"I fancied being the first to do something"
July 10, 2018 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Fell runner Nicky Spinks is the first person to complete the double Ramsey Round, a brutal and technical 116 mile circuit of the hills and mountains above Fort William, Scotland, which includes 24 peaks, 23 of which are Munros. She competed the run in 55 hours and 56 minutes.

Nicky began fell running in 2001, and holds multiple world records, including the fastest time for the double Bob Graham Round in the Lake District. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006.

Earlier this year, Nicky was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to sport and charity.

Fell running previously
posted by Helga-woo (17 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Shout out to Wordshore for another person multitasking whilst driving a tractor (in the Guardian interview).
posted by Helga-woo at 7:58 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

i got shin splints just by reading the first sentence. ultra props to this athlete!
posted by lalochezia at 8:02 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amazing, seriously.

ultra props to this athlete
I see what you did there.

Of course: She had hoped to complete the run in 48 hours and despite making up time on different legs was unable to achieve the target.
I could run much more if I were able to swap out my legs partway through.
posted by Gorgik at 8:27 AM on July 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

so I don't understand. did she run non-stop for 55 hours? do people who do these sorts of runs stop for breaks? food? bathroom? I have never done any sort of distance running or endurance sports and I did not see any info re this in the main article.

anyway. incredible. I'm about her age and I couldn't run a mile with a giant spider chasing me.
posted by supermedusa at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

did she run non-stop for 55 hours? do people who do these sorts of runs stop for breaks? food? bathroom?

Yes, but she stopped a few times for a few minutes (presumably for bathroom breaks). She probably carried food (or gel) to eat along the trail, and wore a vest with a hydration bladder. Her average pace was pretty slow, but the fells are steep and the surface is rough, and she was running in the dark for a lot of it.

Go Nicky Spinks! (Also, what a great name.)
posted by suelac at 8:44 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

whoa! My brain aches reading this. Over six miles is a challenge to me for sure (sometimes even three is.)
posted by brokeaspoke at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Huh, I've never heard of fell running. Right now I'm reading Born to Run, which is a fantastic yarn about ultrarunning, some of the obscure competitions and the superhuman efforts it takes. A great, fun read for anyone interested in the topic.
posted by slogger at 8:51 AM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Back in the day I climbed Ben Nevis - up and down in about seven hours - and that nearly killed me. I literally can't imagine doing like fifty miles and umpteen other peaks on top of that. Never mind twice.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:17 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Surprisingly, fell runners aren't what you call the Nazgul when they're not riding a horse or weird bat-lizard creature.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

did she run non-stop for 55 hours? do people who do these sorts of runs stop for breaks? food? bathroom?

I used to do this sort of trail running. It's kind of a lifestyle, and once you fall out of the lifestyle one needs to overcome a lot of inertia to get back into it. Nevertheless, I regret nothing.

You do stop for breaks. Some runners have been known to take naps on long courses. You learn to eat in a way that one normally wouldn't eat at a 5K, or even a marathon. Like, stopping to stuff down a hoagie, and then hit the trail running without throwing up ten minutes later. Basically you're always running an energy deficit. As for bathrooms, bathrooms are where you find them.

The "always running" bit is a good question. There are purists who claim that it isn't legit unless one is running 100% of the time no matter the terrain and conditions. There there are the rest of us who find ourselves walking the steep parts. Sometimes this plays out in weird ways. I got some serious dirty looks from other runners laboriously chugging up the path "running" at the Jungfrau Marathon when I walked past them. To me, the combination of running and hiking, but constantly moving forward was always the big attraction of these sorts of events. As long as you keep moving you might finish farther ahead of the pack than you'd expect.
posted by lagomorphius at 10:11 AM on July 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

If nothing else I highly doubt that she was "always running" for the fact that most humans lose the ability to run on slopes greater than a 40-45% incline from vertical. From the description of some of these fells, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some outright crawling.

However as lagomorphius (and multiple others) point out quite often, a walk will be less energy intensive, or potentially faster than a run. Depending on the person, but this usually happens in the 12-14 minute/mile pace range. I.E. if it's taking you more than 14 minutes to move a mile at your desired pace a walking gait will be better. Faster than 12 minutes and for most people running is more economical. At 55:56 for 116 miles, that's about a 28:55 minute/mile pace.

I've found that only up to marathon distances have I heard about people talking about "always running." At any ultra distances it's mostly assumed there will be some full on stops at aid stations for refills of gear/food (in the article it stated she had supporters carrying rations/clothes) in addition to potentially strategically walking some sections. I guess technically she could continue running and take off a hydration vest while someone passes her another.

Despite "stops" I wouldn't be surprised if she was moving at least 99% of the time. Relentless forward progress.
posted by nobeagle at 10:45 AM on July 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

She celebrated with a double full English breakfast.

posted by roger ackroyd at 11:28 AM on July 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

At school in Cumbria, cross country running is pretty much fell running, because everywhere else from where you are is up, unless it's down, it's one of the main sports there. I don't know about the rules, but I mostly walked. Down though, down was fun.

I've just checked, and Joss Naylor from the previously link is still with us, and did a 30 mile fundraising run for his 80th birthday.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:02 PM on July 10, 2018

Bloody hell.

I've just signed up for a rough 20k. I can't imagine 116 miles.
posted by happyinmotion at 12:24 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Feet In The Clouds - great book about fell running and the Bob Graham Round!
posted by maupuia at 1:29 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think it should also be brought up just how much climbing there was. 15,268meters of climbing. For reference, The Barkley Marathons (previously, previously and more previously) is about 16,000m depending on the year.

To put that into a bit of perspective; for those on strava, the typical run "climbing challenge" is typically 2,500 - 3,000 meters. Over an entire month.

A shorthand for calorie estimates is for every meter of ascent to compare it to 10 meters of horizontal movement. So that 15k in climbing is roughly the equivalent of another 150km of horizontal distance (another 93 miles). I'm sure that estimate also assumes the land is smooth rather than climbing over large rocks, or struggling with scree. I.E. that estimate is way to low for this terrain.

Last year, I aimed to work on my elevation gain as my main training point. Over a year, I barely did double what she did in 2.5 days. Bloody hell indeed... except it seemed like she didn't have too many foot/shoe problems :)

Something more generally with ultra running, as there were some questions about whether they just run, or eat/etc ; I find interesting here that the highest cause listed for dropping out of an event (at almost 25%) is nausea (and the associated not being able to eat/drink which kills mood and ability to move in non-turtle mode). And I wouldn't be too surprised if a lot of the 18% of "not able to make cut off times" were associated with not eating/drinking potentially coupled with nausea.

Definitely the second link (her run report after the fact) is worth reading, as she does mention some of the food/breaks she took. Explicitly mentions walking and pacers (and dropping some), climging, stopping to map read and dealing with the environment.
posted by nobeagle at 1:37 PM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Huh, I've never heard of fell running.

AFAIK fell running is just what the English call hill running (in Scotland it's known as hill running, not fell running - and presumably in many other countries).

Meanwhile, just a couple of days ago, the greatest male hill (/mountain) runner of his generation (which effectively means, ever) Kilan Jornet, has just knocked a full hour off the record for the Bob Graham Round, a record that had stood for 36 years.
posted by penguin pie at 2:29 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

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