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In profile: Hugh Symonds

I wanted to do the BGR, I would have really regretted it if I hadn’t. I had half thought of doing it on the way down through the Lakes on my continuous run over all the 3000 foot mountains of Britain and Ireland. Wouldn’t that have been cool?

Hugh Symonds reflected on his career in the fourth article to appear in the Fellrunner under my byline. It resulted from an interview I conducted with him as part of my research for my latest book, Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. After the long and fascinating interview I realised there was more info on Hugh than I needed on his background for the book, so I decided to write a profile of him as well (with his approval, and with some of his photos).

The full article (from the Winter 2016 issue) may be viewed here: [PDF of the article].

The next issue of The Fellrunner will include a piece I have written (with Steve Birkinshaw) on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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Running hard – then and now

Has the perception (and reality) of training/running hard changed over the years? I will be exploring this theme in a discussion with Kenny Stuart and Ben Mounsey in Skipton in October. It should be a brilliant evening as Kenny and Ben are giants in the sport. Kenny ruled fell running for a period in the 1980s, and Ben is one of the finest exponents currently, but they have quite different backgrounds, as I will explain shortly.

duenorththreeAt the talk, which I will be MCing, we will all be discussing, amongst other things:
Comparisons – between the two eras – as noted Kenny and Ben are from different fell running eras – the then and now.
Training – the what, where, when – we will compare their training – again then and now. They are very different people living very different lives. I am sure the audience will be especially interested to know what Kenny used to do in his prime. One major difference is that Kenny’s training was manually recorded (and he still has the detailed training diaries) and  Ben is a Strava addict and records all his training digitally in the public domain.
Work, training, life – a balancing act – This will link in with the previous topic about training – Ben says his training is very much controlled and driven by work/life balance; Kenny’s was too really, although work was kind of ‘organised around’ training.
Fell running – individual or team sport – The team ethic of fell running applies to both club and general camaraderie. It’s also something Ben is quite passionate about as he does lots for the team CVFR (and Kenny’s Keswick AC have just become fell champs for the first time since his days!). I think it’s part of what makes fell running so special.

We will also take questions from the audience, so will also cover: Experiences/races – a good opportunity to ask Kenny and Ben specifics about their training, and about their favourite fell running experiences, races and memories. Imagine yourself sat in the audience and being able to ask a legend anything that you want to know about their training or their lifestyles.

A little about the speakers:

kennystuartKenny Stuart is one of those people that the much bandied about tag of ‘legend’ really does apply. Ben Mounsey had this to say about him (on his blog when they met for a filming event): ‘He is one of my heroes and arguably the greatest fell runner of all time. During his incredibly successful career he set a number of truly outstanding records, many of which will never be broken. He was also British champion in 1984 and 1985 and among the records he set in those years were 1:02:18 at Skiddaw, 1:25:34 at Ben Nevis, and 1:02:29 at Snowdon. A truly inspirational man.’ Born and raised in Cumbria his life story is told (along with that of another legend, John Wild) in my latest book, ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’.

benmounseyBen Mounsey (according to his own blog) is ‘a 35 year old runner from mighty Yorkshire who loves nothing more than spending time on the fells and trails. I compete for Calder Valley Fell Runners and Stainland Lions and during my career I’ve been lucky enough to represent Yorkshire, England and Great Britain at mountain running.’ As a sign of the times he is also supported by Inov-8, Mountain Fuel, Suunto and Back To Fitness Physiotherapy. His performances include: UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Champion 2016, 3rd in the English Fell Running Championship 2016, Represented England 5 times and Great Britain in the World Mountain Running Championships in 2015 and the European Mountain Running Championships in 2016.

1987_LoughriggSteve Chilton is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA) and a qualified athletics coach with considerable experience of fell running, and a marathon PB of 2-34-53.  In a long running career I have run in many of the classic fell races, as well as mountain marathons and has also completed the Cuillin Traverse. My work has been published extensively, particularly in academia through my role as Chair of the Society of Cartographers. I co-edited Cartography: A Reader (a selection of over 40 papers from the archive of The Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers, the Society’s respected international journal). My third book ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’ (from Sandstone Press) was published on 16 February 2017, and has been nominated for the Boardman-Tasker Award. The second book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’ was published on 17 September 2015; and my first ‘It’s a hill, get over it’ won the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition,  and was short-listed for the TGO Outdoor Book of the Year.

duenorthlogoThe talk will be held on 27 October at 19:00–21:00 at the Rendezvous Hotel, Keighley Road, Skipton. All 3 of my books will be for sale at reduced prices.

The event is organised by due North, and you can sign up for the event here.

