Bob Graham 2: Train Harder

By Daniel Hartley, aged 43 3/4

I’m not really sure how it started.   Not the whole ‘UTC does Bob Graham’ thing – that is clearly a combination of Mase’s initial Facebook post, and some supremely confident and focused trash talking thereafter. I’m talking about the whole ‘Tri Club’ thing. Take heart then if you’re bimbling along in your own little life bubble, and then suddenly this whole other world of lovely people and hard work comes along and grabs your ‘interest’. It has with me – and I’m hooked.

Back to Bob… For the uninitiated, the Bob Graham Round is not a race in the traditional sense. It is a 66 mile (ish), 27,000 ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District. You can start when you like, on any day you like, but there’s one teeny weenie caveat – you have to finish within 24 hours.  As a few UTC members are already members of this esteemed club (kudos guys), there was plenty of interest and ‘advice’ in helping the next tranche of wannabees get started on their training plan. Having marshalled the Lakeland 100 this year, Clinchie and I thought we’d have a go at the ‘50’ in 2015 on the basis of “how hard can it be”? This was to be my first training outing for both and I was about to find out.

Having missed the first outing of the Bob Graham training crew due to holiday (gutted, but lovely holiday – thanks), it was pretty clear there was already a few established criteria for success that were reinforced on this outing:

  • Follow Wayne’s directions loosely (“sure there was a bridge there last time”)
  • Lots of stopping to ‘take in the views’ on the ‘up bits’
  • Innuendo on a par with Carry on Camping
  • Bit of running
  • Jelly babies
  • No splashing in the puddles
  • Unnecessary acceleration when no-one’s expecting it
  • Grim tales of what to do if ‘caught short’. Thanks Wayne.


So despite, Wayne and I being gravely ill with the pain that only a man can endure (the dreaded, often terminal man flu), the risk of being mocked even more mercilessly by Alex drove us on to ensure we made it out of Hospital and on to the start point at Kentmere Church for a much-more-respectable-than-last-time 2pm. With the promise of beer and chips as a reward (we were cruelly lied to on the latter matter, much to Alex’s chagrin), we were off.  


Despite Wayne & I looking death in the face, we were determined to have a great experience, and the Bob God’s were looking down on us, as it was a beautiful afternoon as we set off up the Kentmere valley at a steady walk/jog. Other than chasing after the dog, I’ve never really done any fell running, so this was uncharted territory for me – particularly running with a semi-pro like Wayne. He’s an athlete who’s completed the legendary Marathon des Sables by the way. He’s a bit shy on that topic though and probably won’t like me mentioning it.


Having run along most of the flat of the valley, we took it steady on the climb up to Nan Bield, with Alex setting the pace, and a few obligatory ‘view stops’ along the way. When we reached the top, we met a guy on his own coming the other way. Wayne asked what he was training for: “life” he said. I’ve a feeling he’d probably used that line once or twice before, but you have to say – why would you want to be anywhere else on a day like this, with stunning views back down the valley, and on the other side down to Mardale?


After a quick Scooby snack stop, we run/slithered/skipped/skidded down the other side and on to Mardale Head, negotiating some particularly ‘splashy’ bits. Then the bad bit: back climbing again, this time following the Gatescarth Pass track. More view stops…


We were in the groove now, and intuitively knew when we should be pushing on and despite the rough terrain, kept a steady pace on the descent down to Sadgill. The feet were getting a bit ‘complainy’ at this stage, and the banter had taken a noticeable downturn as we were all getting a bit weary and needed to concentrate.   A quick right turn over the bridge and it was more ascent. Wayne’s extendable poles made another appearance and it was a steady climb up and over the last hill before the descent at Kentmere and the car. Just as we reached the brow of the hill, we were treated to an amazing view of the sun setting in the distance. Good times.


Aside from the training, it proved a really educational afternoon with Wayne using the words “phalanx” and “penchant” in normal conversation without batting an eyelid. Who knew?? It turns out the banter was also so hilarious that Alex pulled a stomach muscle. True fact. We had to apologise for being TOO funny the next day. A quick beer/cider (no chips) at Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley capped off a great afternoon’s ‘training’.


So, that was that: 13 miles in a little over 3 hours, with 3,500 feet of ascent. We’ve got 24 to do Bob Graham’s 66 miles and a lot more climbing, oh, and a bit of night running…


You do the maths – it’s going to take a lot of training (and a lot of silliness!).


Can’t wait.


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