Expanded version of previous blog post was the second article to appear in the latest Fellrunner under my byline. It was much enhanced by three excellent b/w photos from the event by Ian Charters.
The article finishes with an unashamed book plug:
If you want to know more about the three legends, they were my Three Greatest Fell Runners in ‘It’s a hill, get over it: fell running’s history and characters’, and have their extended personal stories told in that book, as well as the history and development of the sport of fell running.
The full article may be viewed here: [PDF proof of article – before photo credits were added]. Next blog: In Profile: Jack Maitland
The Summer 2016 issue of The Fellrunner has a fabulous picture of Jasmin Paris, taken on the last summit of her 15 hrs 24 mins Round.
It also has an article by me on the performance and its implications. A version of the article was originally submitted to another publication, but was not accepted.
When compiling the piece I contacted Jasmin and she kindly allowed me to see a preview of her account of the day (also in the same Fellrunner issue), and also supplied a couple of photos from the day, with an OK to use them at my talk at Keswick Mountain Festival.
The Fellrunner policy is that ‘copyright of material published in this magazine remains with the authors or photographers who produced them’, so I have reproduced the full article here. [The scan is in two parts, click on each to enlarge to a more readable size]
Footnote: this amazing record, plus Nicky Spinks’ double BGR, and Rob Jebb’s 2nd fastest BGR will all be added in a new chapter when my book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ goes to paperback in January 2017.
Another milestone is reached with submission of the manuscript of my third book to the publisher. The title is now fixed as: Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. It is now going through the editorial process and approval of photographs, design of the cover (first version below), incorporation of cover quotes, indexing, proofing, and eventually printing. It is set for publication, by Sandstone Press, in February or March 2017 – which seems such a long time away.
Right now I want to see the finished book, but have to be patient. Looking back I find that this has taken less time to write than either of the first two books for Sandstone Press. I am not sure exactly what to make of this, perhaps I have more confidence in my writing ability (which hasn’t always been the case). What is certain is that I have once again thoroughly enjoyed the processing of researching the material, and also the fascinating times I have spent interviewing the two athletes that are the rivals in the story.
I have also interviewed several of the significant athletes who were their contemporaries. I was absolutely made up to at one point be sitting in Joss Naylor’s front room discussing some of his achievements, and later to be chewing the fat with Billy Bland in his back garden. Absolute heroes both.
So, just a reminder of the storyline (this from the publicity blurb):
Running Hard: the story of a rivalry describes the lives of two very different athletes and covers in-depth the 1983 Fell Running Championships season, when they were the two top runners, battling to win the championship. John Wild was an international steeplechaser from the Midlands who had moved to the fells to go head-to-head with the Cumbrian-born fell runner Kenny Stuart. Stuart later became a 2-11 marathon runner, as their running careers began to diverge, but they remained firm friends. The championship at that time was much tougher than it is now. After fifteen races the title was decided by just twenty seconds at the final race. The events are illuminated by interviews and analysis from several of their main contemporaries.
As I was compiling the manuscript from the interviews, and other sources, I soon realised that I was getting more material than I could possibly use in the book, and that some of it was very interesting but way off topic. So, I decided to re-think some of it for some spinoff writing. A profile of fell runner and orienteer Jack Maitland was accepted for publication in The Fellrunner, and buoyed by this I also submitted two further articles (on the Fell Legends evening – which I have already blogged on, and on Jasmin Paris’ amazing BGR record). They were both accepted, and I am really pleased that all three are in the current edition of The Fellrunner. My next three blog posts will concentrate on this writing, and include the resulting articles.
Yesterday I did not win the Lakeland Book of the Year award. At one level there is a thin line between success and failure. Everyone wants to win the race. However, there are times when relative success is to be cherished.
