Early yesterday morning, Canadian ultrarunner Gary Robbins hinted gleefully that something major was about to go down in the ultraunning world. Not long afterwards, it was confirmed: legendary Catalonian ultrarunner Kilian Jornet had achieved a new FKT (fastest known time) on the Bob Graham Round, a traverse of 42 peaks starting and finishing at Keswick in England’s Lake District.

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The accomplishment confirms the second achievement in a triumphant return for Jornet, who broke his fibula three months ago during a mountain ski race in the French Alps. (Earlier this month, he won the Marathon du Mont-Blanc, in 3:54.)

Named for Bob Graham (the first person to do the route in under 24 hours, in 1932, and whose record stood until 1960), it’s approximately 66 miles (106K) long and involves 8,600m of elevation change. It must be done in under 24 hours. 

Jornet captured the new record in 12 hours and 52 minutes, shattering the supposedly unbreakable record set by Billy Bland in 1982 of 13 hours, 53 minutes. The 70-something Bland, who was raised in the area, came out to greet Jornet and congratulate him.

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Records are hard-won and jealously guarded, and FKT attempts must be meticulously documented on each of the 42 peaks. By all accounts Jornet had this covered.

Here’s a look at some of his Strava stats from yesterday’s feat, (quaintly entitled “Day running in the Lakes”):

Approximately 1,000 people have completed the Bob Graham Round in under 24 hours, but only about 30 per cent of people who try it finish within that limit.

In England and Scotland they call it “fell running,” as distinct from trail running. Fells is the term for the craggy, rocky hills of the UK. Races are usually pathless, with runners free to find their own routes from checkpoint to checkpoint (unlike in most trail races, where runners must follow the prescribed route or risk being disqualified). Fell races are generally smaller, cheaper, and more modestly organized than trail races. Of course, FKT attempts are not usually done as part of a race.

 

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