Monday, 3 March 2014

A brief history lesson

The Munros are all the Scottish mountains over 3000 feet and there are currently 282 of them spread across the Highlands. They are named after Sir Hugh Munro, the London born, Scottish bred aristocrat who was a keen mountaineer with a passion for surveying mountains as well as walking in them. He drew up his list in 1891. A founder member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, he famously just missed out on topping them all by just one hill. There is some dispute over the first person to climb them all, not helped by the fact that the list of Munros is open to regular revision. The Reverend A Robertson is widely regarded as having this honour although there are a couple from the the current list that he did not summit.

Munro bagging now is a popular pastime for lots of hillwalkers and mountaineers, most of whom use the list as a reason to discover the wild and largely unspoilt landscape that the Highlands has to offer. Over 5000 people have currently registered their completion of the list with the SMC, though I'm sure many more exist 'under the radar'.

My own Munro fascination began when I first read the book 'Running High' by Hugh Symmonds. Before I had done any fell running, this book made a huge impression on me. Hugh was an international mountain runner, teacher and father of 3 living in Sedbergh. He had a great pedigree as a runner and used this to complete a self propelled continuous round in 1990. He was not the first to complete a continuous round, Hamish Brown walked them all in an 'unhurried' 112 days in 1979. What Hugh did though was bring a runner's mindset to the challenge. He really was taking a leap into the unknown in terms of how his body would physically cope with the demands of his schedule which included running between all the hills as well as up them! He completed his round in a remarkable 66 days then went on to complete all the other 3000ft mountains in England, Wales, then Ireland in 91 days. Hugh is still having adventures with his wife Pauline and only a couple of weeks ago I went to see a presentation about their recent cycle journey through Europe, Turkey and East Asia. Truly inspirational and I hope I never lose that taste for adventure.

The book that started it all

Other rounds that left an impression on me have been Glasgow postman Charlie Campbell's 48 day self propelled round achieved using a bike between mountains and swimming the sea lochs. He held the record for the fastest round from 2000 - 2010 although not a lot is written about his adventure. More recently in 2010 Stephen Pyke combined his supreme mountain fitness with meticulous planning to complete his round in a tremendous 39 days. The blog of his round is here

Between them these rounds have all lent elements to my attempt. So thanks to Spyke, whose knowledge of the hills led to the creation of what I'm sure is a close to optimum route which I have changed slightly but not much. And thanks to Hugh for writing his book which fired me up to get out on the hills in a pair of running shoes all those years ago. Whether he deserves a thanks for the idea of taking your family along in the motorhome for a 'holiday' remains to be seen!

The latest from mission control is that we have spent a small fortune on a motorhome to meet our needs in Scotland and in the space of two weeks I have gone from being a tad concerned about having support on the hills, to having pretty much every day covered. So thanks to the friends and people I haven't met yet for your commitment to helping me. I'll do all I can to make it worth your while!

 That's how I roll

 Support crew

Da crib

It was quite a big week of training last week as well given that I was back at work. Saturday's usual slow bike ride was replaced with a two and a half hour 'race' against Si Stainer - that boy just doesn't do anything slowly. Then Sundays long run with Matt B was a toughie with snow, wind and sleet which I'm sure will be long forgotten when I'm on those Munros in 20 degree sunshine come April! Thanks to Matt for another great set of hill run pics as well.

This week's training:

M: Rest
T: 1 hour 20 run Lougrigg with club
W: 50 mins Scar
T: 50 mins Scar
F: 1 hour Scar
S: 2 hour 30 bike
S: 5 hour 45 mins Langdale - Slight Side - Scafell - Wasdale - Gable - Langdale

Totals:   Run: 9 hours         Bike 2 hours 30

6 weeks to go
 Heading out of Langdale

 Scafell up ahead

 They'll be faster and deeper in Scotland

 Slight Side summit

 Towards Scafell

 Dropping into Wasdale

 Herdwick under Gable

A wintry Sprinkling Tarn

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