A couple of days ago, I saw a photo on Facebook that brought back a few memories, as well as a smile to myself. A red-haired bloke grinning like a Cheshire cat, being presented with a piece of paper by none other than ultra running supremo Beth Pascall, in heels.
Jamie with Beth Pascal
It wasn’t just any bit of paper though. This was a hard-earned certificate, proving that Jamie Rennie had completed the Bob Graham Round in under 24 hours and was now officially in the BG Club. Beth herself smashed the women’s BG Round record, her time one of the fastest ever, male or female. I guess she ran in studs.
Jamie’s BG certificate
So, I thought I’d ask Jamie a favour. Pen a couple of lines about me helping him with a bit of coaching advice. The idea being to put it on my website somewhere. I like being a bit of a ‘background figure’ with my coaching, although it’s something I’m enjoying doing more of.
When Jamie got back in touch with his reply, I was both humbled and touched by the words he wrote for me. Certainly it’s not just a line or two.
It’s a story in itself. One that may inspire others.
Maybe someone like you?
These are the words Jamie sent me:
“I’m 51 this year and have been running since I was 29. Before that, I played a lot of team sports, but my longest run had been once around the local park where I lived in Leicester – about 2 flat kilometres – and it knackered me!
Jamie training for the Bob with son Charlie
I first tried running properly when my brother decided to lose some weight and get fit back in 1999. I plodded around with him for a few months and gradually got a bit fitter. We entered a couple of road races and really enjoyed them. By 2005 we had graduated from joggers to runners and were looking for a new challenge.
Jamie’s family, Team Rennie, on the summit of Seat Sandal during a training run
The following year we entered the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) for the first time. Being from Leicester, the highest hill we’d run up was the local high point, Bradgate Park, around 250m above sea level. Not great prep for a mountain marathon!
Recce run on Leg 3 with Charlie, nearing Pike O Stickle
To compensate for this I read Richard Askwith’s new book – Feet in the Clouds, which had been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year. Suddenly, a new world opened up to me! That book first introduced me to the Ultimate Running Challenge – The Bob Graham Round. Just like Richard Askwith, as soon as I read about the BGR, I knew I wanted to do it.
Jamie setting off on his Bob Graham Round, with young WCOC orienteers for company
What followed was a journey into the joys of mountain running that lasted for 10 years. But during that time, despite running each individual leg of the BG several times, and taking part in numerous Mountain Marathons and fell races, I never truly believed that I could do the Bob Graham. It just seemed too big of a challenge, one that would forever stay as a dream rather than reality. In 2016 I got into orienteering, and the BG dream was put to bed.
Early light of dawn during Jamie’s Bob Graham Round
Then, in early 2020, Covid-19 appeared, and all competitive sport was postponed. Luckily, in 2017, my family and I had made the decision to move from Leicester to Cockermouth, so when the pandemic struck we were living on the Lake District’s doorstep. With no orienteering available, I decided to resume my love of mountain running.
Sunrise on High Raise
At the same time, my son Charlie – a promising young orienteer – was being coached by Graham Patten. Graham and I spoke regularly about Charlie’s coaching, but we also talked about my running, and it was during one of these informal chats that he persuaded me to have another look at the BGR.
Jamie digging in on the Langdale Pikes
Graham convinced me that not only was it possible for me to do the Bob Graham, it was also highly likely that I would succeed, and have a great time along the way, both during the training and on the attempt itself. He agreed to write me a training programme in late 2020, with a view to making an attempt on the round in Spring 2021.
The make or break Leg 3 – Jamie finding out what he’s made of
What followed was exactly what Graham had convinced me would happen. A series of specific training runs (some of which Graham accompanied me on himself), weekly zoom calls, advice and coaching tips that not only were highly enjoyable, also gave me the belief that a successful attempt was likely. Something that I never thought would have been possible a few months before.
Jamie descending into Wasdale at the end of Leg 3
Graham’s experience and knowledge of the BGR, long distance running and elite running in general is comprehensive. Training had gone perfectly and we began to think about possible dates for an attempt. In late March, with the programme Graham had designed almost completely fulfilled, we noticed a weather window. The date was set, pacers and supporters organised, and final preparations began.
Leaving Wasdale NT car park, just get up Yewbarrow and you’ll make it!
On the night of April 16th 2021, me and three pacers set out from the Moot Hall at 8pm, cheered on by Graham and a few family members. Conditions were perfect. By Dunmail raise I was just about keeping to the schedule. I met Graham, who was pacing Leg 3 for me, and we set off up Steel Fell at 4.30am. Leg 3 is the most difficult of the BG, and it’s where many attempts fail.
Only 3 summits left – Jamie leaving Honister Pass for the glory leg
Graham’s encouragement and friendly banter throughout Leg 3 made sure I got to Wasdale with the attempt still in good shape. He gave me the belief that if I could get myself up the next hill, Yewbarrow, then I would get back to the Moot Hall in Keswick within 24 hours of leaving there.
Finishing the Bob – now who’d have thought?
And so it proved to be. At 7.15pm, me and a hoard of supporters ran into Keswick to be greeted by friends, family, and of course Graham. There at the start, middle and end of my BG. His advice, coaching, encouragement and friendship were invaluable in my completion of the round. The dream had finally become a reality.”
Jamie Rennie, WCOC
A well-earned pint, the Bob Graham Round completed – never in doubt!
Thanks Jamie, for letting me be a part of your adventure, a really good day out on the fells. Thanks also to everyone involved, especially Jamie’s wife Helen, who had the hardest job of all keeping the show on the road.
21st October 2021