I caught up with Sabrina Verjee following her recent finish of the Wainwrights Round. Although the 39-year-old athlete did not beat the record time set by Paul Tierney last year of six days and six hours, she described her time on the Lake District fells as “a cracking week”. She also vowed that she will return to try again next May.
Sabrina, of Ambleside, said: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. I will give it a go again and I am looking forward to it.”
Read about Sabrina’s round:
How knee injury hit record attempt
Unfortunately for the accomplished runner, a knee injury that she said came out of nowhere hampered her bid for the record on the 214 fells, as listed by Alfred Wainwright in his series of seven books known as A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. She said: “I set off well and the first four days felt great. I was on schedule and I was moving well. I was having a great time.
“But then my knee started to hurt from around Clough Head and it became more and more painful. I could go uphill, but the descending was extremely painful. I have never had a knee injury like this before.
“I tried so many ways to ease the discomfort on the descents, and there were so many tough descents. I tried shuffling on my bum, using my poles and going backwards. In fact, descending backwards was the least painful way to go.
“I had painkillers as well but I did require some assistance at times. I had to lean on a support person, Little Dave, down Clough Road to the Old Coach Road, and when descending backwards from Carl Side to Dodd Wood, I held on to two supporters to guide me between the rocks.
“There were a few more descents where I needed to lean on my supporters. But I did visit every summit and with every step taken by myself.
“I knew once I felt the knee pain that a record would not be achievable but I wanted to complete the round. I did so to my own satisfaction. I could have stopped, of course, but I was having too much of a good time.
“There was the pain but there was also the laughs and the great times spent with my support crew. I had an amazing week doing something I love doing.”
First female to complete non-stop round
Her time of six days, 17 hours and 51 minutes is the third fastest recorded for a non-stop Wainwrights Round, which extends to 525km (326 miles) with 36,000m (118,110ft) of ascent.
Sabrina, a veterinary surgeon, is also the first female to run a continuous round and thought to be only the fifth person to achieve the feat.
She had only seven to eight hours sleep over the entire challenge. She said: “My aim was to have only a little sleep and just one to 1.5 hours at some stops. I know this works for me because I have experience of doing it before.
“You need to know how to handle such a lack of sleep and to know when to stop for more. I didn’t doubt my schedule and I do think I am capable of going faster than the current record.”
Sabrina described the conditions underfoot as testing. She said: “After such a dry start to the summer, we have had a lot of rain recently. I had wanted to start the round a few days earlier but there was a weather warning. In fact, I would have ideally done the round in May or June but we were still in lockdown.
“This meant that the ground was wet and boggy and I had to do quite a few diversions around swollen rivers. There was also a lot of high bracken to get through. All this added extra time and distance to the round.”
Yet Sabrina described the week as “great fun”. She said: “I had a brilliant time last week and although I didn’t finish in my hoped for time I still did finish and I enjoyed it. There were so many laughs with my amazing support crew.
“I love these sorts of challenges, too, because I can be self indulgent. I enjoy the challenge, being in the hills, spending time with people I like and being fed the food I want. I really did have a lot of fun.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic meant Sabrina did not invite anyone other than her support team to join the challenge, she did appreciate the messages and treats that had been left on the hill summits. She said: “It was so lovely to reach the summits and to find supportive messages, cards and goodies. This really was fantastic. I received lots of social media messages relayed to me through my husband Ben Turner, too. The support was great.”
Next year for Wainwrights return
Sabrina has had her eye on a non-stop Wainwrights Round for some six years. She said: “This year seemed like the perfect time to try because there are no races due to Covid-19. I hope to try again next May.
“Just now I need to get my knee back to normal. I am not really sure what is wrong with it but it is very swollen and the muscles nearby are sore. I will need to rest but I am sure it will get back to normal again in due course.
“I will definitely have another go at the Wainwrights Round and if I go faster than the record then that is great but if I don’t, I don’t mind. I do these challenges for me and my own enjoyment and satisfaction.”
Thank from Sabrina go to those in her support crew: Her husband Ben, Kim Collison, Jacob Snochowski, Simon Mills, Sally Fawcett, Tim Miller, Steve Birkinshaw, Tom Gibbs, Paul Tierney, Dave Cummins, Charlie Sproson, Geoff Powell Davies, Joe Faulkner, Helen Jackson, James Thurlow, Victoria Rose-Miller, Ben Abdelnour, Shane Ohly, Josh Hartley, John Knapp, Neil Talbott, Nicky Spinks, Mike and Hazel Robinson, Lou Roberts, Bruce Duncan, Dave Spence, Peter Sowerby, Rob Bond, Giles Ruck, Paul Wilson, Gaynor Prior, Wendy Dodds, Jonathan Whilock, Dan Duxbury and Howard Dracup.