The non-runner who turned into a Bob Graham Round finisher in less than a year

Ian Palmer switched from cycling to running and set himself the goal of completing fell’s most sought-after accomplishment. See below for his video, which features interviews with Rob Jebb, Ricky Lightfoot and Jasmin Paris, and read on for his account of his ‘24 hours of awfulness’

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It all started when my epilepsy came back and I couldn’t drive to bike races any more. After a year of learning about the Bob Graham Round and a crash course in fell running, all of a sudden it was nearly time to go and I needed to get my shizzle together for the long-awaited “24 hours of awfulness”.

As I was nervous about the many “what if” factors with the BGR, I created a monstrous spreadsheet detailing all my predicted times, food and drink requirements, likes and dislikes, coats, tops and shorts choices for the event. On the day of my round, my boss had kindly given me the day off so that I could have as stress-free a start as possible.

I had a kit box for each leg including pre-baby-powdered socks (getting socks onto damp feet is difficult) and a fresh pair of shoes for each leg of the round (thanks Salomon). On top of this, I also had to organise people who would film the whole shebang. It takes a certain type of person who is willing to traipse across the hills in the night to point a camera at an old man running about. Fortunately for me, I had a couple of volunteers who were daft enough for the task.

By 6.55pm I was all sorted and the panic was over; all I had to do was run/walk/crawl 104km within the 24 hours. I left the infamous Moot Hall at 7pm on the Friday as planned and headed towards Skiddaw. The weather was amazing as we trotted out of Keswick and I had a good set of pacers, including top fell runner Ricky Lightfoot and some other close friends who have completed their own BGRs - I was in good hands. After weeks of fair weather, the ground was amazingly dry and even the bogs around Great Calva and Mungrisedale had dried up; I didn’t even have damp feet!

We had an awesome sunset as we dropped off Blencathra 11 minutes up on my schedule where Katie, who had all my food, new shoes and stuff ready for the night leg, greeted me.

Leg two was The Party Leg. I had 10 supporters - ten! It was class to see cycling friends who had come out for the evening to try to run. With the sound of a drone overhead (cheers, Nathan) we started up Clough Head into the dark. This leg was one big daft conversation between everyone, which was a good distraction for me.

It was misty on the Dodds, but once again my helpers were great. Navigation in the clagg was expertly sorted by Sam (did he mention that he orienteered for the GB team?!) - it was flawless. I had a bad stomach for this section, which slowed me down a bit but I coped and by the time we got to Threlkeld, there was a glow in the sky as dawn was coming.

Leg three was so good. We had the best sunrise and my three pacers were totally on it. I had come into this leg slightly down on time but they quickly corrected this and we flew over the Langdales towards Bowfell. I was feeling it by this point and starting to suffer until Matt produced the “Magic Pizza”, which got me up Bowfell and out of my grump, (when I look back, I think the pizza was the crux of the whole round). We were up on time and headed towards Great End looking at an inversion over Eskdale. Things were looking good as I went up Broad Stand. Some climbing friends were ready with winches and a block and tackle to get me up this tricky step. After that we had a fun scree run into Wasdale for another one of my favourite bits (leg four).

I was met by Chewy and a bacon sandwich (always a good thing) at Wasdale Head. A lot of people moan about Yewbarrow being the hardest bit of the whole round but I felt that I’d left my low point behind me so I set off up here afresh with new supporters and a different set of conversations. Leg four is another great bit of the Lake District; Wasdale has some big old fells with some brutal climbing, but I felt the end was in sight after I had got to the top of Kirkfell. Don’t get me wrong, my knees hurt and I wanted to go to bed, but I knew at the end of this leg, Katie would have a cup of tea for me and she was coming to run leg five with me, which was ace.

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And so I was met at Honister with another set of shoes and socks, plus another fresh set of people for me to demand food and drink from. This is where it all turns into a bit of a blur. All I know is that I was getting fed and Matt and James were leading the way. By the time I was dropping off Robinson (the last peak) I was suffering a bit, but I knew that all that was left was a bit of road and that it was most likely in the bag. I collected some road shoes at Newlands Church and pottered along the lanes back to the Moot Hall.

I completed my round in 22:19, which didn’t feel too bad. I like to think I could have gone a bit faster, but who cares? I’m not going to try and find out any time soon. I’ve completed it now. That was the aim of this year. I was happy but pretty sleepy by this point.

So that was that - 24hrs of awfulness completed and it actually wasn’t awful; it was amazing! All the people who came out and supported me were awesome; so many people helped me train, drove me into the lakes and then assisted with filming, feeding, pacing as well as putting up with me. It was truly humbling and I have a lot of thanks to give.

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