The Charlie Ramsay Round
What is the Ramsay Round?
The Ramsay Round is one of the big three (British) ‘rounds’
- 24-hour fell running challenges across technical, steep terrain. You may have
heard of the other two, the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District and the Paddy
Buckley Round in Wales. These rounds have become increasingly popular with experienced
trail runners and athletes, who usually have a support crew to help them complete
it within the 24-hour cut off.
Binnein Mor. Credit: Geograph
Fastest Known Time
Some athletes have gone one step further to achieve what’s known as a ‘fastest known time’ on these routes – the fastest recorded completion. The fastest known time for the Ramsay Round is an incredible 14 hours 42 minutes and 40 seconds set by Finlay Wild in 2020. Not only was he over an hour faster than the previous record, but he also ran it completely unsupported. It’s worth noting that these 24-hour challenges should only be attempted by experienced trail runners who have undergone plenty of preparation and training. The Ramsay Round, in particular, is incredibly remote and contains sections of exposed ridge.
The Round isn't a set route as such, but the task of traversing 24 of Scotland’s mighty summits, including Ben
Nevis itself. Natually, most people stick to the same paths, a route which covers an impressive 58 miles (93 kilometres) with 28,500
feet (8,700 metres) of elevation. Originally, every one of the 24 peaks were
Munros until Sgorr an Iubhair was declassified in 1997. The route starts and
finishes at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel just outside of Fort William and can be
run in either direction. There are multiple Ramsay Round routes uploaded to OS Maps by users, most with slight variations, but if you're looking for somewhere to start, this route features on the official FKT site. Remember, never head into the mountains without a good ol' fashioned map and compass. There are two OS Explorer maps which cover this area:
OS Explorer 392: Ben Nevis and Fort William
OS Explorer 385: Rannoch Moor and Ben Alder
Breath-taking mountain scenery
History of the Round
The history of the Ramsay Round begins on the 9th
of July 1978 when Charlie Ramsay came flying down Ben Nevis after being the
first person to successfully complete the route in under 24 hours. Some would
argue that history goes back before that, if you consider the shorter Tranter
Round, which the Ramsay Round is based on, but includes five more peaks. In 1964,
Philip Tranter became the first person to cover 19 Munros in a single trip.
Since then, athletes from around the world continue to break records and
redefine what is humanly possible, including successful attempts of a double Ramsay
Round – yes that’s twice the distance and elevation in one go!
Experiencing the Ramsay Round
So, how can us ‘mere mortals’ experience this incredible
route? If you’re a keen hillwalker or trail runner, then you can enjoy the
route at your own pace, staying overnight in bothies or camping. You could also
split it up into day walks, leaving the trail each evening, taking into account
the (often long) journey to and from civilization.
Credit: Black Trail Runners/Johny Cook
Interview with Sabrina Pace-Humphreys
We recently caught up with Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, Co-founder
and Trustee of the community and campaigning charity, Black Trail Runners, to
find out more about her experience of the route. Sabrina and a team from Black
Trail Runners took on their challenge, running parts of the route to highlight Charlie
Ramsay’s achievement. Not only was Charlie Ramsay an incredible hill runner,
but he is also a brilliant example of representation on the hills, something
that is sought after by many Black trail runners, who may be wondering where
they fit in. Diversity matters. After all, the outdoors is for everyone,
whatever your gender, colour, age, background or ability.
Welcome Sabrina, tell us more about Black Trail Runners
Co-founded in June 2020, Black Trail Runners is a community
and campaigning charity with a mission to increase inclusion, participation and
representation of Black people in trail running. Since our launch the community’s
membership has snowballed with people across the world coming together both
online and in-person. Black Trail Runners was set up in a response to the
problem with diversity in trail running in particular. There’s a severe lack of
representation of people of colour at running event start lines across the UK
and trail running in particular struggles to attract people of colour. This is
down to a number of reasons such as access (financial cost, transportation etc),
skills (navigation, kit, technique, safety etc) and representation. If you
don’t see people who look like you trail running (or any activity for that
matter), then you’ll question whether you should be there. We’re campaigning for
more diversity in trail running, from grassroot to elite, whilst building a
global community of runners.
Credit: Black Trail Runners/Johny Cook
Why did you choose to run on the Ramsay Round? Did you have a specific goal in mind?
We chose the run the route because Charlie Ramsay, a Black
man, created this iconic route and many members of our community, and trail
runners at large, did not know that. You have to ask yourself the question,
why? And when you ask that question, you must have a basic understanding of why
representation, especially for people of colour in the outdoors, is so
important. He’s the only Black man to be involved in putting together the top
three rounds and there had never been a group of Black trail runners doing the route
before. We were there to represent for our community and show people that no
matter how fast or slow you are, you too can do many parts of this route. The
challenge of completing the round within 24 hours is extremely tough and you
need to be experienced but there’s nothing stopping hill walkers or trail runners
from enjoying the route at their own pace, especially some of the more
What was your highlight of the route?
My highlight, and I speak for the rest of the team too, was
when we stood on top on Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK. Typically, Ben
Nevis is the first summit (it’s far easier to approach it with fresh legs) but
for us, it marked the (near) end of our adventure. The route presented various
weather conditions, from sunshine at the bottom and snow on the tops but we
felt a huge sense of satisfaction embracing each other on that summit, holding
up our ‘representation matters’ sign as the first Black team to do that.
Describe your experience of the route in three words
Majestic, death-defying and life-affirming.
Credit: Black Trail Runners/Johny Cook
What one piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about taking on this route?
Preparation is key. Reach out to members of the community in person or online to those who have done it before, they’ll be more than happy to help. These mountain rounds are always going to be there so if things didn’t go how you wanted, that’s OK, the hills aren’t going anywhere. One quote I live by is “small steps, big strides”. Don’t be fearful of a route of this distance and elevation as some sections of the route are easier than others, so everyone can get a taste of the Ramsay Round, even if they don’t do the whole thing. We were supported by reached out to Girls on Hills, a female trail running business in Fort William, who knew the route like the back of their hands, and they gave us some great advice and were there for us every step of the way.
Sabrina released her book – Black Sheep: A Story of Rural Racism, Identity and Hope – in June 2022. Click here to purchase. She'll be speaking more about the Ramsay Round, her experiences of trail running and Black Trail Runners at Kendal Mountain Festival this coming November. Ordnance Survey will be there too. Click here to purchase a ticket.
Scotland’s mountains provide some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK and whilst the outdoors is for everyone, care should be taken when venturing out up into the hills. Remember to understand what it is you are about to do before you set off. Carry the right clothes, equipment, food, drinks, and make sure you can navigate. Always check the forecast before you set off.
If you’d like to learn more about the Ramsay Round visit the offical website.