Talk February 5, 2010: 'Lake District 24 Hour Challenge Run - Fit or Foolhardy?'


Reporter: Ian Harford

"Anyone reasonably fit can do it - the real question is 'will you walk or run it?'" Nodding our heads as though in assent to the obviousness of this point from our speaker Raj Mahapatra, secretly we were all drawing our own conclusions to the question posed in the title of the February talk last week at the George Carnell Centre.

Raj had by this time given us the bare bones of the project that he had set himself for June 26th 2010 - when there is plenty of daylight. The Bob Graham Round or "Challenge", first completed in June 1932, covers 66 miles of the northern and central Lake District high fells and involves climbing 42 peaks and ascending (and descending) 26,000 feet - all within 24 hours. No wonder it is known as Britain's Everest, the most exacting test of physical and mental stamina available to athletes and mountaineers in the British Isles. Over the years more than a thousand people have achieved this feat, all setting off and returning to Keswick’s Moot Hall.

The format for the event was a very effective three way dialogue with Raj and his trainer Chris Clarke building up a picture of the nature of the project and the training schedule needed to achieve a successful result and the audience contributing questions, comments and their own experiences as the evening unfolded.

Attitude is of course all important. You've got to want to do it; and be sure that you can do it, which is where training comes in. Raj recalled how he had decided last summer while in Wyoming to run up a 3,500 feet peak in Jackson Hole and by the time he returned was determined to take on the Bob Graham Challenge.

Chris talked about the need to develop core strength and showed how by having new targets set for him each month, Raj was able to extend his level of fitness and capacity. By doing repetitive squat thrusts with a weight on his back for instance Raj was able to simulate the effect of gravity - and as a result was already finding he could move uphill considerably faster. Other key areas for discussion were clothing and strategies for food and liquid intake during the Challenge because a runner has after 12 hours used up all his or her body's existing resources.

Raj described how with 18 weeks to go he was doing runs of over 20 miles and as the weather improves he would be reconnoitring each of the five sections of the route. He would be accompanied by at least three people as he ran the different sections and was aiming to complete the circuit in 18 hours, with 5 short stops at each point where the route intersects with the road. More details about the Challenge, the route and the fells covered can be found at http://www.bobwightman.co.uk/run/bob_graham.php

Ian Harford thanked Raj and Chris for a fascinating and inspiring evening and said that SCoM members had learnt a lot and would be watching with great interest. Raj promised to let SCoM know the charities he would be running for so as to give people the chance of sponsoring him if they wished.