On Sunday, Kilian Jornet completed the Bob Graham Round, the legendary fell running route that covers approximately 106km and 8,200m of overall ascent. Jornet completed the course in 12h52 - eclipsing the time of the current record holder, local runner Billy Bland by an hour. Bland completed the Bob Graham Round in 13h53 in 1982. See Kilian's effort here on Strava.
The round was established in 1932 when the runner Bob Graham ran the 42 fells in less than 24 hours. The challenge became a part of the local culture with the founding of the Bob Graham Round Club, whose membership is made up of those who have matched the founder’s achievement. It wasn’t until 1960 that anyone dared to try it again and since then many have sought to join the legendary club. In 1982, Billy Bland, a local runner, completed the course in 13h53, a record that has stood firm for the past 35 years. Over the years the Bob Graham Round has become one of running's most popular challenges.
To take part in the Bob Graham Round you have to comply with certain rules. Firstly, you have to inform club members that you intend to do the course. Then the runner has to be accompanied by someone on each of the 42 fells who can verify that they were there. Another tradition is that club members will help runners by joining them on one of the five legs that the course is divided up into. Martin Stone, an enthusiastic club member, also helps with logistics and it was he who helped Billy Bland when he set the record more than 30 years ago.
At six o’clock this morning Kilian Jornet set off from Keswick, a small town of some 5,000 in the heart of the Lake District. He was accompanied by a team of 10 pacemakers who also helped him comply with the club’s rules. Numerous other runners encouraged him along the way, among them Billy Bland himself, who said he was inspired by Kilian’s achievement.
Kilian Jornet covered the 42 peaks at a fast and constant speed, his Strava run data shows a GAP (Grade Adjusted Pace) of 4:34m/km, which is about 7:20m/m. The third leg of the course is the most difficult, with rocky ground and steep ascents and descents. The remainder includes peaks that are not very high but with lots of loose rock which tests the runners’ stamina.
On the first leg Kilian reached Threlkeld six minutes ahead of record pace. From there he started the second leg to Dunmail Raise, where Billy Bland was waiting to cheer on him. The third leg was the longest one and the most challenging, where Jornet had to climb 15 summits until reaching Wasdale at 1pm, 8 hours and 9 minutes after starting. He had by then completed half of the round, and was 30 minutes ahead of Billy Bland’s time.
From Wasdale, Jornet had to face the two last legs. He was feeling tired, but still pushing. The first leg consisted of 9 peaks over a relatively short distance until reaching Honister Pass, where he arrived with a time of 11h05. The last leg would bring Jornet back to Keswick with only three summits to climb en route, and a final part running on the road.
He finally arrived back in Keswick and stopped the watch with a time of 12h52’ and said: “It has been hard, but very exciting. I've had the Bob Graham Round in mind for a while and finally I could give it a try and I've realised how amazing the time was that Billy did thirty years ago. It has been a beautiful day out in the mountains together with all those runners who came and helped pace me. Also I would like to thank Billy who came to cheer me on, and also to everyone in Keswick. You can really feel the love for fell running, and I couldn’t be happier to have completed this round!”