21 Mar 2009 – Oxfam

An excellent book and one I wouldn’t have dreamed of picking up a few years ago!  Askwith both details the history and present of the sport of fell-running and his own involvement with the sport, alternating chapters about the old heroes with autobiographical pieces about his attempts, mixed with a month-by-month portrayal of a typical year in fell-running.  This makes for an interesting and varied read, often very funny, but intelligent and moving too.  While we road-runners are a lot more cossetted than the wild and woolly (and frankly often insane-seeming) fell-runners, there are enough parallels between the two branches of running (and Andi Jones, who won the last Bham Half-Marathon, makes an appearance on the fells) to make me able to identify with the trials, tribulations and triumphs depicted in the book.  Certainly, this passage made a lot of sense to me:

"Great sports are about much more than the rarefied activities of their elites.  Their souls come from the mediocre majorities who know how difficult the achievements of the superstars really are."

and he makes the point several times that you get to run with the elites in your sport, in the same run, if not in the same frame, and it’s one of the few sports where you can do that.

There is also a discussion of the role mental attitude takes in achievement and it’s inspiring to see things coming together.  We also get to cheer Askwith on as he makes several attempts at a punishing 42 peaks in 24 hours Lake District challenge.  Which brings a shudder to this nice warm road-runner with her clean trainers and full set of toenails!

An excellent sports and in fact general read.