Imagine covering 515km
with 36,000m of ascent – under the pressure of a ticking clock and a specific
number of peaks to be bagged…
The Wainwrights are
the 214 fells in England’s Lake District, and visiting all of them is a popular
challenge for peak-baggers. There’s even a register kept of those who have
completed the Wainwrights.
Bagging those 214 peaks
within a specific time, however, is quite another level of challenge. The first
continuous round of all 214 Wainwrights was completed in 1985, in 9 days and 16
hours. The following year a new record of 7 days 1 hour was set by the
legendary fell runner Joss Naylor. This record was said to be impossible to
beat – it was, after all, the ultimate British ultramarathon.
Nineteen years later, hardcore
ultra runner Steve Birkinshaw made an attempt at breaking that record. With a
background of nearly 40 years of running elite orienteering races and
extreme-distance fell running over the toughest terrain, if he couldn’t do it,
surely no one could…
He smashed the record
in 6 days and 13 hours – that’s over 515km and with 36,000m of ascent.
Steve has now written
a book, There is no Map in Hell, accounting
his extraordinary achievement, and it will be hitting the shelves in the UK this
Rockhoppin’ Trail has
been invited by the publisher to take part in Steve’s blog tour – a nine-day innovative
online strategy to market There is no Map in Hell during the week of its launch. Each day a unique blog post written
by Steve will be hosted on a different award-winning international blog site.
Rockhoppin’ Trail has the privilege of hosting the first blog of the tour!
Today is that day – Day
1 of the There is no Map in Hell blog
tour, and here is the post Steve has written for Rockhoppin’ Trail:
persistent need to push harder, faster, further
by Steve Birkinshaw
During most races I take part in there are
times when I think, “This is really painful, why am I doing this? I want to
stop”. This happens on short races when my lungs feel like they are going to
explode. It happens on long races when I get an energy dip and on every step up
a climb my quads are screaming at me to stop. It happens in an ultra when all
my muscles and joints are agony and I am shuffling along like an old man.
|Day 6 - Leaving the
campervan at Dodds Wood in a lot of pain to start the final section|
However, almost as soon as I finish I will
be thinking about the next race. If it went badly, I will immediately be
thinking of doing it again but doing it better.
If it went well I will be happy and want to do another race – but push myself
harder or further. There have, however, been a couple of occasions when a run
has been so hard and it hurt so much that I have needed to take it easy for a
month or so while the mental scars vanish to be replaced by the positive
memories. In particular I can think of the Lakeland 100 in 2009 where I
suffered badly over the last thirty miles. I even sat down on a wall for five
minutes at one point and decided to give up before I started moving again.
|Day 5 - Mel
Culleton-Wright and Emma putting on my socks over the blisters at Patterdale
For me, worse than the pain of running is
the mental anguish of not running. When I have been injured or ill I have found
sitting watching a race exceptionally hard. The excitement of the preparation
and the emotional high that everyone has when they come back exhausted is very
hard for me to watch. I want to be out there and experience that high. I want
to know I have pushed myself to the limit and achieved a good time. It is
really nice to win races but I get the most pleasure from knowing I have given
it my all. I think I crave that high from the endorphins released during
running. When I have finished the stresses in my life have completely
disappeared and I am happy and relaxed.
But then there is the need to push it further
next time to see how far I can go, how far I can push my body. I am never going
to be the fastest runner – I am too big and weigh too much – but I seem to have
an ability to run for long distances and the mental attitude to push myself and
keep going when many others might give up.
|Day 7 - Jim Davies
treating my tendonitis at Whinlatter Hobcarton car park|
Some of this explains my progression from
orienteering through to fell races, long fell races, mountain marathons,
adventure races and then ultras. The longer the race the more satisfaction and
emotional highs I get from running hard and pushing myself to my limit. The
longer the race, the better I also seem to do, which also increases my
satisfaction. Running round all the Wainwright was for me the pinnacle of forty
years of running. Over time I have gradually increased the distance I have run
and pushed it further and harder than before. Finally I had the experience and
stamina to push it hard for six and a half days round all the Wainwright fells
in the Lake District. – Steve Birkinshaw
Labels: Lake District, Steve Birkinshaw, There is no Map in Hell, Wainwrights