on 9 March 2006
I wasn't born on the fells and have only ever been to the Lake District once - but I was immediately absorbed by 'Feet in the Clouds' and I absolutely loved it!
This book beats any other running book, be it fiction, non-fiction or 'how-to'. Running is about sheer determination and the belief that you can do anything you set your mind to - after reading this book I decided to do a half marathon, and this year's attempt is the full. And after re-reading this book I know I can finish that too!
Use this book as a mantra for all other aspects of life and you won't go too far wrong. A must for runners and non-runners alike; truly inspiring.
on 23 May 2009
If you're the sort of person who likes to rise to a challenge, to prove yourself against physical adversity, you should be careful with this book. It does a really good job of making the impossibly difficult sound achievable (just), even enticing! And it's all about running, fell-running, that is.
Maybe it is the author's vivid recollections and plausible style of writing that draws you in. Richard Askwith is a journalist by profession (an editor at the Independent, no less). Fortunately, he has found the time and energy on top of this job to become a competitive fell-runner and, more importantly, has taken the sport to heart.
The result is this book, which describes a calendar year in the life of an often overlooked corner of outdoor athletics. He brings a quality of reporting that will have you inhaling the smell of peat, feeling the mist on your face, cheering and ready to join in.
The tapestry of events along the way includes heroism, battles, glory and scarcely believable feats of athletic achievement. There are interesting interviews with notables from the field and Askwith uses his journalistic sleuth to explore the history and expose the facts behind some of the myths and legends of fell-running. Woven into the pattern is a thread of the author's own story; a heartening pilgrimage to attain honour and recognition amongst his running peers.
As an `outsider', he is able to provide a perspective on the sport and contemplate its future prospects. Just as the 21st century threatens the way of life of the shepherds and gamekeepers from which fell-running originally drew its champions, so, he fears, is the spirit of this pastoral sport now under pressure from modernising forces.
Anyone who has experienced endurance sports or feels a relationship with Britain's hills will find resonance in these pages. For those uninitiated souls, this read may just be the stimulus to compel you to try combining both in a fell run, while you can. I don't think that they run the Burnsall or any other fell race naked any longer (see Chap. 8 for Askwith's take on that), but it still seems that fell-running could be the type of activity for which we have just spent the last few million years evolving.
"...if you're not cold, or wet, or lost, or exhausted, or bruised by rocks or covered in mud, you're not really experiencing the mountains properly. The point is not the exertion involved; it's the degree of involvement, or immersion in the landscape. You need to feel it, to interact with it; to be in it, not just looking from the outside. You need to lose yourself - for it is then that you are most human." P.331
on 23 October 2006
Can't recommend this book enough. I had just taken up running (road running not the hard core stuff richard writes about) and needed a bit of inspiration. He's written a wonderful social history filled with tales of fell legends (hard as nails) and his own brave attempts to follow in their footsteps. A cracking read that gave me insiration to pursue my own modest goals and see them in perspective.
I very very rarely read books twice but this is an exception. When I first read it about two years ago, I couldn't put it down. It is so, so good!!! OK, it helps if a] you're a runner and b] you've been up one or two peaks in the Lake District but that's not essential - there's a lot here that's inspirational to us all. I took part in a fell race once [sic] and on this descent, I felt I was doing pretty well until suddenly all these guys flew past and disappeared. How they do it I have no idea but reading Askwith gives a window into their mindset. He's also very modest about his own abilities although it becomes obvious by the end that he's up there with better runners. I found his chapters about top fell-runners of the past amazing. It does the soul good to read of such open, honest and unassuming people.
If you're toying with getting this book - don't stop and do buy one, as it's the sort of book you want to go back to. Very highly recommended!!!!
on 6 June 2007
What a fantastic account of both human aspiration and endurance. I am a recreational runner and would thouroughly recommend this book to anyone. The book is that good and well written that I dont think you really need to be interested in fell running to read it. Richard Askwith has really done a good job here and this book will forever be in my memory. I wish the hills were on my doorstep!
on 4 January 2007
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.
on 12 November 2012
I am not what you would call one of lifes naturally built runners, at least not for endurance running. But then neither is the author of this book Richard Askwith and it didnt stop him from becoming obsessed with both the history of fell running and pushing himself physically and mentally to the limits to achieve a remarkable goal; the Bob Graham round.
