Writing a New '42 Peaks'
Fellrunner (Summer 2021)
To the outside world, the sport of fell running is perhaps not best known for its literature. But most runners will be able to name at least one book which has played a pivotal part in their fell running story.
For me, like many others, it was Feet in the Clouds. I remember reading it on the floor of a packed Pendolino train, travelling from Penrith to London after just – and I do mean just – managing to complete the route of the Bob Graham Round over three days. When I boarded the train, I knew nothing of fell running as I collapsed into the vestibule. At the end of the journey, I was sure I had found ‘my sport’, despite the fact my crumpled legs would not allow me to alight the train, let alone run up a hill.
For many others, 42 Peaks will have been that book. In 1982, Roger Smith brought together one of the first full narratives on the origins and development of the Bob Graham and the Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record. Much of the material was sourced from Fred Rogerson, founding Chairman of the Club and formative chronicler of 24-hour rounds. Publication was in the same year that Bob Graham’s memorial cairn was unveiled near Ashness Bridge in Borrowdale.
Forty years on and the stories in the unassuming, dark green booklet continue to educate, inspire and amaze. While the book was updated on two occasions, first by Paddy Buckley and then by Brian Covell, the passage of time inevitably means there are a multitude of other stories that have come since – each of which deserve to be told. This is what has led to the new edition of 42 Peaks.
Around the end of 2020, the Bob Graham Club were kind enough to entrust me to hold the pen on this weighty task. The Club’s constitution states that its object is to preserve the spirit and traditions of the Bob Graham Round. But there was nothing backward looking in their brief: the clear steer was one of modernisation.
With that in mind, we have sought to preserve the spirit of the original but produce a wholly new book. There have now been well over two thousand Bob Graham completions, each deeply memorable for all involved. It is clearly impossible to tell the story of them all. Instead, the book tells the story of those stories, seeking to convey the unique essence of the Bob Graham community.
While still a short book, it is undeniably longer. Colour photos have been added, some of which have not been published before. The book fills in some gaps in the history of long Lakeland rounds before Bob Graham but, more importantly, tells the story of everything that has happened since the original book was first published. 2020 – the year of the FKT – provided an apt end point, although this year’s dot watching has prompted some last-minute insertions.
Over the past few months, I have had the pleasure to exchange messages with nearly every record holder described in the book. Without exception, each has generously provided information and images on their exploits. Particular thanks go to Carol Morgan, the Club’s Co-President, who penned the foreword, and Roger, Paddy and Brian for the inspiration of their original words. Just like the round itself, the book could never have been completed without the support of others. Thank you to all.
The book is now being prepared for printing. With a fair wind, we hope it will be available in the familiar range of shops shortly – and of course at this year’s Club dinner.