The annual Dark Peak BG attempt in mid-June is one of the highlights of the club year. Being part of a successful round, whether as contender or supporter, is an unforgettable experience. The club has been serving up BG successes every year since the beginning of time (well, 1977, actually), with over 160 successful completions by DP members to date, and just the one barren year due to foot and mouth. More than a hundred of these completions have been achieved on the annual club weekend attempt.
There's loads of information out there on preparing for a BG attempt – take a look at the BG club's own site, Bob Wrightman's pages, or on the FRA forum. But there are many different ways to attempt the round too, so the purposes of these pages are to describe something of what is distinctive about doing so as part of a large club-supported round and to offer tips (by no means definitive or, necessarily, uncontroversial) to potential contenders.
If you choose to attempt your round as part of the club's annual jamboree, it's important to recognise that this is very much a collective endeavour. The object of the exercise is to get as many contenders round within twenty-four hours as possible whilst having as good a time as possible. This means keeping the contenders down to a manageable number as well as running to somebody else's schedule - a schedule designed (after a fashion) to suit as wide a range of abilities and conditions as possible. As such, there may not always be room for everybody who wants to have a go in a particular year. It also means that whippets in search of especially fast times or idiosyncratic route choices should consider looking elsewhere for their support.
Priority will always go to reliable, established, known club members from Dark Peak and out friends in Penistone, Totley or even Fat Boys. Where space allows, though, we are equally happy to take on others, particularly when they come with a good track record and have supported past club attempts. Please note that one year's support cannot guarantee a place as a contender next year, as this will always depend upon numbers and your relative chances of getting around. Supporting before running should nevertheless be preferred by all contenders; knowing the procedures and routines provides valuable experience and is in keeping with the collective ethos of club attempts. It's also generally more fun to run with a bunch of people you've already shared several pints with.
The following pages provide advice in relation to:
email Richard Hakes for further info.
After the debarcle of trying to drive to Wasdale amongst the Three Peakers the National Trust man from Wasdale suggested coming the week before as they always go on the longest day. So I am proposing Friday 12th June 2020. Pretty much all else worked out fine so I have no intention of changing anything.
The campsite is booked. If you are in a tent you do not need to book but you do need to pay. Please visit the office when you can and deal with the site direct. The site is very convenient and cope with our comings and goings so please pay the fees and make sure we do not cause them any more trouble than necessary.
I usually get to the site early so you should be able to spot the field we have.
Should you be in a camper van and want electricity etc. please contact the site and arrange.
I have told the Middle Ruddings pub we are likely to arrive en mass on Saturday evening. Again nothing firm is booked. If you want a meal there please book before.
Start 18:45 Leave camp 18:00
Threlkeld 22:37 Ready 22:00 Leave camp 9:30
Dunmail 3:39 Ready 3:00 Leave camp 2:30
Wasdale 10:11 Ready 9:30 Leave camp 8:00 (do not underestimate how long it takes to drive there)
Honister 15:26 Ready 14:00 Leave camp 13:30
Jon Straker Dave Markham Steve Mathews
Leg 1 Tim Rippon Adi Davis Mike coming off Hallls Fell
Leg 2 - Helen\Mikk Murray
Leg 3 - David Hakes\Dan Stowers
Leg 4 - Rich Bradbury\Kev Saville
Leg 5 - Mikk Murray\Nathan Lawson
Leg 1 Helen Smith (not DP) and Claire Oliffe, Rosie Walwyn tbc.
Leg 2 Sarah Morris Jones, Dave Holmes
Leg 3 Dan Mitchell, Tony Stone (not DP). Sally Fawcett
Leg 4 Kris Groom, Nicky Parkin, Sally Fawcett.
Leg 5 Max, Izzy, Wendy Groom, Lindy Smith tbc (not DP)
Can prospective contenders please note the following:
The goal of DPFR with regards to the BG has always been to help the maximum number of people who want to complete the round. The club has been very successful in achieving this. Due to the large number of people involved we have to set a fixed date and time and stick to it. This means running in whatever weather and with whoever is there. There have been a few issues coming from the 2013 attempt where five people successfully completed the round in pretty poor conditions. This is a great credit to all involved but requires a great effort from a large number of individuals. To make things clearer to all, I am proposing a few guidelines (we do not have rules) -
As the goal of the Dark Peak attempt is to get as many round as possible there is one darker aspect that has to be tackled. That is when contenders are running over time. It has long been held that on our 18:45 start, 16:30 is the latest it is reasonable to leave Honister. I think we need to make a firmer cut off at Wasdale. There is inevitably more variables at this stage, but I would suggest 11:00 is the latest time that the round can be recovered from unless there are strong reasons to expect a better pace.
The contenders also need to share the effort to recruit supporters. Eight people over five legs is forty people at one supporter on each leg, but frequently two supporters are needed. This adds up to a lot of people. The supporters should however always be capable of looking after themselves. There have been numerous incidents in the past where supporters have lost the group, all of whom have so far fortunately resolved their own problems. The supporters should also be prepared to support anyone who is in need, and not necessarily stick dogmatically to some prior support plan.
