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.