Sabrina Verjee has completed a continuous round of the Wainwrights, in an amazing record time of 5 days, 23 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, cutting over six hours from the previous fastest known time set in 2019 by Paul Tierney.
This was her third attempt at the round of all 214 Lakeland fells, which covers around 500km distance and includes roughly 36,000m ascent. Last summer the Lake District-based vet became the first woman to complete a continuous Wainwrights round, in a time of 6 days, 17 hours and 51 minutes, but a knee injury slowed her down and forced her to accept physical assistance during some technical descents. Then in autumn 2020 she was back in the news, running the fastest known female time on the Pennine Way:
In May 2021 Sabrina returned to the Wainwrights, seeking the record, but bad weather and asthma forced her to abandon what had hitherto been a strong showing.
She rested, recovered, and waited for a favourable weather window in June. A support team was ready to join her on the fells, so at short notice Sabrina decided to start another round, following the same route (and a similar schedule) to her previous run.
The third attempt started from her home in Langdale early last Friday morning, and she got off to a fast start. Over several days Sabrina pulled far ahead of her target time, and though the gap began to close as distance and fatigue took their toll, she managed to finish well ahead of schedule.
Her progress was tracked here, and made for some epic dot watching.
Speaking after her round, Sabrina said: "I am very tired and very happy. This time, my body held out better than I expected and I was able to maintain a good pace throughout. The Wainwrights have become an obsession and I felt that I could and should complete a round in under six days, so I am over the moon to have proved myself right.
"Once again, I had a big support group and they have all been absolutely amazing. I could not have done this without them – it was a fantastic team effort. More than anything, it has been brilliant to spend even more time out on the glorious Lakeland fells in the company of good friends. And if what I have done inspires more people – especially girls and women – to get out there and challenge themselves, then that's an added bonus."
Along with support from her husband Ben and a large group of willing friends and fellow runners, Sabrina was being supported by sponsors Berghaus, La Sportiva, Petzl, Dexshell, Supernatural Fuel, Gingerbakers and Mountain Fuel.
History of the Wainwrights list and records
Back in the 1950s and 60s, Alfred Wainwright spent more than a decade crafting his famous series of Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. The seven volumes include all the well-known big Lake District fells such as Blencathra, Bowfell and Scafell Pike, along with a host of lesser summits from Lingmoor Fell to Latrigg.
Clustered across every corner of the Lake District, the 214 'Wainwrights' have become a popular tick list for keen walkers. Most walkers will spend years ticking them off in ones and twos, but when runners got interested the idea of climbing them all in a single journey took hold.
Alan Heaton was the first to run the Wainwrights in 1985 in one continuous circuit, taking 9 days, 16 hours. Two years later, Joss Naylor ran the round and despite a heatwave causing him to suffer from swollen feet, hands and mouth, he completed it in 7 days and 1 hour. The record stood until 2014, when Steve Birkinshaw completed the round in 6 days, 12 hours and 58 minutes.
In 2019, Paul Tierney took the record with a time of 6 days, 6 hours and 5 minutes. Commenting afterwards, Paul described how the mental battle was as hard as the physical one: 'The hardest part by far then was getting up and out of the van again. Walking down the steps of the van made me feel like I was an 85-years-old with two bad knees. Everything hurt and mentally I wanted to stop. After about 10 minutes these negative thoughts left me and I could focus on keeping going to the next summit.'