Sunday 8th July saw Billy Bland’s 36-year Bob Graham Round record broken. In 1982, local man, Billy Bland, completed the Bob Graham Round in an incredible time of 13 hours 53 minutes; which was thought unbeatable. Billy was good over rough ground, performed well over longer races and still holds records for the Borrowdale and Wasdale fell races. When Billy set the record all those years ago, the conditions were far from perfect. The second fastest time was set by Rob Jebb (Rob was hoping to have another go at the round on Saturday but called it off due to the forecasted heat).
A few hours after Rob had called his attempt off there was an email sent to a list of fell runners asking for help pacing no other than Kilian Jornet around the route on the Sunday. Kilian is arguably the best mountain runner in the world. His achievements are numerous, but Jebby did remind him that it took him eight years to beat his Zegama record which Rob set when he won the sky running World Series in 2005.
At 6am on Sunday morning he was off in perfect conditions, light cloud and extremely dry underfoot. Leg one covers Skiddaw, Calva and Blencathra before descending in Threlkeld. It was decided that Keswick AC runner, Carl Bell, his pacer for leg one, and Kilian, would come down Halls Fell ridge as that was the route Billy used. Leg two was paced by Chris Arthur and Rhys Findlay-Robinson, over Clough Head along the Dodds, over Helvellyn, up and down Fairfield before descending to Dunmail raise off Seat sandal. Kilian was just getting further and further ahead of schedule. Leg three was paced by Rob Jebb, Josh Jardine and Martin Mikkelsen Barron.
It is the longest and covers the likes of Bowfell, Great End, Scafell Pike and Scafell before descending into Wasdale. At this point he was moving fast and well up on schedule. Leg four (paced by Paul Aitken, Andrew Scofield and Steve Birkinshaw) is tough as it’s well over half way and you cover some rough ground on tired legs. But it wasn’t until Green Gable that he started to show a little fatigue. At Honister he took on a bit of food before the last leg. It was breathtaking to see him still climbing well and managing to keep a good steady pace at leg five, where he was accompanied by everyone and Paul Cornforth. By the time he hit the road section it became apparent if he just kept it together he would go under 13 hours. As he approached Keswick it was clear that word had got out as the town centre was buzzing with excitement. People wanting to witness a little bit of history and a truly inspirational person achieve what many had thought un achievable. Kilian had wanted to keep the attempt low key to get a feel for how other people felt during their Bob Graham rounds. He loved the fells around Keswick and promised to return to run on them again in the future. In the end, Kilian knocked off over an hour off Billy Bland’s record to come it at 12.52. And Bland was one of the first to congratulate him.