Search

Winter Bob Graham - Round 1

On the 29th December at 2000hrs I set off on a Winter Bob Graham Round. I think the experience can be compared to my performance in the bedroom. Things got off to a good start, and it was all terribly exciting, but the experience didn’t last quite as long as I wanted it to…Maybe I should explain more (about the run, not my sexual exploits).


’m back at home in Switzerland now and its been a week since I was stood in the snow at Dunmail Raise making a decision that I didn’t want to have to make. A decision that would put an end to a dream I had been brooding over since I was galloping over ridge lines in the Pyrenees this summer. I have spoken to a lot of people in the last seven day, some who know all about the BG, and some who have never heard of it, and it has been good to verbalise and relive the experience time and time again through these conversations. Ultimately it has helped me reflect on something that at the time felt like a failure and disappointment, but now feels like a worthwhile adventure. It was a great reminder of how good running in The Lake District is, for so many reasons! ​ I woke up on the 29th, after a classically bad nights sleep, to what can only be described as ‘worst case scenario weather’. If you had a day of snowman making, snowball fighting and sledging planned you would have been in for a treat, but fresh unconsolidated snow is not known for its ease as a surface to run over. BUT, never fear, the forecast had predicted that it was going to warm up throughout the day, the snow would turn to rain, roads would reopen, and there might even be a bit of blue sky. I got in touch with all my pacers and confidently informed them that I was going to blunder on regardless, and I arrogantly started to pack my food and kit ready for the evenings outing into the snowy hills. “At least there will be no question that its a winter round!”

​I set off from Moot Hall at 2000hr in reasonable weather with George Foster. The boy was psyched. He had told me earlier in the day that he would come across and run the leg regardless of whether I was going to start or not, as “it seems like a nice night for a run.” I felt confident as we trotted out of Keswick, my heart was racing with nervous excitement, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into my favourite mountains once again. We ran up to the car park behind Latrigg chatting all the way, and chilled out a bit once we got onto the fell proper. It was icy underfoot and the wind gradually picked up as we climbed higher. We battled our way to the summit wishing we weighed a bit more to keep us anchored to the ground. George took us from the summit of Skiddaw flawlessly down to the marker on the fence, and we were soon out of the cloud and the wind and enjoying the decent down past Hare Crag. The rest of the leg went pretty well and without incident. The weather seemed to be holding (bar the wind). We found a good line off Great Calva, and the accent up Blencathra was a bit slow (but still on schedule). We put on our spikes to scramble down Halls Fell. 15 - 20cm of fresh wet snow put it on the right side of spicy. I took one particularly exhilarating slide down a slab which luckily didn’t result in catastrophe, but it definitely did remind me that it wasn’t worth taking a wrong step just for the sake of a few minutes.


I arrived in Threlkeld 3.5 hours after setting off. Considering the strong winds, snow and tricky descending I was stoked, but annoyingly since the climb up Blencathra I had been struggling with nausea and stomach pains. This is something that I never usually struggle with. I love eating, and I have never found it too much of an issue shoving food in my face, especially not in the first 3 hours of an event. This dented my confidence a bit heading into the second leg. I have always hated feeling sick, and I could feel myself getting worried.

I tried not to dwell on my stomach as I made a quick turnaround and picked up Kim Collinson for the epic across the Helvellyn range. Kim’s enthusiasm and strength in the mountains has always inspired me and I couldn’t wait to spend some quality time on the fell with him. Kim was full of positivity as we climbed Clough Head. I was concerned that I wasn’t moving fast enough, but Kim gave me just what I wanted to hear “ Its bloody steep, and your moving well, it always feels like a long climb up here.”

​We reached the summit and a bit of faith was restored, but my sickness was still lingering and it was a real struggle taking on food. I couldn’t stop thinking about how unusual this was and it seemed to be sapping my energy. My legs felt pretty good, but as we soldiered on my energy seemed to be waning. I should mention that by this point the weather had turned pretty violent. We were dealing with cloud, gale force winds, and driving snow. Underfoot things seemed just as unforgiving; if you were lucky you might stay on top of some windblown crust for a few steps, but most of the time we were wading, post holing and stumbling. Sometimes up to our knees where the snow had drifted and most of the time up to mid calf depth. I’m sure you can agree it makes for a tiring combination. As you can imagine this didn’t slow Kim down very much as we blundered across the Dodd’s, which was lucky, as by this time I had become a full blown ‘passenger’ due to my tiredness and the fact that I hadn’t been in these fells for a fair while. Kim was out front doing all the hard graft, breaking trail and navigating with amazing confidence, accuracy and efficiency. At one point he turned around to me and asked “how are your eyes Sam?” and I replied “not too bad, but I’m just looking at your foot steps right in front of me. How are yours?”, and in true understated Collinson style he replied “yea, not too bad, hurts a bit I guess”. After hours of staring into a blizzard my response probably would have been a bit more colourful. Something like “It feels like my f%&king eyeballs are bleeding!”


