The Running Hard Blog Tour

Steve Chilton blog tour banner twitterOver the three days before the book’s paperback publication there will be a Running Hard Blog Tour. Visit the blogs via the links below to find out more about the book, it’s author and how someone is planning on emulating Kenny and John’s training.

On Monday 16th October there will be three stops on the tour:

On Tuesday 17th October three further stops will be at:

  • Steve Birkinshaw’s blog, where I have written a guest post on hard training (one of the book’s themes)
  • The sabbatycle blog for a discussion between Dan Haw and I on Kenny Stuart and John Wild’s training methods and their applicability to a modern fell runner (Dan)
  • Running legend Nicky Spinks’ blog for her review of the book

Finally, on Wednesday 18th October the last three stops on the tour will be:

The paperback version of Running Hard will be published on Thursday 19th October and can be obtained from all good bookshops and online at Amazon.

running-hard-front-cover-proof-2016-oct-21About the book
Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. Sandstone Press. Format: Paperback. ISBN: 9781910985946. Publication Date: 19/10/2017. RRP: £9.99
For one brilliant season in 1983 the sport of fell running was dominated by the two huge talents of John Wild and Kenny Stuart. Wild was an incomer to the sport from road running and track. Stuart was born to the fells, but an outcast because of his move from professional to amateur. Together they destroyed the record book, only determining who was top by a few seconds in the last race of the season. Running Hard is the story of that season, and an inside, intimate look at the two men.

World Masters2005steveAbout the author
Steve Chilton is a committed runner and qualified athletics coach with considerable experience of fell running. He is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA). He formerly worked at Middlesex University where he was Lead Academic Developer. He has written two other books: It’s a Hill, Get Over It won the Bill Rollinson Prize in 2014; The Round: In Bob Graham’s footsteps was shortlisted for the TGO Awards Outdoor Book of the Year 2015 and the Lakeland Book of the Year Award 2016.

The formal launch of the book is on Fri 27 October in Skipton, where I will be in discussion with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey [more info].

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Paperback launch: Running Hard

The paperback launch for Running Hard will take place at a talk with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey in Skipton on 27 October. You can book a ticket here, which will include £4 off the book if bought at the event. The event is also raising money for two charities, the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, and Due North’s chosen charity The Brathay Trust.

duenortheventIt should be a brilliant evening as Kenny and Ben are giants in the sport. Kenny ruled fell running for a period in the 1980s, and Ben is one of the finest exponents currently.

Our theme will be: “Has the perception (and reality) of training/running hard changed over the years?”, with plenty of chance to ask questions of all of us.

You can find profiles of Kenny, Ben and myself here, together with more about the topics to be covered.

Three fell running books

threebooks2All three of my books on fell running are available from good bookshops and on Amazon. They are respectively: a history of the sport of fell running, the story of the Bob Graham Round, and the lives and achievements of two of the sport’s finest (Kenny Stuart and John Wild). Running Hard will be out in paperback next month, and will be launched at an event with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey, helping raise money for The Brathay Trust and The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.

Postscript on African dominance

Last month I speculated on whether the East Africans who are starting to dominate mountain running could come over and take longstanding UK fell race records like Snowdon. The blog drew a few comments, as did the social media coverage. Subsequently I have had a long discussion with the Snowdon race organiser (Stephen Edwards), who explained his take on it.

futureoffellrunningA tad provocatively perhaps, but the conversation started with me asking how ‘international’ The International Snowdon Race really is? It obviously has great Italian runners coming, but as an event do they try to get the nations that do well at WMRA’s World Mountain Running Champs (for example) to send athletes. I was particularly thinking of the Eritreans and Ugandans, mentioned in that first blog posting.

Stephen replied that he understood my point of view and that it’s a question that a few others have asked, but that money comes into the equation. The race pays approximately £5,000 for the hotel accommodation and food for athletes at present, with the number of international team member having gone up now to four males and four females, so cost is always increasing. However, the rule to change the number of team members came with no financial support from the rule changers.

