Eighty-one years and 10 days after a certain Keswick hotelier named Bob Graham set the standard for 24 hour Lakeland challenge runs, Sharon Macdonald wished her holiday cottage guests a good day then set off on her own epic adventure...
Sharon, a Settle Harrier and mainstay of the Castleberg Outdoors team, completed her Bob Graham Round – 72 miles and 42 peaks – in 23 hours 48 minutes, braving torrential rain, howling gales and pretty much everything a Lake District summer can throw at you.
Sharon will tell her own tale of her epic day, but I can comment on the last leg from Honister to Keswick when I had the delight and privilege of being one of her support runners.
The excitement had built after Sharon left Keswick as many of her team mates and friends settled down in front of our computers to “dot watch”. Something Bob Graham never had, Sharon carried a tracker device, kindly loaned by James Thurlow of Open Adventure, so we could follow her progress live on t’interweb.
She was doing OK at Thelkeld then stormed it through the night over the Dodds and Helvellyn to reach Dunmail Raise in the pre-dawn. By the time we left for Honister the tracker had nail-bitingly stopped – but Sharon hadn’t. Gathering at Honister we had an early warning as watchers spotted her approach, then we were off as she opted not to stop for soup and to crack on as the clock was ticking. Sharon was an hour down on her 23 hour schedule at this point, so we felt a little tense but nobody was in any doubt that she would do it.
Clad in Paramo Adventure Velez Lights, running tights, three-quarters and an array of Inov8 products (in sharp contrast to Bob Graham’s tennis shoes, shorts and pyjama jacket) our gang of 10 braved an improving weather situation and set off up Dalehead. We had a very strong northwesterly wind but at least it had stopped raining. Our group surrounded a tired and hurting but determined Sharon and we pressed on.
The trek up Dalehead was quiet. Gone was the banter and frivolity of the slate mine car park as we knuckled down to doing the job of getting Shazza round. Dalehead ticked off we headed for Hindscarth which proved a more gentle ascent before we turned for its steeper neighbour and final peak, Robinson. Sharon touched the stones and we all checked watches – and nervous glances – could she do it?
Safely down the steep rocky scramble and Sharon set the tone for the most painfree option in descending steep grassy banks – sliding on your backside. It worked. We went with gravity and in no time at all were on the flat. At Newlands Church Joe confirmed one hour and five miles to go. She could do it!
Sharon was focused and determined. Overcoming an agonising knee injury and pale with fatigue and exertion she somehow pushed on to run most of the final road section.
We were all close to tears as she blasted the last dash up Keswick market square to touch the Moot Hall steps with 12 minutes to spare. An amazing, courageous and inspirational achievement- well done Sharon!
(by Julia, Pictures courtesy of James Kirby)