After the initial disappointment of being ‘merely’ a category runner-up, I am now thinking that it is actually a pretty special achievement. The Lakeland Book of the Year Awards “encourage and celebrate writing and publishing in Cumbria, and contribute to furthering the wonderful literary heritage of the County”. It is a prestigious award, that has been going since 1984. It has high profile judges – this year Hunter Davies, Eric Robson and Fiona Armstrong. The overall winners command respect – last year’s was James Rebanks (for The Shepherd’s Life), and previously it has been Keith Richardson, Harry Griffin and Alan Hankinson.
I was really pleased to be able to travel to the Lakes and attend the award ceremony, which was held in the beautiful Armathwaite Hall Hotel, alongside Bassenthwaite Lake. For the award this year there were over 50 entries, which have to be predominantly about Cumbrian people and places, of which 15 were shortlisted for the 5 category awards (I was in the Guides and Places category), four of which were the eventual short list for the overall Lakeland Book of the Year award.
It was a really great award ceremony, with most excellent food, a fund-raising opportunity for the Cumbria Flood Appeal, and networking possibilities. Two years ago at the same event I met and chatted with mountaineering legend Doug Scott, and this year commiserated with Kendal AC’s top fell runner Rebecca Robinson, who was on crutches after breaking a metatarsal when running the Skiddaw race at the weekend (she was also 6th fastest UK female marathon runner in 2015).
One of the best things about the event is that the judges give their thoughts on the shortlisted books. Eric Robson went through those up for the Striding Edge Prize Prize for Guides and Places, and said the following about The Round:
We come to The Round by Steve Chilton
His earlier book ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ (lovely title), about fell running as well, won the Bill Rollison Prize in 2014. For those of you not of a mountain pounding persuasion, The Bob Graham is a Lakeland mountain challenge. It is 62 miles, takes in 42 peaks and 27,000 feet of ascent, which you have to do in mere 24 hours. As you do. I was trained for the Bob Graham Round by my neighbour in Wasdale – Joss Naylor. He said he would take me out running. I lost. That was just round the function room of the Santon Bridge Hotel. This book about fell running, which is a fairly specialist subject, could have been totally boring. It could have been statistics in hardback. But in fact it is inspirational and it is compelling. It is a great read. It also told me that Chris Brasher failed in his attempt to do the Bob Graham Round, which made me feel a lot better.
When the announcements came, I was runner-up in the ‘Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places’, a category that was won by The Gathering Tide by Karen Lloyd.
So, I collected my runners up certificate and we waited for the overall winner to be announced. It was the winner of the Illustration and Presentation category, a book called Lakeland Waterways.
It was written by a guy that works on the passenger boats on Windermere.
Reflecting on it now, I am really chuffed to be short listed for this prestigious prize. But there is no time to dwell on it. I am moving on to apply the finishing touches to my third book. I just hope that it is written well enough to get some recognition of this sort when it comes out (in early 2017).
Or signed copies direct from me.
The July to December 2016 Sandstone Press catalogue has a nice double page spread of ‘The Round’ and ‘Its a hill’, to announce that the paperback of the former is to be released this November. I am thinking about the launch possibilities at the moment.
It is very pleasing that ‘The Round’ has been nominated for the Boardman Tasker Prize (for Mountain Literature), and even more so that it has been short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award. Bob Davidson, my editor at Sandstone had this to say about the latter:
‘Now over the course of two books, The Round and its predecessor, It’s a Hill, Get Over It, Steve Chilton has been recording and illuminating the history of one of Britain’s least known but most demanding sports, fellrunning. Packed with obsessed and eccentric characters, characterised by amateurism in its purest and noblest form, this uniquely British activity is now developing its own, equally unique, literature and Steve Chilton is its principal bard and chronicler. The sport is fortunate to have its narrative in such hands. In 2017 there will be a third title which will make a perfect long narrative from the wider history to the most specific and personal, but this present time is the time of The Round. It’s a book among a sequence of books that Sandstone Press is proud to leave to posterity.’