As it is hoped that the club will run BG attempts into the future, it is important to keep fresh blood coming into the round and also to develop the skills of existing supporters. It is therefore inevitable that inexperienced runners will be out on the hills. The intention will be to keep these people spread and match their skills to the needs of the day. We must always be tolerant of inexperience, but would also recommend that inexperienced supporters and contenders consider taking advantage of one or more of the navigation, first aid and mountain skills courses that the club put on from time to time.
For further info, contact Richard Hakes email
If nothing else, when training for a BG attempt, remember to have some fun. Contenders typically comment on the many great days out and friendships they've built whilst training, so whatever happens on the day, the months spent building up to it are perhaps just as important as the round itself. Remember also that, however you organise your training, it will take up a lot of time; so prepare the ground with family and friends in advance as they're liable not to see you for weekends at a time.
No-one prepares for their round in quite the same way, but the average club plodder who aspires to a successful sub-24 hour round is probably well advised to try to do something approaching the 10,000 feet and 40 miles per week training targets often bandied about – for a number of months leading up to their attempt. The concensus seems to be that the secret of most people's success lies somewhere between the amount of climb (and descent) in their legs, and time (long days) on their feet.
This needn't mean endless hill reps and reluctant training at inhospitable times of the day and night. There are plenty of smaller challenges to attempt along the way, each one involving long days in the hills, the sampling of multifarious fell foods, running in different moods and weather conditions, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every successful completion.
Unless you particularly enjoy training in splendid isolation, then look for a mixture of events, distances and climbs to keep you interested. Classic longer races to target over the winter period – when distractions can be harder to come by – might include The Long Tour of Pendle in November, Tanky's Trog in December, Wadsworth Trog in February and the Edale Skyline in March. The Bradfield Boundary Run between Xmas and the New Year is great for a long day out with Dark Peak friends, (minimally) organised and paced much like the BG attempt itself. Equally, the High Peak Marathon is an excellent opportunity relatively early in the year to run through the night with others, and probably feel pretty miserable about it for at least part of the time (feeling miserable but then feeling much better some time later in the event being important for your developing confidence). See BG Challenges
As spring approaches, the options open up somewhat, with plenty of races to choose from, including options in the Lakes, Snowdonia and the Dales, as well as a range of mountain marathons and other ultra-running events. Many contenders aim to cap their training with one last big event roughly three weeks before the attempt itself, with the Old County Tops or the Fellsman both popular.
Perhaps more important still though are the self-paced and self-supported challenges you can explore around the Peak as winter gives way to spring. Recce-ing and running the likes of the Kinder Dozen, Kinder Killer, 15 Trigs and Four County Tops, are all fantastic ways to improve your knowledge of the Kinder Plateau (which ought to come in handy in future DP races); they are also a great way of getting used to running to a schedule and spending time with friends from the club exploring local challenges of note.
Successfully negotiating long days like these, and events like the OCT, Lakeland Classics and HPM, all build a self-confidence which will be crucial to draw on come the big day. They are also great opportunities to get to know - and get known by - some of the more touched long-distance fundies active within the club, as well as your fellow hopeful BG contenders. If others with experience of the round get to know you a little in training, they're that much more likely to have confidence in your ability to succeed, which in turn will encourage them to support on the weekend of the round. It's also a great feeling to make the attempt itself in the company of friends, having already shared a range of big days out with some of your supporters and fellow contenders.
One last essential ingredient for (almost) every contender is a number of trips up to the Lakes themselves, to get used to running over Lakeland rock and to become acquainted with parts, if not the whole of the BG route itself. Opinion is divided as to whether you need to know the whole of the round in detail – you will, for the most part, be following others over the first three legs on the day itself – but it is strongly recommended that you do have a pretty good idea of legs 4 and 5 when it is more likely that you may find yourself navigating for yourself. Most agree also that it's useful to have an idea of broadly what's coming next at any given time in your round, so there's plenty to be said for having looked at every leg at some time or another before the attempt itself.
In recent years, a number of DP contenders have come together to run a 3-day round sometime over the Easter period, carrying their gear with them between YHAs in Grasmere, Wastwater and Keswick. This is a really good way to get a feel for the nature of the challenge in the round, to get to know some of your fellow hopefuls a bit better, and to establish whether it's more realistic for you personally to have a stab this June or next. What makes the round specifically different from most of your Peakland training is the sustained length and intensity of both the climbs and the descents; so it does wonders for the confidence to have nailed these (or most of them anyway) consecutively, albeit over a number of days. It's also a fine opportunity to sample the fare in a number of inns and hostelries along the way.
