It takes the world’s best runner to beat Billy Bland’s 1982 Bob Graham record!

by Jul 9, 2018Bob Graham Round, Inspiration, Interviews with legends, Training0 comments

What an unbeatable day it was yesterday in Keswick – from 6pm in the town centre you couldn’t move for people gathering to cheer in Kilian Jornet, the world trail running champion from Catalonia, who broke Billy Bland’s famous Lake District Bob Graham Round record by just over one hour. NEW RECORD 12 hours 52mins!

Watch Kilian finish the Bob Graham live here! (Thanks to all who watched and commented live it was GREAT to have you there! Keep your comments coming!)

Kilian was thrilled with his 65 mile day out in the UK fells with leg-punishing, lung-busting 8000+m of ascent. When asked for his favourite mountain of the 42 Bob Graham peaks or the best view, he simply said, “All of them! It was so beautiful, not like when we came before to the Lake District and all we could see was like 3 metres!” Oh yes KJ, we know!

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Kilian Jornet’s instagram post on smashing the Bob Graham record: 12 hours 52mins 8 July 2018

Over three decades ago, in 1982, Billy Bland and his crack team of pacers (the likes of Joss Naylor, Kenny Stuart and Pete Baron) knocked the Bob Graham record down to an untouchable 13 hours 53 mins. Since then, many have tried, and come…oooh…sort of close. But yesterday Billy Bland, Bob Graham record holder for 36 years, shook the hand of the man who managed to break it by a whole hour, Kilian Jornet. In my interview with Billy back in November at Kendal Mountain Festival, he thought maybe 40-45mins could be knocked off. He knew about Kilian but he was gunning for a Brit to take the title that he considers has been “Put on a pedestal.” Now we can see just how incredible 1982 Billy’s record really was as it took arguably the best runner in the world to smash it!


Billy Bland and Kilian Jornet shake hands. Photo: Danny Richardson

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Kilian running through the hordes gathered on Keswick’s main high street to the Bob Graham finish at the Moot Hall. Photo: Diane Wright


Pacers Carl Bell (red) & Paul Cornthwaite (black), former record holder Billy (white), new record Kilian (blue), pacer Harry Greenbank (yellow) Photo: Danny Richardson

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Kilian and Billy spray champagne over the official media team at the Moot Hall! Photo: Tim Harper


Kilian Jornet afterwards at the Moot Hall, Keswick, Lake District where the Bob Graham round starts and finishes. Photo: Diane Wright

Kilian came back to sign books, thank his pacers and chat to fell legends like Billy Bland and Kenny Stuart (who holds the Ben Nevis fell race record from 1984…Kilian and Kenny were talking about it…! Watch out Scotland!) See the live footage, some interview questions and his chat with Kenny here.


Keswick main high street before everyone arrived! Bob Graham finishers run in from the right

It was an incredible run in brilliantly sunny, dry conditions. No less than 42 mountains in the Lake District, over 8000m of ascent, all in 12 hours 52 mins with a crack team of speed demon pacers. In an amazing twist of fate, these incredibly fast guys had been set to pace fell running superstar Rob Jebb on a Saturday Bob Graham attempt when he decided it was ‘too hot for a Yorkshireman’ and called it off!

Leg 1 Carl Bell; Leg 2 Rhys Findlay-Robinson and Chris Arthur; Leg 3 Josh Jardine, Martin Mikkelsen-Baron, Rob Jebb; Leg 4 Steve Birkinshaw, Paul Aitken, Andrew Scofield; Leg 5 Carl Bell (again) Paul Cornthwaite and Harry Greenbank. Neil Talbot also ran to provide them with water on Legs 3 and 4.

What was it like pacing Kilian Jornet??? I wouldn’t have even kept up with him on the final 10k road section, would you? He was reported to have been doing 7min miles! Here’s what 4 of his pacers had to say about this incredible day out with one of the world’s best off-road / trail runners.


Kilian and pacer Carl Bell on Leg 1. Photo: Angela Wilson


The Bob Graham route, 65miles with over 8,000m ascent from Keswick, Lake District, UK

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Kilian striding out up Clough Head from Dunmail Raise to start Leg 3. Photo: Paul Taylor


Up and up again! Photo: Angela Wilson

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I think this is Leg 1 coming off Blencathra. Defo Kilian and pacer Carl Bell. Photo: Mick Kenyon

Talking to Kilian afterwards, he said, “I did really enjoy the technical rocky sections over Scafell Pike.” This is on Leg 3, and the dry conditions would have made those rocks brilliantly grippy for a runner of Kilian’s caliber to fly over with ease.


Pacers for Leg 5, plus Martin Mikkelsen-Baron from Leg 3 (in blue) at the Moot Hall


Carl Bell who paced Legs 1 & 5, and Martin Mikkelsen-Baron from Leg 3 near the Moot Hall

Kilian Jornet observed the ethos of the famous Bob Graham round most sensitively. He visited Billy and his wife Ann on Wednesday and they were really pleased that he did so. Ann said, “Billy always said he’d like to shake the hand of the person who broke the record before he pops his clogs!” She was following Kilian’s progress online and posting on Facebook yesterday.


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Billy was there at the end to welcome Kilian, along with Kenny Stuart (Ben Nevis fell race record holder from 1984, who sadly had to give up his glowing running career due to chronic fatigue syndrome) and Pete Baron who had both paced Billy’s record round back in 1982. They had some interesting things to say about the new record – the much drier, mist-free weather and the well-trodden paths definitely make a difference after 36 years. Here’s what they think about Kilian’s new record.

Not to knock Kilian’s amazing achievement one bit here, he is an absolutely mind-blowing athlete who fully deserves to break this record, but this post from journalist Fiona Marley Paterson captures the incredible nature of Billy’s 1982 Bob Graham feat very nicely I thought. Fiona Marley Patterson.jpg

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The wonderful Billy Bland and me outside the Moot Hall. Well, you know all my fave fell runners are ginger, or used to be! 😉

Oh, and then THIS HAPPENED!!!! Which I am so totally fan-girl stoked about. Thanks Kilian! If only he were ginger he’d be bumped straight up to number 1…;)


Want to know more? Other great articles on Kilian’s Bob Graham here:

Dan Bailey from UKClimbing

Matt Heason, organiser of Sheffield Adventure Film Festival

Kirsty Reade from Run247

Kilian’s Bob Graham Round Record

Let me know if there are more and I will add them 🙂

Want even more info on fell running and the history? Here are your must-reads:

Feet in the Clouds A tale of fell running and obsession
By Richard Askwith
The original book that made many more people aware of the Bob Graham Round and inspired them do it. It’s certainly to blame for my 26 hour 36 min epic in June 2013! This book beautifully describes author Richard’s journey into the world of fell running, meetings with the sport’s legends and his own attempts at the Bob Graham within 24 hours.

Buy it in the UK:
Buy it in America:

The Round In Bob Graham’s footsteps
By Steve Chilton
The awesome history of the classic British fell running challenge, the Bob Graham Round. This is your complete guide to absolutely EVERYTHING that happened!

Buy it in the UK
Buy it America:

It’s A Hill, Get Over It Fell running’s history and characters
By Steve Chilton
More about the whole history of fell running in the UK, a fascinating insight into the sport over the years, and the wonderful characters that shaped it.

Buy it in the UK
Buy it in America:

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