Written inspiration – Feet in the Clouds

A first for the blog – a book review…

As well as occasionally writing something about running, a lot of the time I spend not running, other than lying on the couch whining about my legs, is spent reading running related things. Blogs, articles, twitter, books – pretty much anything.

Recently, as mentioned in a previous post about fell running, I came across one of my favourite pieces of writing about running. Feet in the Clouds, Richard Askwith’s part-chronology, part-love letter, part-eulogy to English Fell Running is a must-read for any one with interest in running, outdoor life,  sport or just the competitive drive that inspires people to do incredible things.

Feet in the Clouds was recommended to me by Jonny Muir, classy local runner, adventurer and author: http://heightsofmadness.com/jonny-muir/ at the Write this Run conference in November – clearly Jonny has great taste.

Having done a fair amount of walking in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales as a kid with my dad, and on the odd school trip, it’s somewhat surprising that I’d never really been running in the amazing scenery of Northern England. Having read Feet in the Clouds it was inevitable that I would have to, sooner rather than later – and as it  turned out a good opportunity provided itself over the Christmas holidays: https://richmondrider.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/fell-running-beginnings-literally-up-and-down-dale/.

Things I loved about this book:

  • The way Askwith simultaneously captures the history and legend of the sport whilst at the same time making it feel current, necessary and still a vibrant representation of sporting and outdoor spirit. The dual historical / year-in-the-life-of-fell-running structure is a big part of achieving this.
  • The reminders of some of the places I’d been and would like to run / walk again – Ambleside, Grasmere, Snowdown, Wasdale, Ben Nevis and others.
  • The tales of hard men and women more at home running up and down peaks than round a flat track – stories of incredible efforts of endurance and speed to cross the countryside in amaizng fashion. The Bob Graham Round, the Dragon Back and Ben Nevis races being some of the more memorable (but probably not the ones I’ll be rushing out to do in the near future).
  • The story of the fell runner descending with such commitment as he passed through a gap in a dry stone wall that if he’d have been a foot to the left or right he’d have either gone straight through the wall or killed himself.

As my dad said to me after reading this book, the photos of the runners in the book are more reminiscent of jockeys than rugby players so I don’t think I’m ever destined to be a natural on the fells. But having said that, do be careful when reading it – the pull of the Mountains is definitely strong here and I’m sure I’ll be having another go in 2014.

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