Finally, when exactly should you throw your hat into the ring for definite? Some contenders like to make their intentions clear early on, whilst others leave it much later in the year to decide to have a go. From a practical point of view, you need at least to hint to Richard Hakes sometime early in the New Year that you're interested, so he can begin to think about and juggle possible numbers and permutations of contenders. How high profile you are about your intentions with others though may depend a little bit on whether you think it'll help or hinder your preparations to know that others know. Out and outed contenders will find increasing numbers of enquiries as to how the training's going as spring unfurls, whilst past contenders are increasingly liable to offer words of advice and encouragement as the date of the attempt approaches. There's just the faintest possibility that Richard might send his spies out too from time to time, just to check on your progress.
It is psychologically very powerful to receive the encouragement and reassurance of those in the know; but you will also become increasingly aware of the weight of expectation as mid-June approaches too. After all, this is not just your round but everybody's round, into which many other club members invest time and effort to help ease your way. By early summer, though, you should know when you are finally ready and that it is time to go for it.
They say that at least half of the challenge of the BG is in the mind and it's certainly crucial to have the right attitude in the final few weeks before your attempt. Most contenders “taper" down their training over this period, which can feel difficult and frustrating in equal measures; in these final stages you have to trust to the fact you've done enough training and, should you venture out on races or club runs too close to the day, you should also be prepared to be clucked at and ever so gently mothered by even the most hardened of BG veterans … this is no time to turn an ankle, after all.
BG - On the Day
With luck, the day of the attempt will be one of the most memorable of your life. Your mind is likely, however, to spend substantial periods of this 36-hour day trying to distract you completely from the events immediately at hand. It is (almost) inevitable that you will have a bad patch at some point or another – but more inevitable still that you will be treated to a range of very special BG moments. Possibilities, in this author's experience, include pre-round blessings from exhaust salesmen, WARTesque night-time navigational banter and dispute, earnest congratulations from the Safety Officer upon managing a prolonged wee, valuable route information and possibly a cup of tea from the Club Chaplain and others somewhere between Pillar and Green Gable, and a number of close encounters with Richard's camera lens as the true enormity of the endeavour dawns upon you midway through leg 3.
It is a really good idea, where possible, to line up in advance at least one supporter per leg to carry your bag, and to let them know roughly what you're hoping for from them, and who they'll be handing over to at the leg changeovers. Their help and support will be invaluable at different points during the round so it's good for your peace of mind to have someone you know and trust at your side. Many many others will be looking out for you along the way too, and Richard will see to it that there are roughly enough supporters and navigators to go around on each leg, but ultimately you will need to pay attention to your own needs; which means being well prepared in advance.
All contenders and their support should aim to stick close together over the first three legs – especially during the night-time leg – and should not try to outrun the schedule by more than half an hour or so at most. Try to keep in the pack and take it steady over the first two legs – there are no prizes for getting into the changeovers (or indeed to the Moot Hall) first – and don't be surprised by early calls to walk the uphills. It can feel rather odd to be pulled up to walking pace just a couple of minutes out from the Moot Hall, but walking the inclines is the convention, and you'll be glad of it later on. Don't be surprised either if you are chided for pausing to assist the supporter who's fallen flat on their face. There's plenty of others around to tend to the afflicted – your job is to keep focussed on the next hill.
As you get into the rhythm of the round, try to eat and drink little and often (aim for every 20 minutes); if you start feeling hungry, or stop peeing regularly, then it could be too late to rescue the situation. Indeed, consuming sufficient food and liquid is perhaps the key to any successful round (read one of Nicky Spink's race reports and you'll soon get the idea). Sooner or later, you'll hopefully alight upon a combination of foodstuffs that works for you. In the meantime, make sure your supporters are briefed to pester you to eat at regular intervals.
Enjoy the sunset on leg one if the weather's kind, but don't then leave it too late to put on another layer as day turns to night; there's little sense in wasting energy on keeping warm when you can grab some extra insulation to do the job for you. Know where your ibuprofen, vaseline and spare head torch are, in case of emergencies, and try to anticipate your needs at changeovers too (pack a towel, clean tops, tails, socks and shoes etc. in your travelling box). More important still, have all the food you'll need for the next leg all bagged up and ready to go – but be prepared also to ring the changes if you find some foodstuffs are going down better than others. And note that the changeovers will very likely pass rather quicker than you might imagine, so don't mess around – concentrate on getting changed, watered and fed, and be ready to bark a few instructions to your supporters if needs be; they're there to help.
Once the sun starts to come up on leg 3 it's time to dig in. Keep talking to your supporters and fellow contenders if you can, and be sure to concentrate that little bit harder over the rocky Scafell section … particularly if it's wet. Negotiate this section in good order and you may even be in a position to enjoy the long descent into Wasdale. Certainly, if you arrive at the NT car park in good order then you can begin to think it really might be possible. Take it one step and one summit at a time; and whatever you do, keep moving (unless your supporters say otherwise).
The group as a whole may begin to break up a little bit from Yewbarrow onwards as each contender settles into their own rhythm and it may be necessary to be a little selfish from hereon in – you'll want to keep going at a pace you're comfortable with at this stage, assuming you're still on schedule, which is why these sections are the ones to know. At this point you'll be needing to trust in your supporters and in the months of training you've put in yourself – at the same time though, it's increasingly reassuring to tick the summits off one by one. Whatever you do though, don't be losing concentration at this point as it could so easily result in an unnecessary tumble, with many a round scuppered by a torn ligament or similar.
