The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge route leaves Pooley Bridge to traverse 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbs 17,000 feet (77km, 5182m).

The inaugural run from Pooley Bridge to Wasdale was made by Joss Naylor in 1990, at the age of 54; in very bad weather with heavy rain and a strong SW wind Joss completed the run to Greendale Bridge in 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Chris Brasher offered engraved pewter tankards to the first 20 runners to do so with the proviso that they raised at least £100 for a charity of their own choice. In January 1997, with 17 tankards already awarded, Chris extended his sponsorship. In 2001, with 33 tankards awarded, Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.

The challenge is offered to fell runners over the age of 50 to complete the run in set times according to their age group. The challenge is intended to be a "supported run" for individuals - each contender is to be accompanied on every leg for safety reasons and unaccompanied attempts will not be recognised. There is more information on the Challenge Details page below.

If you are interested, please have a look at the Challenge Details, download a schedule or contact me using the "Email Ian Charters" form below.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Brian Horn (M60) - 12 August 2017

(photo: Brian Horn)

Living less than 5 miles from Pooley Bridge might give a local to this challenge a bit of an advantage and it has to be said that I’m no stranger to the old Roman road running from Askham over Loadpot and High Street with the kind of moorland terrain that can be challenging in less than good visibility. I also have the advantage of running in many of the Lakeland fell races that criss cross the route all the way to Greendale Bridge and given that I successfully completed the BGR 22 years ago you could be forgiven for thinking that I might be able to run this blindfold or cruise round it. Well that wasn’t how thought I about it. In fact I didn’t really seriously think about having a go until early this year when I foolishly committed myself to support my daughters 32 year old friend on his BG attempt in May.

Having just returned from lots of skiing trips I found myself trying to cram in long distance stamina runs to build some endurance and also refresh my memory of the 3rd BGR leg. Once I got going I found that I was rediscovering my pleasure in just running long distances rather than racing over some beautiful terrain and because of the overlap of routes I began to imagine that maybe I should continue to work on this rediscovered pleasure and began to consider the ‘Joss’. (The BGR support I gave was in foul weather and 6 hours of hell and nearly put me off!)

I decided I wouldn’t commit to the ‘Joss’ until I’d done a few long races and felt that I might be able to get somewhere near getting round. At the end of May after the Jura Fell Race I committed. There then followed several weeks of long runs and long recoveries. No more interval training or tempo runs. Build the stamina, recce the route, compare my times, look for the best lines. Most of this was done on my own as another advantage is that I’m retired can get out on the hill when most folks are at work. My wife Jane supported me by picking me up from remote valley heads after she had finished for the day in Carlisle where she works for the charity Safety Net (UK) as a therapist for victims of domestic, sexual violence and child abuse. Getting the timing right for meeting up was interesting and surprisingly worked out well.

Six weeks before the chosen date I took part in a 22 mile race in North Wales over Snowdon and the Glyders and almost from the start found that I was having difficulty breathing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. A friend suggested exercise induced asthma. The Doc thought differently and referred me to the Cardiology Dept. An article I found on the FRA Forum suggested Atrial Fibrillation (I’m no doctor) so I decided no caffeine or alcohol and as my appointment would be nearly 2 weeks after my attempt I had a dilemma! I continued training but making sure I started slowly and monitored my heart rate. I seemed okay. Borrowdale Fell Race loomed. I had entered intending to make it my last long run out before the big day. I tried to run it and not race, which is difficult when you see someone pass you that might be in your age category. Anyway I got round fine although 20 minutes slower than last year (but somehow managed to pick up 1st vet 60 - I think most of the opposition were somewhere else that day)

For the week leading up to the 12th August Jane took charge. I rested, stretched and ate - all veggie and healthy - till I nearly burst, then before I knew it, it was dawn and I was standing on the bridge with Craig, Steve and Scamp and we were off.

(photo: Steve Angus)

The value of knowing where you are going means you can travel confidently and we moved swiftly through the sleepy village and campsite and onto the open fell. The summits ticked by nicely making steady progress as the dawn sky darkened and clouds smothered the tops. Raven Howe, a little blip on the ridge gives sweeping views down to Ramps Gill valley and then High Raise disappearing into the mist revealed two bolting red deer. More tops came and went. Jogging steadily trying to remain relaxed and energy efficient. Steve claimed the Hodgson Brothers Relay line from High Street and in the mists Simon joined us as we climbed Threshthwaite Crag towards Stoney Cove Pike and we pushed on into the wind and rain and neatly down to Kirkstone Pass for hot tea and rice pudding.

I had told my supporters that I wanted them to enjoy the day out and would only go ahead if the weather was good so I was getting some stick for the unsettled stuff we seemed to be stuck with. Sorry guys!

(photo: Kath Aubrey)

But the babble of chat and banter, the concentration on travel and lightness of effort seemed to ease the conditions and it wasn’t long before I was saying goodbye to Kath and David who took me to Dunmail Raise where we surprised the next team who were huddled in cars sheltering from the elements.

