British ultra-runner James Gibson has become the first person to complete sub-24 hour, solo, unsupported Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay rounds in one winter.
The English, Welsh and Scottish routes represent the ‘big three’ of Britain’s 24-hour ultra-running challenges, and Gibson’s accomplishment has broken new ground on the unique trails, which are mainly ran in the summer.
A new accomplishment
James Gibson first took on the Bob Graham round, which is based in England’s Lake District, in December last year.
He only needed one attempt at the 66-mile route, setting a new unsupported solo winter record by completing the famous route in a time of 21:12. The current overall record, completed in the summer, is Jack Kuenzle’s 12:23:48.
Gibson then turned his attention to the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales’ Snowdonia, and after two ‘weather-beaten’ attempts the third time proved the charm as he completed the feat in a time of 23:02 in early February.
Then, on February 25, Gibson broke through the barrier to become the first person ever to complete all three major British rounds in one winter, completing the Charlie Ramsay round at the second time of asking in a time of 23:09- another new unsupported solo winter record.
It means he completed all three rounds in a total time of 67:23, climbing 75,000ft across 185 miles- all in the winter.
“Perseverance and effort”
“I’m psyched to finally complete my project for the season,” James Gibson explained to his sponsors Inov-8, “It took some perseverance and effort to keep coming back and trying, but I’m glad I did.”
“In total, I made six attempts with three successes and three weather-beaten failures between December 10th and February 25th. What an adventure it has been!”
The Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay rounds can be treacherous in the summer, but with the thick snow and ice that the winter season brings it can make the routes deadly for unexperienced ultra-runners.
Gibson left the ‘worse’ until last, with the Ramsay round in the Scottish Highlands being the route he was most anxious about.
“It’s certainly been the round I’ve been most anxious about due to its serious mountain terrain and conditions,” he said, “but with a good weather window I was treated to an amazing experience.
“It was such an incredible adventure with many exciting – and hair-raising – moments, but a very fitting way to finish the winter season.”
Pushing his limit
Speaking to Run247, James Gibson explained why he was attracted to the challenge of running all three rounds in one winter.
“I wanted a challenge that would not only test myself individually with winter skills, resilience and also fitness,” Gibson explained, “but something that would push my absolute limit in terms of success.
“I would certainly say that this tested my perseverance and determination to achieve the outcome with six attempts and thee successes, so having to go back to have another go after multiple failures was hard at times.
“Another thing that motivated me was to essentially prove that I can carry a bag and be self sufficient, something that last year on the Wainwright’s I had everyone do for me.
“I knew no one had finished the rounds solo/ unsupported as the Ramsay had never been done in this style in winter, so trying to achieve this in winter definitely added motivation.”
Running solo and unsupported in the winter is considerably rarer and more dangerous than in the summer, but that didn’t turn away Gibson’s desire to face the challenges and make history- and he had plans to ensure his safety along the way.
“For me, the added challenges of running in winter solo/ unsupported would consist of a number of things,” he said “firstly being out there on the hills in winter completely on your own, would most definitely be the major one.
“I always had a SMS text system in place with someone, whereby I’d update someone at certain hills or times. This would help reassure people that I was okay.
“Alongside this would be the winter elements, snow, wind, cold temperatures, ice, darkness all certainly adds more challenge. But having the right kit from Inov8 certainly helped me deal with this.
“For me I really enjoy the challenges that winter presents, there’s no hiding from the fact it’s all much harder and I really enjoy that.
“I enjoy the cooler temperatures for running and the scenery that you find; the mountains of the U.K. are some of the best in the world. So what’s not to enjoy?”