Chris Kennedy – Bob Graham Round – 19 June 2010
The idea of attempting the Bob Graham Round first enters your head like any other innocent, passing thought. The difference is this innocent thought gets stuck. Wedged somewhere within your brain. It sits there slowly feeding on the grey matter like an insect’s larva, feeding and growing until the small grub becomes a monster. The once passing thought becomes a life obsession, encompassing your every waking moment, and many of the sleeping ones.
I know I’m well prepared for this attempt, or at least I hope I am. I know I’ve done all the training I could have. If it’s not enough then it’s to late now.
19th June 2010. The weather forecast is for perfect conditions, but as we hit the first summit we loose all visibility. I suddenly begin to worry, only imaging how disheartening it would be to lose time so early. My 2 pacers, Jim Thompson and Tom Ford, keep a level head and guide me directly to the trig point. Within 200m we are out of the clag and can see the flashing head torch of Jonny Kennedy who has located the fence crossing for me and will have the bearing ready for the decent. Jonny leaves us at the Cumbrian Way, to mark the river crossing for Mungrisdale, and we head off up to Great Calva.
Fortunately the Hall’s Fell decent is uneventful and we reach Threlkeld quicker than I have ever done before. Although my plan was to run straight through I am happy to stop for photos and a sandwich.
By Watson Dodd we leave the last of the low cloud and have perfect visibility for the rest of the day. Although my motivation is high on the Helvellyn range I’m becoming increasingly nauseous. I cannot stomach anything and know if I don’t eat I’m unlikely to get up Fairfiled. Keith Wood, my pacer, is incredibly supportive and tries to take my mind off the nausea by pointing out the picture – perfect panoramic views and reassures me we are well ahead of my 21 hour schedule
By Dunmail I cannot eat anything. I make a token prod at the pasta Gillian and Steve Donaldson have prepared me, and I try not to retch at the thought of eating the greasy bacon butty I was planning on having.
I dig deep up Steel Fell when at the top I feel my nausea lift. I instantly stop to get some food down me and the sickness returns shortly after. I didn’t think about quitting the whole day but I remember at Sergeant Man thinking how nice it would be to put a warm jacket on and curl up by a rock. Pushing that thought straight from my mind I carry on. The nausea becoming less regular and by Bowfell I feel great. Phillip Pearson, my pacer, tells me I am on track for a sub 20 hour round. However the decants are getting slower, and even at the best of times I am far from quick on the unforgivingly harsh, rocky terrain of the Scafells
I feel sure that it takes me longer to come down from Scafell than it normally does to get up. The soles of my feet and quads scream at me to stop and at Wasdale I finally do. Pasta, cheese ‘n’ pickle, fruit, custard, cake, tea. What a feed!
The toughest leg, in my mind, now lay ahead. I would also come face to face with Great Gable. With the visibility being near perfect, it had seemed rare when I couldn’t look off into the distance and see Gable somewhere, taunting me as I stumble around on its smaller cousins.
Fred Smith was my pacer for leg 4 but Phillip Pearson decided to continue from leg 3 and Chris Redfern, who I think may have an innocent passing thought lodged in his head, came along for the ride.
Climb after climb the weather got warmer, the wind dropped and Gable looked further away… This was tough. By Pillar we were at least running towards my nemesis. “Come an’ ave a go if you think your hard enough!” I didn’t feel particularly hard.
I push on. Kirkfell is every bit as tough as it always is and I give 100% of my body and soul getting up Great Gable. But I do it. With a big daft grin on my face. “You come on if your hard enough.” I can say it at the top but would not have dared at the bottom.
By Honister I am over 40 minutes down on my 21 hour schedule. But I am still grinning like a fool, knowing the round is now well within reach. I decide to push even harder from now as the grassier terrain will be gentler on my feet and joints.
Ascending is still slow but coming down from Dalehead, Hinscarth and Robinson I run like I’m on fresh legs and Peter Mullarkey, John Finnigan and Mark Thompson struggle to keep up.
Coming into Keswick my heart rate cannot be far off 100%. I have made up 35 minutes on the last leg and touch the door of Moot Hall at 21:05. I only wish I could smile, as the emotion closes my throat and I struggled for breath
Five minutes later I can breathe again and even though I can’t quite stomach the pint that was bought for me I am happy. Very Happy.
I would like to thank every one who supported me along this journey, including all the runners, the support team, everyone at Saltwell Harriers, and my wife and daughter for putting up with me.