/ NEW ARTICLE: Interview: Colin Donnelly, a Fell Running Great
Colin Donnelly is one of Britain's all time fell running high achievers. Several of his 1980s records still stand today, including the Welsh 3000ers, which he ran in the astonishing time of 4hrs19mins. Calum Muskett caught up with him long enough for an interview.
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=5945
I'd no idea there was such a thing as the British mountain championship. How does that work, then?
Thanks for this... hadn't seen the film before, so great to see a young Colin in full flight (not that the older Colin is any more catchable)!
Brilliant UKC at it's best. I did it the same year at half the speed!
Excellent - thanks for that.
Very inspiring. Fell-running is so much more of an adventure than road running and this article is a great boost for it.
Except for: 'Billy Bland once told me 1st is 1st, second is nowhere.' Obviously good motivational material for those at the top and correct in its context; but, the rest of the interview makes it clear that there's something out (up) there for everyone.
For Colin it was though. He's not given enough recognition about how great he was, well and is. So many are flash in the pans. Colin is now in his 50's and still winning races. He never really sought the fame, very much his performances did the talking..
When you look at the great fell/mountain running records, we think of the Ben, Snowdon, and CD's times were just off Kenny Stuarts. But its his longevity which puts him up there as an all time fell running legend. He was also an excellent actual runner and dominated XC too.
In this is the clip CD tarverses Crob Goch.. I thought on his actual record breaking run he went to the summit and back to the bwlch so missed the full traverse and descent of the North Ridge.. The filming for this was done just after his successful run so they may have used artistic license..
He also had some stamina.. he ran the Paddy Buckley in 23 hours after England beat Cameroon in the 90 world cup.. drove to Capel, dropped off some sandwiches, and ran it on his own. I actual think it put people off because there was a view that 'well if CD only just did it'.. in reality, prepared and with pacers he'd have ran 15 hours easy.
But he's also done the Ramsay and Meirionydd rounds.. (just over 24 I think after getting lost).. and probably many more He actually favoured annual ultra distance runs as benefit to training, just the odd huge over-distance training run.
Evidently we can each value and take home different elements from this article and from Colin's life. I appreciate that his achievements were remarkable but I won't recall the details. I'm more likely to remember this:
'I love the sci-fi mountains of Wester Ross, Stac Pollaidh and Suilven they’re magnificent. They’re not runner’s mountains as such but I love mountains anyway.'
Talent and dedication are backed by remorseless psychology which few (by definition) are burdened with; the onlooker can't but help wonder at and speculate over the enormity of these acts, but dwelling on them puts the man on a pedestal and creates distance. Desire to keep fit, keenness to get out frequently, love for the mountains and enthusiasm for a challenge are all elements which ordinary mortals can take part in. Obviously we would not be privy to these humbler elements except that Colin was a winner and for this I am grateful.
What's open to us all is getting out there and attempting things which we're sceptical of completing; winning against the odds, whether they be from weather, condition of the terrain or physical fitness. I especially valued the recount of dealing with cramp after Yr Elen. I was once running solo on the summit of Carnedd Llewellyn in sub-zero conditions with white-out when cramp struck. As I was clad minimally the odds were stacked against me for a while. I wasn't in a race so there was no time at stake; patience and optomism got me out.
Its all about focus on commonality.
Our generation can 'make hay'.. its so easy for us to win, come second etc in what should be major races..
But its his love of running, the fells which is why he is still out now and still supremely fit racing god knows how many times a year. Those who just have that desire to run fast, or get glory, fall away from the sport rapidly. Joss and Colin have just a huge love for being in the mountains.
Jeepers. I've just watched the film - a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea this existed.
This is an incomprehensible and legendary feat to me and it's brilliant to get some idea of what's involved. Nicely filmed as well; really captures the setting.
The following year Angela Carson set the ladies record which I think still stands, of 5.28.41. Angela was a great fell runner too and ran for Eryi Harriers, is that club still in existence Iain?
A mention here for John Wild too, he was up there with Kenny and the Blands, his battles with Kenny especially on the short ones were a treat to watch.
Good read - thanks Calum/ukc.
I'm came 2nd after Colin in the 1000m Peaks Race this year. I'm not very up to speed on my fell running history and didn't really know who he was at the time, I was just annoyed that I'd let someone that looked twice my age pass me in the last 10minutes of the race! Now I know a little more I guess he knows the route pretty well but I'm still annoyed!
I noticed he said/implied that he doesn't do much hill running because he thinks you don't necessarily need to to be good in mountain races. I definitely agree with this but then he goes on to say that he usually totals 400'000ft of climbing/year. Some peoples idea of not much hills is clearly different to others!
> but then he goes on to say that he usually totals 400'000ft of climbing/year. Some peoples idea of not much hills is clearly different to others!
Aye, but the 365,000ft he's aiming for (with the other 35,000ft+ clearly just a bonus!) is basically 1,000ft per day, which isn't hard to do if you're out 6/7 days a week (which I'd guess Colin is) in the right area. For example, just about all my regular routes (which I'd regard as trail rather than hill/mountain) climb 1,000ft+, and the big hill days should compensate for at least some of the missed days and/or flatter sessions.
And, of course, Angela's brother is Neil Carson, who could climb a bit.
Sort of.. No they are..
Not so big on the British stage anymore, apart from Math, Martin etc few others very few venture away from North Wales so it's a much rarer vest than of yesteryear but North Wales has always had an insular view.
Colin ran for them for a few years, when he took the 3000ers as the club wanted to hold the record.
