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by Richard Askwith
Aurum Press ISBN 1-85410-989-8
To be a good fellrunner, you need four things. Good heart and lungs, a light frame preferably under 10 stone, surefootedness that comes from lifelong familiarity with the hills and a disregard for pain and danger that verges on lunacy.
As a 13 stone southerner with weak ankles who has spent most of his life smoking and is terrified of heights, Richard Askwith freely admits that he is less than a perfect fit for this profile.
Now Richard explores the world of fellrunning in the only legitimate way; by donning his "Ron Hill” vest and studded shoes to spend a season running as many of the great fell races as he can. His book Feet in the Clouds looks at his fellrunning year of 2003, the pleasure and pain, the highs and lows, the successes and the failures. It covers races in the Peak District, Shropshire, Jura and Ben Nevis but mostly in the Lake District as Richard is a member of Keswick AC. These races include Newlands, Langdale, Skiddaw, Borrowdale and The Mountain Trial.
The book also looks at and has interviews with some of the greats of the sport of fellrunning. These include Billy Bland, Kenny Stuart and 'Iron Man Joss', the inimitable Joss Naylor who, to celebrate his 50th birthday, ran all 214 Wainwright peaks in a week. It also details the history of the sport and the divisions over the years between amateur and professional runners.
Richard also describes his four attempts on The Bob Graham Round; his three failures and then finally success in 1996 to become member 1023 of this prestigious club.
For anyone who has participated in the sport, those who have spectated and supported fellrunners, or even those fellwalkers who have marvelled at this strange breed of people and who often you think must be crazy, this is a fascinating book giving an insight into the mind of the fell runner. Be assured, this is a book that once you have started reading it, it is extremely difficult to put down.
reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2