Sabrina Verjee in action during the early stages of her challenge

Sabrina Verjee in action during the early stages of her challenge

Ultrarunner Sabrina Verjee is making good progress in her bid to complete a round of the Wainwright fells in record time.

The 39-year-old athlete said on Friday she was feeling strong, despite encountering problems with one knee.

She is attempting to run all 214 Wainwrights continuously, and if she succeeds will be the first known woman to achieve the feat.

If she continues at her present pace, she is on course to beat the record set last year for the 525km route, which involves 36,000m of ascent. By early Friday evening, Verjee had summited more than 160 of the hills detailed by the late Alfred Wainwright in his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.

The Ambleside-based veterinary surgeon began her challenge at 3am on Monday at the Moot Hall in Keswick. Because of the social distancing necessary during the coronavirus pandemic, she is having to run with minimal support teams and has asked the public not to meet her on the fells or at road crossings. Previous record holders encountered numerous fellow runners boosting their morale on the mountains and at ‘pit stops’ at the roadside.

Her goal is to run the route in six days. The present record holder Paul Tierney completed the challenge in six days and six hours, beating the previous time set by Steve Birkinshaw by about seven hours.

Sabrina Verjee discusses routes with Paul Tierney, centre, and Steve Birkinshaw after summiting Clough Head

Sabrina Verjee discusses routes with Paul Tierney, centre, and Steve Birkinshaw after summiting Clough Head

Both men ran with Verjee today to help her on the section between Clough Head and Dockray in the northern section of the route.

She said: “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.”

If she can continue at her present pace she is on schedule to beat Tierney’s record by about three hours.

The first recorded continuous round of the Wainwrights was completed by Alan Heaton in 1985, in nine days and 16 hours. Two years later, fellrunning luminary 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 ultrarunners, 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 was the fastest woman and first Briton across the line in the Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing fifth overall. She began planning for her attempt on the Wainwrights record many months ago, before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Her progress can be tracked on the Open Tracking website.

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