Keep drinking and eating all the way to Honister where you can take stock and hopefully enjoy the final leg with plenty of time in hand. The climbs are relatively kind on this final leg, the views worth the effort, and you even get a bit of route choice in the final few miles from Newlands Church – either to run on the roads all the way to Keswick or to take the tracks through the woods. Don't forget to change into your club vest at Newlands (and your road shoes, if you must).
More important still, once you've finished (for you surely will if you've made it this far), try not to fall foul of the overwhelming temptation to sleep before you make it to the pub. This is, after all, a club attempt, and you'd never have made it around without your support. The bond supporters feel with their contenders is a strong one and, having spent much of the previous 24 hours watching you stagger around the Lakes in a near catatonic state, it's only right that they should get to celebrate this with you afterwards in the pub, however monosyllabic you may remain yourself. Take it from me that if you don't make it to the pub, for whatever reason, Tom will never let you forget it.
Successful DP completions of BGR
Please let DP Calendar know of any errors and omissions email
2 out of 4 - Helen Davis (Steel City Striders) Loxley Crawshaw
Other completions in 2019 Lova Chechik, Ben Kelsey
5 out of 5 - Dan Stowers, David Hakes, Kirk Hardwick, Fiona Lynch (Radcliffe AC), Yvonne Beckwith
Other completions in 2018 Adam Hayden, Max Wainwright
DP Weekend 16/17June 2017 RH Report
6 out of 7 - Will Boothman, Adrian Davis, Nicola Parkin, Kris Groom, Paul Walwyn, Chris Charlesworth (Penistone)
Other completions in 2017 - Richard Hunt (May; anti-clockwise), Dave Taylor, Sally Fawcett
DP Weekend, 17/18 June 2016 RH Report
5 out of 7 - Charlie Elliot, Sarah Jones-Morris (Penistone), William Marks (Northern Ireland), Simon Mills and Mikk Murray
Other completions in 2016 - Nicky Spinks' Double BG (First woman, only second person, and now fastest person to complete back to back rounds in under 48hours - 45:30 in fact; 14&15 May), Judith Jepson (July), Laurence Piercy (July; repeat completion)
DP Weekend, 19/20 June 2015 RH Report
8 out of 9 - Lewis Ashton, Mike Bourne, Richard Bradbury, Sarah Broadhurst, Penny Collier, Pete Fraser Smith, James Pierce (Penistone) and Hannah Saville
Other completions in 2015 - Nicky Spinks (lowering her existing Outright Women's record to 18hrs 6mins, April), Glen Borrell (August)
DP Weekend, 20/21 June 2014 RH Report
4 out of 9 - Shaun Hogton (Barnsley), Dave Lund, David McGuinness and George Yates
Other completions in 2014 - Lucy Wiegand (May), Dennise Mathers (Northern Ireland) (May), Ralph Skrimshire (May)
DP Weekend, 21/22 June 2013 (RH Report)
5 out of 8 - Bernie Burke, Martha Hart, Dale Mathers (Northern Ireland), Laurence Piercy and Tim Rippon
Other completions in 2013 - Ian Loombe (June), Jon Pemberton (June), Greg Crowley (June), Claire Prosser (July)
DP Weekend, 22/23 June 2012 - cancelled due to foul weather
Other completions in 2012 - Alice Robson (May), Keith Holmes (June), Mike Nolan (July), Will Spain (July), Nicky Spinks (Outright Women's record, 18hrs 12mins, July)
DP Weekend, June 2011 (RH Report)
5 out of 8 - Carl Betts, Paul Fauset, Jim Paxman, Tim Ray and Tom Saville
Other completions in 2011 - Jon Morgan (Jan)
DP Weekend, June 2010 (RH report)
7 out of 7 - Dave Bollington, Kirsty Bryan-Jones, Willy Kitchen, Brent Lindsay (Penistone), Steve Martin, Tim Martin, Paul Payne (Stockport)
Other completions in 2010 - Simon Patton (May), Mark Pearce (May), Dave Sykes and Ben Robson (July)
DP Weekend, June 2009 (RH Report)
8 out of 11 - Simon Bacsich, Karen Davison, Helen Elmore (Totley), Becky Harper (Totley), Steve Jones (BT), Ashley Kay, Simon Rippon (Penistone), Mick Stenton
Other completions in 2009 - Julie Gardner (June), Phil Winskill (June), Dave Harrison (July)
7 out of 11 - Ian Fitzpatrick, Jim Gayler [Young Jim], Andy Gibson (Fat Boys), Roy Gibson, Mark Harvey, Steve Matthews, Jim Patterson [Old Jim] (Ireland)
Other completions in 2008 - Ian Winterburn (August)
DP Weekend, June 2007 (RH Report)
