Athlete sets record time for running the 50-mile Mendip Way that ends in Frome

  Posted: 15.09.20 at 10:40 by The Editor

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A new record has been set for running the Mendip Way, a 50-mile route that passes through Cheddar and ends in Frome.

Earlier this month, Tom Abrahams ran the route in nine hours, 20 minutes and 44 seconds, taking the record for the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for completing the route supported by others.

Tom, who grew up in Hinton Blewett, said that he ran a steady pace for most of the day and always felt under control but he had to dig deep without ever entering the red zone, and walked several of the hillier sections to conserve energy.

He told Nub News: "I’d entered two long organised races this year that have had to be postponed until spring 2021, and was inspired by several other runners - namely John Kelly and Damian Hall who both live in the South West - who had taken on other fastest known routes in the UK this summer.

"As other people have said, this year has given us the opportunity to reset, re-calibrate and to tackle big challenges that we may have put off previously.

"In my own circumstances, my family holiday had to be cancelled, I haven’t been racing, and I became aware of the FKT for the route a few weeks back."

Tom Abrahams starting out on his record-breaking run

The Mendip Way is an 80-kilometre, or 50-mile, long-distance footpath across the Mendip Hills from Weston-super-Mare to Frome.

It is divided into two sections. The West Mendip Way was opened in 1979 and starts at the Bristol Channel at Uphill Cliff.

It climbs the Mendip escarpment affording views over the Somerset Levels. It then crosses the central Mendip plateau leading down to Cheddar Gorge and on to Wells.

Most of the western section is within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From there the East Mendip Way continues through Shepton Mallet to Frome.

Tom, who lives in Clevedon and who works as the Bristol depot manager for St Austell Brewery, said he had a fantastic day but had to put in a lot of preparation for the attempt.

He said: "It was a wonderful day with views far across the levels.

"The view from the top of the gorge was stunning. I started to find it tough across Draycott Sleights.

"You reach the end of the West Mendip Way in Wells, and with the crowds there it would be very easy to think that the job was done, but the East Mendip Way is a good challenge in itself.

"When you think of all the landmarks that you pass en route, it’s quite something - Crook Peak, Cheddar Gorge, Wells Cathedral, the Shepton viaduct, Cranmore Tower, not to mention the changes in scenery from woodland to moorland to riverside.

"Part of the achievement for me is in the process that led up to it and having to get to know the Mendip area better. I hiked 60 kilometres of the route the previous week in preparation, staying at a campsite in Cheddar and using public transport to get to and from the Mendip Way, which was great.

"I also ran various segments through the summer with my good friend Steve Wood, who accompanied me for 25k on the day. His photographic memory of the route was invaluable late on, as I began to tire.

"Unlike in a race, you have no other runners or race officials to help you find your way. I tried as much as possible just to enjoy running the route, but there was a part of me that was also glad to run the time I did.

"I’m very aware that there is a considerably faster time in the opposite direction down to sea level set in 2016. I’m also sure that someone will come along very soon and break my time.

"That said, there have been attempts at the FKT which weren’t successful in the direction from Uphill Sluice to Frome and I wanted to take on the challenge.

"The great thing about running something like the Mendip Way is that it’s not purely a test of speed, but also your ability to find your way, create a fuel strategy and ensure that you safely navigate what is, at times, quite a tricky route.

"Part of the attraction of the FKT challenge is that you need to document and share your attempt. It’s also a technological challenge as the onus is on you to demonstrate that you’ve done what you’ve said you’ve done."

And next for Tom?
"The next would be to run the Mendip Way in reverse – from Frome to Uphill, or to run the route unsupported," he said.

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