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Luke's Ramsay Round

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

At the time of writing, Luke Armitage is the current most recent Ramsay Round completer (number 238), finishing his round at 10.57am on 26th August 2022, in a nail-biting 23 hours and 57 minutes. He chose to complete largely on-sight and solo, with only one leg of the round recce-d in advance, and less than half a leg accompanied by a pacer. He sat down with Jenny a few weeks ago to reflect on his experience.

Jenny: Okay. So first of all, what is this Ramsay Round?

Luke: So the Ramsay round is the equivalent of the Cumbrian Bob Graham Round, which I guess is the more well-known one. It’s 23 Munros round Glen Nevis, starting or finishing on Ben Nevis and it's about 56 miles, I think.

Jenny: You make it sound a bit easier! It's only 23 Munros, is that not a lot easier than the Bob?

Luke: Well, the Bob Graham has 42 peaks. So yeah, I think it may be psychologically - in my head I decided that that made it easier because it [felt like] less climbing, because of being able to do bigger climbs, but less often, that was my thought.

Jenny: And what drew you to wanting to do it?

Luke: Well I did the Bob Graham seven years ago and always said that I'd do the Ramsay Round before I was 30. But by the time I was 30, covid hit and a lot of our plans got changed. So I did do it a little bit later. I’ve always thought about the Scottish version, not so much the Welsh one for some reason - there's the Paddy Buckley, which is the Welsh version. I just like Scotland. It's one of my favourite places. So it's always nice to get up there.

Jenny: Nice. Ok, how did you prepare?

Luke: I had this incredible coach, who…[both laugh]…I’d likely recommend her. I found the Bob Graham really difficult towards the end because I didn't have that ‘keep going’ that you need for 24 hour challenges. And that was because I hadn't trained - I didn't know how to train. I'd gone out and looked at the legs and I'd recce-d it, and I'd run legs, and I'd run legs together. I'd helped people on their recces, but I'd not really trained for it in reality. So this time I wanted to do it really well and feel confident that I was going to achieve it. And so I hired someone who knew what they were doing, and told me how to run and how to train. It was really nice to be able to just follow that plan through for a summer until I was ready for it.

Jenny: What would you say the biggest difference was between the kind of running that you did before your Bob and what you were doing on this training plan?

Luke: I guess the difference was the structured element of it. I was under the impression, which I guess a lot of people are that if you want to run long distances, all you do is go out and run further and further and further until you can run forever. And then that's sorted. But the structure that I was set was really interesting because I was doing lots of slow running. I thought I had to run as fast as I could all the time. And that was not correct. I was doing a lot of slow running [on this plan]. I was doing a lot of shorter runs and a lot of high intensity but short duration hill and sprint work, which again, I've never even thought was necessary to help with the route that I eventually did.

Jenny: Cool. Okay. It's a big day [the Ramsay], it's a big mountain adventure and it involves a lot more than just running. So what other skills did you need to be able to take it on?

Luke: So, I'm a climber as well. There are elements of not difficult climbing or scrambling, but I guess the exposure level is quite high at times. Yeah - if you were on the ground, or five meters above the ground, you wouldn't even realize you were thinking about it, but when you are, you know, 800 meters up a hillside it's definitely something to think about. So that was a definite positive that I had that I didn't feel uncomfortable at any point in those rocky or exposed environments. I did about two thirds of it I guess, completely unknown. I'd never been on the route before. So being able to navigate and manage myself in those environments was really important. And I do that, and I train people to do that. I'm a member of a mountain rescue team, which means I'm relatively good at knowing where I am in difficult conditions. So I guess those were the main skills that helped.

Jenny: What did you feel most confident about, going into it?

Luke: I think I felt confident that I knew the pace that I needed to go at throughout, and as I progressed through the route and I knew that I could just keep sustaining that sort of pace. I obviously slowed towards the end, but because of the training that I've been doing, I've learned the different speeds that I need to go at different points. And I felt really confident that I could sustain that and do that well.

Jenny: What about anything you were nervous about?

