Archive | October 2021

Six running/sport book reviews

Relentless: Secrets of the Sporting Elite
by Alistair Brownlee 5*

Alistair Brownlee (and his named co-author) have compiled a very interesting account of what drives people at the top of their sport, and all the hard work they have to put in. He has used his priviledged position to interview many top sports people, some of whom may be something of a surprise. The two most interesting chapters for me were on Kilian Jornet (and how he has balanced his love of different sports and life itself), and the one on failing, in which he points out many top sportsmen do much more than they succeed. Brownlee also embeds some of is own experiences, and anecdotes, which give a good counterpoint to his interviewee’s stories, which give great insights into being the best you can.

Faster! Louder! How a punk rocker from Yorkshire became British Champion fell runner
by Boff Whalley 5*

A fascinating book about a very interesting character, who managed to combine a punk lifestyle with being a champion fell runner. What makes it so believable is that Boff was also in the same music scene, and was a clubmate of Devine’s. He was there and did it, on both fronts. He has a delightfully honest explanation of the problem of recalling situations or conversations of yore. His answer to that is explained early in the book, when he says to Devine: “…. the bits you can’t remember, the conversations and the details and all that – I’ll make those bits up.” I really like Boff’s relaxed writing style and thoroughly recommend the book.

Joss Naylor’s Lakes, Meres and Waters of the Lake District: Loweswater to Over Water: 105 miles in the footsteps of a legend
by Vivienne Crow 5*

A beautiful book on just one aspect of Joss Naylor’s amazing legacy. His run around the lakes, meres and waters was undertaken in 1983. He recently re-walked most of it (he is now in his 80s), accompanied by photographer Stephen Wilson and author Vivienne Crow. Naylor relives moments from the day and comments on the landscape and nature that surrounds him, including the changes that he notices. The book is enhanced by some photos from the original round, and benefits from a generous and well-designed layout, that shows off Wilson’s photos well. It was an amazing achievement back in the day, and the book is a brilliant re-telling of the tale.

Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists
by Michael Hutchinson 4*

A very thorough and detailed book, which I found fascinating. Hutchinson writes in a style that conveys fairly complex and scientific ideas in an engaging way that aids understanding. Enormous amounts of detail about all the science, and technology (and more offbeat ideas) that have been tried in order to go faster. A serious read, which is not meant to be a training guide. But you will have a better understanding of the concept of marginal gains and how they might be harnessed for your own good.

The Meaning Of Sport
by Simon Barnes 3*

Simon Barnes understands his sport and its meaning and importance in society. He writes very effectively on the subject. The book does jump about between different sporting events, but somehow it remains coherent. He’s particularly good on boxing, which he hates, but has had to report on. He argues that it relies for its success on the deliberate infliction of irreversible brain damage. He adopts the term ‘Redgrave’ as a measure of sporting greatness, which is quite neat and justified too. A wide ranging and good background read.

Coasting: Running Around the Coast of Britain – Life, Love and (Very) Loose Plans
by Elise Downing 3*

I have read several similar stories about long runs. This had a certain honesty and a rolling sense of humour. It certainly made you feel the ups and downs (metaphorically and literally) of such a journey. On the negative side it was hard to believe that someone could be so ill-prepared prior to the trip, and yet still not learn lessons required to get along better as she progressed.


NB: if you want to see some reviews of my latest book (All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland) then go to my reviews page:
The book is a biography of iconic fell runner Billy Bland, and is full of great quotes from him, including “One leg past t’other – that is all running is”