3 out of 7 - Russ Beresford, Ian Charlesworth (Penistone), John Rowe (Penistone), Toby Hart
DP Weekend, June 2006 (RH Report)
3 out of 4 - Nick Cable (Penistone), Neil Drake, Phil Walters
Other completions in 2006 - Simon Bourne (DP Men's Record Time?, 17hrs 20mins, June)
DP Weekend, June 2005 (RH Report)
4 out of 8 - Richard Hopkinson, Matt Hulley, Iestyn Lewis, Nicky Spinks (Penistone)
Other completions in 2005 - Ben Robson, Andy Plummer (Penistone)
DP Weekend, June 2004 (RH Report)
5 out of 8 - John Boyle, Andy Middleditch, Alex Morgan (HACC), James Varley, Duncan Woods (North Yorks Moors AC)
Other completions in 2004 - Nick Wallis
DP Weekend, June 2003
4 out of 6 - Martyn Goodwin (Penistone), Tim Hawley, Jo Smith, Al Ward
Other completions in 2003 - Alison Shepherd (August; see DP News Winter '03, pp.13-15)
DP Weekend, June 2002
1 out of 3 - Mike Robinson
2001 - Foot and Mouth year
No BG rounds
DP Weekend, June 2000 (DP News, Autumn '00, p.4)
3 out of 5 - Dave Griffin (Penistone), Chris Ledger, Tony Simpson
DP Weekend, June 1999 (DP News, Autumn '99, pp.19-21)
2 out of 7 - Andy Dickenson, Kev Saville
DP Weekend, June 1998 (DP News, Autumn '98, pp.16-17)
4 out of ? - Pete Gorvett, Andy Scaife, John Soady, Will Sullivan
Other completions in 1998 - Phil Elliot
DP Weekend, June 1997 (DP News, Autumn '97, pp.14-16)
1 out of 2 - Gavin Williams
DP Weekend, June 1996 (DP News, Autumn '96, pp.18-22)
9 out of 8 - Dave Allen, Chris Barber, Jim Fulton, Dave Green, Karen Green, Richard Hakes, Ken Jones, John Myres, Tom Westgate
DP Weekend, June 1995 (DP News, Autumn '95, pp.21)
7 out of 7 - Jan Cave, Hugh Cotton, Rob Davidson, Colin Lago, Dave Markham, Dick Pasley, Roger Woods
DP Weekend, June 1994 (DP News Autumn '94, p.6)
0 out of ? - whole party retreated to Wasdale on a/c round, having been "blown to a standstill" on Gable
Other completions in 1994 - Jim Lawrenson (July; see DP News Autumn '94, p.6)
DP Weekend, June 1993 (DP News Autumn '93, pp.9-15)
2 out of 2 - Mike Hayes (2nd completion), Hugh Mathieson (but Hugh, for whatever reason, doesn't appear on the BG club master list; can anyone throw light on this?)
DP Weekend, June 1992 (DP News Autumn '92, pp.14-16)
2 out of 4 - Andy Sheehan, Roy Small
Other completions in 1992 - Jon Fyne
DP Weekend, June 1991 (DP News, Autumn '91, pp.11-13)
2 out of 4 - Dave Lockwood, Matthew Simms
Other completions in 1991 - Hilary Bloor, someone called Paul (?; see DPN Autumn '91 p.13), Nick Kirk (although a then youthful Nick was not a member of DP at the time)
Mike Browell, Colin Henson, Bob Marsden, Paul Sanderson
1989 (DP News, Autumn '89, pp.15-17)
2 out of 7 - John Firth, Barry Needle
1988 (DP News, Autumn '89, pp. 13-14, after a fashion)
Reg Amor, Geraldine Goldsmith, Dave Holmes, Bill Kenyon, Kevin Lilley, Terry Sayles, Kay Wittle
DP Weekend, June 1987 (see DP News, Sept '87, p.10; Dec '87, pp.11-12)
6 out of 7/8 - John Armistead, Neil Goldsmith, Dave Mosely, Howard Swindells, Keith Tonkin (plus Roger Baumeister, not for the first, second or indeed third time)
Other completions in 1987 - Helene Diamantides,
DP Weekend, June 1986
6 out of ? - Peter Collingwood, Tim Daniel, Nick Forwood, Chris Jones, Henry Marston (Rotherham Harriers AC?), Alan Wright
DP Weekend, June 1985 (see DP News, Aug '85, pp.8-9)
3 out of 4 - Roger Moakes, Dave Ramsden (Clayton-le-Moors), Alison Wright
Other completions in 1985 - Andrew Forsyth, Colin Hughes, Andrew Bell
Angela Carson, Ben Hodges
John Abbot, Jeff Harrison, Roger Hulley, Clive Wilson
Ian Roberts, Rick Ansell, Mac Battersby
Barry Thackery, Graham Hulley, Alan Ireland, David Livesey, Will McLewin, David Sant
Robert Sanby, Pete Nolan, Adrian Pickles, Malcolm Sandals, Alan Yates, Selwyn Wright, Peter Hayes
Neil Piper, Roger Baumeister (first person to complete a double BG in under 48hrs - back to back rounds in 46:36)
Peter Simpson, John Blair-Fish, Brian Harney, Mike Hayes, Martin Hudson, Peter Lewis, Martin Stone
Roger Baumeister, Geoff Bell, Andy Collinson, Eric Mitchell, Chris Worsell, Roy Marlow, Chris Brad, Chris Dodd, Frank Thomas
(all map extracts by kind permission of Harvey Maps)
Paul Walwyn's successful 2017 round GPX file
Incidentally Dark Peak run it clockwise.
