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Runner Ross Jenkin completes four classic UK mountain rounds non-stop

Written by Fiona

June 25 2021

Ross Jenkin is thought to be the first person to complete a continuous traverse of all four of the UK’s classic 24 hour mountain challenges: The Paddy Buckley, Denis Rankin, Charlie Ramsay and Bob Graham rounds.

The Cumbrian police officer completed his self-created “Big 4 at 40” challenge when he touched the door of Moot Hall in Keswick last week.

He has so far raised more than £7000 for a number of different charities, including CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). 

Ross, who lives with his wife Maria Gallego-Calderon and 13-year-old daughter in Tebay, had set out to complete the four iconic rounds in 2020 but poor weather and injury meant he had to pull out before the last round.

However, the accomplished ultra runner, who is supported by Dynafit, was determined to complete the challenge and returned this month for another go.

He said: “I wanted to do the four national rounds for many reasons. I turned 40 in 2020 so this a mid-life crisis of sorts; I want to do something to raise some money for some causes which mean a lot to me; and when I thought of this as a challenge I couldn’t get it out of my head so I simply have to do it.”

4 classic mountain rounds in one go

This time Ross was successful. Starting with the Paddy Buckley Round in Wales on June 13, Ross completed the 105.2km and total ascent of 10,380m in 25:36:09.

He said: “This was hard because the weather was so hot. It was up to 28C and I felt so fatigued. I didn’t have any energy despite eating and taking on fluids.

“I am sure that in better conditions I would have gone under 24 hours but I was simply happy to finish and to leave the heat behind.”

During the first couple of legs of the round he said he felt his lowest of the entire challenge.

He said: “I kept thinking that it was so bad because I felt so tired and there were my two support runners carrying all my stuff and still I seemed to be feeling worse than them.

“I thought how embarrassing it would be if I had to give up so soon in the challenge. But then other runners said they were finding it tough, too, mainly because of the heat and so I felt better psychologically.

“I knew I wanted to keep going.”

Next was the Denis Rankin Round in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the least well known of the home nation rounds, the Rankin was created as a tribute to the fell runner Denis Rankin, who died during a race.

The Denis Rankin Round is located  in the Mourne Mountains. Ross completed the 88.4km with  7711m of ascent in 23:02:49 on June 15.

He said: “I lived in Northern Ireland for 10 years and when I was thinking about doing the classic rounds in the UK, I knew it had to include the Denis Rankin.

“It doesn’t have the same amount of elevation as the others but it does include some tricky terrain and out-of-the-way summits.

“We saluted Denis with an energy drink on the summit where he sadly died.”

The Charlie Ramsay Round in Scotland was next for Ross. He finished the 96.3km with 9950m of ascent in 29:07:43 on June 16.

He said: “The Ramsay round is a formidable beast. It is more remote and there are some potentially dangerous ridges.

“I am best suited to the steep mountain ascents of the Ramsay and so it was easier for me than the Paddy, although towards the end the accumulation of sleep deprivation affected me and I was aware of how one stumble could end in disaster.

“I was finding it hard going at that point and my vision and balance were affected by my fatigue. I was very pleased to have poles with me and I was very happy to finish that round.”

On the drive to the final round, the Bob Graham, in England, Ross stopped at Penrith for a friend, Nina, to give him a sports massage. He said: “I was very grateful for the massage and I think it helped on the first stages of the Bob Graham.

“In fact, my support runners were surprised by how well I was moving on the climbs in that round. My legs feel good. 

“It was when I got on to the flatter sections and the descents that I was slower.”

Highs and lows of Big 4 at 40

Ross reveals that he had a very low point on the Bob Graham. He said: “I was travelling anti-clockwise and as I headed toward Steel Fell I was worrying about what felt like a very tight tendon.

“I was concerned it was going to suddenly snap because it felt like a taut elastic band. I thought that the whole challenge was going to be over. I was in tears and then I just collapsed to the ground in frustration.

“One of my support runners took off my shoe and sock to take a look. He told me there was a big sore on the ankle and that was what was making me think it was a tight tendon. I was so relieved and although it was painful I knew I wasn’t going to destroy my tendon.”

Ross also suffered large blisters on the sides of his feet and his little toes. He said: “The blisters were large and rubbed to the flesh. They were very painful but that was really the only injuries I suffered.”

His time for the 106km Bob Graham Round with 8833 m of ascent was 32:59:51. He said: “I have never felt joy the same as when I finished. I was absolutely over the moon. I was on my way up Skiddaw towards the end and I knew I’d got it; I knew this was it. 

“I managed to push hard and then I saw the lights of Keswick below. I somehow found the energy to jog towards the town and I got faster and faster until I was sprinting to the end. I felt truly exultant.”

Running for mental health

Ross, who lives with depression, discovered the benefits of running long distances some five years ago. He is also a climber.

He says: “I think of the mountains and running long distances as my therapy. It is a breath of fresh air mentally for me to be out in the hills and mountains.

“This is one of the reasons I am raising funds for CALM. I am also sharing the money collected with the Dogs Trust and a third of funds raised will be equally shared with three mountain rescue teams that cover the areas where I did my rounds.

“I am so grateful for all the support I had from friends and family and I am delighted by what I have achieved.” 

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