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Years ago when reading Feet in the Clouds it was hard to forget the amazing tale of `Iron Joss', indeed the story laid out by Askwith created a great appetite to learn more about "the life and times of the legendary Lake District fell runner and shepherd Joss Naylor" as Keith Richardson's new book is sub-titled.
Simon Fairmaner, an Englishmen and former champion of the Irish hills, made me aware of this new publication. The book is available through limited sales outlets, mainly in the Lakes, a full list of which can be found at River Greta Writer. Not all sales outlets ship to Ireland and overseas, but I personally got great service from the Halls of Coniston who provided my copy.
So, should you get this book? Well, if you're a Joss fan like me, you are probably already ordering before finishing reading this review. But as the inside of the cover says "This book is dedicated to fell runners" and anyone with an interest in our sport will find a lot to love among its pages.
The book itself is a piece of beauty that will no doubt take pride of place in most homes: a large A4 hardcover with full-colour glossy pages (237 of them). More than being just a tale of Joss' fell-running exploits, the book is a tour of the history of the Lake District, a celebration of the Cumbrian language and the men and women forged by the farmland life in the 1930s and 1940s:
"There are people, including Joss, who will tell you that that sort of upbringing on a hill farm bred character of a type we may never see the like again once they are gone." (Keith Richardson)
And the book goes into marvellous detail about some of Joss' greatest tests of character among them his Three-Peaks record, his circuit of all the Lakes, Meres and Waters of the Lake District, his foreign adventure running Pike's Peak, and many more. There are welcome insights into Joss from other legendary fell runners such as Kenny Stuart:
"He's got that inherent toughness, just like the Billy Teasdales of this world. Some of his long distance epics (...) were done with very little scientific or technical back up. He just went out and he ran every day as long as he could as hard as he could." (Kenny Stuart)
For those looking to learn more about Joss the man, Keith Richardson's work does not disappoint. You will learn about his family, his beloved dogs and the true cause of the back-pain that plagued Joss for most of his life.
The book presents strong emotional revelations but doesn't dwell overly on any, much to its benefit. This definitive work on Joss Naylor finishes with an appendix providing commentary and splits on most of Joss' remarkable long-distance challenges.
For more on Joss Naylor, search the internet for outlets of the pamphlet "Joss Naylor MBE was here" and the DVDs "Joss Naylor's Run" (1996) and the recent Joss Naylor - Iron Man (2009) both by Eric Robson.