Food and drink strategies to get you to the finish: Practical words of wisdom from BG Veterans, compiled by a BG aspirant (currently putting the theories in into practice)
Just Keep Eating
The number one rule. Keep eating, like it or not, little and often, every 20-30 minutes or so. There is no such phrase as “I can't eat". Supporters must demand it and the competitor accept it, because as one veteran puts it “it doesn't matter what car you are driving, Formula 1 or otherwise, without the fuel you are going nowhere". If you feel nauseous of course eat what goes down best (and stop for a minute to eat if need be), but don't stop eating - better to throw up (you may recover) than simply run out of steam, as you won't recover quickly enough to carry on.
Especially on the up
Tuck in as the big climbs approach, whilst in steady state, before the huff and puff begins. The extra fuel is a psychological boost for the challenge ahead. Avoid where possible trying to eat on steep downhill. Not only is it practically difficult (think Jim'll Fix It roller-coaster dinner) but all the sloshing and jolting can enhance nausea; and besides, most of the big BG descents are shortly before the breaks.
Make a Meal of it at the Road Crossings
Now we're talking! The road junctions at Threlkeld, Dunmail, Wasdale and Honister provide the only real opportunity to have a proper hot meal. For many, just the thought of that curry and rice, pot noodle or bacon sandwich can provide the extra mental incentive to keep going. The choices should be a firm favourites, perhaps with strong taste, and where possible consisting of slow-release complex carbohydrates such as pasta and rice. Savoury, easy to eat (and heat) are best – but have something simple for the stomach on hand, such as plain bread, in case that is the only thing that will go down. No need to force bacon and eggs down at Wasdale just because it's morning!
On the run itself the energy food that is easier to carry tends, by and large, to be sugary. Sweets such as jelly babies, cola bottles and the like are made of simple sugars – quick release carbohydrates which give near instantaneous energy, swiftly followed by an energy crash. The sweet stuff also gets hard to stomach after a while, and whilst one runner is said to have completed the round by being drip-fed squirms, most runners will find that they can't have their cake and eat it.
If a bad period appears terminal however, a sugar rush strategy is a risky manoeuvre that may just bridge the way to an easier section or road crossing. A tasty sweet treat could also be the “bag of morale" that makes all the difference.
Better still, temper sugars with more complex carbs and fats to slow the rate of energy release. Fats may also help settle the stomach, and ultimately will provide of the energy consumed. The 1,800 or so of carbohydrate calories that are stored in our muscles may well have been depleted by Threlkeld – but with the body only able to absorb around 60g, or 240 calories per hour of carbohydrate, the remaining 500 required calories per hour of energy has to come from body fat, which is seen as a less effective energy source. An interesting article on training to process fats more effectively can be found here.
Smell the Coffee
Another firm favourite is coffee, and more specifically caffeine. Whilst it can cause nausea – and mild diuretic and laxative effects – it is taken by almost all BG competitors for its power to improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and enhance alertness. Many believe that the magic beans genuinely improve performance and endurance during prolonged, exhaustive exercise such as the BG. For maximum effect abstain from coffee in the few days before, and for a big, tasty hit, arrange for a “proper" coffee at the road crossings. You'll deserve it!
On the move, chocolate covered coffee beans are increasingly popular, as are caffeine sports drinks – and energy gels.
Opinion is divided on the use of “scientific" sports foods and supplements. Traditionalists vociferously shun such creations – including Joss Naylor, who swears by honey or tongue sarnies. For others, carbohydrate gels, drinks and bars are simply easier to get down the hatch. Electrolye tablets and powders are however almost universally taken - not as a complete substitute to a good bag of ready salted – but many BGers ensure that some electrolyte solution is at hand either en route or at the road stops.
Know Your Onions
No two runners will have the same preferences and each competitor must experiment to find their own personal cuisine of choice – the proof of the pudding is in the eating! Variety is also key – many runners' tastes swing wildly from one stage to another – even favourite foods can turn stomachs by the time the slate mine is in view. Moreover, be prepared for the unexpected: a couple of runners have mentioned having intense cravings for fruit, even though they don't eat much normally.
As should be evident by now, there is no silver bullet, no BG elixir that will fuel the way to greatness. But there are some themes – and for the aspirant BG contender, what follows is a good place to start.
On the day itself: Do enjoy a good lunch and pasta / carbo meal the night before. Don't have a massive pizza two hours before the start (this ruined one BG attempt), and do ensure your supporters are also aware of their own nutritional requirements - and haven't disappeared to the chippy while waiting at Keswick.
