A Bob and a Frog. So easy to say, it rolls off the tongue. But it pays no heed to the pain and suffering that is to come.
At the beginning of 2020 at the start of the pandemic, with the cancellation of all our planned races, I knew I would need something special to motivate my running. The Bob Graham Round was the obvious choice but as Ros and Jess were also planning the Frog Graham Round, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to be able to say 'I've done a Bob and a Frog.' If I could achieve it of course......
The Bob Graham Round, first completed in 1932 is a 66 mile fell running challenge over 42 peaks in the Lake District, in 24 hours. The Frog Graham, a modern take on the Bob Graham, covers 40 miles of fell running over 18 peaks but also includes swimming across 4 of the major lakes in over 2 miles. As I am not the strongest swimmer in the world or the fastest mountain runner, I knew it would keep me very busy training for both attempts. Here’s my account of the Bob followed by Ros’s account of the Frog…..
The Bob Graham Round: Saturday 19th June 2021
The route is split into five legs and the contender must have at least one witness on each summit. It's traditional to have two support runners, one to help navigate and one to carry gear, so that the contender can concentrate on running and preserve energy. It was important to me to have as many Swaledale Runners in my support team as possible but as we don't yet have enough experience to make a full team, I was very lucky to have had good friends from Todmorden Harriers to help as well. I was running to a 23-hour schedule, so I knew what pace I needed to maintain, with a little wriggle room at the end in case things didn't go as planned. I was also carrying an Open Tracking device which showed my position on the hills, helping the support crew and allowing friends and family to follow my progress from their homes.
Leg 1: Keswick to Threlkeld
At 23.50 on the 18th June 2021 a small group of people could be found in front of the Moot Hall in Keswick, the traditional start and finish of the BGR. Bob and Simon (a very last-minute stand-in) were my Leg 1 support, and Mandy, Phil and Ros were there to send me on my way. Dead on midnight, with accompanying cheers from Keswick's late-night revellers, we set off on the biggest single ascent on the round. It is about 800m to the summit of Skiddaw. About halfway up, Simon decided the pace was too much for him and Bob took on the dual role of gear carrying and navigating in the dark, reaffirming his nickname of ‘Saint' Bob. Things went well over the boggy ground to Great Calva and on up to the summit of Blencathra where Phil was waiting to guide us down the technical descent of Halls Fell Ridge. When Phil assured me that his line avoided the treacherous ground, I had to ask the question 'but isn't this treacherous ground? ', since we were descending near vertical grass in the dark above a steep drop!
The angle soon eased and I had to agree that it made for a quick descent to Threkeld, where the support crew of Mandy and Ros were waiting.
Arrived at Threlkeld checkpoint at 04.00, right on schedule.
The Frog Graham Round is described as a formidable swimming and running challenge. As well as running 40 miles, ascending 4,500m +, you also have to swim across Bassenthwaite, Crummock Water, Buttermere and Derwentwater before returning to where you started at the Moot Hall in Keswick. This has been something I have wanted to do for at least a couple of years, so I'm over the moon to have completed the Frog Graham Round yesterday, with Neil and Jess in 19 hours and 57 minutes.
It was a very tough day, particularly the swimming sections for me, but support from Stuart Clarkson , Gary Young and the two mini-cheerleaders Arthur and Daisy, made it easier. Our amazing friends Kathryn Jackson , Dave Howarth and Charlotte Hattersley provided kayak support across Derwentwater from dusk into darkness, without whom we wouldn't have attempted the night swim. Thanks everyone!
Thankfully light winds coincided with our chosen day for attempting the Frog, so the lakes were flat enough for me to swim in comfortably. Unfortunately this also meant there was plenty of clag on the higher hills and a nasty spell of rain from Grisedale Pike to Whiteless Pike left us pretty soggy. But I'm not complaining, completing the Frog is definitely the highlight of my year!
On July 8th our usual running sessions were replaced by something special: a fell run from Low Whita Farm in Swaledale. For some this was a chance for a bit of friendly rivalry as they raced the course; for others it was a chance to run with friends, or maybe try out a fell run for the first time. The weather was kind to us and the turn-out from club members was fantastic.
All participants were rewarded with a Harrier squishy cup as a memento.
Many thanks to Stuart Clarkson and his family for letting us run in this beautiful spot and for the refreshments and hospitality.
We are now halfway through the year and the Swaledale Runners go from strength to strength. In these crazy times the club continues to flourish, with lots of new members, amazing personal achievements and goals accomplished. The continued great results in organised races from our "little" club show that we are always punching above our weight.
On the 19th June Neil Bowmer became another Swaledale Runner to join the illustrious group of Bob Graham Round members. The Bob Graham Round is a fell running challenge in the Lake District, covering 66 miles and traversing 42 fells (8,600 meters of ascent) within 24 hours. Neil completed this world-famous challenge in 23 hours 35 mins. Well done to him, Ros and the support team for this amazing achievement. It was a true Swaledale Runners team effort, with further expertise and help from our friends from Todmorden Harriers.
