This is a book about fell-running and fell-runners. There are three main types of chapter: (i) the fell-running year, (ii) biopics of specific fell-runners past and present, and (iii) some of the author’s personal experiences fell-running, and in particular his attempts at the Bob Graham Round.
The chapters on the fell-running year describe the kind of events that happen each month, and the sort of people who enter them, from the summer events associated with a show through to the hardier events in winter. Certain runners pop up every month, with snippets of their private lives. The human touch.
The Bob Graham Round is a circuit of 42 peaks in the Lake District, which have to be run within a 24-hour period. It was first done by the eponymous Bob Graham in 1932, and is the equivalent of a black belt in fell-running. At several points through the book we hear about the author’s attempts at ‘the BG’, and also descriptions of other notable attempts and records.
There isn’t enough about the author’s running: we hear about his first run, his BG attempts, and a few other races. How did he go from his first race to wanting to do the BG round? I couldn’t quickly work out how long he had been fell-running when he finally did the BG. What keeps him still running now?
Towards the end of the book he said he’d missed out sketches of various characters because there wasn’t room. There was room. Some of the most enjoyable chapters were those about fell-running characters. This is what makes writing about a sport real, and gives it colour. In addition to the chapters on the elite fell-runners the book would also have benefited from a chapter on one or more runners from the pack (apart from Richard Askwith himself), people who’ve tried the BG and failed, but who still fell-run.
Another thread that runs through the book is that the best fell-runners are elite athletes, but known to no-one outside the community. There very little money to be made in fell-running, and even less glory. Hopefully this book will make them a little better known, but probably won’t change the remuneration.
Overall though, I enjoyed this book: I found myself wanting to read one more chapter. It brought the sport and its participants to life, and it made me want to get back into running more regularly. Not fell running mind you, they’re clearly crazy. A running friend who occasionally runs in fell-races says she found it inspirational.