The manuscript for that third title is now almost complete, with final re-writing, checking by contributors, viewing by a critical friend, and final tightening up to go before submitting it to the publisher. The title is about to be confirmed and the cover design commissioned, so I am at that busy but exciting stage in the process.
It is about these two guys, telling their stories before, during and after the momentous 1983 season when they went hammer and tongs against each other in the Fell Running Champs. Having had overwhelming co-operation from the main subjects, and also conducted cracking interviews with some of the main players – such as Joss Naylor, Billy Bland, Malcolm Patterson, Jack Maitland and Hugh Symonds – I think you may like it.
This was the first year I had attended the Keswick Mountain Festival, and very enjoyable it was too. Crow Park, by the Theatre on the Lake, was a beautiful setting, with Derwentwater and Cat Bells and the Borrowdale fells as a backdrop.
I was there on the Saturday to give a talk in the Adventure Tipi. The subject was The Bob Graham Round, it’s history and characters. It was obviously a plug for my latest book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’, but also a chance to share my thoughts on the recent stunning BGR achievements by Jasmin Paris and Nicky Spinks.
The Adventure Tipi was surprisingly small but suitably filled. It was nice to see Steve Birkinshaw in the audience, who had been talking earlier in the weekend about his Wainwrights record and his problems recovering from it. My talk seemed to be well received, and a few folk came and had a chat and to buy books after. It was necessary to shut out the noise of people having fun coming through the tipi walls. To clarify, it was the noise that was coming through the walls, not the people! Once I had started I soon forgot about that though.
It was great to have Mike Cambray there in support, and his short video of the first part of talk is available below. It was also great to have a quick chat with friend Rob Morris (having a quick break from his festival volunteering duties).
We had a quick scoot round the fascinating range of stalls, with Mike doing his best to keep Alpkit in business with his enthusiasm for their range of products. In the evening we were back to hear two of the climbing world’s finest give their talks in the Theatre. Simon Yates gave a whistle stop run through of his career, including a reference to the rope-cutting Joe Simpson incident, but more interestingly for me some of his recent trips. Mick Fowler was a very relaxed presenter, very entertainingly outlining his approach to climbing new routes on some of the more obscure mountain ranges of the world. I was intrigued by his claim to use Google Earth as a planning tool for searching out new and potential lines on said remote peaks.
A full-on weekend was completed by a range of activities, including bagging 3 new Wainwrights, a run on Hardknott, a couple of trips to Wilfs, and doing two great interviews for my next book – with Kenny Stuart and Joss Naylor. Oh, and a temporary separation from my wallet. Fortunately the lovely people at Woodlands Tearooms in Santon Bridge phoned me to inform me of my stupidity in leaving it on a table there.
I am pleased to confirm that I am giving a talk at the Keswick Mountain Festival in May as part of what looks like an excellent ‘Adventure Tipi Talks’ programme. My slot is 1-45pm on Saturday 21 May, and is entitled (predictably enough) ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’.
It is a highly topical subject in light of Jasmin Paris putting down such an awesome new women’s fastest BG round only last week. There is a short bit of video from a friend’s 2015 round, which I was in charge of road support for, to give you a real insight on what it can be like on such a challenging day in the fells.
There will also be an opportunity to purchase signed copies of the book, and also my first book ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, both at special festival prices. If you are interested then check out the website and book tickets at: http://www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk/.
Full description of the talk: The Bob Graham Round is a classic Lakeland endurance challenge of 62 miles and 42 peaks, to be completed in 24 hours. This will be an illustrated talk that will explain the genesis of the round and who Bob Graham was. It will also showcase some of the outstanding male and female endurance athletes who have completed it, such as Billy Bland – who set the fastest time of 13 hrs 53 mins in 1982. I will also hope to illustrate what it can be like with video footage from a round I was involved in last year.
I hope to see you at my session, or at some of the other excellent talks (eg Hinkes, Yates and Fowler on the Saturday ‘Mountain Evening’).