I arrived in Threlkeld 3.5 hours after setting off. Considering the strong winds, snow and tricky descending I was stoked, but annoyingly since the climb up Blencathra I had been struggling with nausea and stomach pains. This is something that I never usually struggle with. I love eating, and I have never found it too much of an issue shoving food in my face, especially not in the first 3 hours of an event. This dented my confidence a bit heading into the second leg. I have always hated feeling sick, and I could feel myself getting worried.

I tried not to dwell on my stomach as I made a quick turnaround and picked up Kim Collinson for the epic across the Helvellyn range. Kim’s enthusiasm and strength in the mountains has always inspired me and I couldn’t wait to spend some quality time on the fell with him. Kim was full of positivity as we climbed Clough Head. I was concerned that I wasn’t moving fast enough, but Kim gave me just what I wanted to hear “ Its bloody steep, and your moving well, it always feels like a long climb up here.”

​We reached the summit and a bit of faith was restored, but my sickness was still lingering and it was a real struggle taking on food. I couldn’t stop thinking about how unusual this was and it seemed to be sapping my energy. My legs felt pretty good, but as we soldiered on my energy seemed to be waning. I should mention that by this point the weather had turned pretty violent. We were dealing with cloud, gale force winds, and driving snow. Underfoot things seemed just as unforgiving; if you were lucky you might stay on top of some windblown crust for a few steps, but most of the time we were wading, post holing and stumbling. Sometimes up to our knees where the snow had drifted and most of the time up to mid calf depth. I’m sure you can agree it makes for a tiring combination. As you can imagine this didn’t slow Kim down very much as we blundered across the Dodd’s, which was lucky, as by this time I had become a full blown ‘passenger’ due to my tiredness and the fact that I hadn’t been in these fells for a fair while. Kim was out front doing all the hard graft, breaking trail and navigating with amazing confidence, accuracy and efficiency. At one point he turned around to me and asked “how are your eyes Sam?” and I replied “not too bad, but I’m just looking at your foot steps right in front of me. How are yours?”, and in true understated Collinson style he replied “yea, not too bad, hurts a bit I guess”. After hours of staring into a blizzard my response probably would have been a bit more colourful. Something like “It feels like my f%&king eyeballs are bleeding!”


I felt guilty for dragging loads of people out of bed, and for all the the unnecessary effort people had gone to just to help me (Andy Thompson had spent the night in his van at Wasdale waiting for me to turn up at 9am. He had taken his girlfriend along too, his idea of a romantic night out). I felt frustrated for not being strong enough. I felt that satisfying glow of hard work. I felt sick, WHY DID I STILL FEEL SICK? And, I admit, as we drove out of the snow at Dunmail I felt a little bit relieved that I was in the warm van and the battle was over.

There is a reason that not that many people have done a winter round. Its bloody hard! Maybe I was a bit arrogant to think starting in those conditions would be fine, but the fells soon kicked me into touch. I walked (hobbled) away thinking “next time, I need to be stronger”.

Before I started the run I said that the thing I was most excited about was catching up with all my pacers and having a good old chat with them on the way round. This is the thing that I remember so fondly from my summer round, and I had such a great bunch of people lined up for this attempt. Obviously the Bob Graham is a very personal and selfish journey but I think what makes it so special is the people that you share it with. There is so much good will and enthusiasm that goes into any attempt, be it successful or not, it leaves me humbled. At the risk of sounding overly soppy I really count myself as privileged to be able to call these kind of people my friends.

So to finish I would like to thank George, Kim, Andy J, Andy T, Rob, Jim, John, Mum, Dad for your amazing support and belief. And most of all thanks to Fran for putting up with me all year round while I get frustrated that training is not going well, I’m not eating healthily enough, blah blah blah, moan moan moan.

Until next time…the Lake District is bloody amazing isn’t it?!



#run #running #thelakedistrict #adventure #bgr #bobgrahamround

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All