I am a Cumbrian who now lives down South and works in London, so there is alot in this book that takes me back to my old home town, reminds me of where i grew up and the places i used to go. Having walked, climbed and mountain biked all over the Lakes, this book really adds colour to some of the fells, the towns, the characters who live there and gives me that desire to go back to it all. Only the need to keep earning a crust for the family keeps me down here now.
Since reading this book i have learnt that my cousin, a Cumbrian farmer, completed the Bob Graham 5 years ago at the age of 47; being somewhat younger i realise that i have no excuse now :)
The book has a number of facets to it; its a historical record and story of the great fell runners who established the sport, where they came from, what they achieved. Its also about one man's obsession to achieve a remarkable goal and find in himself the strength to do it. This second part of the book has a message to give that is one of commitment and what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it. It happens to be about fell running, but it could so easily be about swimming or climbing or any other sport for that matter.
A brilliant and well written read.
It certainly does help having a passing interest in the sport of Fell running if one want's to get the maximum enjoyment from this superb book because the majority of us will look on with a sense of awe in the superhuman exploits of Fell runners past and present with some names that even the seasoned runner may never have heard of.
Richard Askwith writes in a magnificently fluid style that makes the reader want to read the book from cover to cover.
I myself being born and bred in Wales are more familiar with the mountains of Snowdonia but his accounts of Fell running in the Lakes has made that part of Western England come alive and with names like Bill Teasdale, Peter and Kevin and Billy Bland and more especially the great Joss Naylor, his historical analysis of Fell running from it's early years to the sport it has become today was most interesting and extremely informative.
The dream of most Fell runners me included is to run the Bob Graham round and Mr Askwiths eventual realisation of that dream makes this book so inspirational that one almost feels one could emulate his achievement if one only trained that bit harder.
Having read the reviews before purchasing the book everything is true, this is alongside "Wild Trails to Lost Horizons" by Mike Cudahy one the most inspirational and motivating get out there and do it books i have ever read.
The writing style is supreme and maybe even those with no athletic talent or longing would enjoy reading it.
Superb in every way and should be on every weight watchers reading list.
on 25 February 2011
I have found this book an immense motivational tool. It combines an excellent narrative about an under-rated an relatively unknown (certainly in the south of England) sport, with a potted history of the sports journey to the present day. Many people find running as a sport difficult to fathom, so deliberately running up some of the UK's toughest mountains, sometimes over two or three days probably appears ridiculous! I came to this book looking for motivation to help me get back into running after injury, and Askwith was so successful in doing that, that I now just about consider myself to be a fell runner too. People who compete in a particular sport will always describe the romance of taking part, and fell running is no different. This book however, takes the romance and passion of it all and draws you right into the middle of it.
Whilst not someone who is likely to ever successfully complete the 'Bob Graham' round, I can feel what my friends feel when planning their attempts, largely due to this book.
Despite my earlier claim that I would be unlikely to ever complete the Bob Graham Round, after about 9 months of training and about 3 years of thinking about it, I did successfully complete the round in under 24 hours (23 hours 21 mins) last weekend - 25.05.14. A phenomenal and actually pretty emotional experience, I'm contemplating writing my own account, although I doubt anywhere near as good as this one!
on 10 December 2010
I found this book a real page turner.
The author writes the book in a way that you know he is passionate about fell running. I like the way he tells his tale of how he bacame a fell runner and the struggle he had for years with the 'BG round'. He breaks up his own story with detailed insights into various big names from the fell running history books and present day.
Sometimes I wished he would have flowed from one section of his journey to the next without the mini bio's in between, but I dont think I could be too critical as I read from cover to cover trying to take in everything he wrote about.
Great book, loved the writing style and honesty that came across.