An Inverness runner has set a new record on the UK’s highest mountain. Francisco Javier “Javi” Cabrera Valdés ran up and down Ben Nevis seven times in less than 24 hours. He surpassed Paweł Cymbalista’s previous record of seven ascents in 2021.
Javi, 40, a member of the Highland Hill Runners, ran a total of 106km and over 9,200m to cap the impressive solo and self-reliant feat of the weekend. After he finished, he said, « I felt elated. »
Pawel said: “What a great effort from Javi. These records are there to be broken and I am very happy that Javi has done it. Seven up and down Ben Nevis is very hard work, so a big congratulations to him. »
Javi set off from the base of the 1,345 m high Ben Nevis, at the gate of the so-called tourist route near the Ben Nevis Inn, in Fort William at 5:57 pm on Friday, May 19. He finished 21 hours and nine minutes later, at 3:06 p.m. on Saturday, May 20. Javi averaged 3.01 hours on each of his climbs up Ben Nevis.
Javi, who is a student support assistant, says: “At this moment I made the decision to settle for seven promotions. I had less than three hours left for a potential eighth repeat and I pushed harder on that seventh descent, it was actually the fastest, but at the bottom I had nine minutes on 21 hours, leaving me with just two hours and 51 minutes. . for an eighth ascent.
“All my reps since the fourth had been over three hours, so it was highly unlikely that I would be able to do it in time. That was it.
« I thought, seven times would be enough. »
The weather during the record run started out warm and calm, but turned colder and windier after the third iteration. There were sometimes patches of mist which affected how far Javi could see and some light rain which made the rocks slippery.
Why the Ben Nevis 24 hour record?
Javi, who is originally from Spain, was inspired to make the Ben Nevis record attempt by Pawel. He says: “I’ve ridden the Ben Nevis race before and my fastest time is 1:50. I also ran around the Ben in horrible shape in about an hour after completing both a Tranter Round (2017) and a Ramsay Round (2019).
“With this in mind, I calculated that, generally speaking, it could, on average, go up in two hours and down in an hour. So I figured for a 24 hour challenge I could do it eight times.
« It’s amazing how we can convince ourselves of something by simplifying it… »
Javi also reports that he is comfortable in the Lochaber mountains. He says: “I feel at home thanks to years of racing and different challenges, as well as meeting many people who do mountain challenges. That familiarity somehow helps to normalize these types of challenges.
“To be honest, when I look at what other riders are doing, like Donnie Campbell’s fastest non-stop Munro round, Pawel’s record-breaking Cape Wrath Trail run, and Finlay Wild’s insane times in the Big 3 rounds, to name a few. some of the best known. For the little ones, doing something constant 24 hours a day seemed more feasible.”
Training for the Ben Nevis record
Javi, who has a three-year-old daughter with his partner Irene, says: “I like to do a lot of different things, like races, Munros and challenges, so I don’t focus on one specific goal. I’m really bad at choosing, because I want to do everything! – so I try to maintain a certain level of fitness throughout the year and do something when the opportunity presents itself.
“My race routine is pretty simple. On average, I run 50 miles a week with 2,000 to 3,000 m or more of climbing.
“On weekdays, I run up and down Craig Dunain’s mast in Inverness. I use an incline treadmill when the weather is bad or my knees complain a lot on the downhills.
“On the weekends, I do more mast runs, parkruns, Munro runs and bagging.
“By this time, I was already feeling pretty fit, so I did a few more miles and climbed for about three weeks and did about 65 miles at 5000+ m or more per week. I rested for three days and then I did it.”
Hard times on the Ben
Says Javi: “I felt very strong going up the first climb, but I felt my legs were weighing me down more than they should have. She had been sore for most of that week after the Beinn Bhan horseshoe race just six days earlier.
“From then on, I decided to take the downhill sections easier than initially planned, making sure to take even shorter strides and finding ‘micro directional changes’ within the width of the trail to cut down on the steeper parts.
“The idea was to save my legs as much as possible and also delay the knee problems that I usually have after long descents.”
Javi also struggled against fatigue. He says: “As for physical fatigue, it always manifests itself as a feeling of boredom and a desire to be at home. This happens right before I run out of power. Now I know I just have to put in a few calories and it will pass.
“During this challenge, I felt like this once, going into my fifth iteration. I had already stopped eating solids after just two cereal bars and was low on calories, so I forced myself to eat an extra Snickers bar and half a cereal bar and it went away.
“I think a useful way to trick my mind is to approach the challenge in terms of reps or laps, using the well-known technique of breaking it down into smaller parts.
