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Why pre-order books?

A short reminder of why readers pre-ordering books can be SO important to authors, publishers and booksellers.

The publishing industry is in some difficulty – printing, distribution and selling are seriously disrupted. Publishers are cutting books from their schedules, and some are nervous about printing and publishing those already in their schedules. Authors will have put a lot of themselves into telling their stories. The strength of pre-orders can really help make books happen.

If you have a mind to buy my forthcoming book on running icon Billy Bland then please pre-order it now:
Need to show the strength of interest in the book, which on reading an advance copy Adharanand Finn described thus:

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Thanks from me to all those that have already pre-ordered it, and to the friends who have tweeted or Facebooked (is that a word?) about it.

NB: This applies to any book due to come out soon. If you think you will want to read it then place a pre-order (preferably with an indie book supplier) and support the author, and help the book industry to keep afloat in these difficult times.

PS: you can buy my first three running books (all discounted) at:

Book recommendation #3

Owter is a new book service which helps authors get a better return on their book sales. I will be recommending good running and outdoor books via my page on the site.

RiseoftheultrasThe third recommendation is Adharanand Finn’s ‘The Rise of the Ultra Runners’, in which he goes to the heart of the sport to find out if it is an antidote to modern life – and to see if he could become an ultra runner himself. His journey took him from the deserts of Oman to the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, and on to his ultimate goal, the 105-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.

When I reviewed it I described it thus:

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 our how they do it and cope with the rigours of such a tough sport. A solid five stars.

Why not give it a read?  It can be purchased directly from Owter at:

All three of my running books are also available from the same link (all currently reduced).

Writing: some more running stuff

A few more short/medium reads for lockdown time. This lot are fell-running related pieces from my blog, a couple of which were published. Click the highlighted links to read. Hope you find something to enjoy.

Do increasing numbers run on fells – to escape the urban environment?
Connections: A Wainwright, B Graham, H Munro – endurance challenges
Thoughts on maps and navigation – an article from Fellrunner [PDF]
Good game. A BGR from the roadside – supporting a friend’s day on t’fells
Peak performance: Jasmin Paris – on her new BGR record [2 PDFs]
Future of fell/mountain running – will the Africans take over?
Men’s fell race records – what are the oldest ones, and who holds them?
Got them navigation blues – some famous fellrunners (on) getting lost
BGR completion rates is 42.2% – a brief analysis of the recent data
Women’s completions for BGR – a follow-up on women’s completion rate

Writing: some running stuff

didireallywritethatIn this difficult time of covid-19 lockdown folk might be looking for something more to read that is not about the virus and my be more positive or point to good times to come. Listed below are links to some of my writing – on running – mostly blog posts, but sometimes published externally:

The dark art of coaching – ‘Like the Wind’ article [PDF]
Memories [of running days] – ‘Like the Wind’ article [PDF]
Chronic fatigue syndrome – 4 case studies (in Fellrunner) [PDF]
An antidote to life’s worries – some challenges [blog]
Coached or uncoachable – thoughts on training [blog]
Dave Wilcock at the World Indoors – only Gold in Portland [blog]
There is no right way to train for a marathon – thoughts [blog]
Anatomy of a training session – group session breakdown [blog]
The marathon, unrelenting beast – Comm Games and Boston ’18 [blog]
A tale of two marathons – coach’s view of 2 marathons [blog]

Book recommendation #2

Owter is a new book service which helps authors get a better return on their book sales. I will be recommending good running and outdoor books via my page on the site.

muircoverThe second is Jonny Muir’s ‘The Mountains are Calling’, in which he considers the origins of running in the hills, the beauty of it, and also the recent commercialisation of the sport (which definitely grates with him and some with whom he speaks). It fully justifies its longlisting for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. When I reviewed it I described it thus:

The first point to make about Jonny Muir’s book is the clarity and quality of his writing. The book’s subject is ‘running in the high places of Scotland’ which gives him a huge scope, range and landscape to cover. It is significant that he lives in this environment, and runs in it, for pleasure and competition. But it is the people that he meets and their stories that give such a great counterpoint to his own experiences that fascinated me most. Muir Running through the narrative, but not dominating it, is the Charlie Ramsay Round, which he seems fated to attempt – and finally does. His chapter titles are well chosen and three will suffice to give both a feel for the subject (Mountain Madness) and yet Muir’s feeling for hill running (Beautiful Madness; and Epiphany).

Why not give it a read?  It can be purchased directly (currently with £2 discount) at:

All three of my running books are also available from the same link (two also reduced).

Owter. Buy direct. Help authors

Owter is a new book service which helps authors get a better return on their book sales. I will be recommending good running and outdoor books via my page on the site.

