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Broken, the story of the summer of 2020, a historic time for running in the UK

2020 was an interesting year for long distance running. Ally Beaven takes us through the year of COVID-19 and FKT(Fastest Known Time) in his new book, a world which some of you may never have heard of! Broken tells the story of an unprecedented rise in the popularity of attempts at breaking these records.

Through the stories of John Kelly’s epic Grand Round, Beth Pascall’s record-shattering Bob Graham Round, Donnie Campbell’s mind-bending new mark for bagging all 282 Munros, Jo Meek’s new overall record for the Nigel Jenkins Dartmoor Round and many others, Beaven brings us an entertaining inside look at the incredible FKT machine.

John-Kelly-BG-Halls-Fell-1-copyright-steve-ashworth
John-Kelly BG Halls Fell 1 copyright Steve Ashworth

We fired some questions over to Ally about his time writing the book and quiet world of FKT.

RUN247: Which of the FKTs in the book didn’t get the media attention it/they deserved?

Ally: I think in most cases the more low-key records are that way by design. Real time tracking and live online updates are almost the norm now, but some people just aren’t interested in that and choose to go about their business more quietly. Finlay Wild is one of those, though I think the fact that the response to his Ramsay’s Round was less raucous than it might have been has more to do with the fact that it felt so inevitable.

RUN247: What would be your dream record/FKT to attempt if money and time were no object?

Ally: Something like Nolan’s 14 in Colorado where I’d have to spend a long time getting used to the altitude in order to run well would be an obvious, duly predictable choice. But why not think bigger: Olympus Mons.

RUN247: Who did you enjoy interviewing the most and why?

Ally: Nicki Lygo. She was the first person I spoke to and we rambled on for the best part of 2 hours, roughly equal parts book-relevant stuff and absolute bollocks. It was delightful. I had to try and keep interviews shorter after that. It turns out that transcribing and editing that much conversation is quite time consuming.

RUN247: Any stand out moments from your time out on the hill with the runners?

Ally: A bunch of them, all for different reasons. Jogging up the side of the A9 with Dan Lawson, trying to make myself as narrow as possible as the Diageo tankers flew by, I won’t forget that in a hurry. My night out with John Kelly was similarly just the right side of traumatising, though for very different reasons. And the end of Donnie’s Munro round on top of Ben Hope was a truly strange experience. I don’t know what I expected it to be. In fact, I’m still not sure what it actually was.

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Donnie Campbell – Devils Ridge copyright Steve Ashworth

RUN247: Having looked at so many FKTs in detail are there any which stand out as records which will stand for years? Likewise, are there any that are there for the taking?

Ally: One thing that’s been demonstrated this year, in the UK and further afield, is that talking about unbreakable records is, in the long term, a surefire way of making yourself look silly. Time marches on, standards improve and every record that’s been broken this summer will be broken again in the future. That said, each time a record is lowered the pool of people with the potential to lower it further is reduced and there are some, like Beth Pascall’s Bob Graham, that are now so good that it will take a very good athlete on a very good day to improve on them. The days of a have-a-go hero showing up with a bumbag full of sandwiches and doing something noteworthy are probably gone.

RUN247: Top dot watching tips?

Ally: Increase your empathy for the runners by eating 4 gels an hour and rubbing your inner thighs with sandpaper.

RUN247: Which runner would you like to see attempt which record/FKT in your dream scenario?

Ally: I have answers for this but some of them might actually happen and I don’t want to put pressure on anyone.

We wish Ally all the best with his new book launch.

Coming December 2020. Signed copies now available to pre-order HERE.