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Joss Naylor Challenge

01/08/2009

On Saturday 1st August, Doug Brown 'celebrated' the week of his 50th birthday by successfully completing the Joss Naylor Challenge...

report first appeared in D&G Standard, August 2009:

The Joss Naylor Challenge involves climbing 30 of the major tops in the Lake District, crossing some 48 miles of mountain terrain and ascending nearly 17,000 feet and must be completed in under 12 hours. The route starts at Pooley Bridge, Ullswater and finishes at Joss's home at Greendale Bridge, Wasdale.

Given the unseasonable weather conditions, it was a tough call whether or not to even start the attempt, but having made that decision no one could have foreseen how the day's events would unfold.

Doug set off at 7 am with the first of his support runners, Dumfries Running Club mates Sandy Shankland and Jo Zakrzewski, to tackle the first section of the run in a buoyant mood, despite the miserable conditions. The going could only be described as 'soft' as the falling rain turned the trail into strength sapping bog in places. As they approached the most exposed part of the section, over the High Street ridge, conditions were deteriorating further, with driving rain and hill fog. However even though visibility was extremely poor and with the paths now resembling streams, the trio made good progress, keeping to their proposed schedule and arriving on time to meet their road support crew of Alan McKean, Audrey Brown and Marian McPhail at Kirkstone Pass Inn car park.

After being suitably refuelled, Doug set off with his next support runners, Bob Green and Les Hill to continue the journey. This section takes in the steep climb over Red Screes and Hart Crag then carries on to Fairfield and Seat sandal. Despite the rain easing, visibility was still very poor with a headwind now also hampering progress. Again though, Doug managed to keep to schedule and rendezvous with his support crew, joined now by Vicky Little, at Dunmail Raise.

A most welcome surprise here was the appearance of Monica Shone, Secretary of the Challenge club, who had travelled from her home on Anglesey to meet the team on the attempt; such is the camaraderie of the Fell running community. With the weather conditions at last taking a turn for the better and having again taken on refreshments, Doug set out on what is the longest section of the run, supported now by Paul Hart and Marcus Scotney. After the initial steep climb of Steel Fell there follows a section of what is usually relatively good running to High Raise and Rossett Pike via Stake Pass. However, a combination of the poor underfoot conditions and that of Doug having suffered a bad patch, were such that the group lost some 15 minutes here. Further time was then lost on the tricky ascent of Bowfell, crucially now leaving Doug with the prospect of having to make up some time on his schedule in order to finish the run in less than 12 hours.

The trio were now crossing the highest and roughest fells on the run and once again visibility was becoming an issue. The route off Great End is difficult enough in good conditions but in mist is even more so. There was no chance of gaining any time here, so it was a case of descending safely and keeping any more time loss to a minimum. At Sty Head the group was joined by Dougie Milligan, himself a Joss Naylor Challenge veteran and they continued through the mist over Great Gable and Kirkfell to Pillar. With the distance to the finish decreasing, so too were the chances of regaining enough time for Doug to reach the end inside the 12 hour time limit. Despite this he was still determined to complete the run in as close to the allotted time as possible, and encouraged by his running support was making every effort to maintain a good pace over the last Fells of the challenge.

As the time slipped past, the whole support team had all but resigned themselves to missing the deadline. However, in a dramatic conclusion, with only a few minutes to go, Doug appeared on the skyline and treated his watching Dumfries Running Club mates to a nerve wracking finish with an epic descent of Middle Fell and a sprint to the finish on Greendale Bridge in a time of 11 hours and 59 minutes, JUST inside the allowed time of 12 hours.

Amongst those waiting to offer congratulations and to share in the team's delight at the finish was Joss Naylor himself, a fitting end to an unforgettable day.

In the process of completing the Challenge, Doug was raising funds for The British Heart Foundation.  

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