Popularity of events also has an effect, in that a more popular event will attract more, and better, runners and possibly increase the likelihood of records. Shuttleworth also felt that neither improved footwear or better diet were likely to have a significant effect, but that competition (i.e. intense rivalry between top athletes) was likely to be a big factor.

There are many instances where it can be shown that records were broken due to close rivalries, both in individual races and throughout seasons. One of the examples noted above is the Langdale record from 1977. It is held by Andy Styan, and when asked by Shuttleworth about it (in the article just quoted), he reckoned it was so fast for two reasons: good conditions and a very strong field. Styan commented:

Billy Bland, Alan McGee, Mike Short and myself pulled clear off Thunacar Knott, and the four of us pushed each all the way. Billy and I got away on the descents, and Alan and Mike would pull us back on the climbs until we got away off the Crinkles and held it over Blisco. I left Billy by the cattle grid and that was that.

Even so, these four all finished between 1 hr 55 mins 3 secs and 1 hr 56 mins 8 secs, and it was the first time four runners had finished inside two hours for the course.

Similarly, John Wild set a record of 12 mins 48 secs (by two seconds) for the Burnsall Classic in August 1983. Kenny Stuart was first to the top but was overtaken by a speedily descending Wild, who in Kenny’s view was “taking risks he just wasn’t prepared to take, including leapfrogging the wall”. Two weeks later at Ben Nevis they met again, and faced strong challenges from Sean Livesey and Jack Maitland. Strong winds and mist made for a difficult race. Maitland led Stuart to the summit, with Wild and Livesey close behind. Somehow Wild took the lead on the way down to the burn in heavy mist and had a lead of twenty seconds there, holding Stuart off by seventeen seconds at the end. Despite the foul weather these two, and third placed Livesey, beat Dave Cannon’s 1976 record, with Wild taking 1 min 20 secs off it. John Wild credited the record to Maitland’s pushing so hard on the ascent against a known climber such as Stuart.


My main conclusion was that it was the number of absolutely top quality athletes that there were running the fells in the 1980s, and the way they raced so hard against each other, that were the two main factors in these records being set, and still in many cases not yet beaten. This is explored further in ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’, which tracks Kenny Stuart and John Wild’s careers, and their rivals, such as Billy Bland.

recordsThe table is a list of the course records* that are still held by those three brilliant runners.

Not forgetting, of course, Andy Styan’s Langdale record which has resisted all challenges, including Billy Bland’s (who came within 14 secs), since way back in 1977.

* according to the FRA race page for each race

LINK: Information on my writing on fell running at Sandstone Press.

‘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).]

On the fells and marathons: Dave Cannon

cannonken“A fully trained athlete is on the verge of illness all the time. Someone once said this when asked how much training you should do: “it is a bit like blowing up a balloon. You blow, you blow a bit more and then POP, back to square one”.
Dave Cannon in a profile published in the Winter 2017 issue of Fellrunner.

This comes from a profile I wrote of him after I met him in 2017, when he was working as elite athlete coordinator for the London Marathon. He was British Fell Champion in 1972, and later moved to the marathon to run 2-11.

cannonroyleI had a long and fascinating chat with him at Marathon HQ, about his running, on the fells in particular, and also his marathon running days and work with elite marathoners, including coaching Kenny Stuart.

Cannon was known as a great descender on the fells, and gave this description of competing in the Whernside Junior race:

You have a wall to get over when descending. Well I was coming down so fast, I was not going to stop to climb it, so I took off a few yards from the wall, got one foot on top and over! There was a fell race follower watching the race at this point and he said to me afterwards that he had never seen anything like it before. I hadn’t the heart to tell him it hadn’t been intentional.

The full article can be read here [PDF link], and includes some great stories about his training and racing, together with him talking about being diagnosed with ME/CFS, which effectively finished his career.

Cannon is one of four case studies on CFS that are included in an article I wrote with Steve Birkinshaw, which was entitled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in elite athletes, and was also published in Fellrunner.

[Other profiles: Jack Maitland; Hugh Symonds and Malcolm Patterson]

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.

The paperback book launch

IMG_1509376931323The paperback of Running Hard was launched at a great event at The Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton, on 27th October. Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey were both on great form as we discussed the topic of ‘running hard, then and now’. Thanks go to Due North’s Mel Steventon for organising the event. A proportion of the entry fees went to two charities – The Brathay Trust and Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association – to the tune of just over £300. Thanks for coming, I enjoyed it greatly, and obviously was pleased to sell and sign a good few books (or is that a few good books!).

20171027_200516There was a great crowd there, to whom I must apologise for the late start (waiting while Ben got the drinks in for he and I!)

20171027_225613IMG-20171027-WA0003I introduced Kenny and Ben and we discussed differences and similarities between the training and lifestyle of runners then and now, with me orchestrating the questions.

IMG-20171027-WA0005Both were interesting on how they had trained, revealed a few good tips, and also raised a few laughs with their responses to questions about such topics as diet and Strava dependence (in Ben’s case).

A thoroughly enjoyable evening, thanks Mel and team, Kenny and Ben. Do check out other events from Due North, including one I am very excited to be involved in (details of which have to remain under wraps till finalised), but it does involve another absolute fell legend.

Steve Chilton blog tour banner twitterFinally, just a reminder that the book launch was accompanied by a fantastic Blog Tour. You may still read the nine guest blogs by going to my blog tour post, where the live links are.

Running Hard: the story of a rivalry is available in paperback from good bookshops and online (as are my other two fell running books). [Amazon link].

Paperback launch: Running Hard

The paperback launch for Running Hard will take place at a talk with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey in Skipton on 27 October. You can book a ticket here, which will include £4 off the book if bought at the event. The event is also raising money for two charities, the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, and Due North’s chosen charity The Brathay Trust.

duenortheventIt should be a brilliant evening as Kenny and Ben are giants in the sport. Kenny ruled fell running for a period in the 1980s, and Ben is one of the finest exponents currently.

Our theme will be: “Has the perception (and reality) of training/running hard changed over the years?”, with plenty of chance to ask questions of all of us.

You can find profiles of Kenny, Ben and myself here, together with more about the topics to be covered.