“For example, it sounds much easier to do something eight times than to think about tackling all those kilometers and climbing in one go. If I’m really tired, I tell myself I can at least try one more rep and then I’ll reassess after that and so on. »
Javi chose to start the challenge in the afternoon. He says, “I know that usually my lowest point, mentally speaking, is just before night. I’m totally fine running at night, but it’s those moments of twilight twilight that make me feel some kind of blues.
“As soon as it’s completely dark, I’ll be fine. I couldn’t have faced having that feeling in the later stages of the challenge.
“Also, the dawn mental boost around the middle of the challenge is always a welcome bonus.
« During these challenges there are usually casualties but I always remind myself that nothing lasts, everything good or bad always happens sooner or later, so I just need to keep moving and time will do the rest. »
Highlights of Javi’s record at Ben Nevis
Javi completed the challenge alone and self-sufficiently. He used the trunk of his car at the foot of the Ben to restock on food and water.
Javi says: “Surely a lot of people from Highland Hill Runners and other clubs would have gladly helped me, and of course my family and friends, but I never told anyone about the attempt itself.
“Only my partner, Irene, knew. I like the simplicity of doing things by myself and I tend to change things at the last minute, both ways, to make it or cancel it, so involving people would certainly limit that freedom or my erratic behavior.”
Javi described the nightly replays as “wonderful”. He says: “It was just me on the mountain, but I enjoyed seeing the lights in the background and the sheep with their bright eyes and the cute little lambs running down the path calling for mom.
“The hordes of hikers also kept me entertained. A few times I had to stop to let them pass on some of the narrower parts of the trail, but they were cheering me on even though they didn’t know what I was doing.
“Some of them noticed me going up and down two or three different times and asked if I was doing it twice. When I replied that it was my fifth, sixth or seventh time, many swore in disbelief. I have never heard such a variety of swear words in so many accents.”
Javi’s refueling strategy
Javi kept it as simple as he could with products he already knows work well for him, including Tailwind, SIS gels, SIS electrolyte tablets, flapjacks, chocolate bars, and a 500ml flat Coke after his fourth iteration.
He says: “In each repetition I was drinking 500 ml of water with a gel and an SIS electrolyte tablet. Then I fed myself with other products on each ascent”.
In total Javi consumed:
- 14 tailwind envelopes.
- 13 x SIS gels (4 with caffeine)
- 6 SIS electrolyte tablets
- 1 chia bar
- 1 clif bar
- 1/2 bar Torq flapjack
- 4x Snickers
- 2 x Kit Kat
- 1 500 ml flat Coca-Cola
- 11 liters of water (10 of them mixed with Tailwind or SIS electrolytes)
Javi finishes off strong
Surprisingly, Javi reports that he had no major discomfort or problems after finishing. He says: “On the final descent, I felt very strong and ran faster than ever during the challenge. I know that I no longer had to save energy or my legs.
“Some hikers cheered from the Ben Nevis Inn when I got to the gate. I stopped my GPS, gave them a thumbs up, and yelled thank you. I walked to the car, changed, and took a selfie at the gate, which is the only photo I took.
“I was elated, particularly because I felt good and whole after that. I had no major pain or problems.
« I drove home and that’s when I was finally able to rest and share my happiness with my family over beer and pizza to celebrate. »
Javi’s 24 Hour Ben Nevis Fundraiser
Javi works with children with additional and special needs. He says, “Every day, I see the real challenges facing these children and their families. That helps me take a relaxed approach to my sporting challenges.
“After all, it’s just running, something we love and choose to do. The worst that can happen, barring accidents, is that I don’t do as many reps as I thought and go home to the safety of my home and family.
“I never thought this record would get much attention, but seeing the interest from people and the press, I decided to launch a fundraising appeal to help the children at my school, Dalneigh Primary, in Inverness.
Can support and donate to Javi’s fundraiser.
Other successes of Javi’s challenges
Javi joined Highland Hill Runners where he has made friends and running partners. He says, « Building a network of like-minded people has helped me a lot in my running endeavors. »
Javi is close to contesting all the 282 Munros in Scotland. He has also completed:
- Tranter round in 2017, counterclockwise, solo and unsupported, 15:42.
- Great Glen Way in 2018, with David Gallie, supported by Gordie Taylor and Gus, 14:21.
- Glen Coe round in 2019, solo and no support, 10:33.
- Ramsay round in 2019, counterclockwise, solo and unsupported, 23:47.
- 2nd place in the Ben Nevis Ultra in 2019, 8:00
- 3rd place at Loch Ness 24 in 2022, 24 laps, 104 miles, 21:25.
- He also shared the record for the Inverpolly Ring (first completed by Alec Keith in 1998). Javi says: “I did this challenge with Luke Taylor, who is a great trail runner and friend. That he was faster than me was crucial in this achievement for me in 2022. We did it together but without support.