Saturday, September 3, 2016

Keswick Ladies' Billy Bland Challenge

No one can quite remember when the excitement started, but it was certainly well back in the rainy months of winter, when Julie Carter, a Keswick AC member and Bob Graham Round completer, mooted the idea of attempting a Bob Graham Round Relay, the Billy Bland Challenge, with a Keswick AC Ladies team. Everyone was inspired!

Here is a description of the challenge from the website

The Billy Bland Challenge relay is based on the five legs of the Bob Graham Round, starting and finishing at the Moot Hall in Keswick. It covers about 66 miles, 28,000 feet of climbing and 42 peaks. The challenge is open to all teams of 10, split into five pairs. Each of the pairs is designated one of the five legs and a baton is passed from one team to the next. The relay is to be completed at any time in the month of June. Entry costs in the true spirit of the BGR, are free.

The Keswick ladies took on the challenge with a few aims: to have a great day out on the fells, to try and beat the Ladies team record of 16.04 hours, and to get as close as possible to Billy Bland’s times for each of the legs of his record breaking solo Bob Graham Round. The first one was definitely achieved, the second one has inspired us to have another go (55 minutes off the record), and the third one showed just how incredible Billy Bland’s solo Bob Graham Round record is!

So on Saturday 4th June, at 4am, the Leg 1 pair of Hannah Horsburgh and Catherine Spurden, our fastest runners, set off from Moot Hall. Unfortunately the cloud was very low between 4 am and 11 am. However, this did not bother Catherine and Hannah, and they set a new Ladies team Leg 1 record of 3.03 hours, smashing the previous record of 3.27. But how did Billy Bland do it in 2.16 hours?!

The beaming pair then passed the ‘baton’, a tracking device, to Katy Moore and Trudy Beetham, our Leg 2 runners. Clough Head, which usually looms intimidatingly, was concealed by thick cloud, so the Leg 2 pair soon disappeared, and they stayed in clag all the way. Quite a lot of compass work was required, but after 3.43 hours Trudy and Katy emerged, smiling happily as they descended to a sun-bathed Dunmail Raise.

At Dunmail Raise the mobile Keswick AC nail-painting unit had come out in force, with Jo Gillyon and Catherine Evans showing off their freshly painted green and yellow nails as they received the tracker from Katy and Trudy. However, Cat and Jo immediately set their focus on Steel Fell, striding away with great purpose. They maintained a fantastic pace, despite the rising heat, and they whizzed up Broad Stand with the help of Julie Carter and Mandy Glanville. Julie and Mandy had attracted some incredulous looks as they carried the ladder up from Wasdale, with Moss their dog in a Keswick AC vest too! Cat and Jo then flew down to Wasdale, coming within 8 minutes of the Ladies Leg 3 record, but very happy with their time of 4.30 hours.

The Leg 4 runners, Rachel Findlay Robinson and Victoria Haworth, had been waiting nervously, trying to keep cool in the hottest part of the day, but they soon established a composed stride, making good progress up Yewbarrow and topping out before Cat and Jo had even finished their well-deserved ice creams.

Rachel and Vic did an excellent job of ensuring they visited every possible summit of the indistinct summit areas on Leg 4, and they came hurtling down to Honister in beautiful evening light, setting an excellent time of 3.51 hours.

Then it was time for the Leg 5 pair, Annabel Holmes and Sam Ayers to have a go, having waited patiently all day and avidly following the tracker on-line. Annabel and Sam had prepared extremely well for Leg 5, practising their route off Robinson meticulously, and even practising the final sprint to Moot Hall, so it is wonderful that they were rewarded with a time of 1.52 hours, the only pair on the team to beat Billy Bland’s leg time. However, the fact that Billy Bland ran nearly as fast as their fresh legs, after 60-odd miles of fell-running, is quite extraordinary.

In the gorgeous light of 20.59 on Saturday evening, Sam and Annabel touched the green door of Moot Hall, cheered on by several Keswick AC friends and family. The overall time was 16.59 hours, and we all agreed that it had been a great day out on the fells.

Thank you to everyone who helped the team: driving, reccying legs, nail-painting, supporting at Broad Stand, and cheering us on.

The numbers bit:

Start Saturday 4th June 2016: 4am

Splits (taken from time incoming runners arrive (so Leg 2 includes Leg 1/2 handover etc)

Leg 1 (Catherine Spurden and Hannah Horsburgh): 3.03
Leg 2 (Katy Moore and Trudy Beetham): 3.43
Leg 3 (Jo Gillyon and Catherine Evans): 4.30
Leg 4 (Rachel Findlay Robinson and Victoria Haworth): 3.51
Leg 5 (Sam Ayers and Annabel Holmes): 1.52

Total: 16.59

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