Aaron’s Bob Graham 10th June 2023

We all fail. Failure and disappointment are a fact of life. Whatever your goal it doesn’t always go your way however much you want it to, I’ve not played football 100 times for England, ran a sub 3 hour marathon or for a more recent example failed to stop the goats escaping through the allotment fence. Whatever your goal there are usually external variables out of your control. In the case of the Bob Graham Round variables include weather, injuries, poor planning and your own body’s reaction to eating and drinking on the move. Hot weather over the last few weekends has made completing the round difficult as few of us in the UK are used to these kind of temperatures which are magnified in the mountains. It may seem cooler due to the breeze but in reality it’s the same sun as down below.

Aaron looks relaxed as his support team count down the seconds

Aaron has helped on many rounds before (including my own) and is also an experienced ultra runner. He had built an experienced support team for his attempt with a mix of his local running mates from East Durham, some Elvet Striders and a couple of wildcards. I’m on leg 3 with Stuart who completed his BG in 2018. A 9pm start from Keswick means the road support are picking us up at 4.30 so not long after Aaron heads up Skiddaw we are off to the motor home for a few hours sleep. A nice peaceful nights sleep should be a much better start to the day than leaving home at 2.30 which was the alternative.

Saturday Morning Call 4.30am

The alarm pierces through my mind like an electric shock. Bollocks it can’t be that time already? The sun is up and it is time to get ready. My Frozen pillow and quilt have done an admirable job keeping me warm but the bunk bed isn’t quite long enough for my liking and I’ve been squashed all night (OK 5 hours of it). Running gear on, sun cream applied for the hot day ahead which has been forecast. Government weather warnings for heat have been published. Eric, the road support, looks far too cheerful when he arrives at 4.30am to take us to Dunmail.

By the time we arrive I’m feeling great, ready to go and full of energy. Our bags get filled with food and fluids to keep Aaron going and we wait. There is another runner out on the round who comes in while we are there. Nigel started at 8pm and isn’t going for a sub-24 hour finish. He looks strong and says our man isn’t far behind. It always helps that this leg starts with Steel Fell which I like. It is a steep grassy climb of about 300m after which progress can be made. Aaron comes into the checkpoint with James and Geoff slightly up on his schedule.

Aaron, James and Geoff cross the road at Dunmail with Seat Sandal in the background

Away We Go

Aaron’s forced down a porridge pot and chewed up a hot cross bun at the checkpoint. He’s changed his t-shirt, shoes and socks. We are ready to go. Despite arriving ahead of schedule Aaron’s had a few problems on leg 2 with a bout of sickness on Helvellyn Lower Man bring up some of his much needed calories. It is going to be our job to make him eat and drink enough over the next 6 hours to finish. We start up Steel Fell and after a minute Eric comes chasing after us. We have left Aaron’s bottle full of a £3.50 Maurten Energy Sachet at the change over. I get the job of running back down the hill but soon catch up and away we go.

Aaron nearing the top of the Steel Fell climb

Sickness and Stickiness

Refueling isn’t a perfect science, what works today might not tomorrow. It is a mix and match approach. Does this help? At Steel Fell Stuart pushes an orange High 5 energy gel into Aaron’s hand. Easy to digest calories like a fruit juice. After a sip Aaron decides it isn’t for him and half a mile later his porridge, hot cross bun and water come back up on the edge of the path. The day has become much more difficult. I’m stuck carrying an open gel in a situation to last year when I transported a bag of rehydrated chicken korma with rice from Wasdale to Rossett Pike. At least that time it was closed and not sticky. Aaron has a bit of a rest and begins to eat and drink on the way to Sergeant Man. He is looking and moving much better. We also find Barrie waiting for us on Sergeant Man which is a nice addition to the team.

Beautiful morning for a run

Picking Up The Pace

With the ongoing problems we have fallen 40 minutes behind the schedule and have played cat and mouse with Nigel and his support on a couple of tops. After Sergeant Man Aaron falls into a faster pace and we complete High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle and Pike of Stickle in the times on the schedule. Aaron is eating marble sized piece of rolled up Soreen Malt Loaf and drinking Capri Sun orange flavour. He still needs to get more down but it is an improvement.

