The British ultrarunner Sabrina Verjee has shattered the record for completing all of the Lake District’s 214 Wainwright peaks in less than six days – making her the fastest athlete, male or female, by more than six hours.
The 40-year-old veterinary surgeon from Ambleside finished the 325-mile route, which included the summit of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, in five days, 23 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds to beat the previous best, set by Paul Tierney in 2019.
Verjee said she had only stopped only for food, running repairs and, very occasionally, for two or three hours’ sleep or rest. “It feels absolutely awesome,” she said after finishing early on Wednesday morning. “My body held out better than I expected and I was able to maintain a good pace throughout.
“The Wainwrights have become an obsession and I felt that I could and should complete a round in under six days, so I am over the moon to have proved myself right and finally put it to bed,” she added. “And if what I have done inspires more people – especially girls and women – to get out there and challenge themselves, then that’s an added bonus.”
Verjee’s extraordinary achievement, which included 36,000 metres of ascent, is the latest in a growing trend of records set by women in long-distance races.
In January 2019, the British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win the 268-mile Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way – shattering the course record by 12 hours while also expressing breast milk for her baby at aid stations along the route.
Eight months later the US swimmer Sarah Thomas became the first woman to swim the Channel four times in a row, a feat that took her 54 hours and 10 minutes.
More recently another American, Maggie Guterl, became the first woman to win the Big Dog Backyard Ultra in Tennessee, where the last man or woman standing wins. She ran for 60 hours and covered 250 miles.
Verjee is well-known in ultrarunner circles, and last year set the record for the fastest known female time on the Pennine Way, completing the 268 miles in three days 2hr 28min.
In 2020, she was the first woman to run the Wainwrights, which get their name from Alfred Wainwright’s seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, in six days, 17hr and 51 min.
It was the third-fastest time ever but Verjee said that she did not want it to be considered for records as she had needed substantial support from fellow runners after suffering a knee injury.
An attempt at the overall record in May had to be abandoned due to sub-zero conditions and blizzards that led to an exacerbation of her asthma and caused breathing problems. After pulling out, she said: “This story isn’t over. I love running and I love exploring the Wainwrights. We have unfinished business.”
It proved to be a case as Verjee, whose latest record attempt began from her home in Langdale last Friday, was always ahead of her target time. As she neared her goal she attracted a growing online following, who sent her messages via her tracking app, that were passed on to her as she ran.
“It was really nice to have these little pick-ups, with people saying I’ve inspired them or their children to go out running,” she added.
Verjee also paid tribute to her husband, Ben, and a large support crew of friends, for helping her before suggesting she would now move onto fresh targets. “I couldn’t have done it without them – so I wouldn’t want to put them through another one!” she added.