One hears a lot about “the ageing population” and the host of problems that this phenomenon entails. Anyone who reads anything on this site might realise that these problems relate not to age but to decrepitude. Reading the stories on this site one should be brought to the realisation that falling into decrepitude is, to a far greater degree than people might realise, a choice not an inevitability, at least as far as the timing of it is concerned. As Ernestine Shepherd, the world’s oldest female competitive bodybuilder, says “…being out of shape as we age is an option, not a mandate”. So we bring together on this site amazing stories, about amazing people, that demonstrate just that - the relationship between age and decrepitude can be massively influenced by the choices one makes. And here is one more such. A 52-year-old woman, Nicky Spinks, who lives and farms in the Peak District has become the first person, male or female, ever to complete what is known in the Fell Running community as a “Double Paddy Round”. What is a Double Paddy Round? A (single) Paddy Buckley Round is a Fell Run of 61 miles over some of the toughest mountain terrain in Wales. And in May this year Nicky Spinks ran the circuit in one direction, in a time of 23hrs 21 min, and then turned round and ran it all again in the other direction. The first person ever to do so!
For those who don’t know, Fell Running is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, running in the Fells. And the definition of Fells, from Wikipedia, is “a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills”. So Fell running is cross country running, often in a circuit, in some pretty wild and dangerous terrain. And to give an idea of what such a circuit involves, the Bob Graham Round - one of the classic Fell Runs - is a distance of 115 kms, has 8200 metres of ascent, and involves ascending and descending 42 peaks across the (mostly) untracked and (always) treacherous terrain of the Lake district.
The tradition of running “Rounds” over such terrain goes back to the middle of the Victorian age, and, for instance, what is now known as the Bob Graham Round is named after Bob Graham, who set an incredible target of running up and down 42 peaks within 24 hours. That record has been pushed and pushed until now the record stands at 77 peaks. The women’s record stands at 62 peaks within the 24 hours.
Born in London in 1967, Nicky Spinks has been involved in Fell Running since 2001, having moved to the Peak District as a child. She now lives and farms there. Since she took up fell running she has set many records including the women’s record of the number of peaks in the Lakes climbed in 24 hours - 64 - and the fastest women’s times for each of the three Classic fell runs in the British mountains. These are the Paddy Buckley Round, the Ramsay Round and the Bob Graham Round, each of which she completed in under 20 hours.
Apart from her astonishing list of achievements, Nicky is a breast cancer survivor. She gives an account of her experience of discovering her cancer and her experience of going through the treatment that enabled her to survive it on her blog, which can be found here. Having survived the disease, Nicky has used her running to raise funds for the cancer charity Odyssey and has reached her target of raising £20,000. Last year she was awarded a British Empire Medal for outstanding services to sport and charity. You can donate at her Just Giving page here.
Perhaps it is her life as a farmer in the Peak District and as such her interaction with the landscape surrounding her that had an influence on her taking up fell running. Not everybody can be so lucky as to live in the middle of an environment that so directly inspires their choice of sport, but even so we can all take inspiration from this amazing woman.