Thoughts from my Altrincham talk and from attending ShAFF

Neil_introducingThe third book talk for ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ was at Altrincham AC on Friday night, superbly organised by Neil Walker. After a great curry, provided by Sale caterers Just Like Mother and a calming pint, I took the floor for a run thru of some stories from the early and recent days of fell running. The talk provoked some interesting questions, which I did my best to answer.

steve_jeffI then did a short interview with Altrincham AC legend (and former British Fell Champion and Olympic marathoner) Jeff Norman. I prompted him to talk about his early start in school sports, and then in fell and marathon running – revealing that he had in fact done 62 marathons (to the surprise of many of his clubmates who hadn’t known he had such an appetite for the event). I finished by asking him who he thought would win the Manchester marathon in two days time. This raised a laugh as his two sons Dave and Andy were in the audience and both hoping to be in the mix in the race. Jeff smiled and politely declined to answer the question. He did have some fascinating stories about his race tussles with the likes of Joss Naylor, Mike Short, Harry Walker and Alan Blinstone. The question I forgot to ask Jeff was how was he getting on with his long term project to compile a history of the club. He had mentioned it when I interviewed him for the book, and admitted privately later that it was ‘ongoing, and possibly never actually going to see the light of day’!

NormansAfterwards, another beer and socialising with Altrinchamians – who were variously thinking about their prospects in the Manch marathon, organising their marshalling for Manch mara (an impressive 71 volunteering for this), tapering for the London marathon or just probing on particular fell running issues. A great evening. [Dave and Andy Norman were 4th and 8th respectively in the marathon in the end. Race was won by Andi Jones, who also has a great mountain running pedigree.]

josh_climbingI spent the weekend staying with one of my sons in Thurlstone, and socialising and eating in Sheffield. I managed to fit in some climbing with a couple of the boys at the Matrix Wall at Sheff Uni sports centre on the Saturday. It seemed an appropriate activity as a) I was in the city that is sometimes ‘marketed’ as the Adventure Capital Of The UK (for instance, according to Matt Heason: ‘Sheffield’s S7 postal code is reputed to have the highest density of rock climbers anywhere on the planet, and it has 4 nationally significant climbing walls’), and b) I was talking about fell running the next day at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF). The wall trip told me too things; (i) that my aging body is now too unsupple, and unconditioned, to do climbing, although I enjoyed some of the easier routes, and (ii) that all of my boys are well capable of climbing to a better standard than I ever did, if they choose to keep at it. We all had a fabulous Saturday evening meal at Spoon, a highly recommended small cafe-bistro in Woodseats.

Naked_runnersOn Sunday afternoon I was talking again, this time at ShAFF, to a small but enthusiastic audience, trying not to think too much about the members of my family in the audience. Again some good responses, including questions on another book from me, my thoughts on trail running, and the future for fell running. It was good to meet up with Claire Maxted (Trail Running magazine’s editor) and Tony O’Donnell (of

Emma_claytonAfter a coffee and chat with family and friends it was in to the Emma Clayton session. It was billed as a lecture, but turned out to a be short film compilation of her races followed by a Q&A. It was very interesting to hear her talk about her training, injuries, attitude and future ambitions. Both the video and the answers highlighted the difference between (European) mountain running and (UK) fell running. It got a bit bogged down in the politics of sponsorship and governing body athlete support towards the end, but overall well worth attending. In retrospect, I wish I’d had time to have seen some of the films, particularly the running ones which clashed with my talk.

THANKS: to Neil Walker for setting up the Alty gig and introducing me, to Matt Heason and Lissa Cook for ShAFF invite, and to Claire Maxted for introducing me.


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