(photo: Jane Horn)

I thought long and hard about what to eat on this adventure. I took some gels for an emergency but relied mostly on home made mini pancakes from a Mountain Fuel recipe and some bite size flapjacks and caramel bites from M&S. I kept off the sweet stuff for as long as possible. I also had a couple of homemade tuna, mayo and sweetcorn wraps which took me ages to get round to eating but really enjoyed them when I did. I wanted something ‘sloppy’ to eat at the road crossing and normally after a long run I eat a tin of rice pudding as it contains good carbs and protein mix and it’s cheap and easy - so that’s what I had at the road crossings and Sty Head plus hot black tea.
Now it was the turn of Richard and Justin. I took Richard on a recce of this leg in pea soup conditions and Justin had never done it before.

As we gained Steel Fell the cloud lifted and we had a view, but the rain and wind continued.

High Raise, (the second one), was now hidden in cloud on a featureless plateau. And it was raining again. Getting too cold now and so extra layers were added but no gloves because I’ve never mastered the art of putting them on with wet hands!

Ten minutes later and we saw a crack in the clouds and shafts of sunlight on distant fell sides, soon turning to swirling mist in the gullies and valleys and giving us fabulous views to Bowfell and the route ahead.

(photo: Richard Maven)

More comfortable now and more confident, forward motion and eating and drinking became routine. Memories of ascending the steep rake of Bowfell played on my mind as we approached, but it was dreamlike as we scrambled over the boulders and wet grass meeting Sue then Dave who made the trip out to give cheery support and encouragement. A stumble on the descent nearly put paid to the day leaving a few cuts and bruises but now I was looking forward to getting the right line off Great End and feeling the satisfaction of time well spent recceing the route.

(photo: Jane Horn)

Jane was waiting at Sty Head with rice pudding and tea. She’d had a long drive from Dunmail Raise to Wasdale Head through heavy traffic and then dashed up the path in a panic in case she missed me. She needn't have worried. We were ahead of schedule but not by that much.

This isn’t a race and it’s a long time to be out in the fells. So kit was something to consider as the weather forecast, although improving, was to be fairly unsettled and rain was likely particularly in the morning. Getting thoroughly wet early on made a change of tops necessary at Kirkstone Pass. When it rained again I wore my waterproof to Dunmail Raise and my waterproof - isn’t! so I was wet through again. It wasn’t raining much at Dunmail and I didn’t take the opportunity to change which turned out to be a mistake. It rained again and I got very cold on High Raise!

(photo: Jane Horn)

With support from Nina and Mark we now began the final stage and the climb of another psychological hurdle - Great Gable but soon enough we topped out and were descending carefully and climbing hard again and right on for the descent gulley from Kirk Fell. A quick stop at Black Sail Pass to get rid of a stone that I’d picked up over 4 hours earlier and head down for the long stretch up Pillar.

I knew the whole route pretty well so was happy to be ahead of the supporters. I like to find my own lines but sometimes following someone else gives a clue where a slightly different approach helps, for example where they falter or fall in a bog! And luxurious to have someone carry all your kit, food and drink and to keep you supplied on the go.

(photo: Mark Irvine)

Pillar and still smiling at the top with five more to go. The forward motion continued accompanied by the routine of eating and drinking, chat and banter.

No matter how many times I’ve been up here I’m blown away by the richness and depth of colour, the drama and magnificence of the Lakeland Fells, the power of the universe to create this environment, a place to enjoy. The running was a pleasure and I felt stronger than I could have hoped for. Scoat Fell, Steeple and Haycock - all to ourselves.

Even though the weather on my day was a bit grim at times and the bogs were full, they’re all an intrinsic part of the mountain environment and add to the atmosphere and enjoyment.

Greendale Bridge (photo: Mark Irvine)

Getting closer now. Seatallen was hard, (I needed a gel) Middle Fell amazing, the trod to Greendale Bridge an absolute pleasure, and to be greeted by Joss Naylor, my wife and friends an honour and a privilege.

It’s a long time since I completed the Bob Graham Round and memories of it are limited. The weather was grim then too. I’m pretty sure though that I enjoyed this day out better than the Bob partly because it’s a shorter challenge and you don’t have to stay out all night (unless you’re called Billy Bland).

I’m delighted to have completed the traverse in 13 hours and 13 minutes and I’m grateful to Joss for setting the whole thing off in 1990. I think it would be disrespectful to view the experience as spending a day just ‘doing the Joss Naylor’. There’s a whole lot more to this than the one day. What I’ve taken from this is the pleasure and satisfaction of many days out on the hill on recce runs in all weather conditions, on my own or running with friends. Exploring new corners of the fells, meeting other walkers and runners and telling them what I was doing and why. I even bumped into old friends that I’d met or skied with in the Alps from years ago. Even at home hours have been spent planning and reviewing and organising. And afterwards, meeting up with my supporters again and having the chance to relive and laugh.

And why did I do it in the first place - for my own pleasure initially, but then raising funds for Safety Net (UK) became another part of the fun! And I’m pleased to say that, so far, I’ve raised £750. So thanks to all the donors.

(photo: Mark Irvine)

Thanks to Joss for turning out, to my support runners who did a tremendous job of looking after me and without whose help I would never have made Greendale Bridge, everyone who has made a donation - no matter how small and to my wife Jane who has been outstanding in her support for my venture.

Brian Horn
Borrowdale Fell Runners

15th August 2017

Leg 1 - Craig Smith, Steve Angus, Simon Veitch and Scamp
Leg 2 - Kathleen Aubrey and David White
Leg 3 - Richard Mavin and Justin Bibby
Leg 4 - Nina Walkingshaw and Mark Irving
And throughout - Jane my wife

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