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Paul Comerford

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The Road to Sparta: Reliving the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World's Greatest Footrace
The Road to Sparta: Reliving the Ancient Battle and Epic Run That Inspired the World's Greatest Footrace
by Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Rejoice, Dean conquers!", 17 Dec. 2016
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It has been a long wait for Dean Karnazes latest book, but it was worth it. As with all of Dean's books one has to accept the very American naive style of writing, yet this is what makes him so likeable. I looked at his time and position from the Spartathlon, and was surprised at how slow he had covered the tough course, without realising what came before! If anything, how Karnazes ever finished this is astonishing.

The Road to Sparta is an interweaving of the Karnazes family history, Dean's quest to complete the Spartathlon and the mythology and legend of Phidipedes during the Greco-Persian war. He does this well and there is a great learning opportunity here. This was not an easy way to write a book, but he has managed and produced another good book to add to your ultramarathon library.

As usual I will not ruin the read for anyone, but even when the American tweeness grates, one can forgive this nice man anything. Worth the read, worth the money, worth my time.


The Bestowing Sun
The Bestowing Sun
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil at his best, 17 Dec. 2016
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This review is from: The Bestowing Sun (Kindle Edition)
This earlier work by the late Neil Grimmett is, for me, his best novel. As I have written in previous reviews, his exploration of the human condition is second to none, and there is no doubt that the core of much of his work is based upon experience. Neil was of the old school in being able to write a fiction with deep and very real roots. Many of today's modern stories have the shallowness of the immediate i-world about them - quick snacks and fast food for the mind. Not so Neil Grimmett. His writing is a feast to fill ones imagination, sometimes too much for a single sitting, but always something to return to.

The Bestowing Sun is a classic tale of two brothers, William and Richard, sons of a strict, West Country farmer, heirs to his land and philosophy. Yet William is not compliant. The rigid philosophy of hard, manual work being all that is needed for success is only embraced by Richard. William is an artist, the antithesis to everything his father considers worthwhile and manly. And thus the story unfolds, with the mighty clash of ideals, and the wrench of separation. Grimmett intricately weaves beautiful complexity throughout the tale, but never once leaves a character one dimensional. The father loves each of his sons, and there is the rub. Richard becomes the inflexible one and lives with predisposed ideas as to the betrayal of his brother.

How does it end? It is for the reader to discover, but in all things Grimmett, there are unexpected twists that add to the story. That this tale revolves around a fish is all I will say. Once read, The Bestowing Sun will always be with you.


The Burnt Fox
The Burnt Fox
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bare bones and hope, 26 Sept. 2016
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This review is from: The Burnt Fox (Kindle Edition)
With any Neil Grimmett novel you will find both a story and the exploration of what is often referred to as 'the human condition'. In The Burnt Fox the focus is on Eliot and Donna, a married couple with a teenage son, living in a West Country housing estate. They are relatively young and their dreams have grown beyond the disappointing drudgery of building a life amongst people with low aspirations. Eliot wants to write, but he has stalled with the lack of inspiration around him. Donna is bored and fed up with married life in such a place.

Their salvation comes when they are employed by Phillip Compton, the owner of Cloothill House and its vast estate, as a game keeper and a general help. Their move begins a long and often dark road to discovery of how life really is without the camouflage of a community. Forced to live life closer to nature and increasingly reliant on their own strained relationship to keep a modicum of normality the cracks soon start to appear and life becomes a series of hard-to-determine events. Each is left alone for long days with their thoughts, and the Cloothill House's menacing presence adds disquiet to every moment - day and night.

Grimmett manages to dig deep into the human psyche and mine some nuggets of hidden emotions, always hinting at something inhuman and dark poisoning this family and pushing them to madness. Yet he always gives a flicker of hope. It is all that is needed in the darkness so by the end one is emotionally exhausted, but happy at what may be. You see, this tale is all our lives and it is these echoes of familiarity that makes this compulsive reading.

The Burnt Fox is another fine story from the pen of the late, and missed, Neil Grimmett. You will not be disappointed, but may wonder what your own life may look like if stripped to the bare bones!


The Mud Dance
The Mud Dance
Price: £3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The dance goes on, 28 July 2016
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This review is from: The Mud Dance (Kindle Edition)
Much as the dank, treacherous waters of the Thames estuary forms the backdrop for Dickens's Great Expectations, so Neil Grimmett invokes the cloying mud of the Severn. The Mud Dance follows Kenny, a competent drummer, from 60s schooldays through hopeful dreams to be a successful rock star. From those early days he becomes enmeshed with Larry, a brilliant keyboard player, but their dreams are different. Their journey to success is hampered by mud. The sucking mud of the Avalon coast is Grimmett's metaphor for Kenny's efforts to extricate himself from the burden of small-town mentality to reach a higher being. It is not the town or the flat hinterland that is the real trap, but Larry's obsession with perfection. Both men struggle in Grimmett's metaphorical mud, but, as the tidal reaches could confirm, to struggle is to sink. That Larry has the answer to freedom right from the start is the greatest tragedy as the author explores the youthful human condition in the 1970s. And he does this well.

There is reality woven into this tale. I lived in this part of the West Country and know the town and levels well. Scintillas of recognition light the way. Some tragedies are real and make the fiction leap from the page as possibilities. And all the time the mud where Kenny's friendship with Larry was born remains long beyond their youth; long beyond the time where the natural end of the relationship should have become history. And the mud dance continues to an unexpected climax. Dickens would approve, as do I. This is a book to add to your library.


