Bob Graham Set to Music

The Bob Graham Round, the iconic fell running challenge named after the eponymous Keswick guest-house owner and keen fell-runner, has been set to music.

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

The 70-mile-odd Round is a sub-24-hour circuit of 42 Lakeland fells, including all the biggies and taking in about 27,000 feet of ascent. Hopefully the new piece of music will be shorter and less gruelling.

Bob Graham pioneered the mountain jaunt in 1932, famously completing it in tennis shoes, long shorts and a pyjama jacket and sustained only on bread and butter, a soft-boiled egg, a piece of fruit and some sweets. His time of 23 hours 39 minutes stood for 28 years. See the Bob Graham Club website for more info.

Despite Graham's understatement that the round is achievable by anyone of 'average' fitness, it is considered by many as one of the most demanding tests of endurance in the UK hills.

The piece of music is composed by London-based Maurizio Malagnini. Entitled 'Running in The Clouds', it is said to be inspired by the Bob Graham Round and one of the greatest runners of all time Joss Naylor, who famously raised the bar by adding loads more peaks in a number of impressive rounds over many years. The piece is described as a musical diary of Joss's memories and will be given its world premier by the Salford based BBC Philharmonic, in Kendal, on 14th January 2012. The performance will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Cumbria and recorded for transmission on Radio 3 at a later date.

Malagnini who before being asked to compose the piece had never actually visited the Lake District, was taken to the top of Yewbarrow on the shores of Wastwater by Richard Wigley, general manager of the BBC Philharmonic, to give him an idea of what a fell runner might face. Hopefully he has a good imagination, since it's hard enough even for experienced hill walkers to grasp the scale of the challenge.

Malagnini said:

'The piece portrays the intimate relationship between the runner and his environment. The music takes us through the most energetic and heroic moments of the ascent. It culminates in the final movement, A View from Yewbarrow. Here, Joss is lost in the mist until the wind blows away a cloud and uncovers an incredible view from the summit.'

Ian Stephens, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, said:

'The Bob Graham Round is a huge challenge and anyone completing it has gone through an epic feat of endurance and has to be admired. For Bob and Joss, two Cumbrian icons, to be honoured in this way is perhaps overdue and this goes some way to recognising their contribution to the sport of running and celebrating all that is magnificent about The Lake District fells, the amazing scenery and the relationships created between man and the environment.'

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