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.
Taking it all in at the top of High Raise. Picture by www.jamesappleton.co.uk
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?”
Within a week of that conversation the decision was made, the date set for Friday 9th September with a midnight start and friend Phil Winskill set in motion the calls for support runners and road support to ferry runners.
Lees local running club is Keswick AC but he also runs for Team Mountain Fuel so turned to Rupert Bonington a fellow Keswick AC member and co-owner of the sports nutrition business to help him make up some of their famous power pancakes and energy rice balls. It’s often said that ultra distance runs aren’t just about running; it’s an eating and drinking contest and the one that manages to eat an drink the best has the most energy to finish!
“Honestly officer, they’re not what they seem!” Energy Rice Balls
As ever the Lake District weather played it’s part and epic rains hammered down on the Friday up until 11.00pm which led to lots of debate over delaying the start time. However despite being wet underfoot they decided best to just get on with it and the Leg 1 team of Steve Angus, Scamp his dog and Tom Loan set off with Lee at midnight. High winds on Skiddaw were tough and the river Caldew in spate led to a very scary crossing, Tom said, “The river was up to your waist and flowing really fast, we had to make a human chain to get across or we’d have been swept away.” Leg 1 is around 13.5 miles and 5100ft ascent and was completed in 3 hours 32 mins.
Leg 2, descending Fairfield and overlooking Grisedale tarn and Seat Sandal. Picture by Oli Bloomfield
Leg 2 support runners have arguably the toughest leg as they start at around 3.30am so need to be in position by 3am which means not a lot, if any sleep before and a very early breakfast. The runners were Josh Jardine, Oli Bloomfield and Craig Smith and while it is a tough start they do get the added bonus of enjoying the potential of a spectacular sunrise. Oli said, “Changeover at Lee’s house…….quite unique for a BGR as it’s usually in then Cricket Club car park! Even at 3.30am he had people up and about wishing him good luck, including his boss Kenny Hebson and Dave Loan” . Leg 2 is around 14 miles and 5600ft ascent and was completed in 3 hours 42 mins.
Leg 3, on route to Rosset Pike. Picture by www.jamesappleton.co.uk
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.
Leg 3, scrambling up Lords Rake to Scafell. Picture by Mountain Fuel
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, selfie on the summit of Scafell Pike with L to R Rupert Bonington, Andrew Slattery, Lee Newton, James Appleton and Mark Lamb. Picture by Mountain Fuel
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.
Start of leg 4 at Wasdale. Lees just been stung by a wasp! Picture by www.jamesappleton.co.uk
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 start of leg 4 with L to R Ricky Lightfoot, Lee Newton, Nick ray and as he’s quite small Pete George’s leg. Picture by www.jamesappleton.co.uk
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.
Climbing to the summit of Dalehead on leg 5. Picture by Mountain Fuel
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.
Leg 5 on the way to Robinson the final peak. Picture by www.jamesappleton.co.uk
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.
What a finish, welcomed home by the legend Billy Bland.
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.
It was an emotional and joyous end to a long day and Lee said, “I really appreciate all the help and support that I’ve been given so thank you to all my family and friends. Couldn’t have done it feeling as great as I did without Mountain Fuel and the snacks Rupert Bonington and Jessica Hebson from Cakes from Lakes made for me. The craic on each leg made it seem like it was just a great day out with my mates and the welcome I got when I entered the Market Square was overwhelming.”
Lee sipped an energy drink a day for two days before the attempt. He also had a Night Fuel the night before and an energy drink pre midnight start.
During the attempt, Lee drank two energy fuels per leg plus ate around 3 or 4 rice balls plus the same pancakes. Lee also had a Morning Fuel at each leg stop plus a Recovery fuel at leg changeovers 3 and 4.
The only time he felt a little queasy was after attempting to eat bacon sandwiches on leg 2 but soon ditched these for easier to absorb food.
Road support: Owen Mills and Stuart Edgington
Leg 1: Steve Angus, Scamp his dog and Tom Loan
Leg 2: Josh Jardine, Craig Smith, Oli Bloomfield and Foley the dog
Leg 3: Rupert Bonington, James Appleton, Mark Lamb and Andrew Slattery
Leg 4: Ricky Lightfoot, Nick Ray, Pete George and Andrew Slattery
Leg 5: Stuart Edgington, Andrew Murray, Martin Mickleson, and doing legs again were Pete George, Nick Ray and James Appleton