Aaron, Barrie and Stuart on Thunacar Knott

Rossett Pike

I’ve always contoured around the long way to Rossett Pike but today we go the direct route and it is much quicker. Despite losing height and ending up at the stream we are able to climb up onto the shoulder of the hill much quicker. Rossett has a target time of 45 minutes and it is going to be a stretch when Aaron has a power nap a couple of hundred metres from the summit. With the big climb to Bow Fell up next it is looking like a long day ahead. Aaron drags himself to the top of Rossett Pike before declaring he’s out. A lack of food and dehydration has caused him to slow to a painful halt and brought an end to the BG attempt. Stuart phoned Eric and he was able to let the leg 4&5 pacers know we were OK but it wouldn’t be happening today.

Aaron has a rest on top of Rossett Pike after calling it a day on his BG attempt

Our main role of pacers is over but the job of getting Aaron safely off the mountain is just beginning. Nigel catches up with us again and is still determined to finish despite the heat and discomfort. We wish him good luck and start the descent into Langdale.

Langdale Valley from Rossett Pike

Descent To Langdale

Barrie had parked in Langdale so offered us a lift back to Keswick. After he had put so much effort into the attempt Aaron was tired and kept stopping to rest. It didn’t help that the path just seemed to go on and on forever. Three miles after the abandonment we were on our way to Keswick where Aaron was staying.

Stuart enjoys Aaron having a rest on the way to Langdale
Are Stuart and the Pink Panther related?

Keswick Capers

Barrie dropped us off at Aaron’s guest house. There was no answer at the door and despite Eric’s car being in the street he was nowhere to be seen and his phone went straight through to the answering machine. An unforseen problem, Aaron wanted to sleep and still looked tired. Barrie then took us to the motor home a few streets away. At least Aaron could have a rest in there and wait for Eric. Just as Barrie pulled away Stuart realised he left the motor home keys in Eric’s car so we were locked out. While I tried Eric again someone suggested for a joke Start should break in through the skylight which was only gaffa taped to the roof on one side. Quick as a flash he was on the roof and trying to squeeze through. Plan A didn’t work so Stuart ripped off the skylight, dropped into the van and opened the door.

Stuart pulls off the skylight

Recovery And Recuperation

Eric got back to us half an hour later. He had been up Skiddaw and the heat had made the walk longer than expected. After a few minutes he was around with the car to collect Aaron. While we were waiting Aaron had a sleep while Stuart beat me 3-1 at dominoes. After Aaron had left we headed into town to buy some waterproof adhesive to repair the skylight.

Aaron finds it easier to sleep on the bunk than I did and doesn’t event need the Frozen quilt


In Screw Fix it’s a choice between Sticks Like Shit and The Dog’s Bollocks which are unbelievably waterproof contact adhesives. Stuart goes for the shit at just under a tenner as the dog’s bollocks are £2 more. It’s a good thing it isn’t raining cats and dogs as the motor home is in the layby with no skylight attached. Stuart refuses to buy a gun to squeeze out the sealant and is confident a rolling pin will work. We meet Aaron and Eric and go to the Italian restaurant. Aaron enjoys the “Fool Proof” label on the side of the container and Eric can’t believe it will work without a gun. When we get back to the van the dream team of Stuart and Eric try to re-attach the skylight while Aaron and I laugh. Stuart forgets to put on the gloves but is successful in fashioning a silicon gun replacement out of the handle for the grill pan and a tea towel. With the adhesive spread in the right place they can’t get the hatch level and the project is abandoned.

Stuart and Eric on the roof

Homeward Bound

Aaron and Eric head off to the pub and we start for home. The skylight is now taking its turn lying on the Frozen pillow and we have a new feature in the motor home, an open sunroof. On a hot day it feels great and we are still warm. Stuart pulls away but on the first corner there is a banging noise. I fear the worst but he explains he’s forgotten to lock the cupboard shut so it is only the door moving about. I close the cupboard and a drawer and we are away. Well not quite, a crash on the A66 at Threlkeld means a diversion via Carlisle and the A69. Traffic is light and everything is OK apart from the skylight and the burning sensation in Stuart’s fingers where he touched the Sticks Like Shit with no gloves on.

Nigel eventually stopped his round at Wasdale 7 hours after we last saw him on Rossett Pike. A ten hour leg 3, what determination but I hope he didn’t do himself any lasting harm. We were all disappointed for Aaron that Saturday 10th June 2023 wasn’t his day but it will come. By the end of the afternoon it had gone from total despair to good training for the Lakeland 100. Good luck Aaron you deserve some after your experience today.

June 10th page from Stuart’s Daily Wisdom Book

Look Out For “Aaron’s Bob Graham The Return Mission”. Coming soon at 42 Lakeland Peaks near you in 2024!

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