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Running Free: A Runner's Journey Back to Nature (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 5 Mar 2015

3.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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  • Running Free: A Runner's Journey Back to Nature (Vintage Classics)
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  • Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yellow Jersey (5 Mar. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224091972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224091978
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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

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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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It's difficult to write about something you are passionate about without at times becoming evangelical or appearing to dismiss the alternatives. In 35 years of running I've been through most of the phases that Askwith describes in his book - though as many of these were in a more innocent, pre-internet age, perhaps I avoided some of the excesses of consumerism that he rails against. Thus his book veers an a times awkward course between personal recollection (which will doubtless strike some chords with fellow runners), criticism of commercialisation of running, and evangelical espousal of a form of running that will probably not be easily accessible to the vast majority of the running population.

I'm fortunate that I do live (and work) out in the country, and a recent running experience might illustrate who will most appreciate this book. It was a semi-illicit lunchtime run, sneaking off without explicit indication of where I was going and what I was up to, squeezing in a quick 5 miles. I got a bit carried away with myself and an off-road track led me to speculation that I could do a loop round a few forest firebreaks: there then followed several joyous miles where I reached deep into the forest, several times up to my knees in bog, finally (after a couple of episodes where I feared I was irretrievably lost) reaching back where I had started. I got back to work with a glow and sense of satisfaction that undoubtedly improved my productivity for the rest of the day. Nothing here about times, splits, distances, just about the sheer joy of being out and behaving in a child-like manner.

This is really, at heart, what Askwith is writing about. It might have been better to have written solely about this primitive joy without putting it in comparison to other forms of running.
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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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