Nicky Spinks becomes the first person to run a double Ramsay Round

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 16/07/2018
On Saturday climbing Stob A Choire Mheadoin. Photos: Inov8.com
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“After that I relaxed and enjoyed the last 10 hours even though my feet were full of blisters.” At 7.56am on Monday 2 July, Nicky Spinks became the first person to tick off a double Ramsey Round. That's right, she ran the classic British fell running challenge, which takes in 58 miles and 24 peaks including Ben Nevis, twice. It took her 55:56:38. Sarah Stirling interviews.

There are three great British fell running challenges – the Ramsay Round (Scotland), the Bob Graham (Lake District), and the Paddy Buckley (Wales). Most runners who attempt these challenges aim to get round in less than 24 hours, but for elite runners the challenge is to break the record.
 
Nicky has previously held the women's records for all three of these challenges and was the the first person to run all the big British fell running rounds in a total time of under 20 hours. In 2016, Jasmin Paris broke all those women's records (read more here).
 
That same year, Nicky became the fastest person to run a double Bob Graham Round (a challenge only three other runners have ever achieved). She has now become the first person to run a double Ramsay Round. So is a Paddy Buckley Double next on her list?
 
A cancer survivor, the 51-year-old has raised £15,000 for the charity Odyssey so far with this run. Donate here.
 
Nicky Spinks: I ran as a child around the family farm in Glossop and to and from friends farms. I was always useful to have at Sports Day, but always seemed to come third in any discipline be it sprinting, 800m, long jump, high jump or throwing. 

When I left home at 17 I started working in an office. I put weight on so started running round a local park. I did that until I met my husband – a farmer. Then I didn't need to run! In 2001 I took up running again and entered my first fell race – Trunce.

Once off-road I never wanted to run on roads again. I discovered I had an aptitude for longer fell races in 2005 when I did the Marsden to Edale fell race. The 20 miles took me 4.30 hours. I just found that I got happier and stronger as time went on and felt I could keep going forever.

In 2006 I got breast cancer and had a mastectomy followed by reconstruction treatment. After three weeks I got the test results and didn't need chemotherapy or radiotherapy so just had the operation and the reconstruction to deal with, which lasted a year. 

Cancer changed my life. It made me realise that if there is something you want to do you should attempt it sooner rather than later. When I'm running and it gets tough I just think, “This isn't anywhere near as bad as having cancer!” and remember that it's my decision to do the challenges and so it's up to me to make them work.

The year before a big challenge, I make myself a training plan. It has all the races and training I plan to do, as well as a Plyometrics plan. I try and stick to the races but am fairly flexible with the other aspects of the plan to fit in with farm work and weather.

I will recce a Round at least twice before attempting a record run, but I'll spend more time on aspects that are tricky. With the Ramsay Round this was hard because I live in Yorkshire and it's a seven hour drive to the Highlands, and also there was a lot of snow over the winter.

The fell running community is very friendly. Charlie Ramsay and Joss Naylor are friends of mine and it was a great honour that they wanted to be present at my double Ramsay Round. My support team helped me a great deal. The Ramsay is far more remote than the Bob Graham and there were only two points where we could get a vehicle in. At two points the support had to walk in for three hours to get to me!

Overnight on the challenge, I carried a little rucksack with my head torch battery in it plus some gloves, hat, food and so on. The rest of the time I didn't carry anything. My support carried everything I needed.

The night sections were the best bit of the double Ramsay Round, because they were cooler. I enjoyed the Saturday night even though at one point I felt a bit low but I soon got over that. We got some fabulous views at sunrise and sunset and a couple of cloud inversions.

I hate the heat and I deliberated for hours whether to postpone the round because of it. However I have practiced running in the heat, and decided that because the forecast on Sunday was for cooler, cloudy weather that I would chance it. The forecast was wrong and we didn't get one cloud and it was just as hot as Saturday! I coped with it by staying hydrated and just getting on with it.

The hardest bit was on Sunday, after climbing Ben Nevis and losing 30 minutes on my schedule. I descended into the Grey Corries to find the support weren't there. After that I knew I wasn't going to make up enough time to complete the challenge in under 48 hours so relaxed and enjoyed the last ten hours even though my feet were full of blisters.

Charlie's instructions for one round say that 'you have to complete the tops, in order that they are listed, in the direction of travel' thereby not turning round halfway and going back to the start, then setting off again to the same halfway point! Although I did exactly the same number of miles, climbs and tops, Charlie listed my run as a Double Ramsay Round with variation because I didn't travel in the same direction for one round then another round. I accept that – it's his round and he can make the rules up!

When I finished I wanted a double full breakfast and my good friend Charmian Heaton cooked it for me – even though she's vegetarian! It tasted delicious. I shared a bottle of fizz with Charmian to celebrate, and plan to go for a run and a curry with my support team.

I did think I would spend a couple of years looking at the Paddy Buckley anti-clockwise before deciding whether to do it. No-one has ever attempted an anti-clockwise Paddy Buckley as far as I know and so it's a whole new ball game really. At least the travel time is only a couple of hours and Wales gets less snow than Scotland so that will make life easier!

Nicky compares the three big British fell running challenge rounds

All the rounds are about the same length and have the same height gain.

The Bob Graham has 42 tops and is the most popular round. It's easily accessible and a lot of people know the route and the logistics. The terrain is a mixture of rocks and heather grass and nowadays about 90% of it is on a path of some kind.

The Paddy Buckley has 47 tops but some of these are quite small. It is lesser-known although there are more and more paths appearing. It is far harder navigationally than the other two rounds because if you stray off the hardly-distinguishable paths you usually end up in horrid boulders with heather or on some nasty slippery rocks. Paddy Buckley has always been very relaxed about the start/finish location, meaning you can start wherever you like, which adds a different dimension to it. I love the Paddy Buckley because of the quarries and the history you run through and also the diversity of the route. You can spend hours on the route and not see anyone until you reach Snowdon.

The Ramsay Round has 24 tops (23 Munros and one mountain that was demoted from being a Munro). It really consists of three long legs rather than five shorter legs (which the other two have). Both the Mamores and the Grey Corries are rocky, technical ridges while Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg are huge mountains covered in rocks. Then there are five Munros that are covered in heather and total devoid of paths. It is rare to see many walkers at all except on Ben Nevis and this makes you feel like you're very remote and special in even being there. The panorama on a good day is just mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. As a challenge both the contender and the supporters have to be very fit and used to being in big mountains for full days. 


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