35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 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 !
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2005
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.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 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)
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 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.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 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
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2004
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2004
I wouldn't normally have picked up a book on fell running but a friend recommended it and I was so glad they did. From the moment I started I was hooked as Askwith takes the reader on a roller coaster of a breathless ride through endurance in the name of sport. The characters and "heroes" along the way are fascinating. Thanks for a great read.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2004
I've run for nearly 25 years and have been running on the hills for most of those. Unfortunately (as these things go) I'm no longer as fleet of foot as I used to be but this book was both a nostalgia trip and an inspiration. My only criticism was that it focussed on Lakeland fell running but despite that Askwith recognises that there are far more stories from elsewhere in the UK - Scottish Hill running only warrants a tale of the Ben Nevis race and brief accounts of some of the classic "rounds".
Once you've read this, Hugh Symonds' "Running High" would be a natural follow on.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2007
A great read that switches between fell running history, a year in the fell running calendar, and the authors own attempts at the Bob Graham Round.
I'm currently training for my first marathon, but reading the exploits in this book puts the whole thing in perspective - it's a walk in the park compared to some of the challenges covered here. A great incentive to get out and train!..