Jim Mann ticks big three British fell running rounds in one winter month

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 03/03/2017
Jim on the Ramsay Round. Photo: Shane Ohly
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Can you accidentally tick off all three classic British fell running rounds, in one winter, and in one month? Apparently so, if you're Jim Mann! Sarah Stirling investigates how this accident happened!

On 22 January, Jim set a new record for the winter Ramsay Round: 24 Lochaber peaks in 22 hours and 33 minutes (a new record).

On 11 February he ran 47 Welsh summits in 21:37.

And on 21 February, he completed the Bob Graham in 20:26 (his own record time of 18:18, set in 2013, still stands).

Not sure how impressive that is? Well let's get the numbers on these extreme fell running challenges:

The big three British fell running challenges

Ramsay Round, Scotland

60-mile round of 24 peaks including Ben Nevis, the Aonachs and the whole Mamores ridge. First completed in just under 24 hours by Charlie Ramsay in 1978. 

Paddy Buckley Round, Wales

A 62-mile circuit of 47 summits including the Snowdon range, Carneddau and Glyderau. Dreamt up by Paddy Buckley and first achieved in under 24 hours by Martin Stone in 1985. 

Bob Graham Round, Lake District

42 Lakeland peaks including the four 3,000ers. Bob Graham was the first to run it in under 24 hours back in 1932 (wearing tennis shoes and with bread and butter sarnies in his pocket). His record stood for 28 years.

Note: traditionally a 'winter' round is one that is completed between 1 December and 1 March, whatever the conditions underfoot.

JM: Running the three rounds within a month wasn't planned at all. First of all, I did a winter Ramsay Round by mistake. I was looking for something to do at the weekend, and dropped Konrad Rawlik and Jasmin Paris an email to see if they fancied a day out on the Paddy Buckley Round. The reply was: we'd love to but we have a race in Scotland on Saturday so Wales is a bit too far.

I'd never considered a winter Ramsay round but looked up the Scottish weather forecast and there was a band of high pressure there. An idea was forming. A few emails later and things were out of control, several top runners were up for it and there was no going back. I was going to attempt a winter Ramsay on the eve of my 40th birthday. Trepidation rapidly changed to excitement and before I knew it we were off.

I was delighted to complete a winter Ramsay Round and am very pleased that it's a new fastest winter time. It was my best ever birthday party and I can't think of a better way to see out my 30s than in big hills with great friends. It was a very special day. 

The Paddy Buckley was then planned as I decided to try to hold the fastest winter times for the three rounds all at once. [Jim already held the winter Bob Graham round record]. Then I got a touch of ambition creep. Completing all three rounds in one winter had never been done before. I saw that there was going to be a slight drop in the upland gales on the Bob Graham route for a few hours, and made a last minute decision to run it.

The weather on the Bob Graham round was pretty terrible. The wind only dropped for about eight hours and I wanted that on the Scafell ridge through to Great Gable so we set off in high winds (one of my supporters was blown over on Skiddaw) and then had to finish in gale force wind and rain but I had to take what was available to complete the three before the end of winter.

WATCH: Nicky Spinks run the Bob Graham Round on BMC TV

I know all three rounds pretty well from supporting other people and running in those areas. It was the fourth time I have run a Bob Graham round, so I know that one really well now.

They were all fun rounds, but the Ramsay was my favourite  it's really wild and really remote. You never cross a road and it's in really big hills. I love everything about the Highlands.
 
It was a good winter for tackling the Ramsay as there hasn't been much snow up there but we got enough to make it exciting. The Ramsay was pretty kind to me, weather-wise. There wasn't too much wind and we only needed crampons a couple of times, which is pretty good for up there. The Paddy was tough with strong wind and snow for a lot of the round and the BG was just very windy and wet near the end. 

It's great fun when you are out with your friends in the hills, and chasing times makes it even more exciting. Both as the chaser or as a supporter for someone else chasing a time or achievement. I have hikers suggest that we miss a lot by running but my view is that we cover far more ground and therefore get to see a lot more.

Running a round 'supported' means that you have people taking it in turns to run with and help you in shifts. They carry gear for you, feed you, make sure you are going the right way and try and keep you moving at the right pace, allowing you to focus on running. An unsupported round would be you carrying everything you needed with you.

Running any of the three big classic British fell running rounds is a pretty big undertaking. They are long, on rough ground and with about the same height gain as climbing Everest from sea level, so they are tough physically, mentally and emotionally.
 
In the US they have an equivalent to the British 'running a round' in their FKT system. People run trails and record the times. Records are kept for routes in Europe, too. I think it's pretty much a global thing, just under different names.

I can't remember my first running experience but can very clearly remember my first fell running experience. I ran cross country at school and was looking for a race one Easter when I came across Pendle fell race. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for but it was amazing – the long steep climbs without paths and then the thrill of running as fast as possible down rough ground. I was an immediate convert.

WATCH: Cape Wrath Ultra on BMC TV

I often find flow when running, both training and competing. It's the time when I am really free and relaxed. Some of my favourite runs are in big storms when nature really throws you about and you come back totally exhausted reminded of who is the real boss out there. I am not sure if that can be classed as flow but the end result is much the same.

I often solve work problems in my head whilst running although more often than not an answer just comes to me rather than thinking through a problem to find a solution. Sometimes I think about an upcoming race or event and sometimes I finish a run completely unaware of having thought about anything. On other runs I am just taking in what's going on around me – the birds, the views, the hills and the fresh air.

I have my own business and work really long hours so I am often training at night on the moors with a headtorch. Or I will pop to the gym for an hour and do a session on the treadmill with it set to maximum incline. It's not easy to fit it in but I always manage.

I train every day. In terms of training tips  just make it work for you and find a way. If you live in a flat place but love the hills use a treadmill to do your climbing sessions. If you are time-poor multi-task – I do heel raises while brushing my teeth, for example. Most important of all, find training sessions that you enjoy.

The Dragon's Back is an amazing race and I love that it is a journey rather than a loop [Jim won it in 2015]. The hills are amazing, it's great running and because everyone is sharing an amazing experience it builds a camaraderie that I have never experienced on any other race. If it's not on your bucket list it should be.

There are so many great places for fell running in the UK. I love the Lakes and North Wales but probably for me it would be the Highlands just because of the wilderness feel and sheer scale up there.

My next goal is to try and recover enough for the High Peak Marathon on Friday night. I can't really look beyond that yet and suspect its going to really hurt.

ALSO READ: Jasmin Paris: smashing all the classic British records


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