Roger Smith reviews The Big Rounds: a new book on Britain’s ultimate mountain challenges and the people behind them by TGO contributor David Lintern
The three classic British hill running challenges – the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District, the Paddy Buckley in Snowdonia and the Charlie Ramsay in Lochaber – arose quite independently of each other. However, they are increasingly regarded as a ‘trinity’, adding up to a significant achievement if each of the three can be run in under 24 hours.
David Lintern, a regular contributor to TGO, has cleverly taken this unification of the three rounds and turned it into a book which is packed with information, great stories of epic rounds, and a selection of superb colour photographs which give a vivid impression of what each round holds in store.
He has moreover recognised that while each of the Rounds was set up as a running challenge, the routes have an attraction for backpackers and detailed guidance is given for people who want to take the slower approach.
The history of each round is also outlined. The Bob Graham is by far the oldest, the original eponymous round being done in 1932, whereas the Buckley and Ramsay rounds are much more recent creations. Each of the three includes a country ‘high point’ (Scafell Pike, Snowdon and Ben Nevis) and statistically, considering they were planned apart, they are remarkably similar. In each case the distance is around 60 miles/100km and the total ascent is over 26,000ft/8000m.
All three have been successfully completed in winter, which is a quite different achievement from a summer round, and ‘double’ rounds are also listed.
For each round, there are highly personal accounts and at the end of the book are interviews with nine ‘people of the rounds’ including Buckley and Ramsay which make absorbing reading, giving as they do a clear insight into the mentality of ‘round runners’. It is plain that for many of them, the not inconsiderable physical achievement was more than matched by the uplift they gained simply by being out there in the hills – a feeling I had very strongly myself at the end of my own BGR.
You do not need to be a superathlete to enjoy this book. For anyone with a love of the hills it should inspire and inform in equal measure.
The Big Rounds: Running and walking the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay Rounds by David Lintern is published by Cicerone Press (£18.95)