Raj Mahapatra, Bob Graham Round

The great thing about June (in the northern hemisphere) is the length of the days. With over 18 hours of daylight in England by mid-month and more in northern Scotland, race organisers use the extra daylight to put on some of the year’s most gruelling adventure races. For the same reason it is also a favoured time of year for athletes attempting self organised endurance adventures such as the Bob Graham Round.

The Bob Graham Round is a fell running classic: 66 miles, 42 peaks and 27,000′ of ascent, all to be completed in 24 hours. About 70 successful rounds are completed every year, the vast majority of which come in late May to Mid-July because of the obvious advantages that extended daylight offers to fell runners. One of the latest to complete the challenge is Raj Mahapatra who, having failed a few years ago, came back for more this year and successfully completed his Bob Graham last weekend in 23 hours 52 minutes. His story is all the more remarkable because he suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine.

If contemplating the Bob Graham wasn’t enough, then consider the efforts of COLT member, John Knapp. Yesterday he completed the Northern Traverse. This race takes ultra running to the extreme. Starting at St Bee’s Head in Cumbria, it travels across the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorks Moors for 190 miles before finish up at Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby. In other words, it’s the classic Wainwright Coast to Coast walk, as a continuous run. John successfully completed the traverse in 57 hours and 8 minutes, good enough for second overall. Astonishing.

That might leave you feeling speechless, but consider what Matthew Barnes, another COLT, is going to go through this forthcoming weekend. Starting tomorrow he will be attempting a triple Ironman. That equates to a 7? mile swim, 336 miles on a bike and 3 marathons (just shy of 80 miles) running to finish. To be fair, Matt has form in the lunatic endeavour department as he is already a double Ironman. I can only wish him the best of luck.

It seems that nobody (apart from the dedicated athletes chasing 3 hours) takes marathons that seriously anymore and people rock up to the start with relatively little preparation (prepare to suffer, fools). Ironman hasn’t quite got there yet. It’s still tough enough and extreme enough to command the absolute respect of entrants. Yet, already I hear people claiming to be an Ironman when they have only completed an Ironman 70.3 (i.e. half Ironman). Nobody, but nobody is going to take on a challenge like those above lightly and it is only through meticulous physical and mental preparation that even a chance of success is assured. Raj, John and Matt, you are truly awesome athletes and I salute you!

My own contribution to the month of June is somewhat lower key. On Sunday I’ll be in Bala for the Bala Middle Distance. I last did this particular race in 2010 where I recorded a very reasonable 5:39 on what is quite a tough course. I was hoping for a good race after last weekend’s big day of training (1 mile swim, 65 hilly miles on the bike and a 6 mile hilly run). However, it seems that it was too tough for my poor body as I promptly went down with a cold. It’s now Thursday and my chest still isn’t clear, so I haven’t trained for a minute all week. At least I’ll be well rested.

So, whatever you are doing this June, take advantage of the daylight hours and make it awesome!

Photo Credit: used with permission by Steve Ashworth