Like the round itself, getting food down was far more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Looking back at the original “BG Cuisine" article, one could be forgiven for thinking that the runner would have some sort of choice, and even a strategy. This is probably holds true for legs one and two, but by three I was being quite violently sick around Harrison Stickle and from then on getting anything down was a real battle. Hardly anything I had packed held much appeal and it turned out that two foods I hadn't even bothered to try in training may have saved the day: Dave Holmes' fabulous toffees and Mark Harvey's boiled spuds!
Getting fluid down was proved to be equally difficult, and by Wasdale I was utterly convinced that only cans of coke would do the trick – and my poor supporters were instructed to lug a six pack around leg four! And whilst this proved my most difficult leg, the cola did its job, and by leg five I had found my legs once again.Thus, on reflection perhaps best advice really is to be prepared for the unexpected. Flexibility is essential because it is impossible to anticipate what you will be able to get down. So ensure that the box is well stocked, and be ready to take on untested foods from supporters: anything to keep to the golden rule of “just keep eating". I had a smorgasbord of bagged goodies prepared for leg five – but in the end relied, quite happily, on fruit salad and marzipan.
Many thanks to Paul Fauset and all the BG veterans from Dark Peak and beyond who contributed.
Bob Graham Challenges
When training for events such as the Bob Graham or other long events it is customary to undertake long days out on the hills. There are a number of local challenges that have traditionally been used which save on the travel and get you to parts of the Peak that you might not otherwise visit. Knowledge of many of these challenges has been passed on verbally with only sporadic recording. The following is a list of some popular local challenges, with some details.
The Kinder Dozen was initiated by Ken Jones in 1997/8 who produced a splendid A5 booklet describing the run and even some certificates. It involves 12 climbs and descents of the Kinder Plateau involving 10,000ft of ascent and totals 24 miles (the measure was made long before GPS so please do not correct). The set time limit is 12 hours but 8 hours is a more realistic challenge and more in line with a BG pace. The traditional start was from Edale village but as it is a long drive and has difficult/expensive parking, a start from Rowlee Bridge or Snake Inn is often used (note if starting here you do not traditional have to go to the Old Nags Head. Staying within access land at the bottom of Golden Clough is OK).
Known fast times:
Tom Saville 04:42:20 (31/03/2019)
Sally Fawcett (F) 6:23:00 (6th May 2017) – for Willy’s Birthday
Former record times:
Lova Chechik 05:07:50 (02/03/2019)
Ralph Skrimshire 5:12:36 (May 2017)
John Boyle 5:20:32 (2012 or 2013?)
Geoff Briggs (Pennine) 5:45 (date and details unknown)
Another Ken Jones route. a variation of the Dozen Link, that follows paths and trods to circumnavigate the plateau. As a route following paths, it feels like some of the controls are a a bit arbitrary, depending on what you perceive to be the path. But none the less...
There are limited known times for the Killer.
Tom Saville 5:43:26 (01/06/2019)
Sally Fawcett 7:08
Penny Collier (F45) & Sarah Broadhurst (F45) 7:56 (20th March 2015)
Willy Kitchen (M45) 7:56 (20th March 2015)
Heart of Darkness (AKA Myer's Ladder to the stars)
This is a Mike Browell production.
Dark Peak Stones
Another of Ken Jones's. The long version is to visit all the Stones in the Peak district from the top of the A57 back to the Sportsman. The short version only back to the Ladybower.
15 Trigs Link
A classic old route visiting the 15 trig points originally included on the Harvey Mountain Map - Peak District - Northern half, as used in the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon 1984. To be completed in 15 hours, starting at the Sportsman, but has also been started 'on the other side of the Pennines'. The trigs are Rod Moor, Emlin, Back Tor, Margery Hill, Outer Edge, Alport, Shelf Moor, Cock Hill, Harry Hut, Sandy Heys, Kinder Low, Brown Knoll, Blackden, Win Hill, High Neb. Was a very competitive event at one time and certificates given for early completions.
Current Men's record: Tom Saville 8:52:25 (13/04/2019).
Stuart Walker set a record of 9hrs 57 mins in November 2013, prior to that Andy Harmer held the record for fastest Dark Peak completion of 10hr 04min, set in 1987, though Simon Bourne snuck in just under 10 hours in 2011.
A variation of the 15 this time all the White Peak trigs shown on the Harvey Mountain Map - Peak District - Southern Half but not included above. Big Moor, High Rake, Wardlow Hay Cop, Edgerake Mine Wheston, Bole Hill, Townend Farm Buxton, Cop Mine, Man Tor, Durham Edge, Sir William Hill, Stannage Edge South. This time in 11 hours. Needs more planning as water and access can be troublesome.
This has been done but only maybe once (not true any more) by Pete Simpson in 1991 in a time of 23:48. A challenge there if there ever was one?
