On Saturday 20th May Andy Berry broke the speed record on the Lake District 24-Hour Fell challenge, beating Kim Collison's 2020 time of 23 hours 45 minutes by over 20 minutes, to record a new time of 23:23.
The name of the game is to climb as many Lake District fells over 2000ft as possible within a 24-hour period. To set a new record a runner either has to add more peaks than the previous record holder, or match their tally in a faster time.
Andy had been aiming to do 79 fells, but in the event had to 'settle' for 78, the same number as Kim.
Starting from Newlands Hause at midnight on Saturday, Andy headed first to the northwest fells, before ticking off a fairly comprehensive clockwise round of the major high ground in the Lakes. Covering around 151km, and with over 12,200m of ascent, in essence his route bore some resemblance to an extended Bob Graham Round, with many add-ons.
Durham-based plumber Andy, 38, already has the fastest time for the 116-mile Steve Parr Round, among others, and back in the dark and cold of late January 2023 he made headlines for setting a new Winter Tranter Round record:
"After I did the Steve Parr Round in 2021 I decided that I would rather aim for some of the top records in British fell/hill running and fail than never try at all in fear of that failure" Andy tells us.
"I started with attempts on the Paddy Buckley, then the Ramsay. The Winter Tranter was a bit of a fun accident but the culmination was always an attempt at the Lakes 24 hour record."
Getting himself into a position to be able to make a realistic attempt was a gradual process over a long period of time, he says, requiring "lots of hill time, lots of hard work on my treadmill but most of all consistently turning up and getting it done."
"It wasn't built in a day, there isn't any magic success tool or session, it's a commitment to being the best version of yourself knowing that even in failure you'd be able to look in the mirror and be proud of everything you poured into it. No excuses."
It's worth noting that Kim Collison is not just the previous record holder, but also Andy's running coach, a coalition that Andy has clearly found invaluable in progressing towards the Lakes 24hr goal.
"Kim has been my running coach for the last 18 months or so (I also have a separate strength and conditioning coach I work with called Margarita Grigoriadi)" says Andy.
"It was an interesting cup of coffee when we first met up to discuss coaching, but he has been absolutely superb. Any conflicting feelings he did have were kept firmly to himself and he has done nothing but offer me realistic encouragement in my goals. I said to him on Saturday night that he isn't just a top top athlete but just an all round top bloke."
Having access to Kim's hard-won route advice gave Andy an added edge.
"He was open and honest about places he could have had slightly better lines" says Andy "and where he felt better or worse. This allowed us, even on the day, to make decisions that bettered my chance of success."
Far from being a solely individual effort, Andy's record was made possible through the support of a strong team.
"I had an amazing set of people who came out to help me and I can't stress enough how important they were to the success of the day" he says.
"I very much sign up to the idea that I was just a baton getting passed on leg to leg between teams of top runners I'm fortunate enough to call friends. The major difference being this baton had to run itself round.
"My partner Jess did an amazing job of the road support with some help from her dad Jeff on the horrible job of getting in and out of Wasdale on a sunny Saturday in May!
"Kim ran with me from Wasdale to the end at Newlands Hause. Between himself and my partner Jess they kicked my arse back out of Wasdale when my brain was telling me it was hopeless and I was done. If it wasn't for them in that moment I would have got in the car. There were others there who were as encouraging and positive but in that moment I trusted the opinions of Jess and Kim the most."
Despite the moral support, fell number 79 proved elusive on the day.
"We had a time cut off for the extra peak of 6.45pm on the summit of Red Pike in order to have enough time to finish according to the times Kim was able to run the same parts" Andy explains.
"I was well past that and I was actually down on Kim's time still at that point. There was no indication really that I was about to explode back into life to the extent that I did."
Amenable conditions helped, Andy says, both in terms of visibility for locating all the right lines, and being dry enough for decent progress underfoot.
"Even the northern fells were not nearly as soaked as they'd been at every recce of that section I'd done" says Andy.
"The heat was more of an issue and it was an oven in Langdale for the brutal climb up Pike O Blisco. But all in all I have zero complaints about the weather, there's very rarely perfect conditions for a 24-hour period so there will nearly always be a balancing act to it.
"The first two legs are a bit of a blur of just trying to keep controlled and not going too crazy, keep moving, keep eating and keep drinking. Then it was a bit of a rollercoaster of highs and lows from Threlkeld on, huge highs like the journey out to Catsycam or the leg over to Langdale and huge lows like thinking it was slipping away in Wasdale.
"I had a bit of an embarrassing hissy fit on the side of Yewbarrow much to the amusement of Kim, Steve and Damo but a quick face wash in the stream, a slap across my own face and a stern talking to myself and on we went! I knew this was going to take me places I'd potentially not have seen before so I had written on my arm in marker pen 'all-in, to the end, yes you can' as a reminder that until I was told it was impossible I was going to keep going."
On hitting the finish he had, he says, a huge feeling of relief.
"All the work, all the sacrifices of not just myself but those around me for my success. I didn't know what to expect but I just looked for Jess and took it from there; that hug will live long in the memory."
Andy would like to thank inov8, Petzl, Torq and Leki for their support.