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Sabrina Verjee is first female to complete non-stop Wainwrights Round

Written by Fiona

July 13 2020

Ultra runner Sabrina Verjee became the first female to run a continuous round of the 214 Wainwright fells this weekend. She is thought to be only the fifth person to achieve this feat and her time of six days 17 hours 51minutes is the third fastest time recorded.

Sabrina, 39, of Ambleside, set out from Moot Hall in Keswick at 3am on Monday July 6. She arrived back in the Lake District town at the same place at 8.51pm on Sunday. She looked delighted to be greeted by two previous record holders, Steve Birkinshaw and Joss Naylor.

The round extends to a gruelling 525km (326 miles) with 36,000m (118,110ft) of ascent and Sabrina had been on target to break the record set by Paul Tierney last year in six days six hours until later in the week when her time started to slip a little.

She had reportedly taken no more than four hours of sleep prior to the weekend and she was suffering with a knee injury.

Due to continued social distancing guidelines, Sabrina ran with a minimal support team. She asked the public to not join her at any time on the fells, in contrast to scenes during previous rounds.

On Sunday, just before 6.25pm, Sabrina summited the last 214th peak, Cat Bells, then descended to the finish.

Three Wainwrights legends meet at the Moot Hall. From left to right, Steve Birkinshaw, Sabrina Verjee, Joss Naylor. Credit: Chris Lines

In Keswick after finishing, Sabrina said: “I’m so happy to have completed my round and more than a little relieved. My right knee hasn’t been happy for a couple of days, so the final sections were very tough, especially as the fatigue really started to kick in. 

“I’d have loved to have invited more people to be part of the adventure, but in the current climate that wouldn’t have been responsible. However, my small team shared loads of messages of encouragement with me, which were a big boost. 

“I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me during the round and it was very special to be joined by Steve and Paul, and then to see Joss at the finish.

“That says everything you need to know about the incredible camaraderie that there is in the endurance running community. I look forward to repaying that support during future attempts on the Wainwrights, but for now, I think that I’ll rest up for a while.”

She finished almost 12 hours after her hoped-for goal.

Sabrina completes her continuous round of the Wainwrights at the Moot Hall in Keswick. Credit Chris Lines
Sabrina’s route. Image from Open Tracking.

Read this progress report from Friday:

At the finish, Sabrina’s husband Ben Turner told a reporter: “I am incredibly proud of her.”

Joss Naylor said: “Sabrina has done something very special and set a tough target for other ladies to aim for. What she’s achieved will inspire others to have a go, but it’s a mark that could stand for many years.” 

History of the Wainwrights Round records

The first recorded continuous round of the Wainwrights was completed by Alan Heaton in 1985, in nine days and 16 hours. Two years later, fell running legend Joss Naylor set a new record of seven days, one hour and 25 minutes.

That stood for 27 years, until Berghaus athlete Steve Birkinshaw knocked almost 12 hours off the time in 2014, when he completed his run in six days and 13 hours.

Last summer, Paul Tierney, from Windermere, lowered the record by another seven hours.

Who is Sabrina Verjee?

Sabrina is one of the UK’s leading ultra-runners, having completed the five-day Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in Wales on three occasions, finishing second place in the women’s race in 2017 and 2019.

Last year, she won the women’s category in the Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing fifth overall.

Sabrina began planning for her attempt on the Wainwrights record many months ago, before the COVID-19 outbreak. Due to continued social distancing guidelines, she is running with minimal support and has asked the public to not join her at any time on the fells or at the finish.

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