Saturday 8th-9th June – The Billy Bland Challenge

Saturday 8th-9th June – The Billy Bland Challenge

billyblandReport from Sarah Fuller on the Billy Bland Challenge – an adventurous team relay challenge for ten people (five pairs) following the Bob Graham route (66 miles / 28,000′) around Keswick:

OAC completed the Bob Graham round relay at 12:23am this morning, accompanied by drunken cheers of “Come on Otley” by the beer festival revellers still partying in Keswick high street.

We touched the Moot Hall 21 hours 53 minutes after leaving it, comfortably within the 24 hour objective.

A massive well done to everyone who ran, what a fantastic achievement for the Club – great team spirit and lots of fun along the way.

Huge thanks to Caron Ralph and George Sneath who supported with road logistics.

Pictures courtesy of Sarah Fuller, Graham Lake and Andy Webster in Club Photos.

Full report here…

The Billy Bland Challenge – Otley A.C. do the Bob Graham

Our alarms went off around 1:30am, in my case that was precisely 10 minutes after Id gone to sleep after listening to an obnoxious group of campers shouting, swearing and threatening each other for the previous 3 hours! Graham, Renee, Andy and I crept off the campsite, and at 2:30am found ourselves stood by the famous moot hall in Keswick. There were still a few drinkers on the streets but it was largely quiet and still as we donned headtorches and set off into the night up Skiddaw. So began the Otley AC attempt on the Billy Bland challenge relay. The BB challenge was instigated in 2010 as a club relay, it follows the route of the Bob Graham round and the objective is to get under 24 hours but with the additional element of trying to beat billy blands ridiculously fast split times for his record breaking round in 1982. So far no club has beaten his overall time of 13 hours 53 minutes and hardly anyone has ever got close even as a relay, although a couple of teams have gone faster for a single leg. Over the last 3 years a handful of clubs have got a team round, the fastest to date being Macclesfield harriers going close with 14 hours and 24 minutes. Our objective was simply to get round in 24 hours and have a lot of fun along the way (oh and hopefully be faster than Ilkley Harriers who are attempting it in two weeks time!)

Originally I had planned to run leg 1 but a last minute withdrawal on leg 5 changed that plan and Renee stepped in with Andy as navigator. I didn’t want to miss out on the buzz of the start and after all the organising and planning it was with relief and huge excitement we actually began the journey. I ran for about 30-40 minutes up skiddaw and then reluctantly turned around and let the others get on with the job in hand, saving my legs for later on. Back on the campsite and after a couple of hours kip I welcomed the leg 1 runners back. They were buzzing after seeing in a beautiful dawn over skiddaw and enjoyed a largely incident free leg (apart from Andy suffering with bad cramp) which took them over great Calva and Blencathra to a thrilling finale madcap decent of Halls fell ridge to the changeover in Threlkeld.

LEG 1: 12.5 miles, 5000ft ascent, 4 hours. Runners: Graham Lake, Andy Hunt and Renee Saxton (with a cameo appearance from Sarah Fuller!). (Billy Bland 2:16)

Meanwhile Leg 2 had got underway at 6:30, a little behind our predicted schedule but well on course for a 24 hour completion. Matt, Jimmy and Laura had a crowd free run across Helvellyn and the Dodds and I walked up with George Sneath to try and intercept them at Grizedale tarn, perfect timing as within minutes of arriving at the tarn 3 white vests crested the horizon and hurtled down the grassy decent. A short chat and they were off strongly climbing Fairfield whilst George and I headed down to catch them at the leg 3 changeover at Dunmail raise. A little over 4 hours (and 2 minutes ahead of the predicted time!) after starting leg 2 and the (virtual) baton was handed to Karen Best, Lloyd and Andrew Robertshaw.

LEG 2: 13.2 miles, 5,900 ft ascent. 4 hours 8 minutes. Runners: Laura Martin, Jimmy Sneath, Matt Podd. (Billy Bland 2:44)

Leg 3 is hard with a steep climb up steel fell to start, the three of them bounded up the hill looking strong and once they were out of sight leg 1 and 2 runners and I retired to the pub to celebrate the day so far and in my case carbo load for the leg ahead (that’s my excuse anyway!). meanwhile Andrew, Lloyd and karen did a sterling job on the long leg in the heat of the day, negotiating herds of tourists over the Langdale pikes, Bowfell and the Scafell group finishing in Wasdale after about 5 ½ hours on the hill. Karen apparently fresh as a daisy and the boys ready to relax in the sun! Although only 15 miles this leg is tough and it packs in the height gain and the terrain very unforgiving in the second half.

