Stephen Marks and Dean Oldfield set incredible sub-22 hour time
Two athletes from Rugby & Northampton Athletics Club have joined the exclusive Bob Graham Round Club. All members have completed The Bob Graham Round; the 66-mile, 27,000 ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District within 24 hours.
First done way back in 1932 by Bob Graham, hotelier of Keswick, Cumberland, at the age of 42, the 42 Peak Round has become a testing ground for the supremely fit. Each summer around 100 of the most highly tuned ultra-distance fell runners will attempt the 27,000 ft of ascent within the allotted 24 hours. Only one in three will return to the Keswick Moot Hall before the clock runs down. Most of the rest will be back again.
Stephen Marks and Dean Oldfield, supported by family, friends from the athletics club and the wider running community set off from Keswick Moot Hall, the traditional start and finish of the Bob Graham Round at 10pm on Sunday night with the aim to run through the night and the next day to make it back by 10pm the following night. With challenging conditions of high winds and rain on the northern fells, they were able to make it to the first checkpoint in the village of Threlkeld 30 minutes up on their planned arrival time. After a quick pitstop they set-off on the next leg and made up even more time, completing the two-night sections almost an hour up on their plan.
Runners completing the round require a witness to record the times they arrive at each peak and checkpoint and are allowed runners to help with navigation and carrying gear such as water and nutrition. There are only four locations on the round where the runners cross a road and it is traditional for supporters and crew to meet them there for replenishment of supplies and to change any equipment and swap support runners. Each leg required at least two support runners and the more tricky sections also required an experienced local navigator to pick out the most effective ascents and descent lines of the 42 fells including some of England’s highest peaks, Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Scafell Pike.
By the time Stephen and Dean arrived at Wasdale at the third checkpoint they had lost some time, but were still 30 minutes ahead of their plan due to a strong headwind on that section. They were starting to look tired at this point, but a change into dry clothes and a quick bite saw them push on for the home straight. By the time they arrived in Honister for the last checkpoint, it was clear that they were going to make it back to Keswick in time, so the support team were able to gather at Moot Hall confident that they weren’t fighting the clock. However, that didn’t stop them pushing on in the last section to achieve an incredible sub-22 hour time of 21 hours and 46 seconds. The chairman of the Bob Graham Round Club was on hand to provide navigation support over the final two legs and stated that this was one of the most perfectly executed round attempts he had ever witnessed.
Stephen and Dean themselves were a little bit too tired and relieved to make coherent statements at the finish but have been resting with family in the Lakes for a Half Term holiday. They have a few weeks to rest and recover before defending their title, again in Cumbria at the Lakeland 100-mile ultra-marathon in July.