The race organisers would love to get more different countries coming to the race, but another issue is the timetabling of events. It doesn’t help that this year the European Mountain Champs were held a week before Snowdon and the Worlds two weeks after. There is also a feeling many of the current runners don’t like the terrain of the Snowdon race. There is room for all these events, but only so many top class runners to share around them. Stephen commented that they would love to get the Snowdon Race as the European or World Championship event. [It was host to the European Mountain Trophy in 1996.] He also feels that it’s not just getting more country’s teams to Llanberis, it needs the highest quality athletes to compete at the highest level to challenge the record. He adds that in the past they have come from a few different countries, but in the end local runners were quicker than them.

The World Mountain Champs race came to Betws-y-Coed in North Wales in 2015 but it was run on what was really a trail route in a forest and consisted of a multi-lap course.  Stephen felt that having looked at the pictures of this year’s Worlds (in Italy) it was basically running on grass – well grass on the side of a mountain.

We ended up discussing the idea of a UK Cup, consisting of the Snowdon, Scafell, and Ben Nevis races. Run in all three and best placed runner is the champion. I liked the idea but can imagine issues with FRA approval, and of the races being too popular and perhaps not wanting more entries. Out of curiosity I went to the FRA website to check when the Scafell race is. Well, it is this Saturday (16th Sept) but is by far the least well attended of the three races – having only 31 pre-entries as of today (11th), perhaps due to a class with the Three Shires race. Interestingly though, presumably in an attempt to raise the race profile, the FRA race page for Scafell says: Note trophies/prizes for “Jack & Jill” fastest couple and for King and Queen of “Snowden/Ben Nevis/Scafell Pike mountains”.

whyattHaving speculated here on the future of fell/mountain running, I was interested to note that Jonathan Whyatt was recently elected as President of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA). Under a title ‘Newly elected WMRA President Jonathan Wyatt shares ideas for the future’ he makes some interesting points on the future of the sport on the WMRA website.

His nine main points included:

  • Ensure that courses for World events will be a good test of true mountain running ability so we need to look for more difficult tracks than in the past. This is something we will be talking about as well as trying to work together with other groups that organise events in the off-road environment.
  • Bring together the best athletes at the most important events.  The sport needs this, so we can show to the World how good Mountain and Trail Sports can be.  We will start the discussion with the calendar in mind, so that we give the athletes the chance to run a World Championship all together on one day.
  • Support iconic mountain events and make the most of events that are held in beautiful mountain terrain, thereby showing how positive Mountain Running is.

Tougher courses, the best athletes, support for iconic events. Fine words that I would like to see them deliver on, a view Stephen Edwards totally agrees with. Watch this space.

runningblogeafricansFinally, cycling back to my point about East Africans, the Guardian last week carried an article entitled ‘Untold stories: why we should know more about East African runners’. It emphasized the achievements at the recent World (track) Champs at the London Stadium, particularly some lesser-known Kenyans and Ethiopians. The article concluded:

If athletics is to remain popular in the post-Bolt/Farah era, we need to make more of an effort to engage translators, journalists and managers in getting to know the top East African athletes a little better.

In profile: Hugh Symonds

I wanted to do the BGR, I would have really regretted it if I hadn’t. I had half thought of doing it on the way down through the Lakes on my continuous run over all the 3000 foot mountains of Britain and Ireland. Wouldn’t that have been cool?

Hugh Symonds reflected on his career in the fourth article to appear in the Fellrunner under my byline. It resulted from an interview I conducted with him as part of my research for my latest book, Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. After the long and fascinating interview I realised there was more info on Hugh than I needed on his background for the book, so I decided to write a profile of him as well (with his approval, and with some of his photos).

The full article (from the Winter 2016 issue) may be viewed here: [PDF of the article].

The next issue of The Fellrunner will include a piece I have written (with Steve Birkinshaw) on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Running hard – then and now

Has the perception (and reality) of training/running hard changed over the years? I will be exploring this theme in a discussion with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey in Skipton in October. It should be a brilliant evening as Kenny and Ben are giants in the sport. Kenny ruled fell running for a period in the 1980s, and Ben is one of the finest exponents currently, but they have quite different backgrounds, as I will explain shortly.

