Five years ago I published my first and to date only book: the Best of the Fells, an anthology of race accounts, written by runners for runners.
The following extract from the book sets out the 2010 philosophy behind it:
“The Fell-Runners Association’s Fixtures Calendar lists over 500 events each year (of the 660-plus across the UK as a whole), starting at 11.00am on New Year’s Day with the five and a half mile Captain Cook’s Race in Great Ayton and finishing some time in the early afternoon of New Year’s Eve when the last runner in the six mile Daleside Brewery Auld Lang Syne (near Haworth) limps home.
Nearly eighty fell running clubs, from Abbey Runners to Wrexham AC, organise races on their local fells and promote them via their own websites. And that doesn’t include a wide range of other clubs, like Axe Valley Runners in Devon or Portsmouth Joggers Club in Hampshire, who put on their own local (and brutal) hilly off-road events. Ok, so the Grizzly (yes, it is big, bad and hairy) or the Meon Valley Plod (nowhere near as tame as it sounds) might not need navigational finesse or fell skills, but they include that essence of any good fell race – a lot of off-road up-ness and a concomitant amount of muddy or rocky down-ness.
To my mind, despite the huge variety of races across some of the most beautiful landscapes in the land, the gold standard events are those comprising the ‘Lakeland Classics’ series. These are some of the toughest and gnarliest races in any sport, comprising the Duddon Valley, Ennerdale Horseshoe, Wasdale, Borrowdale, Three Shires and Langdale Horseshoe events. I’ve done big chunks of the route of most of these whilst running in the Lakes, but have never competed in any of the actual races. One day I will, but in the meantime I’ve lived them vicariously by reading accounts of the events on fell club websites, which are littered with entertaining and illuminating stories of races won, races lost, races endured but overwhelmingly races enjoyed in the company of fellow runners. And this was the genesis of this book – to bring a selection of my favourite race accounts to a wider readership. The selection criteria were easy – an entertaining read, a variety of events, a range of locations.
The accounts which follow – mostly written by ordinary club runners (and a few not so ordinary ones) – cover some of the huge mix of fell and trail races that take place every month through the year. Nearly all are from the UK but a few are from further afield. Some describe races which are short and blisteringly fast; others recount long and desperately brutal endurance events; all are testing in the extreme, of athletic ability and endurance. There is injury and tragedy, but all the accounts are for me inspiring and often entertaining accounts of places, routes and people that I either know – or now want to get to know. I hope they have the same impact on you.”
Cox Bank Publishing is extending the approach to all sports, still producing anthologies, still sourcing writing by sports people writing about sport but extending the approach to a variety of formats and target audiences – not least schools, to encourage kids to both participate in sports and to write about why they enjoy it.
But my first job is to republish BOTF, as a larger format and higher quality edition with added maps (courtesy of Harvey Maps) and colour plates, to do justice to the contributors who make the book what it is. And to raise a bit more money for Mountain Rescue into the bargain.
The second edition of Best of the Fells will be published in late 2016. If you really can’t wait, then the first edition is available on Lulu.com