John’s Ride in the Clouds

As many of our members will already know, John Russell is not only one of our top U17 runners but a triathlete as well.

So it will come as no surprise that he has been clocking up the miles on his bike, up to 200 miles a week recently (yes that’s 200 miles a WEEK!).

We are not talking just around Darlington but over the hillier routes in Yorkshire, with a specific goal in mind…The Great Dun Fell – the highest road in Britain.

Some of our members who also cycle may already be aware of the Great Dun Fell, situated in the North Pennines, but for those who aren’t, Cycling Weekly provides the below stats:

  • Length 7450m
  • Height gain 632m
  • Average gradient 9%
  • Maximum gradient 25%
  • Click here to see the Strava segment for the climb

Others who have completed this climb have described it as:

“long and sustained pain rather than intense excruciating pain that you sometimes get with the Moors climbs”

“no hesitation in giving it a 10/10 difficulty rating”

“closest thing in the UK to an Alpine or Spanish climb, but very much like Mont Ventoux, but with UK steepness thrown in for extra difficulty”

“at several sections I thought my heart was going to pop out my throat”

Not much of a view from the top when you’re so high you’re in the clouds!

And if that doesn’t sound demanding enough, John and his friends cycled there and back as well, making this a 132 mile journey. A journey that was hardly flat involving a further 2 significant climbs along the way!

We caught up with John after this incredible achievement for a chat.

DHACJuniors: How did you first hear about it?

John: Me and the guys I was doing it with were looking for the biggest climbs in the area to do (given all this free time) and I saw my teacher from school had done it, so I thought well, come on, we can do it too can’t we!!

DHACJuniors: How have you trained for this and how has lockdown affected this?

John: In fact lockdown has probably helped. I’ve had more time to ride my bike over all the hills in Yorkshire and I’ve been able to ride for 10 hours a week now, instead of the measly 2 or 3 I was doing before.

DHACJuniors: Did you have a target time in mind?

John: Not really, just wanted to get up it, and be able to ride 65 miles back home. Although saying that, I made sure to be first at the top!

DHACJuniors: I can see you hit 45mph on the downhill. How was that?

John: Pretty fun! The road was closed to cars and it was totally straight, so it was just us speeding down a road in Cumbria. Freezing cold though, and not being able to feel our hands as it was so cold at the top.

DHACJuniors: How did you feel the next day? Were you still able to walk??

John: In fact the next day I ended up going on my bike again for two hours. I had to attend Gainsville and wasn’t going to let a ten hour ride stop that!!

DHACJuniors: Would you do it again? And have you got any other big rides planned?

John: Definitely do it again, maybe not for a while though. I don’t think there’ll be anything to top it so, I’ll have to think hard for some even better climbs to do.

DHACJuniors: I don’t know if anyone else is brave (crazy?) enough to take on Great Dun Fell but what advice would you give to anyone who wanted to cycle some of the bigger hills we have near to us?

John: Just do it really. It’s a good change, just don’t go out too hard. I’ve been on loads of rides where people have had to drag themselves home after a climb which does not look fun.

DHACJuniors: You can see on your Strava that you do a lot of cycling and I know you are a triathlete as well. Do you find cycling helps with your running?

John: Yeah definitely, its nice having a balance of the two and doing a lot of cycling allows me to do a little less running anyway which helps, and it definitely gives me a benefit on the longer races

DHACJuniors: Last question, if you had to choose, cycling or running?

John: Cycling…sorry Bernie!

john russell
John was a bit too busy to take many photos on the day but we look forward to seeing him back in racing action on his bike soon

We are sure you will all agree this is an amazing achievement by John and his friends and we look forward to seeing what your next adventure is!

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