duenorththreeAt the talk, which I will be MCing, we will all be discussing, amongst other things:
Comparisons – between the two eras – as noted Kenny and Ben are from different fell running eras – the then and now.
Training – the what, where, when – we will compare their training – again then and now. They are very different people living very different lives. I am sure the audience will be especially interested to know what Kenny used to do in his prime. One major difference is that Kenny’s training was manually recorded (and he still has the detailed training diaries) and  Ben is a Strava addict and records all his training digitally in the public domain.
Work, training, life – a balancing act – This will link in with the previous topic about training – Ben says his training is very much controlled and driven by work/life balance; Kenny’s was too really, although work was kind of ‘organised around’ training.
Fell running – individual or team sport – The team ethic of fell running applies to both club and general camaraderie. It’s also something Ben is quite passionate about as he does lots for the team CVFR (and Kenny’s Keswick AC have just become fell champs for the first time since his days!). I think it’s part of what makes fell running so special.

We will also take questions from the audience, so will also cover: Experiences/races – a good opportunity to ask Kenny and Ben specifics about their training, and about their favourite fell running experiences, races and memories. Imagine yourself sat in the audience and being able to ask a legend anything that you want to know about their training or their lifestyles.

A little about the speakers:

kennystuartKenny Stuart is one of those people that the much bandied about tag of ‘legend’ really does apply. Ben Mounsey had this to say about him (on his blog when they met for a filming event): ‘He is one of my heroes and arguably the greatest fell runner of all time. During his incredibly successful career he set a number of truly outstanding records, many of which will never be broken. He was also British champion in 1984 and 1985 and among the records he set in those years were 1:02:18 at Skiddaw, 1:25:34 at Ben Nevis, and 1:02:29 at Snowdon. A truly inspirational man.’ Born and raised in Cumbria his life story is told (along with that of another legend, John Wild) in my latest book, ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’.

benmounseyBen Mounsey (according to his own blog) is ‘a 35 year old runner from mighty Yorkshire who loves nothing more than spending time on the fells and trails. I compete for Calder Valley Fell Runners and Stainland Lions and during my career I’ve been lucky enough to represent Yorkshire, England and Great Britain at mountain running.’ As a sign of the times he is also supported by Inov-8, Mountain Fuel, Suunto and Back To Fitness Physiotherapy. His performances include: UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Champion 2016, 3rd in the English Fell Running Championship 2016, Represented England 5 times and Great Britain in the World Mountain Running Championships in 2015 and the European Mountain Running Championships in 2016.

1987_LoughriggSteve Chilton is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA) and a qualified athletics coach with considerable experience of fell running, and a marathon PB of 2-34-53.  In a long running career I have run in many of the classic fell races, as well as mountain marathons and has also completed the Cuillin Traverse. My work has been published extensively, particularly in academia through my role as Chair of the Society of Cartographers. I co-edited Cartography: A Reader (a selection of over 40 papers from the archive of The Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers, the Society’s respected international journal). My third book ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’ (from Sandstone Press) was published on 16 February 2017, and has been nominated for the Boardman-Tasker Award. The second book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ was published on 17 September 2015; and my first ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ won the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition,  and was short-listed for the TGO Outdoor Book of the Year.

duenorthlogoThe talk will be held on 27 October at 19:00–21:00 at the Rendezvous Hotel, Keighley Road, Skipton. All 3 of my books will be for sale at reduced prices.

The event is organised by due North, and you can sign up for the event here.

Future of fell/mountain running: are Africans set to take over?

Three things recently have got me thinking again about changes in the sport of fell/mountain running. Firstly it was the World Mountain Running Championships, where Ugandans had a clean sweep in the men’s race. Secondly, the recent debate over whether Kilian Jornet would/could take the BGR record from Billy Bland; and thirdly was reading an advance copy of a chapter of Jonny Muir’s upcoming book on Scottish Hill Running, in which he speculates on the future of the sport.

So, let’s take these one at a time. Mountain running is the de facto global branch of fell running, and has been since it came to prominence in the early 1980s. [For more on its early history see ‘Going Global’, Chapter 17 of my first book, ‘It’s a hill, get over it’] It is organised by the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA), whilst at the extreme end there is also the International Skyrunning Federation – which administers ‘mountain running above 2,000m over extremely technical trails’. Mountain running is more akin to fell running and is predominantly run by Europeans, run in Europe, and won by Europeans. The World Mountain Running Champs were first held in Italy in 1985 and have been held at a European venue each year since, reaching out just once – to New Zealand in 2005 [Correction: there have been two – Alaska in 2003]. A rather selective stat I admit, but taking the results of the men’s race over the years you find that Italy won the team prize all but two years of the first 21 occasions. Then in the next 7 years, Eritrea won 4 to Italy’s 3. But then the big change: in the last 5 years Uganda have won 3 times and Italy just once, with Uganda providing 4 individual winners and Italy none, having not had a winner in the last 10 years.

