REPORT: Steve Cliffs Joss Naylor challenge

The challenge started a little earlier for me than for most people, when I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in April 2015. MND is a particularly awful degenerative disease with no cure and a poor prognosis.

Once I had, in some format, reconciled myself with this unexpected development in my life, I decided that I should at least try and make a difference to those poor unsupported souls that are given the same prognosis. The Joss Naylor Challenge has always been in my mind, now was the time to strike with a clear goal to raise money for MND research and support those diagnosed with the disease.

Three months training later and I was standing on Pooley Bridge at 5am with a crowd of twelve to cheer me off. I wanted six months to train, but didn’t have the luxury of time. With so little training under my belt, I knew I had to make the most of my strength in the early sections, and just “hang in” for the tougher second half.

Focussed at the Start on Pooley Bridge / running on the first section

My support, in the main, will be mentioned in an attachment– there were nearly 80 of them and it is great to pore over the lists and to see where everyone got to! For every one that was able to disrupt their busy schedule to be there, there were another two that could not make it due to commitments. These followed the tracker instead, and managed to get fantastic messages of joy to me.

Without exception, every supporter was an absolute pleasure, inspiration and joy to be with and to see. Rob Woodall and Carwyn Phillips took me through Section one. Carwyn went on to finish the whole challenge with me …. don’t you just love this man! … He’s too young for a Joss – but such great talent. This level of support was given across the day by everyone I met – sacrifice and dedication – enough to make a grown man cry; and I did. We started section one with two and finished with three on the final stretch.

Finishing Section one for a 5 minute fuel stop at Kirkstone Pass

From the off I had doubts about finishing; headwind gusts of 30mph meant that we had to work hard. The 3h 20m schedule was tough to keep, so instead we smashed it in 2h 59m! I did wonder whether it had taken too much out of me. A crowd of nineteen at Kirkstone, fuelled my spirit; and I was able to get up Red Screes in 20 minutes – a time normally left for the younger 50 to 55 year olds. Supporters started coming out of every rock on this section, and we finished with more than we started, and 35 minutes up on a 14 hour 40 minute schedule. We started with two on this section and finished with five.

Rick and Steve Climbing Seat Sandal  / Descending Seat Sandal to Dunmail Raise / A rare gathering at Dunmail

A crowd of twenty seven met me at Dunmail Raise, and I threw away any doubts of completing. We ran up Steel Fell with my two eldest grandchildren in tow – well done, Emma and Harry. Once we got to Bowfell, I could see that the second and most difficult part of the challenge would be in mist with an occasional view, at the bottom of each mountain. These are the mountains fell runners love – difficult, complex terrain; rocks to dance over; secret routes to pass onto the next contender. My rock dancing was limited to uphill, as I struggled moving lightly over large rocks in the windy conditions, and always protecting the muscles that MND might one day claim.

Descending Great End to Sty Head

We were a “push-me-pull-you” train – I was strong and leading on the uphill and the supporters were flowing over the rocky ground as we descended. We started with six supporters and ended with eleven on section three.

The mid-section support in the heart of our mountains at Sty Head (with no road access), was attended by twenty five; I was offered tea in a china cup on a tray, the napkin held down by the finest small rocks from Great Gable.

Atmospheric and inspirational trails on section 4 – Descending Red Gully

The weather hardly changed through the day with strong winds blowing throughout; the only exception was during the fourth and final section, when a little extra spice of driving rain was added.

Section four was going really well – climb strong, descend steady – when the driving rain started on Scoat Fell – I froze to the core, and felt hypothermic. Steeple, such a sweet little mountain, and one of my favourite spots proved a chore. I got the distinct impression that everyone was looking forward to the end of the run, so I put my head down for the final three tops that form the backdrop to the finish. Joss Naylor led the team down Middle Fell – no greater privilege could have been delivered to me. I would guess that twelve of us started this section and we finished with twenty nine. Either figure could have been more, neither was less; numbers were getting bigger all the time.

The twenty nine coming off the fell were greeted by another forty or more on Greendale Bridge – a glorious finish; timed at 13 hours 53 minutes. A healthy one hour seven minutes ahead of the 15 hours I was allowed.

Descending the final hill (Middle Fell) with Joss Naylor and at the finish

Lesley and Mark at the Strands (Nether Wasdale) hosted the barbeque for sixty odd people, kindly arranged by David Powell Thompson; and the Chapel Stile camp site could not have done enough to help us with our accommodation. Bonhomie, great food and drink, kind words, love and warmth surrounded us.

It would be too easy to say there were “too many” people to say thank-you too. I want to list them all and say a massive big hug and TY to each individually (see overleaf). Pete Bland and OMM supported the event– as they have done for our annual fell races – the Anniversary Waltz, Anniversary Wa! and Teenager with Altitude – and so my thanks to them.

BBQ; Lisa (sister), Harry & Zita (daughter); Steve and Emma (granddaughter and tweeter extraordinaire)

Wynny and my family were amazing – daughters, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunties and uncles. The runners who I share my passion for fell running with gave more than I could ever have wished for. People who donated were hugely generous and kind with their words. We can never say “thank-you” too much.

What we do it all for … the kids

Between this run and a 5k run organised for the same cause by Grant Lee (London) and Robert Cesario (New York), we have together brought in over £14,000 for MND Association.

If you are reading this and would like to contribute to MND Association, then for a few weeks / months, you can use my Just Giving site –

All you social networkers out there please hash tag – #runcliffrun – on Facebook and Twitter. Tag me @squawkup and I will RT.

We are also entering for the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge. Please vote for this event at

58 years old now, feeling great after the mountains have lifted my spirits – dare I think of another go at 60, when I would be allowed 18 hours to complete the challenge; or even maybe a twelve hour run in better conditions before I get to 60 … MND doesn’t take away dreams.

If there are BG’ers out there who see this as an “old man’s BG”, I ask that you reccie section one of the course on a fine day with a 12 hour schedule, and then start thinking about the training you need to do, ready for when you are 50.

If you are planning a Bob Graham or Joss Naylor or similar let us know, send us a report and pictures similar to this report and we’ll post it for everyone to read about.
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