ICYMI: The last day of the decade is as good a time as any on which to share my most popular blog posts (ie reads) and files (ie downloads) for 2019. Listed, described and linked are the top three in both categories, plus a bonus in each category that looks like it may have been missed by a few.
Jan 28 2019, with 899 reads in 2019
Stats and comment on the completion rates for the Bob Graham Round, including: ‘… a strong trend for more people completing the BGR (solid red line is the linear trend) over time, but also how it fluctuates from year to year.’
June 5 2019, 401 reads in 2019
Report on the Bob Graham Round session at the Keswick Mountain Festival, with a transcription of the Q&A section of the evening, pretty much as it occurred, including Jasmin Paris speaking about professional athletes: ‘I think that now you can get sponsored and that involves doing social media stuff. But you have to be winning events really. Personally, I like to be free of all that. I am not tied into any contract. We do it because we love being in the hills and doing the running. If you want to benefit financially you will be tied down to a contract.’
Oct 9, 2019, 242 reads in 2019
Long-running running champs
Discussing longevity at the top of the sport (fell running), starting with Colin Donnelly and taking in Billy Bland, John and Kenny Stuart. Including this on Billy Bland, who: ‘… won his first race at 17 years old and his last when he was 50, giving him 33 years of winning.’
Uploaded 21 Nov 2019, 208 downloads in 2019
A profile of fell runner Colin Donnelly that appeared in two parts in The Fellrunner magazine is reproduced in full as a downloadable PDF file. An in-depth profile of the ‘long-running running champ’. [see above]
Uploaded Feb1 2018, 155 downloads in 2019
A case study of four elite athletes who suffered from CFS, who are interviewed on their background and how it affected them, in two cases ending their elite careers.
Uploaded Aug 27 2017, 68 downloads in 2019
A detailed profile of a champion fell runner that appeared in The Fellrunner back in 2017 – but is still being downloaded frequently. In it he describes meeting Joss Naylor: ‘… who was also doing a reccie. He seemed to be dressed in a sack held together with safety pins.’
Blog: Telling Stories (May 15 2019) – five tales from the hills from five of the finest fell runners, and alround entertaining interviewees. These stories may or may not make the cut into the manuscript of my next book (out in summer 2020).
Download: Memories (Aug 24 2019) – some thoughts from me on not being able to run and some past runs, which was an article published in Like the Wind magazine this year (issue #20).
It is coming to the end of the year and I decided to list the running books I have read this year. I notice I have only read 8 running-related books this year, compared to 10 last year. So here are short reviews of them all, taken from my Good Reads website. It is NOT my top ten running books published in 2019, just some thoughts on those I have read this year. In fact only four are from 2019. There is always catching up to do!
The figures after the author are the grade (1-5, five is best) given by me, and the year of publication. I hope it might inspire some readers to pick up something ‘new’ to read.
1 The Rise of the Ultra Runners, Adharanand Finn (5, 2019)
Much anticipated, as I liked his two previous books – on the Kenyan and Japanese running cultures. It lived up to expectations, giving fascinating background to ultra running, and the author’s initiation into the sport. In some ways he had a similar approach to Richard Askwith and his move into fell running – do it yourself and also speak with some of the best exponents and find out how they do it and cope with the rigours of such a tough sport. A solid five stars.
2 Gone feral, Steven Freeman (4, 2019)
Freeman camped out for a year in the Lakes and held down a routine job at the same time. He writes well and in great detail about living close to nature and trying not to think of himself as not normal. I particularly enjoyed him recalling his unique long run over the fells.
3 The Perfection Point, John Brenkus (3, 2012)
An interesting book, but very American-biased. Enjoyable to read, but ultimately pointless as the premise of a ‘perfection point’ is so hypothetical. The fictional stories at the beginning of each chapter detailing a possible future scenario were initial off-putting, but ending up being some of the best parts. Preferred reading elsewhere about the possibility of a sub-2 hour marathon.
4 Endure, Alex Hutchinson (3, 2018)
This is a reasonably easy read, except that in some of the in-depth sections you have to concentrate hard, but that is fine. The author is most interested in how we can push ourselves closer to our absolute limit. He covers everything from motivational words to playing tricks on the body and includes a nervy section on electric currents to the brain. Unfortunately, the practical elements and even his conclusions are weak.
5 The Greatest: what sport teaches us about achieving success, Matthew Syed (3, 2017)
Syed’s book suffered from being a collection of short articles previously published elsewhere. It made it a very disjointed read, and one that had no central theme that you can latch on to. I enjoyed his other books more, and am sure I gained more from Bounce and Black Box thinking. Having said that, it has some good backgrounders on some of the greatest sports stars in the book.
6 Running up that Hill, Vassos Alexander (3, 2018)
The author shares his experiences of running a series of ultra-running events. It jumps about a bit too much for me, with the 153-mile Spartathlon being the running motif throughout, but sometimes going forwards to other events and sometimes backwards. He does get to interview an impressive range of endurance runners whose love for the sport, rationale for doing it, and benefits gained from going way out of their comfort zone all shine through.
7 Outrunning the Demons, Phil Hewitt (2, 2019)
I had to stop reading this about half-way through and left it a while, eventually taking over 2 months to read it. I just found the stories too similar and depressing to read. All very worthy – covering peoples’ troubles and traumas and how running had helped them. The author’s own story sent chills through me and I admire his tenacity, and then energy in tracking down folk with similar tales and helping them get through them (which surely off-loading them did).
8 Getting the buggers to turn out, Bob Smith (2, 2019)
Perhaps a book to appeal to running nerds only, this was a disappointment to me, despite fitting that description. It outlines a decade or so of performances from one club, concentrating on the major championships. Because the team won a lot it becomes a bit predictable, and the author does become a bit too full of himself at some points.
For a further list of 20 books that I feel show something of the range and depth of the running book genre, see my earlier blog:
Good reads : running books.
And if you are looking for presents to give, look no further than:
Books: ideal Christmas pressies!