The Cumbrian

The Lake District's Hardest Endurance Event

November 16, 2022

How the story started

I was approached by Kirk and Tim in March to help record their attempt at completing, what they'd named 'The Cumbrian'.

The Cumbrian - An epic endurance event whereby participants hope to complete a Frog Graham round, a Bob Graham round and finally a Fred Whitton round in less than 60 hours.

Asking if I'd like to be involved, my answer was immediately, 'absolutely'.

This is a story of that journey taken from my perspective as the photographer on the event.

Why were they doing it?

Kirk and Tim have both been outdoor people for many years. They first met when they were both working as teachers at the same boarding school and their love for running together blossomed.

As their careers changed, Kirk found himself at Lancaster University working in recruitment and Tim now works as a special care assistant for a young boy with multiple learning and physical difficulties.

Their hopes for completing the Cumbrian were to raise money for some very worthy charities, to see if the Cumbrian could be done and for the adventure and lifestyle that training for and attempting a ultra-distance event, such as this, might bring.

The three charities that they chose to raise money for were: 

  • Jigsaw Hospice - A Cumbrian charity which provide support to disabled children
  • The Brathay Trust - A national charity who provide support to children and young adults to help develop them through the benefits of outdoor education
  • Keswick Mountain Rescue - as outdoor people they're more than aware that there are many people who wouldn't be around if it weren't for this lifesaving service. They hope to provide assistance to ensure this hugely beneficial volunteer organisation can continue to help people who've got into difficulty on the fells.

Their overall aim was to raise £10,000 in total and distribute it between the three charities.

Physical Fitness

I met Kirk and Tim at Lancaster University sports science department later that year. Kirk had arranged to undergo some test to determine how his body might perform under the strains of the event. The staff there were excellent and while Kirk was thrashing himself on a treadmill for 40 minutes, helped to assess his lactic acid levels in his muscles. The theory being that there's a sweet spot whereby if his heart rate stays below a known threshold then he should be able to continue indefinitely without his body tiring. What Kirk learnt from the tests was that for him this was around 140 beats per minute! That's not bad going!

Kirk on the treadmill at Lancaster University

Tim had recently been ill and so there was a risk of complications should he undergo the test too. Consequently, he didn't and we inferred Tim's responses to be of a similar level given their comparable fitness levels when out on the fells.

Kirk's lactose levels were taken after each session of exercise before getting back on and increasing the test speed

When we'd finished we headed out onto the fells near Kendal to get some images to help promote their challenge.

The images I took for them have been shared between the three charities as well as used in the local media to help raise awareness of their epic challenge ahead.

  • The Westmorland Gazette -
  • NWE Mail -
  • Independent Outdoor Writer, Ruth Keeley -
  • Brathay Trust -

Shoot Gallery

Pre-Event Preparation

Preparing for the Cumbrian was quite a challenge. For any regular commercial job I would always make a point of visiting the proposed venues to try and start off the creative process. This helps to build an expectation of what's there and formulate a plan of action / storyboard photo ideas before we get anywhere near shooting. This wasn't possible for the Cumbrian because the guys were going to be covering so much ground and be there for so little time it made no sense to invest the time. Consequently, I had to go off my own knowledge of the areas that they were planning to run/cycle and swim past, but also lean on the others in the team and support crew for suggestions of where might be good to go.

In some cases there were some quite obvious places to try to get to but otherwise there was a definite sense of having to make best with what's there and work fast!

There's a certain amount of chaos that can build when shooting events like this (photographically speaking) because, and was the case on a few occasions during the challenge, you never know when they're going to appear and you don't know what direction they'll come through. So, pre-empting this and working from best guesses is all you can really do.

As you'll see from the range of images I've shown on this page, there are a few from the start and finish locations because, if nothing else, you knew where and when they'd be there. Getting to some of the other places in between wasn't as easy.

The Challenges of Capturing The Cumbrian

Being in the right place at the right time

The greatest challenge of being a photographer on an event like this is being there to capture the action. With such epic distances involved, and with most of it being conducted on the tops of the fells it became impossible, in some instances, to capture everything. On a couple of occasions, despite the best will in the world, I was unable to get to some parts of the Bob Graham to be able to meet up with Kirk and Tim because I couldn't get to them in time. Their pace was relentless, even despite the weather.

As there was myself and the event videographer, Henry enlisted to capture the event, we did our best throughout the Frog and Bob to leapfrog each other and spread ourselves over the route as much as possible. But getting our vehicles with all our kit in from point to point while leaving us enough time to summit the 8-900 metre peaks was challenging to say the least. I donned my running shoes on more than one occasion to try to get up the fells to meet them. I succeeded once between Sand Hill and Eel Crag on the Frog but Kirk was too fast for me when trying to summit Harrison Stickle on the Bob.

No Comms, no bombs!

It's one of the first things we learn when becoming a soldier, as I did when Commissioning from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2012.

Communications enable everything else. This was no different for the Cumbrian. Kirk and Tim wore a location transmitter, often used by Bob Graham round runners and event racers in general so that people can track their progress and event staff can assist those going off course (or are well lost!). But, having the signal for it to function and for anyone else to receive it via their mobile was often a problem. There were a few times where, had it not been for Kirk and Tim's admin, providing us with a minute by minute plan of where they wanted to be, I'd have been stuffed! Those three sides of A4 alone were responsible for 75% of the shots I took.


The weather deteriorated on day two when Kirk and Tim started out on the Bob. It's not an issue for taking photos, particularly when you're only out for a short while, however, as you may expect, it slows progress. When every minute counts, getting to where you need to be and early to allow you to set up and be ready, losing time when you're already struggling to get there on time is not what you need.

We all fought the weather, even from the comfort of the van, to ensure that we were where we needed to be. I can't imagine how bad it must have been for Kirk when he was on leg 3 - 5 of the Bob; the weather was biblical!

What was it like? 

I chose to start the event with a bivi on Skiddaw. My plan meant I could get high early and negate rushing from ground level to meet the guys on their first summit. It was the right call to make and I'm glad I did it.

God I love a good wild camp, even in its most basic form. However, in this case, it was absolutely necessary and I'm glad I did.

The photos and video that were taken over the full three days has been used to create a feature film. It's premier will be at the Kendal Mountain Festival on Sunday 20 November 2022 in the Kendal Leisure Centre. It forms one part of the Inov-8 Endurance Session and the Cumbrian will feature next to Nicky Spinks, Francois D'Haene and Paul Tierney - all who have incredible achievements to their names. Do come and see if if you read this in time, however, if you can't go, there's an option to watch online via their online player.

In the meantime, here's my video to show what I saw and what I lived through while capturing living and seeing the Cumbrian unfold.

What else have we been doing?

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