There’s a place on the doorway of Keswick’s Moot Hall that has been hit, slapped, stroked and smacked 2000 times by men and women, who then either laughed, cried, swore or collapsed, or maybe all four. They are the best of the best, the Top Gun of endurance runners, they are the elite who have completed the Bob Graham Round.
The what? Who’s Bob Graham? And why’s he round? And what’s with the building slapping already? Let me tell you, if I’d set off from that same building 24 hours earlier and run up and down 42 of the Lake District’s fells non-stop, then I’d be so glad to see it again, I’d want that building’s children. Not that it’s anything I’ll be doing any time, soon, or indeed ever, but I know a man who did.
The Bob Graham Round isn’t a race, although it’s against the clock, it isn’t a competition, though people compete, and there are no prizes or medals, just a certificate and and membership of a very exclusive club.
It all started in 1932, when a hotelier by the name of Bob Graham got it into his head that he’d quite like to run around those 42 Lakeland peaks oh, and by the way, do it in 24 hours. He was a fit lad, even for a 42-year-old and he was no stranger to the slippery-slidey ways of the scree and rocks. His feat became a challenge and now each year 100 or so give it a go, 66 miles and 8,229m of ascent (that’s nearly the height of Everest from sea level).
Of course you can’t do it alone, for a start there have to be witnesses at the top of each peak and then there’s support crews to feed and and water, lay out a change of clothes, shoes and socks and apply anti-chafing cream to those rubbed bits. My friend Nathan had recruited a fantastic team of volunteers, who were happy to run with him throughout the night, keep him company, carry his stuff and witness the summits. His partner Bev had co-ordinated the support crew and made sure everyone was well fed, and that Nathan was sustained by the Food of the Gods, cold rice pudding and peaches.
The weather couldn’t have been better and everything went to plan, with Nathan slapping the Moot Hall less than 24 hours after he left it, then sliding to the ground in the same way as the Pope kisses the ground when he arrives in a new land after a journey. He was approached by a total stranger who shook his hand and offered his congratulations, while tourists clutching their Kendal Mint Cake and Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding looked on with a mixture of curiosity and mild annoyance at the commotion. There aren’t that many who know about the Bob Graham and even less who call it the BG, but it doesn’t matter to those who’ve done it. They know what they’ve done and that’s enough.
What an achievement! Inspired? Oh yes. Starting the training, then? Not unless there’s a plodfoot version, but then that wouldn’t be elite, would it? But I’d definitely be up for doling out the rice pudding and peaches!