With 24 summits and 28,500ft of elevation, the Ramsay Round in Scotland is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s toughest running challenges. Taking in the best the Highlands has to offer, it has become a bucket-list challenge for experienced mountain runners around the world.
Significantly, it’s also the only one of the classic British mountain rounds to be founded by a Black man. Charlie Ramsay first completed the route in 1978 – and his achievement inspired six members of Black Trail Runners (BTR) to attempt to follow in his mighty footsteps this week.
‘No one ever mentions that Charlie was a Black man,’ says Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, one of the founders of BTR. ‘That was massive for me. You can’t be what you can’t see. So, if you don’t see anyone who looks like you trail running, you don’t think it’s a safe space for you.
‘To discover that Charlie was Black made him familiar to me. I was lucky enough to meet him this week, and he’s all about inclusivity. Like us, he wants the mountains to feel available to people of all colours and all backgrounds.’
While Ramsay managed to complete the round in 24 hours, BTR had a different objective: bag as many of the Munros (mountains over 3,000ft) as possible in three days. ‘We climbed 15 Munros in three days,’ says Sabrina. ‘It was intense, and I’m a bit overwhelmed, to be honest. How anyone manages to do the whole round in 24 hours is mind-blowing.’
But then, this challenge never just about the running. BTR deliberately assembled a team of mixed abilities – from those who’d never summited a mountain to seasoned ultrarunners.
Having previously run 874 miles in 29 days, Mzukisi “Zukie” Tandathu is firmly in the second camp. He was drawn to the challenge because of ‘the significant role that BTR is playing; showing that the trails are not just there for white people but for everyone.
‘Black people tend to internalise a lot of unhelpful beliefs growing up,’ he says. ‘We tell ourselves: “This sport isn’t for us.” But then you get older and realise we do belong in these landscapes. We just have to be prepared to go against the grain; to control the narrative and write our own history.’
While the group say they didn’t see any other Black runners during their three days in the mountains, they did have a number of positive exchanges with hikers.
‘I spoke with an older white hiker who was curious about what we were doing,’ says Zukie. ‘I told him about BTR and how we’re trying to open up access to the trails. It was well received; it was a really positive exchange. In fact, we found no displays of negativity from anyone. But we need to keep coming to these places, to keep showing up, until it becomes normal.’
As is often the case in the Highlands, the weather was…challenging. Guided by Keri Wallace from female-focused trail running company Girls on Hills, the runners’ itinerary was tweaked to work with the weather.
‘We summitted Ben Nevis when it wasn’t too stormy,’ says Sabrina, ‘and it was incredibly emotional to get six Black trail runners to the summit of the UK’s highest mountain.’
As for what’s next, there’s talk about members of BTR attempting all four of the UK’s classic mountain rounds. ‘But for the next few days,’ says Sabrina, ‘what I really need to do is rest.’
Find out more about Black Trail Runners here.
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