Feet In The Clouds – Richard Askwith

Health warning: do not read this book unless you want to be seriously tempted to run over mountains all the time.

This book has been around a little while, but it hasn’t aged. It’s a story of a man and his obsession with the Bob Graham round, and his discovery of the sport of fell running, and the history and characters of the sport, and a year in the life of the runners competing during the year of writing (2005?)

What is the Bob Graham round? It’s the unlikely task of running a circuit encompassing 42 peaks in the Lake District in 24 hours. Many have tried. Some have succeeded. It sounds bloody hard. Richard Askwith heard about it and couldn’t rest until he completed it. This involved weekly trips up to the Lake District for training. Running on the hills is not like running on the roads, he assures us. I have walked on hills and it’s no joke.

There are, and have been for a couple of hundred years, professional and amateur fell runners competing for small and large sums of cash in the north of England (and in Scotland and Wales too, no doubt). Some of them sound absolutely barking mad (hard day’s work on mountain, come home, go for 8 hour run) some of them even more so (running with broken feet) but they all seem to have spent their lives doing something they love for the sake of doing it, and their little stories are well captured.

Askwith’s training is fairly standard – go out in whatever the conditions are, run over mountains for several hours, enduring freezing horizontal rain, twisted ankles, getting miserably lost in deep fog miles from anywhere, having to keep running because the alternative is walking… and yet he keeps going back. And the annoying thing is, he makes it all sound so rewarding that I wanted to go out and do it too. I’m still not totally convinced I don’t want to take up fell running.

See also: Born to Run also about running over hills and stuff.

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