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Joss Naylor MBE

by Editor
Wednesday 22nd May 2013

Following our article on how Joss Naylor MBE intends to take to the peaks of Cumbria again this summer in an attempt to complete a full series of runs in the Lake District Mountain Trial (HERE), we have taken a closer look at the King of the fells

For a closer look at the Lake District Mountain Trial check out this article (HERE)


Joss Naylor

In the autumn of 2012 Run247 editor Britta Sendlhofer was invited by Scott Umpleby of the Bratahay Trust to come along and meet Joss Naylor at his house in Greendale, to find out more about Joss’ plans to run the route of the 1964 Lake District Mountain Trial this summer in order to raise money for the Brathay Trust:

The 1964 Trial, held on June 21st, was a point-to-point race, starting at Greenside Youth Hostel, near Glenridding, and finishing at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, via checkpoints at Red Tarn, Grisedale Tarn, Tarn at Leaves, Stake Beck and Angle Tarn. It was also the last year in which the event was sponsored bythe Lancashire Evening Post. The Barrow pair, Peter Hall and Bob Lewney, were in front together for much of the way, but the former opened up a 4-minute lead going up to Angle Tarn and had stretched it to 5 minutes at the finish, where he arrived with a time of 2 hrs 31 mins. Harry Blenkinsop (Sale) was 3rd man home in 3.37, followed by George Barrow and Mike Davies.
Studmarks on the Summits – Bill Smith

To hear Joss speak of his early Mountain Trials was fascinating. His passion is obvious and his memories appear clear and colourful! He re-calls names of competitors, and reels off route details – checkpoints and the names – with clarity. He tells in minute detail of the routes he took, where he crossed becks, cut through braken. It’s etched on his memory like it was yesterday.
His first Trial was 1960, at Wasdale Head.

He recalls that it was “...a real beautiful day.” He had never ran at all until then but the committee had asked him to take part. “I said I couldn’t run, I was just having my breakfast. I’ve no shoes or owt like. I’ve no shorts.” They managed to persuade him though! “I got me knife out and cut the legs off me trousers. About six inches above the knee. I put me big fell boots on and marched meself down to the start.”

He recalls struggling with cramp later in that first race. “Luckily there were two old ladies by a bridge having a picnic; there was a salt pot out. I just got a handful of salt out and I was moving a lot better after that like. It was quite a good day, but I was a bit stiff-legged the next day from the cramp.”

“Gary Griffin entered us the following year so it was all above board. I’d got a pair of old football boots by then. I cut toes out because coming downhill they were cramped and taking me toenails off. “ That day Joss missed the Seatallan checkpoint out and ‘ran a bit of extra ground’.

1962 wasn’t a success either, as Joss had to be stretchered of the fell with a torn thigh muscle.

He would remain dedicated to the event though! Joss has started in 50 of the Lake District Mountain Trials (so far!). After he ran non-competitively in his first and failed to complete his second and third, he has completed 42 Classic Trials and 5 Short Trials.

Joss is one with the fells, tightly tied to the land on which he works. As he describes the routes of past trials he often refers to his work on the land: “That was where we’d fetch the sheep through...”

His intimate knowledge was both help and hindrance. When Joss had time to train – and often he did not, due to his committments on the farm – he would try to get to the area where the Mountain Trial was. “In them days we worked off a one inch map. You could look at the area, and nine times out of ten work out where the checkpoints were going to be. Most of the ground was in me head, and away I went.” This confidence often caught him out too though.

“I’ve won ten [Trials], but I should have won a lot more, but I was a bit wild then. But in them days I had the legs to make a mistake and get back on course.”

It wasn’t all about the winning in any case! “Some of them days you can look back on, and I tell you what, they were magic like. It took you areas where you never gathered sheep. I used to take note of the sheep on the ground.

If they were Herdwicks ...well I used to like them. You’d look at sheep and think, ‘Well if that were in a show ring and I was judging, that’s the sort of sheep I’d be looking for’. I remember one day, there was a Mountain Trial at Newlands. I was coming back over Dale Head, and I looked in and there was this really bonny blue sheep. It hadn’t had a lamb, cos it’s condition was good. And the sun was shining on it, and I thought, ‘well that’s the perfect Herdwick’. “

Joss missed the 1964 Trial, and this summer he wants to run the route, in the process raising funds for the Brathay Trust. “I hope that the fell running fraternity will be able to really help raise some funds.”

Joss Naylor MBE is an English fell runner often described as the King of the Fells

His fell running achievements include successive records within the scope of the The Lake District 24 Hour Fell Record, culminating in 1975 with 72 peaks, over 100 miles and about 38,000 feet of ascent in 23h20m

His other fell running achievements include:

  • 1973: The Welsh 3000s - the 14 peaks of Snowdonia in 4h46m
  • 1974: The Pennine Way: 3 days and 4 hours
  • 1983: The Lakes, Meres and Waters circuit of 105 miles in 19h20m
  • 1986: (age 50) completed the Wainwrights in 7 days
  • 1997: (age 60) ran 60 Lakeland fell tops in 36 hours
  • 2006: (age 70) ran 70 Lakeland fell tops, covering more than 50 miles and ascending more than 25,000 feet, in under 21 hours.

He was awarded the MBE for his services to sport and charity.


JOSS - The life and times of the legendary Lake District fell runner and shepherd Joss Naylor, by Keith Richardson. Colour photography by Val Corbett

For those who really want to find out more about Joss we highly recommend the Greta River Writers' book JOSS - The life and times of the legendary Lake District fell runner and shepherd Joss Naylor, by Keith Richardson. Colour photography by Val Corbett. (HERE)

Their website introduces Joss with a quote from no other than Olympic Gold medal winner and London marathon man Chris Brasher.

'Joss,' he wrote, 'has sinews stronger than any man-made substance and his will is harder than a diamond. I have always believed that he is the toughest runner in Britain, which inevitably makes him the toughest runner in the world, for there is no other nation with such depth of talent on those events which really pull the stamina from a man's heart.



Joss will be very grateful for all donations received at: www.justgiving.com/Joss-Naylor (or phone 015394 39728 to make an offline donation). Thank you.

To help him raise the cash Joss is appealing for four runners to join him on route. He’s looking for two runners to accompany him from Glenridding to Dunmail Raise and a further two to complete the run from Dunmail Raise to Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. In return Joss is asking that interested individuals place an auction bid at:  http://goo.gl/MhI10 (27 May, 2013 10:46:14 BST)


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