NoMapFirst is Steve Birkinshaw’s ‘There is No Map in Hell’, which tells in gory detail the story of his successful Running the Wainwrights record run of 2014. It fully justifies its nomination for the Lakeland Book of Year (2017). When I reviewed it I described it thus:

He modestly describes the toll it takes as his body gradually disintegrates over the seven days, and also the difficulties the fatigue gives him afterwards. If you like extreme challenges, this is a brilliant unravelling of the preparation and effects of Steve’s navigation to and through hell.

Why not give it a read?  It can be purchased directly (currently with £2 discount) at:

All three of my running books are also available from the same link (two also reduced).

Reflections on Virtual Running


This last week has seen the instigation of a Virtual National Road Relay Championships. It was setup by James McCrae, with the  hope that it would encourage some keen competition for runners in this time of coronavirus lockdown. Rules included:

Run through the innovative OpenTrack platform, athletes will run a 5km leg in their local area, measured by their GPS watch. They will then upload this to the central results platform, which will update over the five days, allowing athletes and team managers to compare performances. The event strictly enforces a run solo rule, as well as discouraging athletes from running in busy areas, to comply with the government restrictions in place.

My club, Barnet and District AC, publicised it internally and we had 14 men and 13 women entered by the closing date. The individual times recorded are not especially relevant here, but for information we had our Men’s team in 108th (12 to score); our Women 37th (6 to score); our Women Vets 13th (6 to score); and the club’s Des Michael was fastest m70 and Karen Murphy second fastest w50.

What is more important, and the reason for this blog post was the reaction of those that took part. On one of our club WhatsApp channels I asked for any feedback, and the following are some of the soundbites that came through from some of those who had run:

“brought us together as a team”
“I also got some weird looks”
“trying to find flat ground with no wind in Cornwall”
“in club vest, trying to perform of the team”
“hard to get legs turning at race pace at 7am”
“impetus to continue with my training”
“in racing time trials on a bike you know there is someone in front and behind”
“harder to upload the Strava data than run the time”

As well as these comments, two athletes chose to offer longer and more considered reflections a day or so after the event, and these are included in full, as they give a real feel for what doing (and preparing for) the event was like:

20170325_143149Alex Horton, Barnet and District ………… I was genuinely surprised to find myself really quite nervous beforehand. I went through the motions of warming up, stretching, doing strides, drills etc, treating it just like I would a road race. Game face on. The only difference being that no one else was there! I thought about how hard some of the guys I would otherwise have been racing would have pushed themselves in their efforts. Took inspiration from the thought they were pulling themselves inside out in their time trials. Visualised burying myself in exactly the same way over the closing kilometre. It was a novel feeling to someone that has been racing for the best part of 20 years and, even though as is often the way with racing; I didn’t get the time I wanted, I loved every second of it!         

alexl2Alex Lepretre, Highgate Harriers …… One of the most obvious differences about a virtual 5k is that there’s not one standardised course, so the first question for me was where to run it. North London (especially Highgate area) isn’t blessed with the flattest of terrain so options were limited. The Emirates stadium has a nice flat loop but it’s also a GPS blackspot, massively overestimating the distance you run so it would have given a very generous time. I thought that was a bit against the spirit of the event so opted for Regent’s Park instead. One loop of the Outer Circle is 2.75m so it would be just over one lap. Rob Wilson from Highgate kindly went before me and scoped out a start point which would benefit from the most downhill so I ended up copying him. It was a bit of an odd feeling walking up to the (virtual) start line as even though no one else there would have known I was there for a race, I still felt a bit of pressure knowing my time would be going up online for everyone to see and compare against. I think the nerves took their toll a bit as I went out a bit quick, clocking a 2:45 first km and 4:28 first mile, and from there it was just a matter of holding on. Had a friend from CONAC who I often train with who had done it the day before and run 14:38 so I had a target to beat. I stopped the watch at 14:34 so I considered that job done. I quite enjoyed the format of the competition and with the race being held over a few days, team positions changed throughout the course of the event, and it certainly added to the excitement. While the current lockdown continues, I would certainly be keen to enter a few more virtual races, but that being said, I’m definitely looking forward to when races resume again and you can race side-by-side with your friends and then grab a beer with them afterwards, either in celebration or commiseration.   

What did I think? I enjoyed the build-up, the banter, watching people recce routes (via Strava), and the times as they gradually popped up on the results page.

Could the idea be adapted for other events? Probably, although anyone else taking the idea forward would need to be very sure they had a good server infrastructure in place, and an intuitive and resilient entry portal.

What other events might be possible? Well, things like the Herts County Relays, other road relays, and even events like the Spring Midweek Road Race Relay that we have locally here. We discussed the latter very briefly on our WhatsApp group, but it does have longer distances (normally 10k) and quite large club presences for a local event (would some club runners be disadvantaged by the tech requirements, perhaps?).

What do you think? Reflections on the Virtual National Road Relay, or on other potential events that might be held, may be left in the blog comments or on Twitter.

Event website: