At the beginning of 2020 (before lockdown) I interviewed Kim Collison about his recent Winter Bob Graham Round record*. The interview produced so much excellent material that I was also able to write a long profile of him, which was published over six pages in the Spring Fellrunner magazine.
At the end of the interview I asked him what he thought was likely to be the next challenge for him. In the profile he says that he thinks that probably the Bob Graham is done for him, because:
I know I am not a Kilian Jornet or a Billy Bland so I think 15-47 and in winter stands up for itself.
I ended the profile by just saying: ‘it will certainly be interesting to see what he chooses to challenge himself with next.’
What he had also said at the time, and asked me not to reveal, was this:
Now my focus will be towards other rounds or other Lake District Challenges. Mark Hartell’s 24 hr 77 Lake District Peaks is a possibility. I don’t necessarily want to step on Adam Perry’s toes, who has got so close before.
So, it was not a surprise to see him take on Hartell’s 77 peak record and add one himself, when he went round 78 peaks in less than 24 hours on Sat 11 July 2020, adding in Fleetwith Pike to the previous tally.
I can now confirm that the launch date for my book ‘All of Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland‘ is Thu 20 Aug. I hope you are dying to know what is in the book. But here I want to tell you of some things that are NOT in it, and why.
As I was doing the research for this book, there was a lot of stuff that I accumulated that had no chance of being used – but I filed it anyway. Other material was interesting but off topic. And there were some good images that I chose not to use.
There may have even been something that was potentially libelous, perhaps not surprising as there are some quite outspoken characters in the world of fell running.
One thing I spent quite a lot of time research was rewilding, and in particular the Wild Ennerdale project, whose vision is:
to allow the evolution of Ennerdale as a wild valley for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology
They were thinking of introducing pine martens to the area. We did have a fairly long discussion about it but in the end only a short piece about how Billy somewhat surprised me by not being fully in favour of some of the Wild Ennerdale work.
Another aspect that I thought would be included was an analysis of Billy’s training diaries. At one interview Billy said he had got them them somewhere. When he did find them and he showed me a typical example they were a little disappointing (especially compared the detail shown in diaries of Kenny Stuart and John Wild [and Billy’s nephew Gavin], for instance). There was just a note numbers of miles run each, including weekly cumulative totals. Days often included details of horse racing events too! The image below (which is not in the book) is a summary at the back of one diary, that lists races competed in, with position and a few words in comment – eg Moffat, got lost after 5th checkpoint should of won – and on the opposite page a list of his race finish positions for the 1979, 1980 and 1981 seasons (with 7, 10 and 10 wins respectively).
There were some little snippets that I found interesting that didn’t make it to the final manuscript. For instance, there is a listed building across the field at the bottom of Billy’s garden. It is at Grade II level and is a folly bridge by a footpath. It is a “narrow single-span humped-back bridge”, according to its listing. I also was surprised when Billy and I appeared at the Keswick Mountain Festival in the Theatre by The Lake, when he told me that he had not been in that theatre before.
There was actually a whole chapter taken out of the manuscript right at the end of the writing of the book. I had this idea of trying to get Billy into a lab for physiological testing, as he is still mega fit through his cycling. The whole backstory of that, and some thoughts on ageing and declining lab test scores (such as VO2max) will be the subject of a separate blog, or an article somewhere (if I can get it published). In the end (it was going to be a Postscript chapter) it was taken out and I included a chapter on Kilian Jornet’s BGR record and his meetings and discussions with Billy.
There were several photos that I came upon that were not included in the final set. One that Billy showed me was a photo of Bonny (the horse he fell off as a child), with his uncle Nat bringing in a load of bracken for bedding. Then there was a picture of the Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to Honister Mine (where Billy worked) but not with Billy in the photo.
One photo that I really liked was another that Billy showed me. It is of sheep shearing at Nook Farm, Rosthwaite where Billy was born in 1947. Photo is from 1945 and is Billy’s uncle Nathan (on left) and dad (right). The quality of the photo wasn’t quite up to it being included, unfortunately. I was also uncertain of the copyright details of that photo.
One more, which just made me laugh. It was given to me by Tony Cresswell when I did his interview. He had been involved in Billy’s various BG efforts, and also when he and Billy appeared in a TV program called Survival of the Fittest. This one is of the two of them larking about at the awards presentation for that show, which is covered in detail in the book.
“I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.” This was advice that Maya Angelou offered about the writing process. She was talking in particular about the act of finishing a book. Unaware as I was of this quote at the time, I was uncertain as to when I had finished this book. As noted above, when I thought I had finished I STILL took some things out.
It is a difficult decision sometimes, but after three other books I am beginning to have a feel for what is fluff or inappropriate, or just not adding anything to the story. Having read the above, and hopefully/eventually the book itself, you will perhaps have got a feel for what a writer can go through on the path to telling their particular story.
Note: I wrote an earlier post called ‘When is a book finished’. This was all about the many tasks an author has to be doing, or be involved in, once the manuscript is finished, and before the book can come out.