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Running Free: A Runner’s Journey Back to Nature (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Mar 2015
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"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)
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.See all Product description
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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. To realise that running in the dark, in the mud, over hedges and stiles, through rain and fog and wind, through herds of cows and flocks of sheep, will not kill you and in fact it may well enhance your enjoyment not only of running but of life. Running isn't a means to an end, it's a wonderful, beautiful, uplifting end in itself. And if you're curious about why or how that could be then I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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. I would not have objected to a few elaborations on this theme but the book devotes far too much space and far too many lists to hammer home these basic truths.
But hey! If you are going to run in the countryside, you'll have to negotiate some difficult terrain and keep your eyes peeled to avoid any potential hazards. Read this book with a similar wary eye, skip over the examples of commercial avarice and you will really enjoy it. Then, whatever the weather, get your kit on (expensive or cheap) and go for a run.
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