LEG 3: 15.2 miles, 6,500ft ascent. 5 hours 23 minutes. Runners: Karen Best, Lloyd Best, Andrew Robertshaw. (Billy Bland 3:45 – Whaaaat!)

At around 4pm the virtual baton was passed to Hugh, Nick and Andy who had the joy of a long steep slog up Yewbarrow to start leg 4. Although short this leg is another tough proposition taking in red pike, Pillar, Kirk fell and the Gables along the way. By this point competition with another club team doing the relay was getting interesting. Spectrum striders had started at 1am but by the end of leg 2 we were only half an hour behind them and by the end of leg 3 we were half an hour ahead (so 2 hours up on total time). Both leg 5 teams waited with bated breath at Honister for the first signs of our respective runners debating who would be first to appear on the horizon. Spectrum striders appeared first (apparently they had their strongest runners on the last 2 legs) although there was much hilarity when they thought it was our runners and went to sit down again whilst we had a panic as sarah had gone to use the toilet in the hostel! We wished them well, got a status update on our guys (hugh had been texting me but there was no signal in honister and we had no idea what time they had started or where they were!) and waited – but not for long. Leg 4 is another tough leg and so it turned out to be with the guys having a tough time in the heat, Nick apparently struggled early on but was bounding down the hill with a spring in his step by the time he got to Honister, Hugh had a couple of close encounters with the mountain side and has some impressive bruises and a cracked rib for his efforts and Andy apparently left his lunch in honister car park shortly after finishing. After all that they did a fantastic effort with about 5 hours 43 for the leg, giving it everything and bringing the baton to leg 5 just about in daylight.

LEG 4: 10 miles,6,300 ft ascent 5 hours 43 mins. Runners: Hugh Pearson, Nick Hodgkinson and Andy Webster. (Billy Bland 3:20)


And so to the final leg, we had the luxury of knowing the 24 hour time was in the bag when we took over at Honister which we were very grateful for so could afford to enjoy the leg without stress. We took it easy up dale head, enjoying the last of the sunshine and taking photo’s of the beautiful sunset, it was just stunning and we felt utterly humbled and priviledged to be part of such a great team event and have the opportunity to see that view. We had to give each other a kick up the bum from dale head onwards to get on with the job in hand and stop enjoying ourselves, so we pressed on quickly over hindscarth to full darkness on Robinson the final peak. We just didn’t want it to end and wanted more summits to do but down we had to go and the decent off Robinson, tricky in places in daylight, was interesting to say the least in darkness slowing us down considerably. Much hilarity as Graham jumped down of a rocky step into a bog and emerged without a shoe! No further drama as we easily found the trod to drop off the ridge steeply into the valley and down to the road (yuk tarmac). Heads down and get on with it, I didn’t really enjoy the 5 odd miles on the road but we ran steady and got on with it – stopping only to text Hugh our ETA and for me to have a headtorch faff. Hugh and Andy cheered us through portingscale which made us feel like celebrities and we reached the moot hall shortly after 12:20 in the morning, 2 hours 46mins after starting at honister and 21 hours 53 minutes after kicking off leg 1 the previous day. Spectrum striders waited to see us in which was great and a large number of drunk people asked us ‘have you done the bob graham round?’ When we answered yes but only as a relay team they said ‘oh well, well done anyway’ and staggered off which kind of took the edge off! They might not have been very impressed but we were and we felt very proud to bring the relay home for the club. What a fantastic day out and one that all of us will remember for a long time I think. The striders finished ahead of us being 20 minutes quicker on the last leg too, having the advantage of getting off Robinson in the light! However, overall we had the faster time for the whole round not that it mattered at that point – the friendly competition gave an additional element to the day!

LEG 5: 10.6 miles, 2,500ft ascent, 2 hours 46minutes. Runners: Sarah Fuller, Sarah Smith, Graham Lake. (Billy Bland 1:53)

A massive thanks to all who took part, everyone put in a massive effort. This report isn’t complete without a mention of the fantastic support from Caron Ralph who drove to Wasdale and back a few times negotiating several Lakeland passes during the course of the day and to George Sneath who was up at the crack of dawn to transport leg 2 runners to the start and then pick them up from dunmail.
Same time next year? Bagsy leg 4……

Sarah Fuller

Mentioned in the Telegraph & Argus here.

