Traversing the 268-mile Pennine Way in a fraction over three days is no mean feat, but Sabrina Verjee says her fastest known-time for the route this month was “really easy” compared to her Wainwrights round from the summer.
The Langdale-based runner took just 74 hours 28 minutes and 46 seconds to get from Kirk Yetholm in Scotland to Edale in the Peak District.
She was nearly seven hours quicker than her time with which she won the Montane Spine Fusion race over the same course in reverse last year.
However, it was not without considerable difficulty, of course. The lowest point for the Lake District vet was being buffeted by winds of up to 70mph across the Pennines. However, a few inspirational words from Mike Hartley, a former holder of the men’s FKT, helped ensure she did not give up.
“It was supposed to just be on Cross Fell that the winds were strong so I was prepared for that,” she says, before adding that the storm went on longer than she expected. “Having dealt with that section and gone into the Middleton to Tan Hill section, oh my word. I wasn’t really expecting such a strong headwind, it was getting really frustrating. “
Just when she was considering dropping out, Verjee was “honoured” to see Hartley out in support. She says: “He was there at Tan Hill and I said, ‘I’m so fed up I could really throw the towel in,’ and he said, ‘You say that but you’re not going to, are you?’ and I was like, ‘No, you’re right.’ “
Verjee’s effort followed FKTs on the same route this summer for John Kelly, who beat Hartley’s time, and then Damian Hall, who ran 61 hours 35 minutes. Both runners this year had gone in opposite directions. Verjee opted to mimic Hall and head south.
“North to south, the benefits are that the really wild, longer sections where you can’t see your support, the Cheviots and even the next section to Byrness and even on Hadrian’s Wall, they’re longer sections and they’re better to be done when they’re fresh.
“When you’re in the Peaks, which is the last section, there’s road junctions every hour or two so no one [among the support crew] has to carry large amounts of water or food or anything.”
She had only around 45 minutes’ sleep en route, which she says was not nearly enough. She made an unscheduled stop early on when she wasn’t tired to escape the winds, so then had to omit a sleep later on. “On the last night, I was really sleep deprived and falling asleep on my feet,” she said.
It completed an impressive summer for Verjee, who in July circuited the 214 “Wainwright” peaks which includes the highest spots in the Lakes such as Scafell Pike, Sca Fell and Helvellyn. She was the first woman to cover it non-stop and the third fastest overall.