Paul Tierney – Running the Wainwrights

Paul Tierney smashes Steve Birkinshaw’s record of running the 214 Wainwright fells of the Lake District set 5 years ago by 7 hours!

Finishing coming off Catbells, Lakeland’s most visited Wainwright, Paul sets a new record of 6 days and 6 hours and 5 minutes.

The Wainwrights

Walking The Wainwrights is a massive feat in itself. Setting out to conquer them all in a year get’s a wow on social. Paul Tierney set off last Friday, 15 seconds before 8am to run them all – in one go – AND beat the record held by Steve Birkinshaw!

Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells
Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells – Alfred Wainwright

Alfred Wainwright wrote about 214 lake district peaks in his 7 volume Pictorial Guide To The Lakeland Fells. Although there had been many Lakeland guides, there was something different, unique and complete about AW’s work. Unbeknownst to Wainwright, he’d set the people a challenge.

Recently established, The Lake District National Park permitted people to walk freely on most of the land in the area. They soon set about ‘Walking The Wainwrights’. These days most of us top the 214 peaks and complete without even thinking of summiting the ‘others’.

Running The Wainwrights

32 years ago in June 1987, now Lakeland Legend Joss Naylor, a farmer from Wasdale took to the fells and completed all 214 Wainwrights in one swoop, 7 days, 1 hour and 25 minutes to be more precise.

It took 27 years before anyone would attempt to beat Joss’ record, but in June 2014 Steve Birkinshaw set off to try. With help from the fell running community, family and friends, after months of planning, he completed in 6 days 12 hours and 58 minutes.

It’s the hardest thing he’s ever done, Steve says in his book There Is No Map In Hell. In fact, after the trauma of doing it, Steve developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He’s not entirely shaken it off, he told me, after six years.

214 fells – 318 miles – 36,000 ft of ascent (4 ascents of Mount Everest!)

Paul Tierney and Steve Birkinshaw in Keswick
Paul Tierney and Steve Birkinshaw in Keswick

Paul smashed Steve Birkinshaw’s record, running all 214 Wainwrights in 6 days.

Steve Birkinshaw’s Wainwrights Route

Helping out on a couple of legs, Steve gave advice to the guy who was attempting to beat his record. Paul would use the route that Steve devised 5 years ago. It covers the 214 summits in the most efficient way.

Steve told me that it took him five months to put that route together, making sure he was to avoid boulder fields, heather covered ground and dangerous river crossings, or arêtes like Striding Edge.

Steve said that Paul’s best chance of success was always to focus on small, achievable goals, rather than seeing the run as a whole. Tierney said before the record attempt, “I fully expect it to test me to the absolute maximum.”

Steve Birkinshaw's Wainwright's Route
Steve Birkinshaw’s Wainwright’s Route

The weather was shocking on one day, so windy in fact that fell walkers were being blown off their feet but settled in the last few days. Runners took it in turns supporting and running with Paul throughout, including doing all of the navigation.

Mind Charity

36-year-old ex-policeman Paul is using the event to raise money for mental health charity MIND, in memory of his friend and fellow ultra-runner Chris Stirling. You can donate on his Just Giving page. He had raised over £16,000 by the time he got to the finish line at Moot Hall in Keswick, £36,000 by the time the page closed.

Paul Tierney Running The Wainwrights Record
Paul Tierney Running The Wainwrights Record

He’s been supported by groups of runners, taking rest stops where he could find the sliver van waiting for him.

Paul’s progress was tracked by OpenTracking throughout. The service was excellent as we could all see exactly where he was. Steve’s last comment before Paul completed his Wainwright run started, ‘Paul is currently 4 hours ahead of my time.’

Paul Tierney's Wainwright's Map on OpenTracking
Paul Tierney’s Wainwright’s Map on OpenTracking

Watch the Paul Tierney’s viceo, Running The Wainwrights, on the Inov-8 website. I don’t know if getting some of their trainers will have you undertaking this mammoth task yourself but you never know!


Why not read about the last time I was out with Steve up Blencathra and down Sharp Edge:

Talking Wainwrights with Steve Birkinshaw