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Nicky Spinks reclaims women’s Lake District 24-Hour record

Written by Fiona

August 17 2021

Yorkshire ultra runner Nicky Spinks has reclaimed the women’s Lake District 24-Hour record. On August 15, she beat the previous fastest time of Carol Morgan (23:57) reaching 65 peaks of 2000ft or more in 23 hours and 45 minutes.

The challenge sees runners summiting as many peaks over 2000ft and returning to the same starting point within a 24-hour period. Nicky first set a women’s record in 2011 when she reached 64 peaks.

After finishing in the early hours of Saturday morning, Nicky said: “I am massively happy. I love the photo of me grinning at the finish. Even I didn’t think I was grinning quite so hugely. 

“I’m very proud that my training plan worked and that 10 years on I can still succeed at something like this.

“I think it has been on my mind a lot more than I thought and it just proves that I was right. I wondered back in 2011 if I could have added Grisedale and now I have.”

Nicky on her 24-hour Lakes record bid. Credit: Damian Hall

Nicky’s summer goal 

It had been 54-year-old Nicky’s aim for this summer. She said: “I made an attempt in May but the weather was foul and I aborted on Leg 4.

“It took me three days to decide if could sort my ankle out as I’d done something to it on the attempt. Then I had to find another date for another attempt and I decided I needed to get fitter. I have based all of my summer running around the Lakes 24-hour.”

Nicky, a farmer, was keen to reclaim the record she first set in 2011. She said: “I held the record of 64 peaks until last year when Carol added a peak to the 24-hour challenge. When I achieved the first record I didn’t have the confidence to add an extra peak and it had bugged me ever since.” 

Starting and finishing in Braithwaite, Cumbria, the inov-8 ambassador recorded 130km and 10,600m of ascent. To put that into perspective, it’s the same ascent as the UTMB in ascent but 20 miles shorter and a lot rougher underfoot.

Nicky with support runners Jasmin Paris and Damian Hall. Credit: Amanda Heading

The highs and lows

Nicky’s record run included some great highs. She said:”The sunrise on Leg 1 with Jasmin Paris [who has recently set a 24-hour Munros record] was a highlight moment, especially as Jasmin loves sunrises.

“I also really enjoyed listening to great chat along all the legs. And I liked meeting with different people, especially Joss Naylor at the stile on the descent to Wasdale, which was a massive boost. 

“We exchanged a hug and a kiss. What a position to be in when Joss Naylor comes out to see you on the route.”

Joss broke the Lake District 24 hour fell record three times in the 1970s. His 1975 record of 72 peaks, covering 100 miles and around 38,000ft of ascent in 23:11 stood for 13 years. In July 2020, Kim Collison set a new record making it to 78 peaks.

Nicky was pleased that the golf course tempo runs she had used in training paid off during the Lakes 24-hour bid.

She said: “I found running uphill easier than expected, especially Fairfield and Seat Sandal. It was also a good feeling when I finished the Langdales and headed across to Rossett with my legs still feeling great. 

“Then, seeing friends Jim and Lewis on Broad Stand, I found it so much easier than in May. I was positively skipping across to Lingmell knowing I was in good shape. 

“I even found the climbs of Yewbarrow and Red Pike, which are usually tiresome, to be good.”

Of course, there was some tougher sections. 

Nicky said: “As usual, it came down to the eating. I tried very hard to eat a lot and I managed to do very well until halfway across Leg 3 when I started being sick. 

“Initially, that was okay as I just kept eating but as time went on I went off the food that had made me sick and then I ran out of options. When I completely threw everything up at Honister that was the pits.

“All I can say is thank heaven for rice puddings.”

Pushing hard up Fleetwith. Credit: Gwilym Rivett
Credit: Tory Miller/ inov-8

‘I was confident I would finish’

Despite the nutrition difficulties, Nicky was convinced she would finish. She said: “I never thought it wasn’t do-able – it just became a matter of pushing as hard as I could to the point of being sick, then backing off. 

“My big worry was that this might not be enough eventually. I did a lot of watch checking over Leg 6.”

It was late in the challenge that she became confident she would claim the record. She said: “It wasn’t until climbing Grisedale that I calculated I had 50 minutes to do a 30-minute split. I knew then that unless I had an awful fall on the slippery rocks that it would be in the bag.”

Nicky had hoped she might be able to add more peaks to the 24-hour record but the weather conditions were not conducive. Maybe she will have another attempt?

Nicky’s preparation for the Lakes 24-hour record

As a coach, Nicky, who is a breast cancer survivor, advises:  “I know it’s impossible to do the distance and the ascent of the entire challenge because people will burn out before they get to the start line. 

“The aim is to do, say, three-quarters of it and then to trust in your judgement and have the confidence that you will complete the rest of the day. 

“I got to the stage where I could do 40-mile and 6000-metre climb outings without being trashed or having to recover massively afterwards. 

“To get faster, I did lots of tempo runs. In fact, I even turned the hour-long walk round the cows at 7am every day into a jog then 12 minute tempo runs up 200 metres of the local golf course, which was horrid. 

“Every little errand I did became a tempo or a fartlek run. I needed to feel that running fast was normal and doable, whatever the circumstances.  I also gave myself a three-week taper.”

The other secrets of Nicky’s success

She said: “The May attempt had given me a good idea of what was needed and I honed everything that I could for this attempt.

“In addition, my road and hill support gave me 100 percent, so on top of my training all things came together. I really am very happy with this achievement.”

Note: The record can be broken by: 

  • Adding another 2,000ft summit (which also needs to be more than 0.25 miles and involve at least 250ft of descent/re-ascent from the nearest other peak.
  • Summiting the same amount of peaks as the previous record, but doing so in a faster time.

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