Neither Angela's or Colin's records have been threatened at all really. Es had a serious go a few years ago and stood a chance but unfortunately his attempt was on a hot day.. even his 5:20 ish was something like the 3rd fastest..
If you look at the splits of Angela and CD Angela is as quick over the latter stages so the record could go. But you need someone quick and comfortable on Crib Goch.. his 8-9 mins from Carnedd Ugain to Crib Goch is stunning.
But not sure who has that ability, maybe Tom Owens? I'd like Killian to have a go at that and the BGR but know a few who oppose it.. but even if he just got them it shows how good the records are, though I'm not certain he would at all. But those are the two standout running records, the cuilin as well but that's more than just fell running.
Colin knows that route like the back of his hand.. I was 3rd one year, Tim Davies second, CD third.. Tim followed me and took off at the end.. another lad went with CD.. I hung off knowing what was going to happen. CD ran in circles on the carneddau dropped him, and that was race over, the guy lost in the clag.
I passed him 13 miles in and asked if he was injured.. 'no.. just pacing it'. then bang off he went.
He loves the 1000m, I much more prefer the Peris, I think the 1000's, although a much better route now is too prescribed as a route, the lines too set, it's losing its challenge as a proper fell run. In the Lakes the checkpoints would stand and few other points marked.
Think he tried to do something similar this year: once up on the carneddau he slowed right down, there were at least 10 people woo didn't want to pass him. I left him there but then made some mistakes and lost time finding a way down to pen y pass and he caught me up on the zig zags.
I thought it was really good race; quite novel starting at sea level and finishing at the highest point. The peris does sound like a better route though, had planned to do it this year but didn't make it.
That was a common tactic of both Joss and Billy in the Lakes races, get 'em all lost then sprint off onto the correct way into the lead.
Fascinating. A shame this matter was not aired in this interview, 'discuss tactical navigation used to shake off opponents'. Do these top runners admit to it openly?
It depends.. I tried it that year with Tim Davies and Roland Stafford knowing he was quicker than me.. he was giggling away chasing me knowing what I was trying to do..
I did it there because it was fairly safe.. all he had to do was descent 100m and he'd be out of the clag. I did Jura with Roland the next year and he can't navigate, so there we stuck together and I made no attempts to lose him and kept him in sight because it is dangerous up there when the clag is down. At the end I out sprinted him but he said he knew I'd guided him around so would not have tried to out sprint me.
I did another race in South Wales when a runner asked me to navigate for them, it was horrendous, so I did, even waited for him whilst he went for a piss.. and then he tried to outsprint me.. pretty poor behaviour IMO..
We all follow and also try to drop.. I know the rough lines of many races but the locals will know them better. Welsh races tend to have less route choices, every summit included, but in the lakes the CP's are often 2-3 summits apart so traversing lines are much more common.. and its crucial to know when to take them.. so knowing roughly when they are I watch out for others taking them.
Borrowdale has a few.
Yeah its a nice race, pretty unique and now much better with the new 1000m peak.. I've not actually raced it, may do it one year as I want to win it. It never gets the field which even the Peris gets though, which isn't great also. Something to do with not strictly being a fell race, rarely used as a championship event..
So if I was looking to race I'd probably look at Jura, Ennerdale, Duddon which are normally held at a similar time..
Jura is an interesting one, it's so easy to make a total balls up on, I finished , I think, 8th in my best result there , with about 20 or more better fell runners behind me, a couple pulled it back on the road but really I should have been back in the 20's. Actually that was a good year with Ray Aucott winning overall (as a vet) Dark Peak Fell Runners took the team prize and we got 6 bottles of Jura Malt each :-)
I got 3rd there one year, was 2nd to the road.. everyone else was continually lost.. 4:03 or so. apart from alec keith who we never saw.. he ran off alone and won..I ran 3;42 a few years before in perfect conditions and just squeezed into the top 10.. some of the lines off the summits are quite illogical, so you need to know the route and read a map well.. great race.
Yes, possibly my favourite fell race, a real navigational excersise, with proper mountain skills needed and not just running.
Does anyone distinguish between times/records set with/without pacers or is this accepted as standard? Apart from the pacing presumably CD never had to carry his own food/water ?
No.. pacing is pretty much the norm for an ultra distance record like the BGR.. Paddy.. etc..
There could be solo records.. but 1) who could document it, 2) why 3) it all gets a bit arbitrary..
I'm not a fan of too many records.. quite against winter records too.. they are about hill man ship.. a winter round would be full conditions.. not the most ideal conditions possible..
Fair play to those who do them but I had already decided that if I did get the paddy winter record my time would not be made public as I want people to do it for the challenge, not risk anything to beat my time and didn't want to be part of that.
And no.. as I understood it he didn't carry anything.. and as I understood it there was one thing about the round, if the rumour is true, which isn't in the spirit of todays running ethos...
I have seen similar but have sought to correct such things if seen... hopefully it wasn't true but it wasn't him, and it was still incredible.. maybe due to the lack of quick enough support who knew the way.. not surprising though.
I still hope it wasn't true.
speculation unlimited !! a scooter/bike down the Pass? helium balloons up his jumper? a blood transfusion? ... a paraglider hehe
John, the film is inspiring and his time from Snowdon summit to Elidir (1 13 I think) is unbelievable... I was relatively fit in the summer and when doing the Llanberis circuit from PYP I was quite pleased to get up Elidir in just under an hour from Nant Peris - but in the film whilst it is only a short section he is flying up to the top... I feel completely inspired, a shame that I have lost the fitness plot, but very motivational...
Hope to see you soon,
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