Fish and chips the perfect reward for resilient Ilkley Harriers

Neil Smith was bothered by hungry midges on his leg of the Billy Bland Challenge

Neil Smith was bothered by hungry midges on his leg of the Billy Bland Challenge

First published in Sport

JUNE offers the shortest nights of the year, so it is the perfect month for runners to attempt the famous Bob Graham Round.

Starting and finishing at the Moot Hall in Keswick, the 66-mile course takes in 28,000 feet of climbs and 42 peaks.

The individual challenge to complete the route in under 24 hours is world-famous and it can also be attempted by clubs as the BILLY BLAND CHALLENGE.

Teams of ten run in five legs and choose their start time.

A team of 21 Ilkley Harriers runners set off well prepared, rewarded by blue skies and perfect Cumbrian views.

Sarah Edwards, Alistair Barlow, Paul Sowden and Jamie Hutchinson left the Moot Hall at 7pm and hit Threlkeld, still in daylight, in just under four hours at 10.59pm.

Hungry midges greeted Clare and Neil Smith, John Coates and Andrew Merrick (doing his first mountain run – and in the dark) as they headed off up the Dodds.

This group had the worst of the conditions, with mist on the summits making navigation difficult in the gloom.

Leg two handed over to Dan Wilkinson, Jack Wood and Ben Shepperd at 3.45am and this trio ran a fast leg on the longest stint, despite having had little sleep, handing over at 9am.

The leg-four group (Alison Weston, Kate Archer, Brain Melia, Dick Waddington and Jane McCarthy) also ran well to hand over to Sharon Meadows, Alison Bennett, Adela Reperecki, Val Kerr and Neil Chapman at 1.24pm.

Kerr said: "The steep scrambled descent of Robinson was easier this year as the rocks were dry and did not look as menacing in the daylight.

"We stopped for a quick chat with the support team on the way down. We soon hit the road and the temperatures rose as the wind died away.

"The last mile was a bit of a struggle in the heat but we eventually reached the Moot Hall finish at 16.07 to be greeted by Alison and Kate, followed by fish and chips!"

Ilkley's overall time of 21hr 7min was two hours quicker than last year.

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