Legends of the Trail - Page 6
Naylor and one of his beloved Border Collies running in the rugged fells near his home.
In the UK Fells with
They say that 76-year-old Joss Naylor is still a sight to behold as he runs England’s Lake District fells, his lanky body bending easily and his arms outstretched, bird-like, as he moves over the technical terrain. “He keeps a steely glint in His eye and His muscles are like High-tension metal stretched to their limit,” says Keith Richardson, who wrote Joss: the life and times of the legendary lake district fell runner and shepherd Joss Naylor (www.rivergretawriter.co.uk). “He is as light as a kite but also hard as nails.” Almost any British sports fan would agree: Naylor is also an icon. The runner has spent most of his adult life bagging England’s fells, usually in record time ... That is, when he’s not farming sheep.
In a valley called Wasdale, in the Lake District’s rural Cumbria county, Naylor lives in a 400-ish-year-old farmhouse on about 150 acres. The house and a small collection of outbuildings stand in a cluster on rolling hills between the valley’s lake and steep fells dividing it from the next valley. His fields are cordoned off by rock walls—some as old as his house and some he has handmade—and he uses a posse of friendly Border Collies to work the sheep.
While most people come to this neck of the woods for summer vacation, this has always been Naylor’s home and playground. Almost every day when the farm work is done, naylor takes his dogs and heads onto the fells. Says Richardson, “There is nothing Joss likes more than to be running on the fells with his dogs.”
Naylor’s life has been vibrantly punctuated by marriage to his wife, Mary, and their raising of three children. These days, Naylor also escapes to Spain during Wasdale’s dark, snowy winters.
Naylor experienced major back and knee injuries during the first two decades of his life. residual inflexibility and pain from those injuries, however, didn’t stop him from embracing the lake District’s traditional culture of outdoor work and recreation. and, in his mid-20s, Naylor learned about the beauty of moving fast through the landscape when he entered a fell race near his family’s home. Though Naylor did enter (and dominate) some competitions, he evolved a preference for running that most resembled that of the Bob graham round.
In 1932, Bob graham, a guesthouse owner in Keswick, a town located in the northern lake District, summited 42 local peaks in under 24 hours. When graham made his “rounds,” a route that was between 63 and 65 miles with roughly 27,000 feet of elevation gain, this speed approach to fell travel had already been popular for at least three quarters of a century. graham set a high mark, though, that wouldn’t be repeated until 1960.
In the 1970s, Naylor bettered the 24-hour record on three occasions, the best being in 1975 when he topped 72 peaks in 23 hours 11 minutes on a route he says was around 100 miles long with 38,000 feet of elevation gain (Naylor’s record has twice been surpassed, most recently in 1997 by Mark Hartell, who nabbed 77 peaks in 23 hours 47 minutes). Naylor’s solo fell efforts go on, including running 60 fells in about 36 hours when he was 60 and 70 fells in less than a day when he was 70. and last spring, as if in complete defiance of age, Naylor ran the boundaries of Wasdale, which involved close to 35 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing, in just under 10 hours.
“Don’t be fooled by the man who didn’t race much,” says Richardson. “Joss was and is hyper-competitive, but mostly with himself. He never gives in.
“People love what Joss represents as a runner, a cumbrian character and someone who loves his homeland more than most else.”
— 1936 >Joss Naylor is born in Wasdale Head, England.
— 1940s >. Naylor experiences a back injury that debilitates him for several years.
— 1954 > Naylor has surgery for an unknown knee injury. — 1958 > Two discs are surgically removed from Naylor’s back in an attempt to relieve pain caused by a childhood injury.
— 1961 > Naylor participates in his first fell race, which takes place near Wasdale Head.
— 1971 > Naylor runs 61 Lake District Peaks in 23:37, breaking the previous Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record by one peak.
— 1972 > Naylor breaks his own Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record from the previous year, bagging 63 peaks in 23:35.
Naylor and one of his beloved Border Collies (left); and on a run in the rugged fells near his home.
— 1975 > Naylor runs 72 peaks in 23:11, resetting his own Lake District 24-Hour Fell Record by nine peaks (the record has since been twice re-broken). For this nine-peak jump in the record, which is often cited as fell running’s greatest achievement, he was made Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
— 1986 > Fifty-year-old Naylor sets the still-standing record for running the Wainwrights, a set of 214 Lake District peaks, at 7 days 1 hour 25 minutes. His route was 391 miles long and contained 121,000 feet of ascent.
— 2012 > At 76, Naylor is chosen by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be an Olympic Torchbearer at the 2012 Summer Olympics for inspiring generations of runners.