Luke: Uh, I was nervous that I wouldn't do it [laughs]. I have, and I think probably quite a lot of people do, maybe stereotypically more men than women, but I definitely have a fear of failure. That's probably stopped me doing it for a longer period than I should have done, maybe, or could have done. But yeah, I was definitely nervous that I wouldn't do it under 24 hours. But actually that was a really interesting point towards the end when I felt like I wouldn't do it in 24 hours, because I'd made a few little nav errors. And, I wasn't bothered actually. I was like, I'll just do it. It's fine. I was nervous that I didn't have anyone with me a lot of the time - for probably 80% of the time I was on my own. I had a pacer for the second leg but unfortunately he twisted his ankle on the first Munro. So I had to leave him behind. It was definitely a joint decision, but that then meant I was back on my own. But because I did a lot of training on my own that wasn't as big an issue as I thought it might have been. I thought I'd very quickly go, I can't do this. And there would be no one there to tell me you can, or let's just do this, which is what happened on my Bob Graham. I sat down at the start of Leg 3 and told the person that I was with I was flatly not carrying on [laughs]. And they said, let's just go up one hill. And we did, and then we did another one and then suddenly I realized that I could probably do this. Whereas I didn't feel like that on the Ramsay at all. I knew I could keep going.

Jenny: When you do the Ramsay, you can choose when you start, and you can choose whether you go clockwise or anticlockwise. How did you decide your direction and your start time?

Luke: So I sat down with Jenny and, um, I’d had a bit of a low week and I wasn't very happy about doing it and I even considered not bothering to do it or not wanting to try. We had a conversation, uh, which was really good. And we started to have a bit of a planning session, got a map out and basically looked at some people's splits and their rounds - when they got to summits, how they got between summits, and started working back. And we actually used a clockwise round to work out backwards because I wanted to go anticlockwise, and basically worked out when I wanted to start [based on] when I wanted to be in the dark.

Jenny: Having done it, is there anything you’d change?

Luke: I think I would've done the second leg in the daylight because actually the navigation on that was probably the most challenging - that was the leg which pretty much didn't have any paths on it. And it was pretty nondescript in terms of terrain. Whereas often when you're in exposed or jagged mountainous terrain, it's actually relatively easy to navigate because you get to the top, and it's definitely the top, whereas on some of the Munros that we were on [on Leg 2], when I was on there, there were multiple summits, and it would've been easy to make an error on those hills.

Jenny: Makes sense. We've touched on the fact that you did two thirds of the route on sight. How did you manage that, especially towards the end, when you were tired on unfamiliar terrain?

Luke: Surprisingly well! I made an error coming off Aonach Mor, which is the third last Munro before you finish. I thought that I hadn't made it, and I put myself into some pretty serious terrain. Um, I was both impressed with myself and happy that I was able to manage myself across that terrain really effectively and safely, and work out where I was very quickly and realize that I made a mistake and solve the problem. Whereas it could have been very easy for me to get flustered, sit down, stop, make an even bigger error, hurt myself, you know?

Jenny: And that that situation led to a bit of a dramatic finish. Can you tell me what happened?

Luke: Yeah, so because of that error, basically I came down a gully rather than a gentle ridge line, came down too early, and thought I can't contour - and basically thought I can't make this 24 hours. So I was climbing up Ben Nevis, I had just done the scramble section from Carn Mor Dearg to Ben Nevis, the CMD arete. It's relatively straightforward - people might have been on it, or [it’s] quite similar to Striding Edge on Helvellyn and things like that. I was convinced that I hadn't done it. I’d wanted to be on Ben Nevis for 10 o'clock and as I was climbing up Ben Nevis it was five past ten. My watch had run out of battery, so I couldn't look at that. My phone was in my pocket. Didn't want to get that out. Now I know I got to the summit just after quarter past ten. I thought I'll just get down and then decided, no, let's have it. Let's have a go at getting down as quick as I can. And I think, again, it's totally down to the training that I did. I was able to run pretty fast down Ben Nevis after 23 hours of traveling, and managed to get down in 40 minutes. Bear in mind, it was 10.30 in the morning. Everyone was coming up the hill, quite a lot of people, and you come down the main tourist path. So I was having to run down quite quickly round people, asking people to get out the way as politely as I could. I managed to come in just three minutes before the 24 hour window. But the last 400 meters I sprinted, which I would've never been able to do on the Bob Graham coming into Keswick. So it was quite exciting and I genuinely didn't know if I I'd made it or not.

