[T]he furore of Kilian Jornet’s record breaking Bob Graham Round on Sunday 8th July was a hard one to miss. His feat of endurance saw him smash the 36-year-standing record of local fell running legend Billy Bland in an astonishing 12 hours 52 minutes. The excitement was fever-pitch for this world-class talent because the Bob Graham remains the pinnacle achievement for most amateur fell enthusiasts.
It is this humble ambition which led a relay group of 30 runners across the same round only 24 hours earlier. The runners, from local Cumbrian clubs, with notably 27 from Penrith-based running club Eden Runners, set out to fulfil the dreams and ambitions of their friend, and loved one, Stephen Owen.
Stephen tragically passed away during Loughrigg fell race in April 2017, surrounded by his friends, and doing what he loved. He was stolen from his love of fell running too soon and was consequently unable to fulfil the mountain running dreams and ambitions he held. Therefore, his partner and army of friends set out to complete the 66 mile and 42 summit challenge on his behalf, whilst raising awareness and life-saving funds for the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young.
Leaving the Moot Hall on Friday 6th July at 18:55 they were poignantly seen off by a member off the Bob Graham committee and completed the round in 22 hours and 28 minutes; within the 24-hour limit of the acclaimed challenge.
Clare Kent, co-organiser, described the weather as; “stunningly beautiful, albeit a little warm. Runners kept themselves safe with plenty of extra hydration, sun-cream and support vehicles full of provisions and ice-lollies!”
Katie Milburn, Stephen’s girlfriend, who was behind the fund-raising concept said: “I’d like to extend my appreciation to our amazing behind-the-scenes support crew including, drivers, those who watched our emergency tracker, and all involved in masterminding the relay’s logistics’. Before adding, ‘but this wouldn’t have been possible without our many runners and their limitless enthusiasm.”
The emotional journey was littered with poignant moments. Runners stopped for a minutes’ silence on Blencathra summit at sunset, over-looking Cumbria Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve Eycott Hill, where Stephen had worked. And on Robinson, the final summit of the round, Justine Carruthers, Traybakes Managing Director, who co-captained Leg 5 and offered Traybake sustenance and vehicle support for the event, led some poignant words to mark the occasion.
Speaking of the emotive challenge Clare Kent said: “My standout moment was seeing Katie touch the door of the Moot Hall in triumph to signal the end of the round. But more than anything, the faces of the runners and support crew I will never forget. The sense of ‘team’ and ‘community’ was palpable’. Jonathan Tombs, Eden Runner, added, ‘being out on the fells with friends with a shared purpose of doing Stephen’s memory proud will mark this round out as being uniquely special.”
Katie spoke of the achievement with tears in her eyes; “What we have together achieved for Stephen and for Cardiac Risk in the Young hasn’t yet sunk in and I hope it doesn’t for a while as it has a rare dream-like quality’. Adding the words of friend and runner Alex Mitchell, ‘You did it Stephen, with a little help from a lot of your friends.”
To mark the end of the round, runners and supporters gathered in the wonderful Little Chamonix café in Keswick to toast to their success and reflect on an emotional day.
Almost £3,500 has been raised so far in aid of Cardiac Risk in the Young – a little-known charity who are growing in influence. The vital funds contribute towards life-saving research and free screening programmes, whilst also providing support to those living with cardiac conditions, and to the bereaved. If you would like to donate please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cryforstephen