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Running Free: A Runner's Journey Back to Nature [Hardcover]

Richard Askwith
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
RRP: £16.99
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Book Description

6 Mar 2014

Richard Askwith wanted more. Not convinced running had to be all about pounding pavements, buying fancy kit and racking up extreme challenges, he looked for ways to liberate himself. His solution: running through muddy fields and up rocky fells, running with his dog at dawn, running because he's being (voluntarily) chased by a pack of bloodhounds, running to get hopelessly, enjoyably lost, running fast for the sheer thrill of it. Running as nature intended.

Part diary of a year running through the Northamptonshire countryside, part exploration of why we love to run without limits, Running Free is an eloquent and inspiring account of running in a forgotten, rural way, observing wildlife and celebrating the joys of nature.

An opponent of the commercialisation of running, Askwith offers a welcome alternative, with practical tips (learned the hard way) on how to both start and keep running naturally - from thawing frozen toes to avoiding a stampede when crossing a field of cows. Running Free is about getting back to the basics of why we love to run.

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Running Free: A Runner's Journey Back to Nature + Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey (6 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224091964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224091961
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.
Richard is Associate Editor of The Independent, for whom he has edited a number of books.

Product Description


"A joyous, eloquent and lyrical account of one man's lifelong love affair with running... Running Free is simply the prod you need to make you step off the pavement and into the wild" (Martin Love Guardian)

"Exhilarating" (Iain Finlayson The Times)

"A much needed breath of fresh air" (Alexandra Heminsley Independent)

"An escape from the stopwatch tyranny of PBs and split times, this is a reminder of how to run for sheer joy" (Runner's World)

"Intelligent, evocative, passionate and above all enjoyable" (Simon Redfern Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

From the award-winning author of running classic Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith makes a passionate and inspiring case for runners to get back to nature.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the almost converted! 13 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As someone who came relatively late to running (my early thirties) and is a decade younger than the author (I also spent ten years living in London, where I began my running, before moving to the Lincolnshire seaside) I think I have progressed fairly rapidly through what Richard Askwith describes as the Seven Ages of Running and I am now into the fifth. That is like him I don't wear a watch let alone any kind of high tech measuring device anymore whilst out on a solo training run or listen to music. Instead like the author I prefer to enjoy my natural surroundings and let my body and environment dictate the run and consequently unless I am doing a set route have no real idea of time or distance. Having said that I do still try to push myself on organised runs or on club nights as it is still pleasurable to gain a pb. However I am now at a stage of life where I may gain some improvement for a few years before it starts slipping back again but I am certainly not going to be challenging for any medals. Like Askwith I am also enjoying runs that go off the beaten track a bit more and like him I am lucky to live in a part of the country with it on my doorstep (in my case a coastal nature reserve).

In his enjoyable book which has a slightly more meandering air than the more tightly focused, `Feet in the Clouds', Askwith argues the case for a return to simply enjoying running in its basest form rather than succumbing to the demands of what he calls, `Big Running'. Whilst I agree with his philosophy to a certain degree especially when the over-commercialisation of the London Marathon and Great Run series is considered I still think there is scope to enjoy different forms of running.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Two Books 26 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Some important questions when you've finished reading a book are: Did you enjoy it? Have you learnt anything useful? Would you recommend it to a friend? Would you read it again? Since my answer to all these questions is “yes”, why have I only given the book 4 stars?

In the foreword, the book is described as “part diary of a year running through the Northamptonshire countryside, part exploration of why we love to run without limits” and those aspects of the book are indeed excellent. Richard Askwith describes his runs so eloquently that you can almost feel the mud caking your legs and smell the manure-dappled fields. As someone who has run in similar situations to those he describes, I was with him for both the elation and the discomforts (which all seem worthwhile once the run is finished).

He also describes his own progress from non-runner, through what he describes as the 'Seven Ages of Running' (I can imagine lively discussions between runners, arguing about their own interpretations of these 'ages'). How his running has affected and been affected by his family and professional life are also described and this also is both interesting and entertaining.

So, we have here a description of a running year (excellent), an account of how running has affected the author's life (excellent) and lots of anecdotes gleaned from 30 years of running (also excellent). However, the author is not just a runner, he is also a rider of hobby horses. He rides his hobby horse to do battle with what he describes as Big Running (his capitals). Most runners will know that the likes of Adidas and Nike would like to sell you more stuff than you need, and certainly more than you can afford. Also, we know that it is possible to get a lot of pleasure from running while spending very little.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The reasons why I run 8 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I liked Askwith's previous book, Feet in the Clouds, and I found an affinity with him as a runner. We share a great deal - age, obsession with running, rural running over road mashing, enjoyment over performance. I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this book too - what I didn't expect was to love it quite as much as I do.

Running Free is really a story about change. Rural running is an unusual pastime in today's society; in a performance-driven world many people run get fitter and faster, enter races and gain medals and honours for completing them. They spend ever increasing amounts of money on scientifically designed kit to help shave seconds off their PBs, because that's apparently what running is all about. But, Askwith argues, it wasn't always like this. Just a generation or two ago people mostly ran for the enjoyment of it. They ran together as communities, organised races and chases that started with a pair of simple shorts and trainers and, via hills and muddy fields, ended in a pub revelry. They ran for the sake of running, to enjoy the outdoors, to get away from the everyday stresses of life and bond with nature.

You should read this book if:
- you don't run and you wonder why some people love it
- you hate running but do it anyway because you feel like you should
- you love running and you do it in a gym because there's no time to do it anywhere else
- you love running on roads and occasionally glance at a field or hill and wonder what it's like to run there
- you spend a ton of money on kit and shoes but that doesn't increase your enjoyment of running

It's time to reclaim our running heritage, to move away from the pavement and roads and obsession with speed and PBs, and instead slow down and enjoy a run because you're running.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by The K's
1.0 out of 5 stars Smug, hypocritical patronising and over written
I was really looking forward to reading this as I loved Feet in the Clouds but was bitterly disappointed. I struggled to finish it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dr Zog
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
'Feet In The Clouds' is a minor masterpiece and I have read it four times. This just goes on (at length) about how great it is to run across fields and, as others have mentioned,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by keef55
1.0 out of 5 stars A Travesty
Feet In the Clouds was magnificent and I was really excited to buy this book - so much so that I paid the hard back price. It was such a let down and an irritation. Read more
Published 2 months ago by reh
4.0 out of 5 stars The joys of rural running
Enjoyable read. As a runner of mature years who prefers off-road I found myself agreeing with many of the sentiments expressed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Phil Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant and inspiring!
A very enjoyable book, that is hard or put down. It sums up everything that running means to me, with every chapter inspiring me to go on my own rural running adventures. Read more
Published 2 months ago by ArtyL
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, some of the tales are funny but he really labours his...
I get his point, I hate 'big running' too but he does go on. I haven't actually finished it yet, keep dipping into it when I've nothing new to read but can't read it continuously. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sunrise Surprise
5.0 out of 5 stars Free your spirits
What an inspiration this book is. I can identity with the seven ages of running and see how the so called Big Running community has influenced my running over the years. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr M D Slack
4.0 out of 5 stars fancy a run?
After feeling inspired by Feet in the Clouds this is a more contemplative read, which certainly gave me pause for thought. Read more
Published 3 months ago by KBa76
2.0 out of 5 stars Running free ... er apart from the royalties off the book
A bit too self-indulgent. .. "As I passed Joss Naylor " on the Borrowdale, he said "Hello Richard etc etc. And as for the dog...
Published 3 months ago by Ian Moss
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