Jenny: [laughs] Nothing like keeping it exciting for the crew. What did you eat, and when? And how did you decide?

Luke: Yeah, so again, this was such a massive change for me from pretty much all other long runs I've done in the past, including the Bob Graham. I haven't eaten enough, and I’ve suffered because of that. Both during races, during runs and also post runs as well. I, I think that [with] the Bob Graham, it took me two months before I was able to run effectively again. I think I damaged myself because of not eating enough, and that stopped me being effective. On the Ramsay round, I was eating regularly. I was eating normal food. I did have gels, but not as many as probably a lot of people do. It took me a long time to find the right gels that I used, and I did use them, but it wasn’t my primary way of getting energy in. I was having tuna wraps, I was eating sausage rolls, I was having soup, pizza. I was really lucky that a local Cumbrian company, Traybakes, supported me and gave me a load of free flapjacks. They’re sort of a nice size, so they're easy to carry. And I like Coca Cola at breaks. That was quite nice.

Jenny: Yeah. Okay. Is there anything we haven’t mentioned that was especially important?

Luke: One of the things that Laura, my wife, mentioned, which I think is quite useful for a lot of people to know is I used poles all the way around. I use Nordic walking poles. Rather than your standard walking pole, they actually clip onto your hands. I used them on the Bob Graham too, I'd highly recommend them to anyone who's doing these long, long routes. They really are effective, and they take the weight off your legs a little bit. One of the things I would say to people is practise with them. I think it's really easy to go out for your runs and not use them. And then, [on the round] so what do I do with these things, and just waft them around for 24 hours.

Jenny: Good shout. Did you have a favourite moment? Anything that stands out in your mind?

Luke: I did like running down the Ben. I was just so pleased and impressed with myself that I was able to do that. I really liked that. I liked the solitude. I really enjoyed the fact that I didn't see many people on Leg One. And from about seven o'clock when we passed a DOE [Duke of Edinburgh] group that were camping for the evening in the valley, I didn't see anyone until the end on top of Ben Nevis. So I like that. I really enjoyed sitting on summits on my own at six o'clock in the morning, having some food, and looking around where I was. That was fantastic.

Jenny: What did you do to celebrate?

Luke: I sat down for a few minutes on the ground, and then once I sort of sorted life out and decided that I could move again, we just went around the corner to the cycle and ski centre - there's a shower there, which is quite good. The guys who were working there, they were a bit unsure why we were parking there, but once I told them what I'd been doing, they were pretty impressed and said, yeah, you take as long as you like mate, have a shower. So I had a shower, we had some food, I actually wasn't very hungry. I was sort of thinking I'd be absolutely ravenous, but I couldn't really use a lot, I guess it was stomach sort of stopped wanting food at that point. Then we drove home, which was quite hard, we had to stop at a services for a snooze. Me and my wife had a sleep in the back of the van, both of us couldn't really go on anymore. The next morning, I was so surprised I walked downstairs - bear in mind I slept downstairs after the Bob Graham, and crawled around for three days. Then drove into Penrith and had a big, big, big breakfast, which I'd never have been able to do, seven years ago [after the Bob]. I probably wouldn't have be able to get in a car, let alone run or walk. I felt amazingly good. But yes, again that I think comes down to the training that we did, and that meant that my body wasn't as destroyed as it could have been.

Jenny: You put in some huge days leading up, which makes sense. How are you feeling about it now, it’s about a month later – has it sunk in?

Luke: Yeah, I'm definitely happy. I like telling people [laughs]. I’m maybe a bit, um, arrogant. No, not arrogance, but…

Jenny: that you deserve to be proud?

Luke: Yeah, I think proud. I mean, I'm so pleased with it. It's such a cool route. I keep telling people that, I tell people they should go and do it as a three day trek. I’m chuffed to the point that I’ve tattooed my Bob and my Ramsay numbers on my arm.

Jenny: Well in that case…I was just about to ask you about the next thing. Surely you can’t not do…?

Luke: Careful, everyone – she’s touting for business. She’s worked on her marketing. Yes, I probably will do the Paddy Buckley…[laughs]. I’ve already looked at the map. I think I’d like to recce a bit more – I know the Moelwyns are quite hard work. So yeah, I probably will do that at some point. Only if you promise to come and do a bit with me.

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