Kilian - 'I've realised how amazing Billy's time was'

Catalan legend pays tribute to the previous record following his epic Bob Graham Round yesterday - see below for picture gallery

Pic credit: Mick Kenyon/Racing Snakes

Pic credit: Mick Kenyon/Racing Snakes

As the fell running world tries to come back down to earth following Kilian Jornet's breaking of the 36-year-old Bob Graham Round record last night, the Salomon athlete admits the run gave him the ultimate respect for Billy Brand's achievement.

Jornet undertook the legendary route across the English fells that covers approximately 106km and 8200m of overall ascent and which has an inspiring history and tradition. He completed the course in 12 hours 52 minutes, eclipsing Bland's 1982 time by an incredible 61 minutes.

You can check out his historic Strava log here, giving details of his speed throughout.

The round was established in 1932 when the runner Bob Graham ran the 42 fells in less than 24 hours. The challenge became a part of the local culture with the founding of the Bob Graham Round Club, whose membership is made up of those who have matched the founder’s achievement. It wasn’t until 1960 that it was broken. In 1982, Billy Bland, a local runner, completed the course in 13h53, a record that has stood firm for the past 36 years. Over the years the Bob Graham Round has become one of England’s most popular challenges, but only around 2000 - one in three of those attempting it - have done so in under 24 hours.

However, although it’s a sporting challenge, what makes the Bob Graham Round attractive are the values that it is founded on: companionship, respect for the mountains and tradition. To take part in the Bob Graham Round you have to comply with certain rules. Firstly, you have to inform club members that you intend to do the course. Then the runner has to be accompanied by someone on each of the 42 fells who can verify that they were there. Another tradition is that club members will help runners by joining them on one of the five legs that the course is divided up into.

Martin Stone, an enthusiastic club member, also helps with logistics and it was he who helped Billy Bland when he set the record.

At 6am yesterday morning Kilian Jornet set off from Keswick, a small town of 5000 population in the heart of the Lake District National Park, with his attempt having been kept a closely guarded secret. He was accompanied by a team of 10 pacemakers, who also helped him comply with the club’s rules.

As news circulated on social media, fell enthusiasts from near and far turned up to encourage him along the way, among them Bland himself, who said he was inspired by Kilian’s achievement.  

The third leg of the course is the most difficult, with rocky ground and steep ascents and descents. The remainder includes peaks that are not very high but with lots of loose rock which tests the runners’ stamina.  

On the first leg he reached Threlkeld six minutes ahead of record pace. From there he started the second leg to Dunmail Raise, where Billy Bland was waiting to cheer on him. The third leg was the longest one and the most challenging, where Jornet had to climb 15 summits until reaching Wasdale at 1pm, 8 hours and 9 minutes after starting. He had by then completed half of the round, and was 30 minutes ahead of Bland’s time.

From Wasdale, Jornet had to face the two last legs. He was feeling tired, but still pushing. The first leg consisted of nine peaks over a relatively short distance until reaching Honister Pass, where he arrived with a time of 11h05. The last leg would bring Jornet back to Keswick with only three summits to climb en route, and a final part running on the road.

He finally arrived back in Keswick to run through a huge crowd who had formed a gap to the finish at Moot Hall.

Kilian Jornet celebrates outside Moot Hall with previous record-holder Billy Bland (pic credit: Tim Harper)

Kilian Jornet celebrates outside Moot Hall with previous record-holder Billy Bland (pic credit: Tim Harper)

He said: “It has been hard, but very exciting. I've had the Bob Graham Round in mind for a while and finally I had the chance give it a try and I've realised how amazing the time was that Billy did 30 years ago. It has been a beautiful day out in the mountains together with all the runners who came and helped pace me. I would also like to thank Billy who came to cheer me on, and everyone in Keswick. You can really feel the love for fell running, and I couldn’t be happier to have completed this round!"

This week, those who are registered for the Salomon newsletter will receive 48 hours of exclusive, advanced access to watch a video highlighting Jornet’s completion of the Bob Graham Round. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here. As of 2.40pm on Monday, we understand there may be problems with the registration process, but we have advised Salomon.

The following pictures are from Tim Harper


And the following are from Mick Kenyon/Racing Snakes