We now have a time set by Stuart Walker of 23:42 on 26/27 May 2016. Apparently Pete Simpson accidentally (!) added Flask Edge trig; Stuart avoided Flask Edge but added the Ox Stones, so still did 26 trigs.
The Bradfield Boundary
This is a long standing run that has taken place every year since its initiation in 1994 to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of Bradfield Parish Council. Medals were even given by the Parish Council on the first year. It was run initially on the last day of the year but now moved to its usual position on the third day of Christmas unless this falls on a Sunday when access problems cause a days delay. Starting at Loxley School at 6.00am and the schedule is to complete the round in 12 hours. Not run as a race but look at the Dark Peak Calender around Christmas time. Traditionally billed as 48 miles but that was before someone ran round with a GPS.
Dark Peak (Four) County Tops Link
Traditional start in Hayfield but maybe not. High Stones/Margery Hill, Black Hill, Black Chew Head and Kinder Scout each in a separate county 40 miles plus all in 24hrs.
Bar Dyke (Bradfield) 04.00
High Stones 05.24
Woodhead Road 07.21
Black Hill 09.36
Black Chew Head 10.45
Bleaklow Head 14.20
Kinder Top 17.38
Shining Tor 03.30 [ 2hrs too long due to inexcusable mistakes]
Cheeks Hill 05.06
Bar Dyke (Bradfield) 19.58
39hr 58min taking in 95 miles travelled
If anyone should rise to this challenge a new schedule of your times (without the error) would be appreciated.
This can be extended to the Six CountyTops as done by Roger Baumeister 10/06/2013 in 39:56. Roger is of the oppinion that the pure route for the sSix County Tops is from the same start/finish point. In his case: from, and returning to Bar Dyke access point.
Loxley 5 Trigs
A local training run but one that has seen some competition over the years.
Tom Saville 2:29 10th July 2018 As Strava
Tim Rutter 2:38 15th April 2019 As Strava
Neil Northrop 2:41 20th June 2015 As Strava
Stuart Walker 2hr 57min 14th April 2013.
Tom Westgate held the record of 2hr 59min since before records began (1996/7 ish)
A days outing round Derwent Valley for connoisseurs created by Tom Westgate. Starting at The Derwent Dam wall visiting Pike Low, John Field Howden, Back Tor, Low Tor, Berristers Tor, Gravy Clough Cabin, Wet Stone, Howden Dam, Cold Side Crags, Bull Stones, Rocking Stones, Horse Stone, Barrow Stones, Grinah Stones, Black Clough, Alport Trig, Fagney Clough, Green Clough, 483 point at Rowlee, Gores Heights (top of land slipped crags) and back. Maybe only completed by four or five people so far?
19/01/14 update, now with the inclusion of Willy Kitchen and Ruth Batty there may now be as many as seven or even eight people to have done the round.
OK a bike ride not a run unless you are a keen hilly road runner. Most of the roads have just been re-surfaced so better times should be possible.
Steve Yeoman 1:35 12/05/2019 If proof was needed
Tim Rutter 1:43 28/04/2018 If proof was needed
James Banyard 1:44 30/08/2013 (unconfirmed)
Karen Ledger 1:48 15/06/2013 (femail Record)
Richard Hakes 1:55 28/08/17 (over 60's record) If Proof was needed
Tim Ray 1:58 28/08/17 If proof was needed
Steve Martin 1:58
Tom Westgate 2:06 24/08/2017
Tim Hawley and cousin Nick 2:09 27/08/2017
Paul Sanderson 2:11 20/08/2017
Mike Browell (but turned left out of High Bradfield) 2:44 11/08/2014
Some more esoteric options...
So far only done once by Willy Kitchen & Dave McGuinness - clockwise Dozen followed by anti-clockwise Killer - on 24th May 2014 in 18 hrs 17 mins ... “were it not for a rather unfortunate navigational on the last climb (in my [Willy’s] defence, in the dark), then we'd most likely have beaten 18 hour schedule we were running to.”
Jim Paxman 18:18:34 (May 2018)
Every time I see Stuart Walker I tell him I've come up with this mystical new route he should run.
This is my attempt at plotting a true Dark Peak 24 Trigs (in 24 hours) all on the DP OS Map. None of this dodgy white peak trespass nonsense.
It starts at the Sportsman and as per the normal 4 (anitclockwise) then heads north to cover Scout Nab, Dead Edge End, Snailsden Pike End, Black Hill, Featherbed Moss, Alphin and Wild Bank hill. It ticks off the rest of the 15 in a slightly altered order and adding in Mam Tor before finishing via the Cowper and Ox stones.
It seems to give what could be an interesting route with lots of potential route choice, navigation and rough ground. I've ommited Hey edge (and potentially others?) as it's not marked on the map as a proper trig.
A very (VERY) rough attempt at mapping it gives me ~130km and 4000m, I suspect it's more like 150km and a more height but hard to say.
Is it achievable? Is it totally ridiculous? Too convoluted?
Interested to hear people's thoughts and potentially see someone (most definitely not me) have a go.
Hopefully my attempt to map it is attached and viewable
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2019
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