At the weekend fell runner Nicky Spinks broke the Ladies 24-hour Lakeland Peaks record, climbing 64 summits to top the previous record of 62 set by Anne Johnson 17 years previously.
It's one of the toughest of British hill challenges, but the rules are simple - climb as many peaks as possible and finish back at the start point within 24 hours. The choice of route is open but has to include all the fells visited by the previous record holder - plus some, naturally. Nicky started from the village of Stair at 3am on July 2, returning there at 2:15am the next day.
'This was the hardest thing I've ever done; I can't imagine what would be tougher'
'I'd been thinking about this challenge for about a year' she tells UKH/UKC. 'Previously I'd done big rounds like the Bob Graham in the Lakes, the Paddy Buckley in Snowdonia and Lochaber's Charlie Ramsay. After these there didn't seem to be anything comparable to do, but then a couple of years ago I managed to beat Anne Johnson's record for the Fellsman race (60 miles in the Yorkshire Dales), and that gave me the idea that perhaps the Ladies Lakes could be possible too.'
In preparation Nicky recced each leg of the route three or four times, making sure she tried the night sections in the dark. Nicky runs for Dark Peak Fell Runners and Penistone Footpath Runners, and on the big day a team of up to 30 fellow runners helped out, carrying food and providing moral support.
'My schedule officially ran to 63 peaks but at each stage I was a little up on the planned time, and at the back of my mind I was hoping for a couple more. I thought maybe 65 but in the end stopped at 64 because I still had to get back to my starting point within the 24 hour time limit. Besides which I'd been sick quite a lot by then, maybe four or five times, and every time that happens you lose a bit of confidence and have to start re-fuelling over again. Being sick is wasted energy.'
Previous record holder Anne Johnson was there on the day to offer support, and to congratulate Nicky when she finished.
'I never thought the record would last this long,' she said on the Racekit website. 'I've seen lots of really good women runners come onto the scene, but the record never got broken.'
'At the end we had a bottle of champagne to celebrate' says Nicky, 'but I could only manage a sip or two before crawling off to my tent; some of the others stayed up partying for several hours.'
'This was the hardest thing I've ever done; I can't imagine what would be tougher. I don't have immediate plans for anything as big, though I'll be racing in the Grand Raid des Pyrenees in August; I shouldn't need to do much training for that - recovering will be more like it.'
Meanwhile Nicky is easing back into normal life by making hay at the West Yorkshire farm on which she lives; some might call that hard work but we suspect she's enjoying the rest.
Nicky is sponsored by Racekit.
For a running commentary on her other achievements see Nicky's own website.
Classic fell running challenges(but maybe a bit easier than the Ladies Lakes?)
Paddy Buckley Round
A 62 mile circuit of 47 Snowdonian summits, the round was devised by Paddy Buckley but first run in under 24 hours by Martin Stone in 1985. The route includes the Carneddau, the Glyderau, the Snowdon range, the Moelwynion and the Moel Hebog range. For more details check out runner Bob Wightman's website.
Bob Graham Round
Done as a sub-24 hour push the Bob Graham round of 42 Lakeland peaks (including the four 3000-ers) is one of the toughest fell runner's challenges in the country. Wearing tennis shoes and fuelled on bread and butter the man himself set the bar high way back in 1932 and his time of 23 hours 39 minutes stood for 28 years. See the Bob Graham Club website for more.
An extension of an earlier effort by Philip Tranter, Charlie Ramsay's amazing effort covers 24 Lochaber Munros over around 60 miles, including Ben Nevis, the Aonachs, the Grey Corries, the Easains and Loch Treig Munros and the whole Mamores ridge. Ramsay just scraped inside the 24 hour limit in 1978; the current record stands at 18hrs23. More info at the Ramsay's Round site.