Fartleks & Flatulence
Fartleks & Flatulence
Price: £4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Frozen Farts, 11 Jun. 2016
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This is one of those books that grows on you. David Berridge competes in ultra endurance events on foot which makes ones eyes water. At nearly 60 I have just started to dabble in ultras, so have been reading everything I can find. Most ultra books can be flat and rather runner's-logish but there are occasional gems (Karnazes/Jureck). This one is worth the read.

At first one sees Berridge as a newby - he is modest, struggles and learns page-by-page - then there is a transformation. His adventures take him across the globe, ending in a couple of trips to Canada to take part in some insane mega-distance sled pulling for days! In the end you realise that this modest man is fairly good at this stuff. I became 'fond' of this book as it is modestly written, factual and the adventures are presented as possible for anyone. It will remain in my top 4 for some time and kept to encourage my mildly eccentric plans.


GORE RUNNING WEAR TMYTMS Men's MYTHOS 3.0 Split Shorts, neon yellow, L
GORE RUNNING WEAR TMYTMS Men's MYTHOS 3.0 Split Shorts, neon yellow, L

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and brilliant!, 11 Jun. 2016
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It is never easy to find 'perfect' running shorts. If one is short of leg the more recent longer short are annoying and, for me, I prefer the older racing style from the 80s. Over the years I have found good ones and, once they are knackered, find they've gone from the market. This month I've had to dip into the market again, and thought I'd try these new style Gore Mythos 3.0 Slit leg ones. Yellow? A bit flash, but I run on the roads and want to be seen - the odd yell of "He's had a Jaffa!" proving that I am very visible (probably from space too).

Verdict. Beautifully made and comfortable, hence the generally higher price, but they are very, very good. Not the lightest material yet this does not matter as the sweat dissipates before the shorts get wet. The rear pocket is large enough for a gel and keys. One word of warning - size. If you are a hefty Medium, go for the Large. I know this as I was accidentally sent a Medium pair (no fuss fast exchange by Amazon) and they were tight across my thighs. The Large are perfect.

You can buy cheaper shorts, but they won't have the build quality of these. I now have 2 pairs and they have become my shorts of choice. Will probably buy some black ones too as the occasional canary joke can wear a bit thin...


Brooks Ghost 8, Men's Multisport Outdoor, Multicolore (Metalliccharcoal/Limepunch/Silver), 9 UK (44 EU)
Brooks Ghost 8, Men's Multisport Outdoor, Multicolore (Metalliccharcoal/Limepunch/Silver), 9 UK (44 EU)
Price: £110.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost gets better., 15 May 2016
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I've moved from Ghost 6, to 7, and now to 8s. With wider feet I would usually have to buy a uk 9.5, but the 2e width have delivered the perfect fit at uk 9. I started running in Ghosts three years ago and was so impressed by the 6 that I bought 3 pairs - they are still all in great shape and used. They gave me a light, 'silent' ride and have never caused a problem. I once used anti-pronation shoes, but found the advantage of absolute stability actually altered my natural foot plant too much, causing Achillies pain. The Ghost is neutral, but very stable - for me the perfect shoe. The Ghost 7 was much the same, but was even more 'invisible' on my feet. I have run 28 miles in these without a twinge. Now to these beautiful Ghost 8s. There is a subtle change. They are just as light, but feel stiffer and feel very much suited to the roads. Whereas the 6 and 7 could be used on good trails, I only use the 8s for long-long distances on the road. They are perfect for this. I have yet to find a better shoe than the Brooks Ghost, and the 8s have not changed my mind. If you want a good distance shoe that is light, naturally stable and quiet, theses are for you. Brilliant.


How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon: From 10K to 50 Miles in Six-Months.
How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon: From 10K to 50 Miles in Six-Months.
Price: £2.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A basic essay on very little., 2 May 2016
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Incredably brief with no depth. Just a chap running a bit. I read this in an hour. My training log is a more exciting read.


Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: A trail running, ultramarathon, and wilderness survival guide for weird folks
Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: A trail running, ultramarathon, and wilderness survival guide for weird folks
Price: £7.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never Wipe, but do run., 2 May 2016
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There are a few ultra running book reviews by me now - I have started on the road to ultra running, so am digesting all the books I can. This is one of the better ones. At first Jason's American style was a bit twee for me, but eventually I found some reasonable advice and there is a lot of help buried in the pages. Give him his due, he says at the start that this is a jumble of experiences personal to him, and to learn more try your own training based on trial and error - such lessons are the best. This said, it is a book I can read again and it does have a title which reflects the level of humour inside. The British 'Arse', however, is far superior to the American 'Ass'. Worth a read by aspiring ultra and trail runners.


Ben on Foot
Ben on Foot
Price: £4.34

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars And then what?, 2 May 2016
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This review is from: Ben on Foot (Kindle Edition)
I've had a mad spell of reading as much on ultra running as possible, so have become a bit of a critic of the genre. Ben on Foot is worth a read if you are new to distance running. Unfortunately it is more of a running log with little in the way of tips for others. As with most narrative tales, it tends to personal feeling and misses the primary need for reading runners. There is no technical details of times, nutrition, training types and kit in general. In the end his main goal was not realised, and he sort of fizzled out. I give this 3 stars as his cause was good and his enthusiasm undoubted. Unfortunately, once read, there is nothing to refer to that is of much help. A typical self-published and ordinary tale.


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