Running the Wainwrights

Yesterday’s post by Katha, about running in the Lake District, reminded me that I hadn’t shared with you a completely, madly courageous story from the same, lovely part of the UK.

This is the story of the latest runner to complete The Wainwrights, a series of 214 peaks in the Lake District, in the NW of England.

A British woman, Sabrina Verjee, has just become the fastest female to complete this challenge – running a series of 214 hills/fells/peaks, in 6 days 17hrs 51mins. This is also the 3rd fastest time ever.

But first of all, what exactly are The Wainwrights?

The Wainwrights are a group of 214 hills are named after a legendary fell-walker called Alfred Wainwright who explored them all, wrote about them, mapped them – and so they were all collectively named after him. Obviously.

None of the peaks is super high, in actual terms (say compared to the Himalayas here in India) ranging from Scafell Pike at 978 metres (3,209 ft), to Castle Crag, the smallest Wainwright, at 290 metres (951 ft) but there are, remember, 214 of them, some of them are very steep, there is a constant up and down, 214 times, and the weather can be treacherous.

So this is one crazy achievement, make no mistake.

Verjee, 39, slept for only seven hours during the six days it took her to run the 326 miles and climb 36,000 metres – equivalent to four ascents of Everest. Then she battled through a debilitating knee injury to cross the finish line.

Sabrina Verjee in action during the early stages of her challenge

Ms Verjee sounds amazing, having won a whole raft of ultra-running challenges, but – get this – she doesn’t want this latest achievement to be classed as a record, because (in her own words):

“At this point I realised that I was not going to be on a record pace and that it was going to be a struggle just to finish but I was committed to finish.

“I did what I needed to do – have my knees strapped up and took some painkillers and struggled on through the rest of the summits. However, there were other points that I required assistance. I had to descend backwards down Carl Side to Dodd Wood and to do this I held on to two supporters to guide me down between the rocks.

“There were a few more descents where I had to lean on my supporters and I think that this allowed me to descend far quicker than I would have on my own. I visited every summit and made the entire way on my own efforts with every step taken by myself but having to lean on supporters to descend is not appropriate for taking a record.

“I certainly would not have tried to claim another’s record by using these methods.

“I completed the Wainwright’s round to my own satisfaction but I do not wish my attempt to be ratified or acknowledged by the [Fell Runners Association] or any other claiming some right to the Wainwrights.”

Just think – running non-stop for 6 days, 17 hours.

The equivalent of climbing Everest 4 times.

And yet she sounds so nice and low-key and humble.

And is scrupulous about having had a wee bit of assistance.

Hats off to one gutsy woman!

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