Inspirational runner Nicky Spinks has become the first person ever to complete a remarkable 116-mile Double Ramsay Round in the Scottish mountains.
The 51-year-old cancer survivor and inov-8 brand ambassador summitted 48 peaks, including the UK’s highest Ben Nevis, on a run that took 55 hours and 56 minutes.
Starting and finishing near Fort William, Nicky battled heat exhaustion and sleep deprivation to complete a challenge that saw her ascend a monstrous 57,000ft – almost twice the height of Mount Everest.
The ‘standard’ Ramsay Round is a notoriously-tough 24-hour challenge which sees mountain runners attempt a 58-mile circuit over 24 rocky summits. Only 113 completions have been recorded since its inception by Charlie Ramsay in 1978. Two of those belong to Nicky, who completed the round in 2008 (22hrs 32mins) and again in 2014 (19hrs 39mins).
Prior to this weekend no runner had recorded a Double Ramsay Round of any kind. In becoming the first person to do so, Nicky twice summitted each of the 24 peaks (23 of which are classed as Munros – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft).
Nicky said: “I had an incredible weekend running with a great team of supporters in weather that was rather too hot for my liking. The sunrises and sunsets were mind-blowing as were the never-ending panoramic views of the Scottish mountains. I have loved Scotland for years but it surpassed all expectations this weekend.”
Nicky is no stranger to such epic challenges. In 2016 she became the fastest person to run a 132-mile Double Bob Graham Round (the English mountain equivalent of the Ramsay Round), clocking 45hrs 32mins and making headline news.
A farmer from Yorkshire, England, Nicky recovered from breast cancer in 2006 and uses her running challenges to help raise money for cancer charity Odyssey (donate here). She has raised £16,000 and earlier this month was rewarded for her services to sport and charity with the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Nicky’s Double Ramsay Round attempt began from Glen Nevis Youth Hostel at midnight on Friday (June 29th). She was supported on the mountains by running friends who carried food and water, as well assisting with navigation. She also received support at valley crossings, where more friends armed with supplies were waiting.
Running in an anti-clockwise direction, Nicky first summitted Mullach nan Coirean (3,081ft), heading out into The Mamores mountains and around Loch Treig before eventually reaching Stob Coire Easain (summit number 16). She then turned around and retraced her steps back to Glen Nevis Youth Hostel.
From there (with 31 summits bagged), Nicky then ran in a clockwise direction, starting with the huge ascent to the roof of the UK (Ben Nevis at 4,411ft). She headed out over The Grey Corries and eventually summitted Stob Coire Easian for a second time, once again turning around at this point. What remained after that was eight summits and a final long descent off Ben Nevis back to Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, reaching the finish on Monday morning, before being joined by Charlie Ramsay and tucking into a finish line meal of bacon, egg and beans (see photo below).
Nicky said: “The round started off well with me getting 30 minutes up on schedule. I managed to stay on schedule throughout Saturday and felt strong. Saturday night I had a dip with the onset of another night without sleep, but gave myself a talking too and arrived on Sunday morning an hour up on my 48-hour schedule.
“The first climb on Sunday was Ben Nevis and I opted for the direct route which is really steep and path-less. This was a mistake as the zig-zag path would have been easier in the heat. I lost 30 minutes on schedule there. The energy-sapping heat continued throughout the Grey Corries and we lost time all the way. I felt strong though and knew I could speed up when the temperatures dropped in the evening.
“When we arrived at the support point though the supporters were not there. Because we were late they had left. This was a big blow and lost us more time. I wanted to finish no matter what and would have continued alone but my current support were all happy to return with me. We had enough food. We did the out and back mountain (Stob Coire Easain) and rang the support when we reached the top. They ran back to the support point and so I had a stop there. All this though lost me even more time.
“We set off on the last leg to Fort William feeling strong and made some time back. It wasn’t to be though as the Grey Corries were shrouded in thick mist making navigation slow, plus my feet after 50 hours in the heat had swelled up and I was struggling with them. Progress was very slow all the way back through the night to Fort William with the descent off Ben Nevis taking me a long, long time.
“Maybe in hindsight I should have done two rounds and turned around at Glen Nevis – I actually think that would have been easier! It would certainly have meant getting the big climb up Ben Nevis done at the start. I’d also hope for a cooler weekend! It was so, so hot, especially on the Sunday, and the heat really floored my body and increased the swelling in my feet too.
