For the past 36 years, runner Billy Bland has held the record for the fastest known time (FKT) on the Bob Graham Round with a time of 13 hours and 53 minutes. On Sunday, Salomon runner Kilian Jornet broke that record by an hour, completing it in 12 hours and 52 minutes. The route, which has 26,903 feet of overall ascent, covers 42 peaks across 66 miles in the Lake District of England.
“It has been hard, but very exciting. I had the Bob Graham Round in mind for a while and finally I could give it a try and realize how amazing was the time that Billy did 30 years ago” said Jornet in a release. “It has been a beautiful day out in the mountains together with all those runners that came and paced me. Also, I would like to thank Billy who came to cheer me, and also to everyone in Keswick. You can really feel here the love for fell running, and I couldn’t be happier to complete this round!”
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When the Bob Graham Round was first established in 1932, its namesake ran across the 66 miles in less than 24 hours and eventually began the Bob Graham Round Club. The members-only group is comprised of runners who have matched the founder’s achievement. It wasn’t until 28 years later, that Alan Heaton ran it in 22 hours and 18 minutes, setting the new record. As of 2017, the Round has been completed by over 2,000 individuals with runner Jasmine Paris having the FKT for women, finishing it in 15 hours and 24 minutes.
But before even attempting the FKT, all runners have to comply with certain rules in order for their efforts to be valid. First, they must inform club members that they intend to run the course, then they must agree to be accompanied on each of the 42 fells by someone who can verify that that they were there. Typically, this person is a club member who will volunteer to assist with logistics.
As Jornet took off at 6 a.m. on Sunday from a small town in the heart of the Lake District National Park, he was accompanied by a team of 10 pacers. At the second leg to Dunmail Raise, Bland himself was there to cheer Jornet on. Coming into the third leg, which is notably the course’s most difficult section, Jornet reached the halfway point roughly 30 minutes ahead of Bland’s time. Back in Keswick for the last leg, the Catalonian runner had three more summits to climb before the final descent into town.
At the finish, Bland was waiting with Champagne and a large crowd was gathered to celebrate his accomplishment. “Thanks Billy, I had better conditions than you, the best pacers and your inspiration to give everything! And even like that, it was sooo, sooo hard!!!” shared Jornet in an Instagram post. “Thanks to Carl, Chris, Martin, Josh, Jebby, Steve, Paul, Andrew, Neil, Paul and all the guys who has been helping out, without you guys it wouldn’t been possible! Big, big thanks to Martin for making it real and such an organization last minute, thanks Shane. Thanks Jordi and thanks all the people cheering on the route. This Bob Graham Round was an amazing experience!”