Joss Nay­lor

The king of the fells on the sheer joy of run­ning, en­dur­ing bad patches in an event – and eat­ing salt

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

The king of the fells on his in­cred­i­ble ca­reer

Joss Nay­lor is one of the world’s most revered fell run­ners. The Cum­brian sheep farmer broke the Lake District 24-hour fell record three times in the 1970s – his 1975 record of 72 peaks, 100 miles and around 38,000 feet of as­cent in 23hrs 11mins stood for 13 years. At 70, he ran 70 Lake­land fell tops, clock­ing up over 50 miles. This year, Nay­lor cel­e­brated his 80th birth­day by run­ning 30 miles from Cald­beck to Was­dale to raise money for the Brathay Trust.

Why Cald­beck to Was­dale? It was in mem­ory of my fa­ther, Joe. He was born and farmed in Cald­beck, then moved to Was­dale and met my mother.

What do you re­call about your dad? He was one of those chaps who if he told you some­thing it would be right. He thought run­ning was a waste of time, but when I started to run well he came to watch a race. I was lead­ing the field by about 15 min­utes and jumped the gate right in front of him. He had tears in his eyes as I sprinted to the fin­ish.

How did grow­ing up in the Lake District shape you? When gath­er­ing sheep you’d set off into the fells on only a basin of por­ridge and walk all day. This got me used to trav­el­ling long dis­tances with lit­tle food.

How did you dis­cover you had a tal­ent for run­ning? When I was 20 I had a back op­er­a­tion and the doc­tor told me I was de­signed to be a top ath­lete. My first race was the Lake District Moun­tain Trial in 1960. I didn’t have any run­ning shoes or shorts, so I ran in my work boots and cut the legs off my trousers above the knees. I took an early lead, but cramped up go­ing over a stile. There were two lasses hav­ing a pic­nic so I bor­rowed their salt cel­lar, half emp­tied it into my hand and ate the lot. I quickly re­cov­ered – but I’d lost the lead.

Is the key to your in­cred­i­ble en­durance phys­i­cal or men­tal? On my longer runs I didn’t re­ally suf­fer pain. The main is­sue on my 1975 24-hour record was my feet over­heat­ing. The long runs are more of a men­tal chal­lenge. I re­mem­ber when I started the 70 at 70, it was as if some­one put an arm around my shoul­der and said, ‘ You can do it’. I’ve also learned that if I have a bad patch dur­ing a run I’ll re­cover and run through it.

What do you think of run­ning aids such as gels and bars? I’ve never used any of them. The only food I eat on long runs is sand­wiches and cake. I carry food that you can eat in two mouth­fuls with­out hav­ing to break stride. On my Cald­beck-to-was­dale run I drank black­cur­rant juice with salt added. As you get older you learn what you need and what works for you.

How much do you run th­ese days? I get out onto the fells maybe three times a week. I run on Sun­day morn­ing with the dog and al­ways on the fells.

What have you gained from a life­time of run­ning? I’ve taken a lot from the tran­quil­ity of the Lake District – an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the land­scape, wildlife and plants. For me, run­ning has al­ways been more about get­ting out in the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment than it is about ex­er­cise or train­ing.

What ad­vice would you give a road run­ner tak­ing to the fells? You need the abil­ity to read the ground. The main thing is not to run on a full stride but to adapt to the ter­rain. Just en­joy be­ing out there and don’t rush into rac­ing be­fore you’re ready.

What’s your link to the Brathay Trust? I’ve been Pa­tron of the Brathay 10in10 since 2007. I’ve been in­spired by what they do with dis­ad­van­taged young peo­ple. It’s been an ed­u­ca­tion to see how they turn lives around.

To do­nate to Joss’s 80th birth­day run, visit just­giv­­ing/ Joss­nay­lor80

BIG DAY Joss Nay­lor on his 80th-birth­day run

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