Simon Halliday 1970-2020
by Jon Sharples, Pete Browning, Martin Brady. Edited by Colin Woolford
Simon Halliday brought his infectious enthusiasm to Clayton le Moors Harriers in January 2004. He was already an established and highly competent caver but was keen to improve his fitness and endurance. Referring to himself as “a fat caver often found at the bar”, he took to fell running like a duck to water and was always keen to seek out and conquer the next challenge. He transformed his fitness and completed some of the toughest, hardest races in the fell running calendar, including the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Langdale, Borrowdale, Wasdale, the Bens of Jura and Old County Tops with
relative ease. A willing group of Clayton runners joined Simon’s Lake District training regime which became focused on tackling the famous Bob Graham Round, BGR, (72 miles, 42 summits, 29,000 feet of climbing and descending in less than 24 hours). This was a challenge that Clayton le Moors Harriers has a long and proud tradition in.
On 12th May 2007 Simon supported by his team duly completed a summer round in weather and circumstances that were quite challenging on the day. Not content with that Simon announced that he was going to attempt another BGR in the cold and darkness of winter, hoping to be only the 10th person to do so. So on 22nd December 2007 (The shortest day of the year!) the team was mustered again and an epic run began. The weather was challenging from the outset with ice, snow, and mist making progress difficult. At halfway Simon was some way behind schedule and the consensus was
that a successful round could not be achieved. However, Simon thought otherwise. So over the next dozen hours the schedule was gradually clawed back and Simon sprinted to the finish at the Moot Hall in Keswick with 3 minutes to spare! Simon wrote proudly and passionately of his BG experiences with the “Clayton BG Machine”.
Afterwards Simon continued to be an active fell runner with Clayton for several years, always seeking out and completing new challenges such as the Three Peaks Yacht race and the Scottish Islands Race. Then gradually other challenges appeared on the horizon and Simon moved on to be a successful Triathlete, Ironman, long distance cyclist and finally a caver again. In his day job he was a Master Builder and worked in the family business. He always kept in touch with Clayton Harriers and as recently as November 2019 had a run with Barley Badgers, Clayton’s Tuesday training night
group of headtorch fell runners, of which he was a founder member.
Whatever Simon turned his attention to he did so 100% and he did it well. He leaves a wife Toni, a son Connor and a daughter Isabella. Our thoughts are with them.
Simon will be very fondly remembered and is very sadly missed.
Some memories of Simon Halliday
By Peter Browning
I think I must have met Simon Halliday for the first time at some point in the early 2000’s. He was sitting at the bar of the Pendle Inn, probably with current/former Clayton members Steve Bury, Simon Clarke, Mick Lee and Geoff Longname. Apart from popping outside for the occasional fag, Simon seemed to be attempting to drink the pub dry, or all the Stella Artois at any rate. As we would come to know, Simon never did anything by halves.
Simon used to love to go out on a long run. He didn’t really have great speed, but had immense stamina, and once things clicked into gear, he could go on and on. At the end of a long run, most people might have a Mars bar perhaps, or maybe a sandwich or cake even. Not Simon. At the end of a long run he would produce a paper bag full of spicy Samosas from his favourite Indian shop in Nelson and pass them round. Very tasty.
Once he got seriously into his running, Simon became increasingly competitive. I can remember a Tuesday night training run from Accrington when he and I started racing down the “Fairy Steps” on the far side of Hameldon Hill. The path there is very rough and uneven, and neither of us would give an inch to the other as we careered headlong down the track. It all ended in tears for me as my feet became entangled in some loose fence wire and I went flying. Simon was very gracious as he helped me back to my feet.
When he decided that he would have a go at the Bob Graham Round in 2007, Simon stepped up his training by doing regular runs in the Lake District, very often from Langdale. Simon would invite one and all to join him, but he liked an early start. Often this meant him spending the night in his old work van and setting out before dawn, before the sun came up. Needless to say, not being an early starter, I didn’t make any of these runs.
Simon had a luxury Winnebago camper van, and one year he took a group of us up to the Isle of Jura for the annual fell race. While most of us slept in the back of the van on the long journey there, Simon drove and drove through the night with scarcely a break, showing tremendous stamina and concentration.
On a night out with Simon, you did all you could to avoid getting in a round with him, as there was just no way you could keep up with him. He drank beer faster than anyone else I ever met. He would buy you a pint, and before you had got a quarter of the way through your drink, he would be sitting there with any empty glass and saying “come on, it’s your round”. In fairness, when Simon went tee total, he went completely tee total and never touched a drop.
Martin Brady on Simon..
I was stunned by the news of Simon Halliday’s death. I used to go on many long training runs in the Lakes with Simon when he was preparing for his two Bob Graham attempts. I was proud to be asked to navigate on the first and last legs of his Summer and Winter Bob Grahams. The most memorable was the final leg on his Winter Bob Graham which went over Blencathra, Great Calva and Skiddaw. This was in the middle of the night and very misty especially between Blenathra and Great Calva. When we started the final leg Simon was going through a bad patch and was behind schedule. He had lost an hour on Sca Fell looking for one of his helpers who had gone astray. I think he must have lost a lot of body temperature whilst looking for the helper. We also lost a lot of time on the ascent of Blencathra which was unusual for Simon. We crossed Mungrisdale in the dark and mist and Simon was even slower up Great Calva. He was pulling himself up the climb by grabbing the fence and talking to himself. We lost even more time when we reached the summit of Great Calva – it looked like we were going to miss the 24 hour dead line by quite a lot. No one talked about this but we just kept going and encouraging Simon. On the descent from Calva, Simon suddenly got a new lease of life and the final climb up Skiddaw was very quick – it was as though Simon had just started and not 23 hours in to a run. I was leading the way up Skiddaw and kept a few yards in front trying to pull him along. I was surprised when he was able to keep the pace going as we were going much quicker than before. This showed his amazing mental strength. We had 40 minutes to get to Keswick from the top of Skiddaw – this was scheduled to take an hour. We descended Skiddaw as if we were in a race. There were ice patches on the early descent but he threw caution to the wind and went for it. Simon started removing his extra layers of clothing as we descended and just throwing them in the air which the rest of us had to pick up and catch up. By the time we got to the carpark at the back of Latrigg I had a look at my watch – we had less than 20 minutes to get to Keswick. Some of the road support were at this car park and they all looked amazed at what was happening – was the impossible about to happen? No one spoke from here, we just pushed as hard as we could. When we entered the town square in Keswick there was a huge cheer from the people who had been waiting for him to finish. The impossible had happened. I do not know how he managed to recover himself like that but this remains one of the most memorable runs I have ever done. I was very proud to be part of the BG Machine which help Simon on his Winter Bob Graham. It was a truly remarkable experience thanks to a truly remarkable person – Simon we will all miss you!
The following two reports were written by Simon Halliday and appeared in the then (2007/2008) print versions of the Clayton newsletter.
They are reproduced here by way of a tribute to Simon who sadly passed away earlier this month. Simon was to turn 50 this year. His view on the world was… unique, as you will ascertain from these write ups of his Bob Graham Rounds, one summer (first) and then a winter round, both within the same year. Grab a brew (or a Guinness!), sit for a few moments and enjoy a good read.
A BOB GRAHAM ROUND, 12/05/2007, 72 MILES, 28000FT AND A BIT I
Sent in by Simon Halliday
To fully appreciate what went into this attempt at Bob Graham’s classic Lake land traverse we first need to wind the clock back a few years. Anyone who has trained with Clayton for longer than three or four years will no doubt remember a fat caver who was often, (daily?) to be found at the bar, or under it, in the Pendle Inn. My interest in running in those days was non-existent, in fact top of the list of pastimes then was Cave Diving and the consumption of a ridiculous amount of Guinness accompanied by an equally obscene number of cigarettes. An attempt of the Berger, (a deep French cave), required the aforementioned piss head to get a bit fitter and at this point the eminent fell runner Mick Lee enters our little tale.
I still remain unsure how, but he talked me into climbing Pendle Hill at night, we were after all used to the dark, and so a couple of evenings a week for the winter of 2003 saw myself and Mick plodding up the wall on the big end followed by the ever present Guinness. Little did we know that this was to be the start of the Barley Badger’s!
Somewhere along the way and a bet across said bar saw us starting to do a bit of jogging, (I don’t do running!), and a trip to Yorkshire for a bash at the Three Peaks, which were duly completed in 6:45. Not too bad for a fat lad smoking 40 a day.
The summer of that year we bottomed the Berger, and once back in England, Mr Lee kept dragging me up that bloody hill.
Things were getting out of hand when I actually entered a race, the Full Tour, and then in the new year I Joined Clayton and competed in the Three Peaks, I’m the one on the video getting through the Hill Inn check point about 3 seconds before they shut it, and yes I hadn’t done the required two AL category races, I’d only done one race period!
Around this time Mick gave me a small pamphlet written by another Clayton member titled Judith’s Run, an excellent read, I can recommend it, but it does have some side effects. I seem to remember reading it there and then and after a couple of gallons of Dutch courage, I announced in a somewhat slurred and possibly incomprehensible voice “I can do that!” to which Mick’s reply was “yes you probably can”, this was the beginning of an obsession which culminated in the following account.
The forecast isn’t that bad they said, it’s going to be clear by morning they said, at least it’s not raining they said, oh hang on; yes it is!. So why are we standing under cover at the Moot Hall, Keswick, in full body cover and waterproofs waiting to see If anyone’s going to show? Andy spoke to Pete that morning, “is he still doing it? I thought it was off’ was his reply! Pete shows with plenty of time closely followed by Dave dressed in enough gear to tackle a small alpine peak! Ah well too late to back out now, it’s only cold because we are standing around isn’t it? A few minutes to go and all the training will be put to the test, hours of meticulous planning in order to make sure everything runs smoothly will swing effortlessly into motion, shit! Where are the record cards, a quick dash back to the van and we really are ready this time.
With Martin and Richard taking charge of the first leg this intrepid bunch of five adventurers set off into the wild black yonder. Everything goes to plan till we get to the top of Robinson only to find these pens don’t like the wet. Doh! Hindscarth and Dale Head follow in quick succession and we are off to a good start. Some particularly interesting descent lines off and we end up on the road, only one slight problem, it appears someone has moved Honister Slate quarries, either that or we are on our way to Buttermere, ah well if there’s an easy way, there’s a hard way. A slog back up to the car park means we are going to be a bit behind schedule, but it could be worse at least it’s not raining, oh hang on, yes, it is.
Anyone familiar with the route knows the next leg is far from easy in daylight but with the clag down to the valley bottom making the lights next to useless? Looks like we are in for an interesting night. We duly depart having been refuelled by the ever-present Sandi, with Misters Browning and Sharples in charge of the compass, Andy Firth with the bag and Tim Edwards coming along because he wants a longer run, he’s also doing leg three, and I thought I was nuts! Leg two passed fairly uneventfully, a bit of fun on Kirk Fell and Pete’s shoe going into self-destruct mode, which meant he unfortunately had to drop out at Black Sail, but we were into Wasdale in one piece after some fantastic navigating. For the record the conditions could only be described as atrocious and to get us in without losing any more time deserves a mention, these lads did an amazing job with the map.
Luck was with us and no one had moved the car park this time, Sandi had the brews sorted and a quick refuel before the start of Leg Three.
A new team for the longest leg of the round, Dave Farnworth and Tim Edwards at the front, with Paul Toman and Paul Thomson supporting. A long steady climb of Scafell got us back into the clag, but at least it was light now. Nigel and Rupert had taken a rope for a wander round the highest peaks in the country, but we were to waste their time, in these conditions there was no way we were going to tackle Broad Stand. A descent of Foxes Tarn and we made our way round east buttress to shout back up, what looked like a very intimidating bit of rock. The leg continues over some of the roughest ground on the route and in rapidly worsening visibility we made our way to Bowfell travelling well.
What exactly happened here will remain a matter for conjecture, I would have bet my house that we would have got this descent right, but perhaps it is a measure of what the team was having to cope with that we somehow ended on the wrong side of the mountain descending the Band toward Langdale! It took a short while and the accosting of a couple a walkers to work out exactly where we were. This for me was the lowest point of the day, psychologically after the previous problems this really felt like I’d been kicked in the proverbials. It took some fantastic navigating to get us back on course, but after crossing the climber’s traverse, we made our way round to Rossett Gill where Mick, Simon and Geoff had valiantly waited whilst we went for our unscheduled jaunt. A very welcome mug of soup and we made the decision to carry on, we had to get to Dunmail regardless and anyway we had no money, so the ODG was out of the question. With the weather improving Dave and Tim demonstrated how it’s done on the way back to Dunmail, pulling time back all the way.
We arrived at the van and to my surprise the next team were preparing to leave. A cup of tea and I sat in Richard’s camper looking at the schedule and generally feeling sorry for myself. But with upwards of 15 people standing there to support you, not to mention the lads who had either gone or were due to arrive is was easier to carry on than stand up and tell everyone I had wasted their time, so I snatched a bottle of Lucozade and set off up Seat Sandal.
Navigating we had Andy Walmsley and Pete booth, Geoff Newsam had come up to carry and Bob Mitchell was recording times and talking. Now the sun was out and for the first time today shorts were on. The views across the Lakes really were breath-taking or was that the climbing.
Anyone who has done any ultra-distance events knows the feeling of going through a bad spell, but for me that was now past. This wasn’t going to be pretty and it certainly wasn’t going to be easy, this was now about hard work. Seeing Blencathra in the distance, constantly working out split times and knowing what time we had to leave Threlkeld was the order of the afternoon. And what a fantastic team I had with me, we didn’t put a foot wrong, neither travelling a yard further nor climbing a foot more that was necessary. Each top passed smoothly with Bob getting there in front, noting the time as the rest passed through, then having to work hard to catch up. On the approach to Sticks Pass, Jon Sharples was met who duly carried on but now keeping the team at Threlkeld informed of progress. As this section unfolded, we managed to claw back the time until we again met Sandi’s mobile kitchen, and
perhaps for the first time on the run were able to relax for few minutes knowing that we had probably done enough to get in in less than 24 hours.
Unbeknown to me a battle plan had been drawn for the last leg, this involved Paul Toman having to climb Skiddaw on his own to fix a light at the fence, and he had just had an epic on leg three! So once again we refuelled and set off mob handed to see what the three big climbs of the last leg could throw at us. Pete Browning (now reshod) and Martin Brady led the way up Halls Fell Ridge, with Steve Bury carrying the bag, who for some reason was wearing full waterproofs and doing a remarkable impression of the incredible melting man. Pete Booth and Jon Sharples both running straight through completed the team. Blencathra was duly beaten into submission in 8 mins under schedule.
Calva gave no problems, and we once again donned lights for the descent and crossing to Skiddaw. It was quite fitting that dark clouds started to gather and toward the end of a relaxed ascent to the last top it once again started to rain, and visibility was reduced to a few yards. An uneventful descent down the motorway to Latrigg, where we again met Sandi for the last time before the finish. As the gradient eased, we were now running fairly well and kept up a reasonable pace back into town, quickly donning club colours for a run up the main street before slapping the Moot Hall for the second time in a day.
The feeling of finishing to such support has to be experienced to be understood, the Clayton BG machine in all its glory, I think about half of Keswick was out to cheer us in. (did anyone get the numbers of those two girls?)
To single any individuals out for special thanks would be to risk missing someone else of equal deserve, you all played such a big role in making this attempt eventually successful. We had a lot of highs, one or two lows and by god did we have some weather! But if any one person should be mentioned (blamed?) it must be Mick Lee who kick started all this in the first place. I said I would, you said I could, we did.
Thank you all, it was a privilege to be a part of such an amazing team, this one we will remember for quite a while, right, next……….?
A BOB GRAHAM ROUND THE HARD WAY
Sent in by Simon Halliday
The morning of 22nd of December dawned crisp and bright. The first day of winter 2007. At least that’s the plan. At 4am standing on Keswick high street a hardy band of Clayton Harriers have gathered to see me off on what is be a truly epic day, dawn is still a very long way off.
Martin and I set off in road shoes for the first leg up Newland’s to almost immediately run into Andy Firth and Mark Nutter who have come to give support, not only to this attempt but also to the local constabulary who enquire as to Mark’s alcohol consumption, turning up at this time on a Saturday morning, I’m inclined to think they have a point. The road section follows at an easy sedate pace, running up the Newlands valley the moon is nearly full, the sky clear and with temperature considerably below freezing the scenes have an almost fairy-tale beauty, I comment to Martin on how privileged we are to be here.
At the car park a quick change into fell shoes and the round proper begins, taking what for me is a new line up Robinson we eventually reach the first of the forty-two summits in good time. Conditions are now beginning to give a hint of the approaching front, the breeze picking up and the odd cloud drifting across the moon but nothing to cause problems Hindscarth and Dale Head are quickly despatched care being required to avoid the occasional ice build ups but Honister is reached in good time and up on schedule and this time it’s in the right place. Andy and Mark are to follow their own route back to their car whilst I say goodbye to Martin for the time being and am joined by Paul Thomson and Andy Robinson for the next leg to Wasdale. Sandi and Kath are dealing with road support and after a quick refuel we are once again on our way. I later learn that they couldn’t get the van off the car park and had to cover the ice with bracken to get traction.
Andy Robinson has never been on a BG support before let alone a winter run, and Paul being drafted onto a leg he doesn’t know at the last minute the navigation is down to me. Conditions underfoot are immediately different to the last section; we are now entering the first of the rocky sections and ice is a lot more prevalent. At the start of the climb from Honister to Gray Knotts I warn Andy of the ice, but he is still over in short order. This is a section of the round I know well having done a lot of training in this area and the summits are soon bagged, the short cut to the top of Gray Knotts saves a few minutes, Brandreath quickly follows and although visibility is by now rapidly decreasing we make good time to the Gables, Green Gable and the summit of Great Gable are reached again with care and some careful Navigation sees us down to Beck Head with no problems. The schedule had been calculated for day light in this region, but progress has been relatively rapid and head torches are still very much needed. Paul and I discuss the benefits of different lines over the coming peaks and Andy listens in, seemingly we are talking Chinese, although never having been on this type of support he seems to be enjoying himself and his enthusiasm is infectious. The long plod up Kirk Fell and we locate the trod to avoid the first summit and soon reach the true top, I lead a less than perfect line down to Red Gully but no time is lost and by Black Sail we have dispensed with lights. Pillar as ever takes an age but with Andy asking “is this the top yet” about a dozen times at least we have something to talk about. The run over to steeple is duly accomplished and whilst I go out to the summit Paul sorts some food. We return, crossing the wall on frozen snow drifts and whilst explaining that we must be careful to avoid losing height and going too far right I demonstrate my intimate knowledge of the route by leading an almost perfect circle back toward steeple all the while eating a jam butty. Next time paying a little more attention we are over Red Pike and down to Dole Head with no further problems. Yewbarrow is always a slog but the summit eventually appears and the descent to Wasdale is once again accompanied by Andy’s dialogue.
We have made good time, catching the support crew unawares. A quick bite and again a change in company. Over this the longest and toughest section of the round I am to be supported by Tim, Mark and Richard. Mark who lives in Wasdale has been up Scafell a few days previously to check out the west wall traverse and the decision is made to leave axes and crampons in the van. Richard leaves slightly ahead of the rest of us to have a look at the head of Deep Gully our thinking being that if the top is acceptable then rest of the descent should be easy!
On this the longest single climb of the run I realise that Christmas pudding and custard is really not good running food and I fail to find my climbing legs. As the approaching weather front hits with a vengeance Scafell is not a pleasant place to be. Half way up this most dreary of fells I recognise that I am beginning to dehydrate, hard to imagine after about four bottles of Lucozade but once I start to take on water I begin to feel more like a runner and less like a part of the fell. Richard has now pulled ahead and in the worsening conditions we break that cardinal rule and split up. This in itself shouldn’t have caused to many problems but when the strengthening wind (we are later told these winds were of the magnitude of 60 mph) brings rain and sleet my lack of waterproofs becomes very apparent.
With temperatures way below freezing, as soon as the water hits the ground it freezes and the top of the fell becomes a huge ice ring, the rocks to the summit cone are seriously verglassed and what would normally take only a few moments becomes a delicate climb in order to avoid injury.
We regroup and Tim leads us over to Deep Gully to meet Richard. Problem, no Richard and no tracks in the snow, conclusion Richard has not got to the head of the gully. I am now stood on the roof of England in running tights a Helly and a thin Pertex, in a storm, on the shortest day of the year and not thinking happy thoughts. A quick search of the summit plateau reveals nothing, though thankfully the lack of traffic at least tells us were he isn’t. Whistles are duly blown, vocal cords exercised but to no avail and we start to consider mountain rescue. It hard to imagine what they would have thought: And what were you doing up there Mr Halliday? And why was your friend on his own Mr Halliday? We come up with a plan to search down Lord’s Rake and back up Foxes Tam and if that’s not successful we will descend to Wasdale and call the Rescue. As we begin to make our way toward the Rake Mark thinks he hears a voice but in these winds it could have come from anywhere. More frantic shouting and we at last locate Richard, He has slipped and given his head a knock probably losing consciousness for a short time, and in visibility of a few yards it has taken us time to regroup, we are now seriously behind schedule and I know that I for one am in the early stages of hypothermia we don pretty much all our gear in an attempt to warm up and now regret our earlier e decision to leave axes etc in the van. Deep gully is completely banked out with snow and without the afore mentioned gear there is no way we can descend here. Knowing that the support team has left Wasdale I reason that we may as well carry on at least as far as Rossett for our next bail out point. I keep these thoughts to myself. We descend to toward Lord’s Rake and in the clag miss the entrance, the weather isn’t helping with the pressure dropping that rapidly that Altimeters are telling lies and we end up too low. Oh well if there’s an easy way there’s a hard way, this is beginning to feel like deja vu what has this leg got against me? We duly climb back up, my stomach feels sorry for the local birds and depositing semi digested chocolate in the process.
Scafell Pike is reached without drama and on the way to broad crag I notice Montrail tracks in the snow and am reminded that Tony has talked about coming out to show support. As wise a head as that wouldn’t be out in this! On our approach to the Crag who should come out of the murk but Clayton’s very own GPS, Mr Peacock complete with a flask of hot Vimto, Tony – there is a little place in Heaven reserved for you. This turns out to one of those anomalies that occur on the fell, Tony had previously set off back from the Pike due to the bad weather but as one does on occasion decided to turn back just in case!
Ill Crag and Great End although icy offer no real problems and at Esk Hause Tony takes the short cut to Rosset to meet the support team, while Mark turns for the long run back to Wasdale, I should mention at this point that Marks humour throughout this episode prevented someone who was very low sinking that little bit further, thank you it was a pleasure to meet you. As we climb Esk Pike I try to eat a very posh cheese sandwich but my stomach is having none of it and I am really beginning to struggle on the climbs, Bowfell duly falls and because of our previous excitement we decide to give three tams a miss. A somewhat dicey descent through the crags drops us to Rossett where Geoff has valiantly waited, now kept company by Tony.
A special mention to Geoff who huddled at the top of a very icy ghyll for a long wait to watch us run down, quickly gulp the soup, sorry I couldn’t eat the sandwich’s, and promptly run off again. It transpires that Peter couldn’t climb the ghyll due to the amount of ice and that Mountain Rescue were lower down advising against climbing higher without crampons, if they only knew?
Rosset Pike, Pike O’Stickle and Harrison all follow and as we descend lights are once again turned on. The remaining peaks are knocked off in an sombre mood, each of us in our own world extending as far as our lights, I know I am weakening rapidly but still I cannot eat, only forcing down the odd jelly baby, the frequent shouts of “ICE” usually followed by some profanity as one or the other of us falls, breaks the monotony but I am finding it increasingly hard to run, the slightest gradient reducing me to a walk. Steel Fell is eventually reached and looking at my watch I am reminded of a previous run in more clement weather, but this time the mountains have teeth and I have nothing to fight them with. We Jog to the vans at Dunmail and I know we are almost certainly terminally behind schedule. I have been supported over the toughest leg of this route in atrocious conditions by some of the finest fell men it is my pleasure to know, lads take a bow.
At the roadside the team has changed once again, Sandi having flown south to warmer climes and has been replaced by Kaz Riley, Kath is still bravely producing food but I am to waste her efforts. I manage a cup of coffee before the slog continues, for this leg joined by Jon, Andrew and Paul. Seat Sandal feels to have grown and In my weakened state I again fail to climb well, this leads to more of the same as we ascend Fairfield, I slowly eat two dates only to throw up again and my frustration grows at this pitiful performance. Conditions at least have begun to improve, and a nocturnal mist pocket viewed from above treats us to a fine light show above Grasmere. On Dollywagon Jon produces a flask of warm milk with sugar, I feel childlike as he first tests It’s temperature and like a wayward infant I continue my crawl to awkward to reach places. On this leg Dollywagon Is a milestone and after gaining its summit psychologically I feel better, my physical performance however doesn’t improve. We soldier on and the tops fall until we reach Sticks Pass where two orange glow worms have braved the elements to bring us a picnic. Mick and Simon have arrived from St John’s in the Vale with more warm supplies. Mick having slipped on the ice during the climb has tom a groin muscle but still
made the top. I believe he had some choice names for yours truly on the descent, well without Mick’s Input we wouldn’t be here in the first place! After some soup, I couldn’t face anything solid, we again move on, I initially feel better but am soon once again reduced to a slow slog. Jon and Andy both know this leg well and the navigation proves no problem, Paul as always uncomplaining despite the lateness of the hour or the slow rate of progress offering support and like the proverbial tortoise we make our way to Threlkeld. As we approach Clough Head Jon raises the question that has probably been at the front of all our minds. Do we carry on?
I know I’m weak on the climbs and for the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with
the BG that pretty much Is all there is on the last leg. As we slowly Jog on I experience a lot of contradictory emotions, the thought of a warm van and a cup sweet tea Is high on my to do list alongside taking another breath and a hell of a long way in front of a climb up Blencathra. But Mrs Halliday hasn’t bred any quitters that I am aware of and those of you who know me well may actually say I can demonstrate a stubborn streak, others would call it bone headed but I make the decision to carry on and give It my best shot. I tell Jon I am going to have a go but there Is a good chance I won’t finish in the allotted time. He ring’s down to the van and a short while later we arrive at the
I manage to eat a bowl of custard and now Martin re-joins us to navigate over the final leg. Tim after our epic on leg three Is once again to run support as is Jon going straight through off leg four. I say a quick thank you to Paul and Andy and set off with 4:1O still on the clock.
The climb up Hall’s Fell Ridge is quite literally a crawl, Martin and Tim lead the way Jon staying behind, I think to catch me in the event that I actually fall off, this being a distinct possibility. We eventually reach the top 10 minutes slower than the standard summer schedule allows and I think the slowest I’ve ever climbed what is usually one of my favourite routes. In thick cloud Martin does a fine job of picking up the trods across Mungrisdale and we soon reach the cairn. I am struggling to keep them in sight and know that Martin is trying to drag me across the bleakest of moors and with Jon at my side offering words of encouragement I try to raise my game. At the river Caldew I don’t even slow down, the Icy water above our knees but I don’t seem to feel it, we reach the fence up Great Calva and this time it is Martin’s tum to keep me company, like a drunk I haul myself hand over hand to the top all the while talking to myself trying to dig for reserves that seem to be deserting me. The emotion is hard to describe, it is me against the hill, but my body is letting me down. This Is not somewhere I have been before, I have always found that extra bit when I’ve needed it the most but tonight the tank emptied hours previously and now we are without even vapours, the hill is definitely winning this battle and the war is almost over. Coming off Calva, for the first time in a while I find myself leading the way. On the trods through the heather I pick my feet up a little and at Hare Crag I manage a gel pack, the dark mass of Sklddaw beckons, I put my head down and decide to see If we can’t fight one last time. Agonising slowly the fence approaches but we are not quite beat, and I grit my teeth, dig deeper than I’ve ever been before, and tell myself its only one more climb. I can’t tell you who said what on the way to the summit. I know people were talking to me, all I could think of was put one foot in front of the other. As the summit trig approaches the wind makes talking hard but for the first time in many hours this run Is back on.
We set off with the lights of Keswick below, running across the snow fields at almost reckless speed. The lads in support setting up a relay to open the gates, they are having to work extra hard to catch back up. As we begin to lose altitude and with the increased pace things are hotting up. From full winter gear on the top I start to discard layers, now not only do they have to keep up but they have to sort my gear at the same time. As we hit the main tourist
path and the gradient increases it time to take the brain out, (some may say it wasn’t in in the first place) and now we begin to motor, I have a monolog repeating in my mind that sounds like something from a rocky film but the miles are decreasing. By Latrigg I am down to just a Helly and the sweat is running off but we still have a lot ground to cover before this is over. At the rise over the bridge Tim has stopped to offer some friendly words of encouragement and still we roll on, into the park and we would normally stop to put on club colours but there is no time tonight, Andy is waiting at the foot bridge we are nearly there, Paul is at the ginnel and I know we have beaten the odds and it’s in the bag but still we don’t slow, up the high street and to the Moot hall where I slap the door 23 hours 56 minutes and 56 seconds after leaving it, the fight is over.
This has been a very humbling journey for me, a journey on which I have learnt a lot. Selwyn Wright wrote that he owes Bob Graham an awful lot, I know what he means. To complete the BG in summer takes guts and determination. To do it in winter takes it to another level.
When I first started distance running and my interest in the BG grew I was told that a successful completion is 50% fitness and 50% psychological with a little bit of luck thrown in. Well In my experience you make your own luck and mine was in the gathering of a team such as this. Without the hard work and determination of everyone concerned this wouldn’t have happened. Particular mention must go to the support off the fell, to Chris Turner who sat by the phone so that we could coordinate the logistics, to Kath, Sandi and Kaz who looked after me throughout. Peter, Geoff, Mick and Simon for carrying gear up the pass’s, my heartfelt thanks go out to you all.
When we set out on this little escapade Jon said that he enjoyed an exciting run, I hope we didn’t disappoint, right next……………
Original copies scanned and emailed by Jon Sharples. Photos sadly omitted due to poor quality post scanning. Text edited together by Colin Woolford.