I first learnt of the Double Bob Graham Round back in 2005 when researching my first attempt at the Bob Graham Round (a 66-mile circuit over 42 of England’s highest summits including 27,000ft of elevation gain to be completed in less than 24 hours of fell running). I noticed that the only person to have completed the double in less than 48 hours was Roger Baumeister, of Dark Peak Fell Runners, who did so in 1979. At the time of my research I found the prospect of one Bob Graham (BG) daunting enough and thought it incredible that anyone would contemplate two of them back-to-back.
*Follow Nicky’s progress on this live tracking map*
I continued on my way and completed my first BG, followed by successful sub-24-hour completions of the Paddy Buckley Round (Wales) and Charlie Ramsay Round (Scotland). In 2006, in between the rounds, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which I subsequently recovered from. Having breast cancer made me appreciate the smaller milestones in life, and subsequently I have always celebrated them as such.
The first was Christmas 2006 when I had survived 6 months. That day I walked out to Rocking Stones in the Peak District with a bottle of champagne. The second was my 40th birthday a year later in 2007 when I had a lovely family meal out. On the five-year anniversary I broke the women’s Lake District 24-Hour Record.
Further anniversaries saw me break the Bob Graham record twice, first recording a time of 18:12, then running it 18:06, which I have conceded is the best I can do. Jasmin Paris attempted the Bob Graham Round on April 23 this year. I knew of her attempt and was under no illusion that she would easily break my record as she is a phenomenal athlete and I am a runner who just knows how to get the best out of myself. Jasmin had an incredible run, completing the round in 15:24 and becoming the 5th fastest person ever. So although I’ve lost that record, I am happy that it has been smashed by Jasmin, who followed in my footsteps and went on to prove just what women are really capable of. Well done, Jasmin!
As time passes the memory of the cancer fades slightly but I still like to celebrate the milestones. This year is my 10th anniversary, something that is a very special achievement to me.
While I was undergoing treatment for cancer I learned of Joan Williams, who was one of the trustees at Challenge Cancer Through Adventure. She’d been diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and was still alive in 2006 – ten years later. When I was feeling low and despondent I used to go online and gaze at her photo. It gave me hope. I thought, “If Joan can survive 10 years then maybe so can I?”
Starting to believe a Double Bob Graham was possible
In 2013, I was presented with a booklet called 10 Years of Dark Peak. Within the pages of this booklet was the full account of Roger Baumeister’s Double Bob Graham Round (132 miles, 42 summits each visited twice, including approximately 54,000ft of elevation gain). It is compiled by Martin Stone using accounts from Roger and those who supported him on the attempt. I found the story an amazing read, especially given the veritable selection of difficulties they were presented with over the whole weekend. I wondered then, ‘Would I ever be capable of a Double Bob Graham?’
And so onto how I would like to celebrate my 10-year anniversary… and after running a then-women’s record 18:06 for the Bob Graham in April last year, I started thinking that maybe I should stop trying to get faster and instead focus on running for longer. I kept such thoughts quiet though. So quiet that I told absolutely nobody!
Then Roger, who remains the only person to have achieved the double BG in less than 48 hours, messaged me to say, ‘Well done Nicky on your BG. There can’t be anything left can there?’ I pondered on this for a week or two and then replied, ‘Well there could be the double?’ His reply was immediate… ‘You must go for it. How exciting!’ I was really chuffed that a) he didn’t mind me going for a Double Bob Graham and b) that he thought I could do it.
Following in Roger Baumeister’s Double Bob Graham footsteps
I re-read Roger’s account and discovered that he and Brian Harney (who later dropped out at Honister) started at Moot Hall, Keswick, at midnight on the Friday. Going in a clockwise direction, he did legs 1, 2 and 3 to Wasdale; then went up Yewbarrow (summit number 31) to meet several runners from Dark Peak who were making an anti-clockwise BG attempt on the same day. Unfortunately they passed him at Wasdale (before his climb up Yewbarrow). Roger carried on to the summit of Yewbarrow and then turned around – his plan now was to try and catch the Dark Peak runners while retracing his own steps back to Keswick.
