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Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-running and Obsession [Kindle Edition]

Richard Askwith , Robert Macfarlane
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nearly 10 years after its first publication, Aurum are re-issuing this classic running book which has defined a genre. It includes an introduction from bestselling author Robert Macfarlane and an epilogue from Richard Askwith. The concept of fell-running is simple: it’s a sport that involves running over mountains – sometimes one, sometimes many. It’s also immensely demanding. While running uphill is a stamina-sapping slog, running pell-mell down the other side requires the agility – and even recklessness – of a mountain goat. And there’s the weather to contend with. It may make the sports pages only rarely, but in areas like the Lake District and Snowdonia fell-running is the basis of a whole culture – indeed, race organisers sometimes have to turn competitors away so that fragile mountain uplands are not irrevocably damaged by too many thundering feet. Fixtures like the annual Ben Nevis and Snowdon races attract runners from all over Britain, and beyond. Others, such as the Wasdale and Ennerdale fell runs in the Lakeland valleys – gruelling marathons of more than 20 miles – remain truly local events for which the whole community turns out, with many of the runners back on the same fells the next day tending sheep. Now, Richard Askwith explores the world of fell-running in the only legitimate way: by donning his Ron Hill vest and studded shoes to spend a season running as many of the great fell races as he can, from Borrowdale to Ben Nevis: an arduous schedule that tests the very limits of one’s stamina and courage. Over the months he also meets the greats of fell-running – like the remarkable Joss Naylor, who to celebrate his fiftieth birthday ran all 214 major Lakeland fells in a single week; Billy Bland, the combative Borrowdale man whose astounding records still stand for many of the top races; and Bill Teasdale, a hero of the sport’s earlier, professional days, whom he tracks down to his tiny cottage in the northern Lakes. And ultimately Askwith’s obsession drives him to attempt the ultimate challenge: the Bob Graham Round – a non-stop circuit of 42 of the Lake District’s highest peaks to be completed within 24 hours. This is a portrait of one of the few sports to have remained utterly true to its roots – in which the point is not fame or fortune but to run the ancient, wild landscape, and to be a hero, if at all, within one’s own valley. Feet in the Clouds is a chronicle of a masochistic but admirable sporting obsession, an insight into one of the oldest extreme sports, and a lyrical tribute to Britain’s mountains and the men and women who live among them.

Product Description


‘A minor masterpiece.’ Sports Book of the Week



(Frank Graham The Sunday Times )

‘A rousingly readable chronicle... The book wants for nothing in terms of rhythm and drama and tug.’

(Christopher Bray The Sunday Times, Culture )

‘Sports book of the season - a terrific story of fell-running and obsession.’

(Blake Morrison Guardian )

‘[An] excellent book.’

(James Eve The Times )

‘One of the most effervescent books about anything - never mind fell-running - that I have ever read.’

(Dave Jones The Fellrunner )

'Imagine how strange it feels not only to have read a book about fell-running, but to have enjoyed it so much that I am now contemplating trying the sport myself...a lovely little book'. Annalisa Barbieri, New Statesman

(Annalisa Barbieri New Statesman )

A beautifully written, potted history of fell-running and famouse fell-runners. Definitely worth a peep!

(Country Walking )

Blake Morrison, Guardian Summer Reading

Sports book of the season - a terrific story of fell-running and obsession.