“I am quite harsh on myself so I am disappointed with my time and everyone knows I’d really wanted to go sub 48 hours, but in saying that, unless you have done a Ramsay Round, it is difficult to realise just how hard it is to run for long distances over those mountains. It is a lot harder than the Bob Graham Round.
“Over the whole time I didn’t sleep. I tried a couple of times – I lay down on the ground while in the mountains – but I just couldn’t fall to sleep. It was very frustrating.
“Would I really do it again? I have toyed with the idea but there are lots of other mountains and challenges I’d like to explore. For now I’m going to enjoy my recovery!”
inov-8 PR & Communications Co-ordinator Lee Procter, who supported Nicky’s challenge throughout, said: “To complete a regular Ramsay Round is seriously tough, so to achieve a Double Ramsay Round is pretty much beyond belief. Nicky once again demonstrated just how strong she is, not just physically but also mentally. To run 116 miles over the UK’s toughest mountains in such oppressive heat is phenomenal. We are all extremely proud of Nicky.”
Pre-challenge blog post:
The inspirational Nicky Spinks is aiming to become the first runner to complete a 116-mile Double Ramsay Round in the Scottish mountains.
The Ramsay Round is a 24-hour challenge which sees mountain runners attempt a 58-mile circuit over 24 summits, including the UK’s highest, Ben Nevis. The total ascent that must be scaled is 28,500ft – almost the same height as Mount Everest.
So far (as of June 2018), 113 sub-24 hour attempts have been recorded since its inception by Charlie Ramsay in 1978. Two of those belong to inov-8 ambassador Nicky, who completed the round in 2008 (22hrs 32mins) and again in 2014 (19hrs 39mins).
116 miles. 57,000ft ascent. 48 peaks. Target time: Sub-48 hours.
No runner has recorded a Double Ramsay Round of any kind. If Nicky is to become the first she will have to run 116 miles, including a monstrous 57,000ft of ascent, and twice summit each of the 24 peaks (23 of which are classed as Munros – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft). She aims to do all that in under 48 hours.
Cancer survivor Nicky, who will start the challenge wearing inov-8’s new MUDCLAW G 260 running shoes with graphene grip, is no stranger to such epic challenges. In 2016 she became the fastest person to run a 132-mile Double Bob Graham Round (the English mountain equivalent of the Ramsay Round), clocking 45hrs 32mins and making headline news (watch the film Run Forever below).
*** Follow Nicky’s progress on her Double Ramsay Round attempt via this LIVE TRACKER ***
Nicky, a 51-year-old farmer from Yorkshire who recovered from breast cancer in 2006, uses her running challenges to help raise money for cancer charity Odyssey (donate here). So far, she has raised £15,000 and earlier this month was rewarded for her services to sport and charity with the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The Double Ramsay Round attempt will begin from Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, Fort William, at midnight on Friday (June 29th). Nicky will be supported on the mountains by running friends who will carry food and water, as well as assist with navigation. She will also receive support at valley crossings, where more friends armed with supplies will be waiting.
‘Double Ramsay Round with a variation’ – How will Nicky will tackle it?
Running in an anti-clockwise direction, Nicky will first summit Mullach nan Coirean (3,081ft), heading out into The Mamores mountains and around Loch Treig before eventually reaching Stob Coire Easain (summit number 16). She will then turnaround and retrace her steps back to Glen Nevis Youth Hostel.
From there (with 31 summits bagged), Nicky will then run in a clockwise direction, starting with the huge ascent to the roof of the UK (Ben Nevis at 4,411ft). She will head out over The Grey Corries and eventually summit Stob Coire Easian for a second time, once again turning around at this point. What remains after that is eight summits and a final long descent off Ben Nevis back to Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, hopefully reaching the finish before midnight on Sunday (July 1st). Because she is doing it this way, rather than two full loops, Charlie Ramsay is classing it as a ‘Double Ramsay Round with a variation’ on the official website.
The Ramsay Round is more technical and much rockier than the Bob Graham Round. It also involves a lot of running over remote mountains covered in leg-sapping heather. Nicky is under no illusions as to just how tough it will be to complete a Double Ramsay Round, especially in what is forecasted to be hot conditions, but she has prepared well and will no doubt draw on her incredible mental strength to help her through the 116 miles.