Initially I thought this sounded too complicated and bordered on madness, but on reflection I put myself in Roger’s shoes and started to see the sense in it. Doing the double this way meant his support team didn’t have to chase around visiting the secluded Wasdale valley twice. Instead they could tick off Wasdale in one visit. It also meant the second night’s darkness fell on the Helvellyn range, which, although tricky if misty, is the easiest terrain of all the legs to run over in the dark.
Conquering Broad Stand… and also the extra road running!
Psychologically I feel attempting the double like this will be better for me. I have bad experiences of Broad Stand (the rocky crag which must be overcome if a runner is to take the most direct route between the summits of Scafell Pike and Scafell) in the past and so it means I can get that hurdle crossed twice in quick succession, and, of course, relatively early on. That said, following a number of reccies, I have decided that if it is wet I will not go down Broad Stand in the anti-clockwise direction and instead use the West Wall Traverse.
It also means that the biggest climbs, namely Skiddaw, Blencathra and Yewbarrow are completed earlier on when my legs will feel stronger. I must admit though, I won’t be looking forward to the addition of a second road section (from Keswick out to the foot of Robinson) but I put in some good road miles last winter and feel I have a better mentality towards that now. Yes, doing two climbs of Great Gable, Kirkfell and Pillar so close in proximity, and towards the end of a double attempt, will be tough but I will make up time by running the more runnable hills at a good pace.
Double Bob Graham Nutrition? A full English breakfast…
So that’s the plan. I will set off at midnight on Friday and finish by midnight on Sunday. Roger is adamant I can beat his record (46 hours and 34 mins) but it’s all new territory for me so we’ll have to see. The longest I have run for is 36 hours in the L’Echappee Belle ultra. I have also gone two nights without sleep before – when I did the Grand Raid Reunion. For that race we had to catch a bus at 10pm, the race started at 3am and I ran through the following night to complete it in 34 hours.
The Double Bob Graham will be even harder as I will have to keep moving the whole time. One thing I know for certain though, I’m already looking forward to getting back to Keswick having done ‘one half’ and eating a small portion of fish, chips and curry sauce…. or perhaps a full English breakfast, at 9am I doubt the chippy will be open! This should fuel me up nicely going into the ‘second half.’
I also want this attempt to be more like my Paddy Buckley and Ramsay Round record attempts, which means doing it with minimal support. I can’t emulate Roger in having only 7/8 supporters for the entire double as I need more looking after than that, but I intend to keep the support to a minimum and hopefully avoid a circus on the hills. My support team have all been briefed of this, and the pacers and navigators are all doing two or more legs each. For all of them it will be good training ahead of their own various challenges (of which I look forward to supporting them on).
So everything is in place for the May 13-15. I need reasonable weather but will still make the attempt if it’s drizzly, as from past experience the rain doesn’t seem to hinder me as much as the heat does.
I hope to become the first woman to complete the Double Bob Graham Round in less than 48 hours, maybe even breaking Roger’s record time. But the main aim is to enjoy it and celebrate the fact that I am still here, living and running ten years after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
* The official Bob Graham website says that three runners (all men) have completed the Double Bob Graham Round, with only Roger Baumeister going under 48 hours. The three are listed as: Boyd Millen (1977 in 52:30), Roger Baumeister (1979 in 46:34) and Eric Draper (1995 in 50:35).
* You can follow Nicky’s progress and schedule on the live tracker (thanks to the guys at Open Tracking for their help with this). Live updates and photos will be posted on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages throughout the weekend. Use the hashtag #DoubleBG
* Post messages for Nicky, who is running in our Mudclaw 300 shoes, in the comments box below.
* Nicky has already raised more than £4,500 for cancer charity Odyssey. You can help her as she aims to reach £6,500 by donating on her Just Giving page.