Product details

More About the Author

Richard Askwith is a Northamptonshire-based journalist and author whose passions include running, outdoor adventure and the traditions and ordinary people of the English countryside. His cult book about fell-running, FEET IN THE CLOUDS (2004), won him the Best New Writer prize at the British Sports Publishing Awards and the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition, as well as being shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and for the Boardman-Tasker Prize. This was followed in 2008 by THE LOST VILLAGE: IN SEARCH OF A FORGOTTEN RURAL ENGLAND, which was named Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the 2009 Saga Grown-Up Awards. He is co-author of LET IT GO (2012), Dame Stephanie Shirley's account of her life as a champion of women's rights and philanthropy.
His latest book under his own name, RUNNING FREE: A RUNNER'S JOURNEY BACK TO NATURE, was published by Yellow Jersey in March 2014. It has been short-listed for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize.
Richard is Associate Editor of The Independent, for whom he has edited a number of books, most recently the acclaimed A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR IN 100 MOMENTS (2014).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and funny 24 Oct. 2004
I've never read any sports books before, but this is truly inspiring and more. Whether you're a hardened fell runner and know all the names from the lakes, like running in the hills, or you're injured and can't get out at the moment, this will make you want to get out there.
As well as having some great accounts of races and feats, past and present, you get to meet all the big characters, the history of all off-road running, and a feel for a year of racing, in an enjoyable structure. Through this he also gives a great comment on social history of these regions, and an understanding of the strengths and failings of all of British sport. He brilliantly describes in non-cliched ways, the thrills of running and why we all do it, and why the sport is growing on the background of a changing, risk-free and inactive society
It has everything from humour, thrills, history, philosophy and humanity.
Get it, even if you don't run (yet)
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sports writing at its best 16 Jun. 2004
My expectations for this book were quite low, anticipating yet another “unfit journalist tackles extreme sport/ epic adventure, suffers humiliation but finally emerges triumphant in the game of life” type yarn.
I was wrong! Firstly Richard Askwith is an exceptional writer (he’s a journalist on The Independent newspaper) with a beautifully vivid and entertaining style. Secondly he’s really done his research and backs this up with fifteen years involvement in the sport. Thirdly, and most importantly, he obviously loves this mad sport of fell running with a passion and this gives his book a depth and warmth and integrity. Sports writing at its best. Highly recommended !
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars totally absorbing 10 April 2005
By A Customer
I am a keen reader and was brought up in the lakes and watched the fell races as a child.
This book grabs you and makes you want to be able to run these events.They show the side of sport that most never see,the sheer enjoyment of the elements and the respect shown for all competitors not just the winner.
Yet the tales of the elite should be read by all ,they are an example to all of what can be achieved.
Read it and you get hooked,I've done the auld land syne race he mentioned at the end and said never ,ever again,but the book inspires you to try again.
Read this book or you are missing out.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An obsessive read 8 Aug. 2005
With an interest in the outdoors, walking, running and the Lake District this book seemed to have it all for me.
I quickly found myself dragged into Askwith's world as he questions himself & his ability, and in doing so relects on the 'sport' and characters of fell running, and endurance racing.
I'd already started recommending this book before I'd even finished. The author vocalises thoughts that most of us outdoor junkies have had at one time or another, but that normally are unspoken.
I've not had such a good read of a (nominally) "sports" book since Joe Simpson's 'Touching The Void' which I first met many years ago.
This is a completely different type of subject matter, and intensity, but has a similar been there, done it, and come back feel of it that bundles the reader along in an understanding of the joys involved, especially during the down times.
Heartily recommended.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shaken and Stirred 2 Jan. 2005
If you wanted a gentle retirement do not read this book!
I am a keen walker, having completed 184 of the Lakeland peaks (only 30 to go). My most notable achievement is the Lakeland 3000s. I have enjoyed doing more than Wainwright advised.
At the age of 44 I was looking forward to a gentle wind down. Then a friend (?) got me this book for Christmas. It is gripping reading, but not just for the pleasure of the read itself. It has reminded me of the freedom of the fells and the points at which we are most alive. The Fells are not appreciated most for the pretty views, but by being immersed in them, and the way to do this is to run in them
And the sport of fell running has not been tainted by commercialism or competition. Just to finish a race is success. And no one has egos on the fells.
The most striking chapter concerned a race in which the weather was appalling. One competitor of 38 completed the course. But all had succeeded in making the right judgement to abort the race when they judged conditions were too severe for them. Fell running requires taking responsibility for yourself, which in this age of the Nanny-State is a refreshing change.
One final point. Richard is not a champion fell runner. He is in awe of the greats (like Joss Naylor and Billy Bland). But his achievements in middle age put most of us to shame. He puts this across with great modesty, and as I read I was willing him to succeed. But he is no elite athlete and what he has done I could do too.....
A must read for anyone who loves the hills and wants to understand the crazy individuals who run them
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read 13 July 2004
By A Customer
It was a real treat for me, a fell runner for over twenty years, to read about the runs and characters of the sport. But this book is beautifully written and will be enjoyed by those who previously had little knowledge of, or interest in, running over the wild places of Britain.
The best book I've read for ages - it should win prizes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational introduction to fell running 4 Jan. 2007
By Dave S
A brilliant summary of the history of fell and mountain running coupled with the modern-day story of the Author's obsession with pushing himself to the limits of physical capability and beyond.

For most people, running up a mountain and then running down it as fast as you can is just plain crazy. But anyone interested in running will quickly be absorbed into the world of the mountain runner with this excellent read.

The heroic tales of the greats of yesteryear are humbling to say the least, bearing in mind that this was an age before the dawn of sports science, nutrition and technical gear (cake and studded boots seemed to be the order of the day). To run on the fells, sometimes all through the night, in the worst of the British weather with primitive equipment is pretty much super-human.

Descriptions of the numerous events in the fell running calendar past and present are plentiful, almost to the extent that you begin to lose the lung-bursting, jelly-legged reality of the sport. However, the events in which the Author participates are described in enjoyably graphic detail, covering everything from the practicalities of building an outdoor toilet in a field for several hundred runners, to the stiff, painful motorway drive home after the race.

The mountain running community is portrayed as one where the love of the sport takes precedence over financial gain or recognition, just as it was in years gone by, and where the cameraderie amongst the athletes is as important as your race time.

It's easy to start comparing the achievements of these ultra-athletes with those professionals who take to the football pitch or even the athletics track, and in terms of reward and recognition it seems to be highly unjust. But as the Author points out, racing yourself against the mountain for no other reason than you want to, has made this a very special sport indeed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant book. Inspirational and compelling.
Published 1 month ago by La Pinky
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok. I get it. Fell running is tough.
This is an interesting, well-written book that gives a clear insight into the world of fell running. If you are passionate about fell running, this is the book for you. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Betty
5.0 out of 5 stars I dream I am fell-running because of this. Sadly ...
I dream I am fell-running because of this. Sadly the reality will probably never be the same. Joss is God.
Published 1 month ago by TangierPete
5.0 out of 5 stars An answer to 'why'
Combines history and story to give an open and thoughtful account of why this sport matters and what it ask and gives of the people who partake. Read more
Published 2 months ago by E. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring?
I love fell running and know I'll never win a race. For me that's what this book is about, the love for a sport who accept all with no elitism. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Matt
3.0 out of 5 stars Found it difficult to get into and really enjoy. Long and drawn out in...
Found it difficult to get into and really enjoy. Long and drawn out in places but interesting sport and life of a fell runner.
Published 3 months ago by ciaran odowd
5.0 out of 5 stars Feet in the Clouds
I can only say this must be a great book as the recipient of the gift, a runner in the Fells himself, was very happy and excited to receive it.
Published 3 months ago by Susan O'Connor
5.0 out of 5 stars inspirational
A great read, a worthy subject, a window into a man's feelings and experience of a world divorced from the comfortable life I lead.
Published 4 months ago by Steady
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
a good read
Published 4 months ago by lurcher
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Just want I wanted at fab price
Published 4 months ago by Topcat
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