Kilian Jornet Breaks Bob Graham Record

© Danny Richardson

Spanish ultra runner Kilian Jornet has just set a stunning new record on the Bob Graham Round, with a time of just 12 hours 52 minutes. The previous record for the fastest time, Billy Bland's 13hr 53m, has stood since way back in 1982.

Kilian on Bowfell about 5hrs45mins in, still looking fresh  © Paul Taylor
Kilian on Bowfell about 5hrs45mins in, still looking fresh
© Paul Taylor

With a minimum of advance fanfare, he set off from Keswick Moot Hall early on Sunday morning. Despite high temperatures, a blistering pace was set from the start, and he was 19 minutes up by the start of leg 3, the stretch from Dunmail Raise to Wasdale which is generally considered the meat of the round (see route card here).

Kilian made it to the summit of Scafell Pike around 13:30, putting him roughly 35 minutes up on Billy Bland's record time at that point. And it seems he only made up more time as the day went on.

Several big names in British hill running were there to help out over the day, including Martin Stone, Steve Birkinshaw and Shane Ohly. Record holder Billy Bland was at Dunmail to shake Jornet's hand in passing.

Billy Bland, record holder for 35 years, greets Jornet at Dunmail  © Danny Richardson
Billy Bland, record holder for 35 years, greets Jornet at Dunmail
© Danny Richardson

"Kilian had wanted to try it in autumn 2017" says Shane Ohly, who was among those to offer logistical support, "but he postponed due to injury and poor weather. He mentioned to me last weekend at the Mont Blanc Marathon that he was still keen and looking for some help... next weekend!"

"Martin Stone, who supported Billy's record (no cars allowed to Wasdale and the pacers had to run there and back) has been instrumental in organising Kilian's pacers this year. I've helped a bit in the background too with organization and road support."

"It looked impossible to find fast enough runners and we were really struggling. It turned out that Rob Jebb was planning a BG attempt on Saturday and all the great and good of fell running were committed to help Jebby! However, Rob decided that the weather was to warm for a Yorkshireman and suddenly only on Friday an elite team of pacers was freed up. That said Kilian started this morning with no one planned to support leg 5 yet!" said Shane.

In the event the support team included: Leg 1 Carl Bell; Leg 2 Rhys Findlay-Robinson and Chris Arthur; Leg 3 Josh Jardine, Martin Mikkelsen-Baron, Rob Jebb; Leg 4 Steve Birkinshaw, Paul Aitken, Andrew Scofield; Leg 5 Carl Bell (again) Paul Cornthwaite and Harry Greenbank.

"Also, it was a massive effort from Neil Talbot who shadowed Leg 3 and 4, missing the summits but meeting the runners in cols with water" said Shane.

"The day started cloudy and cool but the heat built up steadily. That said, Kilian is used to that sort of climate and I was confident he was going to do it..."

Leaving Dunmail Raise with a large crowd of well wishers and supporters   © Paul Taylor
Leaving Dunmail Raise with a large crowd of well wishers and supporters
© Paul Taylor

Named after its originator, the Bob Graham Round climbs 42 Lake District fells (most of the biggies) inside a 24-hour period. Covering a distance of roughly 66 miles and 28,500 feet of ascent, it's one of the classic big three UK mountain challenges, along with the Paddy Buckley and Ramsay Rounds.

Around 2000 people have completed a BGR to date. The current female record is 15hr 24m, set by Jasmin Paris in 2016.

Kilian and Carl Bell on Blencathra - flying!
© Robin Regan

On 2nd July, just three months after breaking his fibula, Jornet marked his return to racing by winning the Mont Blanc marathon, recording a time of just 3h54'54'' for the course, which is 42km and includes 2780m of overall ascent.

"I felt good physically throughout the race. I knew I would have a problem on the ascents but had to go a bit slower on the downhill stretches," Jornet said.

It looks like his recovery is well underway.

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I define myself as a lover of mountains. I like competing, but, above all, I conceive sport as a way to discover landscapes both inside and outside you.

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8 Jul, 2018

Someone's been getting that ready during the day! :-)

Glad you noticed! Slaving away at a hot computer when i should've been out in the hills...

8 Jul, 2018

Think he started at 6am, not 7am as per article, otherwise that would have been 2 hours off the record!

Well spotted, thanks


8 Jul, 2018

In this heat? Blimey. The man's a machine. 

Good effort.

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