OK, enough stats but definitely a pattern there. In mainstream athletics we have been used to domination of many events by Africans in recent years, the steeplechase and marathon in particular. For example, the world’s 11 fastest steeplechasers where all born in Kenya (Kenyans have won Gold at the event at last nine Olympic Games), and the 10 fastest male marathoners are either Kenyan or Ethiopian.

Eritreans and Ugandans have performed well in World Cross Country Champs and track and road races recently – Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei was second to Mo Farah in the World Champs 10,000m on Friday.

Having hopefully got you interested with the slightly provocative blog title, these rambling lead me to ponder whether if the best Eritreans and Ugandans were to run races such as the Snowdon International Race (which leading Italians have for years now) whether they could challenge Kenny Stuart’s superb course record of 1-02-29 which has lasted since 1985. I recall that Kenny was interviewed about his record at the 2010 Snowdon race and as I noted in my third book, ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’, he replied:

I am quite amazed it [the record] still stands, but is something I am reasonably proud of. I think it is time it was broken. The record might stand for a number of years. If athletes of a certain calibre, maybe Africans, came over en masse they might break it. But it will take some breaking.

But so far that hasn’t happened.

My second reference was to the possibility of Billy Bland’s supreme BGR time of 13 hrs 53 mins being beaten this year, possibly by an ‘incomer’. Prompted by rumours on social media of a fast time having being done ‘under the radar’ and also public statements from the Catalan Kilian Jornet that he was planning an attempt sometime in 2017, I posted a blog with comments on things that Hugh Symonds and Billy Bland had said to me on Jornet’s chances when I interviewed them for my second book, ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’. It was thoughts on an outsider taking the record, which I won’t repeat here, but in many ways reflected some views on the changing sport. But, what about an African mountain runner coming over and having a blast at it? What do you think? If you are interested the blog post is here, and the parallel FRA forum thread is here. Suffice it to say that there was an amazing level of interest in the topic, which meant I had 1,292 visitors to this blog the day after it appeared – WAY more than I normally get.

Thirdly, Jonny Muir will be commenting in his upcoming book about the effect that high profile, high cost, extreme events like the Glen Coe Skyline will have on ‘traditional’ hill running (as it is usually called in Scotland).

He decided to check his fairly robust view by doing a vox pop via the Fell Runners UK Facebook site to try to gauge the views of participants in the sport. There appeared to be a strong anti-commercialism strand in the replies. One I liked was: “Underground, word of mouth races are the future.” I would judge the mood to be worried rather than happy with the way things are/might go. But maybe (like sites like TripAdvisor) there is a tendency for complaint rather than praise in a public forum such as this. Do have a read of the responses (you need to be able to sign in to FB to do so).

I perceive a very insular attitude from the governing body (Fell Runners Association) who in communications say they are very worried about increasing numbers of competitors and their environmental impact affecting race access agreements. This inward looking attitude is exemplified by this response that I got, on behalf of the FRA Committee, when I asked for access to their archive in order to pursue my book research, in 2011: ‘It may be helpful if I make clear that the policy of the FRA is to avoid media exposure of and publicity for the sport. The prospect of yet another book about fell running is not welcomed and the FRA Committee will not wish to co-operate in providing assistance. “Feet In The Clouds” did no favours to the sport.’ At the time I found this a stunning attitude to adopt. Since then I have thought a lot about the future of the sport when writing about it, and I have quite a positive outlook. I will finish with what I said at the time (and which I still stand by):

I am sure though that the good races will survive, and that a responsible attitude to the environment can indeed see the sport prosper. I do think that attitudes have to change and that the sport should welcome all those who want to take up the challenge to compete that it provides. We should be celebrating the variety of events and competitors that there are.