Snowdon: with Kenny and John

As part of the 42nd International Snowdon Race I will be giving a talk, along with Kenny Stuart and John Wild, at the Electric Mountain. It is after the race at 3-30pm to 5pm on Saturday 15th July 2017. It is free to attend, with voluntary donations to Snowdon Giving.Snowdon talk iamge

Kenny, John and myself will all be sharing our fell running experiences, with particularly emphasis on the Snowdon race, which we have all competed in (OK, me rather less well than them, I will admit!).

There will be a Q&A session at the end of the talk, and a chance to purchase signed copies of all three of my books in the Fell Running Trilogy, all on offer at special prices for this event.

More reviews of Running Hard

It was pleasing to see Running Hard in a list of 8 ‘Top outdoors books for a great summer read’ published in Scotland’s Sunday Mail recently, along with Hamish Brown’s Walking the Song. The full list can be seen on the Fiona Outdoors blog.

The Fellrunner also carried a full page review in the issue just out, by someone (whom I didn’t know) who was at the book launch in Keswick. It included: “Steve Chilton has penned another masterpiece expounding a unique period of fell running history” and also “…. this is a thoroughly engaging read. It opens your eyes to just how good Kenny, John and many other runners of the day were, but also reveals their human qualities. You often feel as though you’re right there on their shoulders as they run up impossible inclines or fly fearlessly down treacherous descents.” As the Fellrunner is a subscription magazine (of the Fell Runners Association), and not available to all to read, the full review is available as a link from image to the right (click to enlarge).

The most recent review on Amazon concluded that it was NOT: “just a book for the Fell running purists it tells a story that crosses all disciplines of athletics Fell, Road, Track, and Cross Country. The book has been meticulously researched ………. get a copy of this book read and think about chapter 8. Having the guts to commit. I think it epitomises these ordinary men but extraordinary athletes. All runners of all abilities will benefit from reading this book. A truest inspirational read.” Nice to see, as would any more Amazon reviews – if anyone cares to add one. Authors always appreciate them, but do be honest.

[Other reviews of the book, and also The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps and It’s a hill, get over it are available on this blog’s Reviews page]

Running Hard in Sheffield

Really looking forward to the first ‘Running Hard’ book talk, at Ecclesall Library, Sheffield – tomorrow (Thu 6 April) at 7pm, as part of the Multi-Story Library Festival, with support from Rhyme and Reason bookshop.

I am now setting up further talks/events as follows: at the Snowdon International Race on Jul 12th; with The Little Bookshop in Ripon (TBC); in conjunction with Pete Bland Sports (TBC); and possibly with Abingdon AC. [Let me know if your running club, bookshop or organisation would like to host an event.]

Downhill from here

I have now been asked on two occasions to read an author’s manuscript, with a view to providing a cover or publicity quote. I don’t mind doing so, but also insist on my right to not do so if I don’t think the manuscript merits it. Recently I read Gavin Boyter’s Downhill from here: running from John O’Groat’s to Land’s End.

In the book Gavin admits to having had spells of deep depression, and also to suffering with hypermobility (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). He tells the story of seeking a major challenge and using his film-making skills to record it, and then write about it. Having made one (not especially successful) short film, he used an unlicenced quadcopter and a GoPro to make the film version of his JOGLE [see ‘The Long Run’ film trailer].  There are tales of some entertaining navigation errors, which are interspersed with good childhood memories. He also makes some personal points about running being ‘me time’ to him, and using it as a ‘brain reboot’, and his ‘life work’, as he approached his middle forties.

Reading another account of a JOGLE may not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it very entertaining. Gavin was not the first nor fastest (as he readily admits), but he did at least go down the Pennine Way and chose a pretty interesting route in many places. It is also very good on the problems faced by ultra running efforts such as this.

passport scans051Originally I provided two possible quote which were something like: “Good on the realities of running (and filming on the go) a JOGLE, and also the great de-stressing benefits of it”, and ” Entertaining navigation mishaps are interspersed with good childhood stories”.  They were combined in the one shown above (which is on the back cover), and also cut down to a single word quote on the book’s font cover. Happy to accept that the publicist knew best!

‘Downhill from here’ is published on 20 April. Info on the book launch at Waterstones.

Running Hard – London launch

The London launch for ‘Running Hard’ was held at Middlesex University on Mon 20 Feb. Highlights of proceedings are available on 4 short videos. Will ‘Critical Friend’ Morris introduces me wittily in the first clip.

There are then two clips of me rambling through two readings from the book.

Finally an interesting Q&A session ensued, wandering off topic sometimes maybe, but seemed to be enjoyed by most (and certainly was by me).

JohnWatlaunchDespite arriving late, John Wild then gave an informal chat to those present, and signing copies of the book for everyone, before some of us headed for The Greyhound to unwind.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening, which nicely complemented the Keswick launch two days beforehand. I am now off to consider what to write next! [Huge thanks to my friend Angus Macdonald for coming along to video the event, and for editing the resulting material]

All my books can be obtained from Amazon, and Running Hard and The Round can be found in all good book shops.