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Interview: Kim Collison Talks About His Record Breaking 24 Hour Lake District Run

Rob Howard / 25.07.2020
Kim Collison after his successful Lakes 24 Hour Record Run
Kim Collison after his successful Lakes 24 Hour Record Run / © Steve Ashworth

There’s been a glut of mountain running record attempts in the UK recently, some taking down very long-standing records, and among those was a new record for running the most Lake District peaks in 24 hours.

The challenge is an extension of the famous Bob Graham Round and the record set by Mark Hartell had stood since 1997, until Kim Collison’s successful run this July.  

Hartell’s record was to run over 77 peaks, starting and finishing in the same spot, in a time of 23.47. Collison had to either run over 77 peaks more quickly, or to really push the record further, to summit an additional peak.  He did both, finishing in 23.45 and climbing 78 peaks, to break the record which had stood for 23 years.  In the process he ran 90 miles and climbed 12,000m.

Collison spoke to SleepMonsters’ Editor Rob Howard about the record breaking run.

Why did you decide to try for this record?

I like the historical context and the Lake District Fell Running history associated with this run, and also the challenge of such a tough record.  I knew runners like Joss Naylor, Mark McDermott, Stevie Birkinshaw and Adam Perry had held or tried for this record, and the Bob Graham Club keep a record and a list of which are acceptable additional peaks.

When I ran a sub 16 hour winter Bob Graham Round I felt confident I had the endurance and pace to have a go at the record. This year I’d been looking at the Paddy Buckley and Ramsay Rounds, but as we were locked down and I live in the Lakes I decided 4 or 5 weeks beforehand to have a go.  This gave me time to recce some of the parts of the route I didn’t know.

I thought it was hard, but doable. The time limit puts you under pressure all the way and the physicality of the run and of adding in an extra peak all made it a hard record to beat. It’s 1 and a half Bob Grahams and you have to hold your pace right through to the end.

Did you have pacers?

Yes, for a record like this you need pacers all the way and I had 16 generous people who agreed to help me. The hard part is finding pacers who are quick enough, especially early on.  I’d say I set off at about 10% below race pace and then gradually slowed down. (Ed. 10% off of Kim’s race pace is much faster than most fell runners could ever manage!)

You also need pacers who you can trust with the navigation.  You have to trust them to follow the route and get the nav right in the dark, especially at the end when you are tired.

Kim Collision climbing Steel Fell with his pacers. Photo; Steve Ashworth
Kim Collision on Halls Fell. Photo; Steve Ashworth

How did the day go?

For most of the day it was perfect conditions, overcast with a cooling breeze, so there was no problem with overheating and I felt confident. For the first half I was bouncing up the hills and smooth on the descents. I was gaining time and feeling strong.

After about 10 hours I slipped on some scree in Langdale and cramped up, which was a bit of a worry.  Then at around 14 hours I had a real sugar crisis.  Climbing Yewbarrow I felt really slow and it was hard to climb, but I only lost 2 minutes which was encouraging. I was struggling to eat and knew I needed salts.

I guess it’s a matter of training and experience, to be self aware and recognise and deal with these situations. I was forcing myself to eat and drink and knew what I needed, and the pacers were monitoring me and offering the right things. I was managing to stay close to Mark’s times and at that time was just thinking to stay with him.

From 18 hours on it was a real mental battle, body against mind. The darkness made it harder to keep eating, keep the pace and keep mentally alert.

Then with 3 hours to go the mist rolled in and there was hardly a metre of visibility. I was relying on my pacers for the navigation, who did a great job.  Only when I was on the final peak, Grisedale Pike, with 40 minutes still to go, did I know it was going to happen. Then I could relax and enjoy the final descent with a smile on my face.

Where was the extra peak?

I had plans A, B, and C, and in the end it was plan B which was used. Plan A was to add Haycock, but it didn’t feel right at the time, so I took in Fleetwith Pike later on, which I think added 30 minutes.

Plan C was simply to beat the time without adding another top, but I wanted to add the extra peak.

You carried a tracker. Does that add extra pressure?

I know some people feel it does, but not for me.  I can forget about anyone watching and it helps with the verification of the record.  If it helps inspire others to get out and challenge themselves it’s a bonus.

Kim Collision climbing Steel Fell with his pacers. Photo; Steve Ashworth
Kim Collison climbing Steel Fell with his pacers. Photo by Steve Ashworth.

What has the reactions been like?

It’s been fantastic. Quite amazing. I never expected to be on the BBC News and I know that has been seen as far away as New Zealand. I’ve had messages from all over the world and have been pinching myself that so many people have been interested and inspired by the run.

What are the plans for recovery and future challenges?

I am going to be careful.  I’ve dug really deep and in some ways it is like doing a long adventure race so the recovery will be slow.  There is nothing in particular to bounce back for and I want to avoid any risk of viral fatigue.

I work as a guide and coach, and with the guiding all on hold and the coaching all online I can take it steady. I will be doing support on a Bob Graham Round next and in future want to look at the Paddy Buckley and Ramsay Rounds.  Whether I’ll just do them for myself or try for records I’m not sure. Sometime I’d like another go at a big adventure race too, especially to get to GODZone in New Zealand.

One final question.  Do you think all the record attempts going on right now are related to the covid situation?

Yes, I think that’s the case.  There are no races going on and with the crowded calendars these days it is easy to be over-raced.  With the lockdowns and lack of races it is much easier to be fully focused on a single goal and to have the time to prepare well for that.

Kim Collision is a sponsored La Sportiva athlete and you can find out more about him and his guiding and coaching services at https://kimcollison.co.uk/.

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