Five years ago Lee ‘Toast’ Newton was a 15 stone overweight, football playing, lager loving lad but after an incident that left him badly beaten he decided something had to change. He’s gone from 42 pints in a week to 42 peaks in a day after successfully running around the famous Bob Graham round in under 24 hours.
The Bob Graham Round consists of 42 Lake District peaks over 66 miles with a total leg burning ascent of 27,000 ft! Lee was aiming to do the round in around 21 hours and he’s been training for the the last two years but injury put off his attempt last year. Usually attempts are made in June as they’re the longest days but Lee is a keen fell runner and wanted to enjoy his Summer races before making his attempt. It’s a daunting task which was very nearly put off until next year but a chance meeting fell running legend and friend Billy Bland helped Lee make his mind up after Billy said, “You only know how you feel today, how fit you are, who knows how you’ll be next year?”
Leg 3 is the longest leg covering 15 fells and the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike and includes a scramble up the well known Lords Rake, a steep rocky gulley and some fantastic little scree runs.
The support runners on this leg were Rupert Bonington, James Appleton, Mark Lamb and Andrew Slattery. Lee said, “This was one of my favourite legs; it’s a relief to be running again in the daylight and you’re amongst some of the classic fells. I was feeling strong so just kept pushing on, not really worrying about time, just going at a pace that felt right.”
Leg 3 is around 16 miles and 5600 ft ascent and was completed in 5 hours 2 mins putting Lee well ahead of schedule and having everyone wondering if he may get in under 19 hours.
The leg 4 team included World Champion Mountain Runner and local legend Ricky Lightfoot along with Nick Ray, Pete George and Andrew Slattery decided to carry on and do this leg too. After being stung by a wasp at the rest stop and then stocking up with Mountain Fuel drinks, pancakes and rice balls the team set off up Yewbarrow which is a very steep ascent that takes at least 30 minutes of hard climbing.
The pace increased, as much because Ricky, a full time fireman was in between shifts and at one point in a classic bit of fell runners motivation cried, “Get a f@@king move on Toast, I’ve got to be back at work for 6!” It worked and the lads ran down into Honister 4 hours later and were now well on the way to beating Lees schedule by two hours! Leg 4 is around 11 miles and 5850ft ascent and was completed in 4 hours 7 minutes.
The final leg 5 has the least ascent but this does not mean it’s the easiest as by this stage your knees are aching, you’re feeling fatigued but it’s also the leg where adrenaline kicks in and your support team can really push you along.
The team included Stuart Edgington, who’d also acted as driver on all the other legs, Andrew Murray, Martin Mickleson, and doing legs again were Pete George, Nick Ray and James Appleton.
Lee made it into the market square in a time of 18 hours and 57 minutes which was an amazing time considering how wet and boggy it had been on the fells. He was also welcomed back into Keswick by the biggest welcome committee anyone has ever seen for a Bob Graham with around 100 friends, family and club members and the odd bemused tourist cheering and clapping as he ran up and touched the Moot Hall doors. The legend and record holder Billy Bland was also there to shake his hand and said he’d only ever welcomed in a handful of runners. Leg 5 is around 11 miles and 2300 ft ascent and was completed in 2 hours 15 mins.
Lee kept change overs brief stopping for 19 minutes in total at the four leg changes as he felt strong and didn’t bother changing socks and shoes as they were soaked within minutes anyway.