Ahead of travelling to Scotland to begin the challenge, Nicky wrote the following words:
After the success of the Double Bob Graham Round I needed a break for a few months but soon started to wonder about the next challenge. As I was 50 years old in 2017 I knew I wanted to attempt a Joss Naylor Challenge as near to my birthday in April as I could, so I did that. I also began to toy with the idea of a Double Ramsay Round because I love the mountains of Scotland so much and have been on the route both clockwise and anti-clockwise.
I often wonder why I set myself these near-impossible challenges, and while working on the farm this morning I thought back to the people that have influenced my life. My mum who died when I was 10, being denied a full innings of life, my grandad who said to me the day before he died that he was “ready to go” having done everything that he ever wanted to do in life, and my husband, the farmer who wants to see all of the world.
And then there are my running heroes – Roger Baumeister (the previous record-holder for the Double Bob Graham Round) and Joss Naylor (the fell running legend regarded as one of the sport’s best-ever). When Joss (pictured below hugging Nicky during her Double Bob Graham Round) heard I was attempting a Double Ramsay Round he asked my friend and lead supporter Charmian whether he could come up and see me do it.
To me – someone who started running at Penistone Footpath Runners in 2001 and was always a mid-packer till 2009 – it is such an honour to have Joss want to come up and see me. It is him, plus my family and everybody that nominated me for the British Empire Medal, that I have to thank.
We have only been gifted with one life and I want to make the most of mine. I also want to help people make the most of theirs. That is why I coach runners and juniors and continue to raise money for Odyssey in order to help people get back on their way after having cancer. I have updated my JustGiving page and hope that people will support me on the Double Ramsay Round challenge by donating.
I knew what a stickler Charlie Ramsay is for finite details and how he dislikes variations from the original round routes so I contacted him to ask his opinion in November 2016. He replied and said he would only accept a Double Ramsay Round if it was two complete rounds. Having already looked at the logistics and decided that I wanted to attempt it in the same format as the Double Bob Graham Round, with an out and back and central turnaround point, I binned the idea of a Double Ramsay Round. After Christmas though Charlie wrote back and said he was willing to change the wording on his website to allow “Double Ramsay Round with a variation”. And so he did.
Training on the Ramsay Round mountains
I had my 2017 planned out but began plans for 2018. I had my first big trip to Scotland in July 2017 with friends and hatched a plan of doing the Ramsay Round in an anti-clockwise over two days. We managed most of it but missed out what we could! I felt terrible, slow and tired and almost decided there and then that I couldn’t do a double attempt.
On another weekend though, this time in Autumn with just my friend Majka and my dog Wisp for company, we did 32 miles in around 13 hours on Saturday, then a circuit of Loch Treig on Sunday in 8 hours. That had me feeling more confident, but I also knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I thought a lot about logistics, timings and which mountain I wanted to turnaround on. We stood on the last mountain of the day at 4pm on Sunday and looked across the never-ending panorama of mountains stretching out into the sunset and I knew that I was ready for another challenge, ready for the months of hard work, training, planning and reccying.
Winter came and with it came snow, lots of snow! We all became very adept at floundering and trail breaking – even Wisp; who on one trip was renamed “Wonder dog Wisp”. She learnt about icy snow, soft snow, cornices, rolling in snow, eating snow and she got to love snow far more than I did.
Although these were fun times the snow did, however, prevent proper reccying and I got worried about not knowing the route. The month of May (2018) became my saviour as warm rain washed a lot of snow away and I managed three good, long trips, including a Ramsay Round support in which Wisp and I did 19 Munros (photo above shows just how good the weather was!). All this time I was assessing Wisp. I want her to be a big part of the double round but after doing The Mamores and The Grey Corries her feet were very sore so I have chosen three sections for her – two of which are soft and heathery. She is quite adept at Carn Mor Dearg Arete now and we will finish along that and down Ben Nevis together.
The hot weather does make me a bit nervous as I struggle a bit when running in the heat. That said, I might decide to run harder during the nights when it is cooler and slower during the day when it’s hot. That’s the same as I did when doing the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) two years ago and it worked well as I finished 12th woman (32hrs 32mins).
Since receiving a pair of G-SERIES MUDCLAW G 260 shoes with graphene grip I have done all my training and racing in them. I will set off in these shoes and I feel very confident in them. I will have other inov-8 shoes with a less aggressive outsole tread in my support bags in case I wish to change into them.