Massive congratulations go to the Swaledale Shufflers, who on 19th June did their 5k at Kirkby Fleetham. The Shufflers is a great addition to the Swaledale Runners club, with brilliant organisation and coaching from Claire, Simon and Jess. It's a nice and no pressure introduction to running. Some great results, well done to all: Amy Simeon (31.12), Heather Cunnachie (33.25), Angela Muston (36.52), Nicky Hebb (36.52), Linda McDermot (37.55), Zoe Gumm (38.12), Maria Hamilton (39.40), Karen Aston (39.58), Jean Raine (41.44), Belinda Stares (42.14), Karen Galloway (42.14), Angelika Skvan (43.31). Two more experienced runners, Grace Gilpin and Andrew Fletcher, used this course to test their speed. Grace completed the 5K in 23.34, placing her second equal overall in the age-graded results. Andrew chose to run 10K, which placed him 6th overall in his time of 44.18.
Well done to new club member Suzanna Allen who on the 20th June ran the Glorious Gargrave 10k, and to long-standing member Niall Cheyne, who ran in the Sunderland half marathon on 20th June, supporting a fellow runner to finish in 2.42.
Fell running stalwarts Tim Grimwood and Jim Coldwell continued their fell running season at the Hawkswick Dash on 20th June. Tim was 18th in 14.04 and Jim was 89th in 21.10.
Swaledalers Dave and Carol Murray organised their first 10k for the MaD Races events at Kiplin Hall on 9th June, with plenty of green-vested Swaledalers and Shufflers taking part. The race was won by Rob Scott in a very swift 34.16. First home for the club was new member Glen Davies (44.51), followed by Simon Hewitt (47.14), Jenny Jakeman (49.20), Sue Thurlbeck (49.43 - 2nd V50), Louise Black (50.01), Ilsa Collinge (52.13), Chris Muston (53.07 - PB) Zoe Foulerton (59.34), Sam Metcalfe (1.02.54) and Mel May - 1.04.05.
Well done to Rachael Ridley (6.27.51) and Avril Clare Thresh (6.28.02) who completed their first Ultra Marathon 50k run in Leeds on 12th June. That was certainly a spectacular way to celebrate a birthday! On the same day three Swaledale Runners competed in the White Horse Half Marathon on the North Yorkshire Moors. Helen Nicholson was first back for the club in 2.57.15 followed by Rebecca Pickles in 3.11.41, then Roger Brisley in 3.13.42
On 13th June, Martin Randall, Stuart Clarkson and John Cantrell took part in the Settle Saunter, a 23 mile route around the hills of Settle. Well done to Martin who was 13th in a time of 4.04.14. This was John's longest ever run, but he rose to the challenge and paced himself well and finished 49th in a time of 5.10.58, an excellent achievement. Andrew Fletcher competed in the 10k option and had a brilliant 5th place in 1.03.12.
New members of all abilities are welcome, and beginners’ groups start at regular intervals. Come and join us for a run in our beautiful location!
On April 29th Tim Grimwood was excited to be racing on the fells again at the Cockfield Chase, organised by Durham Fell Runners. This involved a warm-up lap of 3.5K to show runners the route, followed by 3.5K for the race itself. Although this was shorter than the races Tim usually runs, he made up ground on the final climb to finish 6th overall, just 38 seconds behind the winner.
Over the bank holiday weekend several club members headed over to the Lake District. Ros Blackmore did a 15K run from Buttermere, a recce of leg 3 of the Frog Graham ,a long-distance swimming and running route that she is planning to do later in the year. Meanwhile Jess Young was accompanying Neil Bowmer on a recce of one leg of his planned Bob Graham route. Ian Oldham and Caroline Graham were in support mode, accompanying ultra-distance runner Sabrina Verjee on part of her epic Run around the Wainwrights.
Other club members enjoyed their own runs around Wensleydale, Hamsterley Forest, Northumberland and of course Swaledale. Chris Muston, setting off with the intention of practising pacing and technique, was excited to find that he had accidentally run his first half marathon!
Meanwhile, club nights are going from strength to strength and we have been delighted to wlecome several new members over the last few weeks. If you think that Swaledale Runners might be the club for you, please do get in touch and come along for a trial session.
Over recent years more and more club members have been taking on ultra-distance challenges. Ros Blackmore, who ran coast to coast over 5 days in 2020, has just completed her longest continuous run over an incredible 100 miles.
"Massive thanks to my wonderful support team for helping me to achieve my long held goal of completing a 100 mile run. I travelled the Lady Anne's Way from Skipton to Penrith in one go (33.5hrs) snatching an hours sleep on the way. It was a fantastic journey and wouldn't have been possible or half as enjoyable without them. So, many thanks to Neil (road support, cook, tea maker and carer) Mandy Goth (Skipton to Grassington), Simon Hewitt (Capplestone Gate to Cray), Stuart Clarkson (Cray to Hawes and unexpectedly again from Appleby to Penrith), Matt Neale (around Hawes), Jess Ann (night section from Hawes to Kirkby Stephen) and Ben Mounsey and Kirsty Hall for coming out to cheer me on in Grassington. Lucky to have had superb weather throughout and not one blister!"
Club members have been taking advantage of the gradual easing of lockdown to run from places further afield than their own front door. In the Dales and North York Moors, in Teesdale and the Lake District, runners have been exploring new paths and getting reacquainted with old favourites.
For some these runs are preparation for big events later in the year, including the Lakeland 50, the Lady Anne’s Way 100 and a Bob Graham Round. This requires practising navigational skills, building up endurance and learning to move well on rough ground. What could be a better excuse for a grand day out!