Sabrina Verjee, a 39-year-old veterinary surgeon from Ambleside in the Lake District, is on course to set a new fastest known time for completing a non-stop ‘round’ of the 214 summits known as the Wainwrights. Starting and finishing in Keswick, Verjee is attempting a 525km route, with 36,000m of ascent. She set off at 3:00am on Monday morning and hopes to complete her run early on Sunday, and in the process beat the current record of six days and six hours. If she finishes the run, Verjee will also become the first female athlete who is known to have completed a continuous round.
The Wainwrights are the 214 hills and mountains that feature in Alfred Wainwright’s famous seven volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. Since the books were published between 1955 and 1966, the Wainwrights have become a popular tick list for walkers, but the first recorded continuous run was completed by Alan Heaton in 1985, in nine days and 16 hours.
Two years later, fell running legend Joss Naylor set a new record of seven days, one hour and 25 minutes. That stood for 27 years, until Berghaus athlete Steve Birkinshaw knocked almost 12 hours off the time in 2014, when he completed his run in six days and 13 hours. Last summer, Paul Tierney, from Windermere, lowered the record by another seven hours.
Sabrina Verjee is one of the UK’s leading ultra-runners, having completed the five-day Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in Wales on three occasions, finishing second place in the women’s race in 2017 and 2019. Last year, she won the women’s category in the Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing fifth overall. Verjee began planning for her attempt on the Wainwrights record many months ago, before the COVID-19 outbreak.
Due to continued social distancing guidelines, she is running with minimal support and has asked the public to not join her at any time on the fells or at the finish, in contrast to scenes during the rounds completed by Birkinshaw and Tierney. Verjee’s progress is being tracked live at https://live.opentracking.co.uk/sabs0720/#. Both Steve Birkinshaw and Paul Tierney have been part of Verjee’s support team today, running with her for sections of her route.
Speaking on day five of her round, Sabrina Verjee comments: “Overall, I’m feeling strong and am pleased with progress. My right knee isn’t very happy at the moment, so I’ll have to try and do something about that, but otherwise I’m in good shape. It’s been lovely to run with Paul and Steve today and I’m grateful for their generous support, and to everyone who has been following my progress online and sending socially distanced encouragement.”