20 thoughts on “Saturday 8th-9th June – The Billy Bland Challenge

  1. Just back from running leg 2 of this with Jimmy and Laura. All seems to be going well – apparently Twitter uopdates are available. Big thanks to Sarah for organising this – managing to get perfert weather must have used up a lot of her superpowers.
    Running our leg early in the morning across empty fells was amazing – looking forward along the ridge was daunting, but then as we progressed looking back was very satisfying. Great support, organisation and special thanks to George the driver.

  2. We finished in 21 hours 53 minutes – everyone ran brilliantly, a massive achievement for the club 🙂 next year then?? Report and photos soon. Matt I must have lost your mobile number- so sorry couldn’t text you the news earlier!

  3. Leg 4 was a beast. I fell twice and think I have cracked a rib. I have some impressive bruising and cuts. Andy staggered into the finish, collapsed and started throwing up. Nick seemed unaffected and promptly drove back home so that he could mow the lawn. We did manage to get out to cheer the leg 5 runners in Portinscale though. Well done to everyone, tremendous effort. We bumped into some Ilkley Harriers on Sunday who are doing it in two weeks time, hopefully in 2;54!

  4. Good grief Hugh (and andy!) sounds epic- you were still smiling though at honister and the support in Portingscale was much appreciated.. We didn’t have anywhere near as much as an epic (although ask graham about his shoe…!) but having run some of leg 1 and been up for most of 24 hours I was a smidge tired! Oh and you have nick to thank for leg 4 he was insistent that you guys did that leg 😉

  5. Leg 4 was a beast of beasts!!

    Hugh failed to mention that for most of the leg I was incapable of keeping up with him and Andy and that they would have finished much sooner if they had not had to wait for me. Curiously, I felt much better in the last mile than at any stage of the leg. [no idea why – perhaps I should look at Ultras?]

    The lawn has been cut – We need start planning the next adventure.

    Hopefully Hughs suggestion that Ilkley finish in 2:54 was a typing error.

    Thanks to everyone for making this such a fantastic team event. Thank you very much Sarah for your planning and Caron for driving all the way to Wasdale.(several times)

  6. On such a glorious day, Leg 3 had a lot more folk on the hills than leg 2. I even had to take a bit of time on Pike of Stickle to take a couple of photos for a Water Aid group & as you’d expect Scafell Pike was like Piccadilly Circus. After the final slog up Scafell & quad testing descent to Wasdale, myself & Lloyd were all done in, but not Karen! Well done all & thanks to Sarah for organising it all & Caron for all that driving over the all of those lakeland passes..

  7. Well done all! Sounds horribly fantastic. We”d better be doing it next year but not on 8th June! Hugh – we’ll let you sit on the sidelines tomorrow night at Juniors!

  8. What a brilliant weekend! Saw the sunrise and sunset of Saturday from the tops of the fells with clear views and hardly a breath of wind. You don’t get to claim that very often.
    Thanks Sarah for organising it all, great effort, book me in for next year!
    Such a great event to do as a club, great camaraderie and a bloody good laugh (even when you lose your shoe in a bog).
    And how on earth does anyone do a full BG round?? Respect!

  9. ‘how does anyone do a full BG round?’ dont know graham but after this weekend something in me wants to find out …..uh oh!

  10. I like the way ‘Sarah’ has deliberately left out her surname so I don’t know which of the Sarah’s has just put their hat in the ring for a full Bob Graham! :o)

  11. it was me (fuller!!) but Smith keen as well I reckon! seriously though I love the idea but come on lets get real im far to fat and slow to do a BG and suspect I just have serious delusions of grandeur……and Ive no idea why in some posts on here my name comes up as sarah and in others its my full name I didnt do anything different or deliberately change it (believe me I wouldnt know how!)

  12. Well done everyone… what a fantastic day… I felt like Tigger at the end!! Thanks Sarah for organising it so efficiently and a HUGE thanks to Andrew for being just in front on those descents so I could follow his feet AND a HUGE HUGE thanks to Caron for getting us back safe and sound to our car (and the poor car!). Count us in for next year – same leg and we’ll travel South to take part.

  13. You are all complete nutters but very well done! Part of me likes the idea of trying a leg however I think you’d be waiting several more hours for me to finish as it’d more of a walk than a run on that kind or terrain. Hope every is recovering well.

  14. Should we all go out for a celebratory meal -an opportunity to bask in our glory and talk bollocks – swap bruising and suntan stories. We could also make grand plans for our next outing.

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