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.