JIM THOMPSON’S BOB GRAHAM ROUND
JUNE, 2008 — MIDNIGHT START
Well- there I was standing at the Moot Hall on a dark wet night in June waiting to start my attempt on the BGR. This after coming to fell running at a relatively late age of 34 and hearing of the BGR and thinking of it as sheer madness, something I would never contemplate, never mind try, and thinking I had a chance of completing it.
I ran my first Borrowdale in 2004 and felt so bad afterwards I thought I could never run anything longer than that, but there I was, with Tracey. Josh and Zach (who all thought I was barking mad), surrounded by my support crew and other members of Saltwell harriers, friends and well wishers AND around 70 other people supporting their runners.
The weather wasn’t great; it had just stopped raining after a torrential downpour and was also fairly windy in Keswick, not what I’d hoped for.
Tim Forster was there to support me on leg 1 (we reccied this leg at night only a month ago in lovely weather), being seen off by a worried looking Karen, concerned as he was full of cold. We stood at the top of the stairs of the Moot Hall for pictures then waited till midnight.
All the other teams started – we waited for my watch to reach the dreaded hour and we were off. We made good progress up Skiddaw passing the other groups, but as we reached the top we hit the worst of the wind. There were lights as we got to the 925m summit at 01:19, and it was a friendly face- Phil Bellamy, who always said he would be up there no matter what the weather.
Phil myself and Tim then dropped off along with all the other teams down towards Hare Crag crossing the Cumbria way. There was a big snake of people now heading up towards Great Calva minus Phil who has turned back towards Skiddaw House and his warm, dry campervan. Good progress was made across and up to Great Calva in reasonable conditions, reaching the summit (at 2:02) where there were more friendly faces- Peter Mullarkey and Phil James who couldn’t fail to cheer anyone up.
We then dropped down to the fence-line crossing the river in good time and heading up towards Blencathra. I felt OK having a banana and a few sweets, but Tim was by now feeling the effects of his cold. He hung in there with me though and along with another group we reached Foule Crag and skirted right up to the 856m summit of Blencathra reaching it by 03:08. Dropping straight off down Hall’s Fell my torch couldn’t pierce the cloud so I hung back following some others with bigger lights. I got to the cricket club car park in Threlkeld at 03:47- 2 minutes down on schedule and feeling OK.
After some soup, tea, hot oats and a change of clothes Ged Conway and I headed off up to Clough Head. The long climb was not too bad hitting the summit in 45 minutes then trotting through the low cloud (which would stick with us right through to Dale Head) picking up all the Dodds, through Helvellyn (at 945m) reaching Dollywagon Pike at 06:48. I had a few more jellies, some Kendal mint cake and another banana during this leg. We then started dropping off down the Tongue turning back when we realised our mistake and getting to Grisedale Tarn a little down on time.
After heeding advice on the best way up Fairfield we went too far towards Deepdale hause but turned and found the summit OK. We then made another mistake bearing too far left towards Great Rigg. As we dropped down out of the cloud I couldn’t see Seat Sandal in front of me! We had to traverse right, back to Grisedale Hause after seeing where we should have been – about 20 minutes lost by not checking our bearings.
A quick ascent and descent of Seat Sandal was then made trying to make up for lost time, arriving at Dunmail Raise at 08:38.
Most of the crew were at Dunmail including Tracey and the boys (having driven my new car for almost the first time). I’m sure the worry about the car stopped me from worrying about the round as much. After some pasta and tea and a change of clothes I headed off with Phil Pearson and Dave the Farmer up Steel Rigg.
This was the section I had reccied the least and it was made more difficult due to the low cloud all the way, and greasy boulders from Bowfell on. Pike o Stickle disappeared in the cloud and 20 minutes with it. I felt sick on most of this leg and couldn’t face eating too much only having a few jellies which affected me later on this leg. A couple of minutes lost on most of the next peaks but we reached the 972m of Scafell Pike at 14:02 – 72 minutes down on schedule.
Dropping down to Broadstand Paul Richardson was there with the ropes along with Glen and Mark Thompson, but the ropes weren’t up. There was a queue of people waiting so Phil decided on the Lords Rake as the quickest alternative. Another 15 minutes lost but we made it to the top and then dropped down via the screes to Lingmell Gill reaching the car park at 15:23 – 90 minutes down on schedule and I was thinking of giving up.
My next supporter Fred Smith told me I had to carry on and that the damage to my car wasn’t too bad (his little joke)! I had soup, rice pudding and tea and another change of clothes. We left Wasdale at 15:40, topping Yewbarrow only 49 minutes late. I suddenly felt quite good. Due to Fred’s excellent navigating and motivation we made up minutes on nearly ever peak on this section- amazing as the visibility was down to about 20 yards. With great encouragement and lots of small amounts of food we made good progress reaching Great Gable (893m) at 19:23, where Phil Bellamy and Tim and Karen Forster had been waiting for us (for about 90 minutes) giving even more encouragement. We dropped into Honister at 20:12 having made up an amazing 15 minutes. Tracey and the rest seemed surprised to see us as they had heard I hadn’t been doing too well at Wasdale and were expecting a longer wait. I checked my car- it was OK!
I was confident then that I would now complete in time and the sheer relief was tremendous!
A quick bite to eat, clean socks and top and I headed off with Peter Mullarkey and Fred up Dale Head at 20:23. The final 3 peaks were topped quite easily and we then had the long steep drop off Robinson via the dam to Little Town. I was very tired but really enjoying the final part of my round. I remember Peter saving he felt privileged to be running in with me – he nearly had me in tears.
After meeting the support crew ( Steve Donaldson who was an absolute diamond all day driving and getting food and bags ready, Steven “Satch” MilIen – our resident photographer and Paul Richardson who was even looking after my feet while I sat down ) I changed into my road shoes which were like slippers and set off for the final trot in.
Fred decided on getting a lift back from here – a real hero for getting me through my darkest time. Paul Richardson joined myself and Peter and we jogged along via Skelgill Farm, through the woods to Portinscale picking up the road, then after crossing the footbridge we followed the path through the fields coming out at Luca’s restaurant. I was totally drained but on seeing Tracey and Zach waiting for me I put on my Saltwell Harriers vest, puffed out my chest and sprinted in towards the Moot Hall.
Now having experienced crossing Tower Bridge in the London Marathon and feeling the hairs go up on the back of my neck it was an even more amazing feeling with all my supporters shouting and cheering me in along with complete strangers waiting for their own runners.
I stopped my watch at 23:25 as I touched the door of the Moot Hall. I felt very, very pleased with myself and was so touched by the effort that people had made to help me achieve my successful round. I will never forget everybody’s kindness and support and will be eternally thankful. I was asked if I ‘bubbled’ by Phil James but I’m too hard hearted for that, though I was close to it.
My last and final request was also met – a pint of shandy which I managed to drink only half of but it was worth waiting the 70 miles and 28,000 feet for!
Both I and my car had made it!
Thank you all
P.S. I am itching to get out and support anyone else who can make their mind up to attempt the BGR. It really is possible with the help of your friends and family!