Fell Runner's Big Three in One Year

In late July runner (climber, and UKC-er) Tom Phillips completed a rare trilogy, ticking Britain's big three sub-24-hour fell running challenges within a single year. Here the 47 year old web designer from Lancaster tells us a more about his experiences on the Bob Graham (BG), Charlie Ramsay (CR) and Paddy Buckley (PB) rounds.

Tom Phillips on a successful winter BGR, 215 kb
Tom Phillips on a successful winter BGR
© Tom Phillips

Tom did a winter Bob Graham on 7 February in a time of 23.20; he followed this up with the Charlie Ramsay 20 June (22.52), then finished with a Paddy Buckley 20 July (23.13).

'Only 32 people have ever completed all three rounds' he says, 'and before me only three had done all three in under 24 hours in one season, although Mike Hartley did an amazing three in a row but took over 24 hours on the Paddy Buckley.'

Being local to the Lakes and having already run a summer Bob Graham the previous year (21.03), not to mention having put in weeks of training in the area with Dallam running club, Tom was on familiar ground with the winter BG. With the other two, less so. 'I'd walked all the Ramsay summits in the past, but many years ago. I only knew small sections of the Paddy Buckely in advance, but covered half the round two weeks before my attempt which made me realise how hard the navigation was.'

Attempting the trio in a single year seems to have begun almost by accident.

'After my winter BG I was keen to do the CR, and in the back of of my mind thought there was a remote chance of doing the PB as well this year. In the event the initial plan to do a recce of the CR turned into a full (successful) attempt, and then the success of that led naturally the to PB recce and attempt.'

Support runner (and UKC-er) Graham Briffett on the Aonachs, 88 kb
Support runner (and UKC-er) Graham Briffett on the Aonachs
© Tom Phillips

Reassuringly though, despite having KIMMs, long distance triathlons and about 200 Munros under his belt Tom still had to put a lot of training in.

'I was doing as much as was physically possible, typically 200km per month on the hills. I suffered a bit from a weak ankle at times and this forced me to rest, which was probably a good thing. I also do lots of cycling, which is great training for going up steep hills.

Were there any moments of doubt along the way?

'I had great support on all three rounds, although a section of the CR I did solo as the support meeting point didn't work out. Hardest for me was the winter BG, with more than 15 hours of darkness. I had failed in a previous winter attempt (see video here) and this time too I thought the game was up in the middle of the night when I pretty much ground to a halt due nausea and lack of food. But I slowly came round and was surprised to be still ahead of schedule at Wasdale. Finishing it with time in hand was really memorable, walking through the woods at Portinscale with the owls hooting, feeling very mellow after the arduous night I had suffered. It is a very draining challenge; but then in summer it would be the easiest of the three!'

Nantlle Ridge, 165 kb
Nantlle Ridge
© Tom Phillips

On the back of his recent achievement does he have any other running goals in sight?

'I'm not quite sure just yet, but of interest are the UTMB, Lakeland 100, and perhaps the Rigby Round and Meirionydd Round.'

Whatever he goes for, we wish him luck.

Moel yr Ogof, 125 kb
Moel yr Ogof
© Tom Phillips

The Big Three

Snowdon, 175 kb
© Dan Bailey

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.

Scafell, 154 kb
© Dan Bailey

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.

Gery Corries and Ben Nevis, 144 kb
Gery Corries and Ben Nevis
© Dan Bailey

Ramsay Round

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.

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