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Despite HMS Bulwark’s best efforts the Rock Race record stands

26 October 2016
As 300 sailors and Royal Marines from HMS Bulwark set off up the Rock of Gibraltar last week for the Royal Navy’s traditional ‘Rock Race’, they had no idea they were challenging a record set 30 years ago that still stands today.

Organised by the staff of Commander British Forces Gibraltar, the Rock Race is completed by every Royal Navy ship, Royal Marines Commando unit, and many Army regiments and RAF units that visit Gibraltar, and consists of a 2.7 mile run on a route up to the summit of the iconic Rock of Gibraltar. 

The route is unchanged for decades, and involves a massive 1300 ft climb, on gradients as steep as 1-in-4, that ends with a spectacular dawn view from the top. 

The Rock Race always provides plenty of early morning entertainment with more serious runners often joined by those in fancy dress, on this occasion Gandalf the Wizard, Fireman Sam, and ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’. 

Running it is a fantastic way to explore and get a great view over the bay and I was delighted to come first.

Marine Will Frazer

One sailor even ran up dressed in full firefighting equipment.

First over the line on this occasion was Marine Will Frazer, from 30 Commando Royal Marines in a time of 21 minutes 52 seconds, the fastest time set in 2016 so far by any of the numerous ships’ races.

Marine Fraser said, “I’m a huge fan of Gibraltar, but this was my first time running the Rock Race.

“Running it is a fantastic way to explore and get a great view over the bay and I was delighted to come first.”

The current Rock Race record was set all the way back in 1986 by the-then Sub Lieutenant Chris Robison, who ran the Rock in a spectacular time of 17 mins and 29 seconds; it is estimated that over 40 000 people have run the race since then, but no-one else has come close. 

On the occasion of his record-breaking run, Chris was serving in Type 42 destroyer HMS Glasgow which stopped in Gibraltar en-route to a Mediterranean Deployment. 

Speaking to HMS Bulwark last week, Chris said, “It is amazing how time does fly.

“I knew I was in good shape and had a chance to have a crack at the record.

“I have always enjoyed hilly races and as I hit the relatively flat final 400 yards with just over 16 mins on my watch that I knew I could beat it. 

“To get well under 18 minutes was an amazing feeling and I know it is my only World Record!”

First famous in 1982 thanks to a John Craven’s Newsround appearance after winning an impromptu Falklands Half-Marathon shortly after the liberation of the islands from Argentina, Chris retired from the Royal Navy in the 1990s for a career in sports coaching and management, primarily for Scottish Athletics. 

He has competed in the 1994 Commonwealth Games, as well as representing, variously, England, Scotland and Great Britain at numerous athletics and cross country competitions - up to and including the World Championships. 

Wishing the Bulwark runners well, he said, “Almost everyone who has ever served in the RN will have run the Rock Race at some point and I am delighted that it remains a tradition for ships that visit Gibraltar.”

HMS Bulwark visited Gibraltar as part of the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) Task Group deployment to the Adriatic and Arabian Seas. 

This Amphibious Task Group includes 3 Commando Brigade’s Lead Commando Group and other key vessels from the Royal Navy Fleet including helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious ship RFA Mounts Bay, and Ministry of Defence Strategic Ro-Ro vessel, MV Eddystone. 

Destroyers and frigates from the Royal Navy, US and French Navies will also join the force at various points during the next few months. 

The Lead Commando Group includes approximately one thousand Marines and Soldiers from across 3 Commando Brigade as well as an air group consisting of Chinook, Merlin and Apache attack helicopters.  

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