Kilian Jornet breaks Bob Graham Round record

Catalonia's mountain running legend today completed 42 Lake District peaks in 12 hours 52 minutes to smash the 36-year-old FKT by 1:01. Here's the lowdown on the Bob Graham Round...

 Kilian Jornet on Scafell Pike (pic credit: Kim Collison)

Kilian Jornet on Scafell Pike (pic credit: Kim Collison)

Forget "football's coming home". "Kilian Jornet comes to Keswick" was the humongous news in the fell running community today. His attempt on a new Bob Graham Round record was, for a small group of enthusiasts, like Mo Farah attacking the world marathon record. Except, that is, that the world's great mountain runner appearing in the "Wimbledon" of one of the Britain's most-low key sports doesn't become a massive media event - far from it.

About the Bob Graham Round
The 'BGR' that Jornet achieved today was 66 miles over 27,000ft of ascent, involving 42 of the highest peaks of the Lake District within 24 hours.

It is actually an extension of the 24-hour fell record to 42 peaks, first achieved by Bob Graham in 1932. The fact that his record lasted until 1960 is probably the reason the Round has become the "Everest" for fell runners and why around 100 attempt it each year. Those successful within the 24 hours - and it's only about one in three - are added to the list of members of the Bob Graham 24-Hour Club, which now numbers more than 1000.

Criteria laid down in 1972 stipulates that successful applicants must be witnessed at each peak, both for safety and verification purposes.

Why so low-key?
Few knew about Jornet's plans on the BGR and that has to do with the policy of the Bob Graham 24-Hour Club and fell running in general. Rumours circulated on social media earlier this morning, many even declining to name Jornet by name. We've still not heard a peek on the subject from Salomon, his sponsors. Of course, by this evening it was no secret and there was a hero's welcome awaiting him at the finish at Moot Hall, Keswick, where he was met by Bland himself.

That it's all been so hush-hush is quite in keeping with Jornet's personality, too, of course. Many credit him for his modest, down to earth personality. Indeed, he was gracious as ever in his first words to media afterwards, pointing out the ground was firmer than when Bland covered it.

However, when it comes to publicity, the BGR Club states: "The Club is occasionally asked to provide input or assistance to various media outlets, print, radio, TV and film. This has almost always been declined. The reasons are laid out below. It is the policy of the Bob Graham Club not to foster or encourage media activity in connection with the Round... Almost everyone who undertakes the Round comes to it via the worlds of fell running and mountaineering. People get to know about the Round via those channels and we don’t either feel the need, or indeed wish, to draw attention to the Round outside those circles."

The club says problems impacting the environment and relationships with the local community have been caused by an increase in those attempting the round, partly crediting to the publication of Richard Askwith’s book Feet in the Clouds.

The Fell Running Association's website notes: "Fell running is perhaps unique amongst sports in that it does not seek to attract ever greater numbers of participants. The reason for this policy is that we have to balance our sporting interests with the impact on the environment. The sad fact is that the hills of Britain simply will not cope with ever increasing pounding of feet. Protecting the environment is one of our primary aims."

Jornet's attempt
Jornet's record will not take any column inches away from the World Cup or Wimbledon, but how he did it will be of interest to the vast hoards of off-road enthusiasts. 

We await more news in the coming days but, for the record, he took 61 minutes from the 1982 fastest known time set by Billy Bland, who went out on the fells himself to meet Jornet in the middle of his attempt. Bland's leg-by-leg breakdown can he seen here.

For Jornet, who returned to competition only the previous weekend after three months out with a fractured fibula, the BGR is yet another great achievement. But it will be back to more habitual settings in the very different world of European trail running soon.

Go here for footage of the finish and aftermath.