What have been my most viewed blog posts over the last 4 years

I thought it might be interesting to see which of the blog posts seemed to strike a chord best, and were thus the most viewed each year since this blog has been going. [For the purposes of this review I am necessarily ignoring the homepage, which always shows up as the highest in the hit stats, yet obviously varies as new posts are published.]

For the first year (2013) it was a blog entitled Why I wrote ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, in which I give some background to how I came to write my first book, having as it seemed no previous inclination to do any such thing.

By the second year (2014) I had started thinking that I should write about almost anything BUT the books I was writing. So, the most viewed that year was Are we now a cafe society? Some of my favourites …. – a subject I had actually thought vaguely of writing a book about!

In 2015 my second book (The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps) came out, and I wrote a blog about my experience of supporting a friend’s Round, as a sort of tie in. Good game – a BGR from the roadside support viewpoint was the most viewed posting of that year.

By 2016 I was writing more blog posts (and books!), averaging a post every 3 weeks. The most popular of the year was about attending an amazing event at Brathay Hall to celebrate Joss Naylor’s 80th birthday. Evening with Joss, Billy and Kenny has been the most viewed post of all, so far.

This year I have mostly blogged about the third book (Running Hard) and it is a post entitled The Fell Running Trilogy that is the front runner at the moment.

 

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Some thoughts on hosting your own book launch

Having recently organised the launch event for my book ‘Running Hard’, and also attended the launch of Steve Birkinshaw’s ‘There is no map in hell’, I decided I would jot down some thoughts on the two events, and consider the good and less good points about ‘doing it yourself’. Hopefully it will provide some pointers for anyone else going down this path.

Although my launch was setup by myself* and Steve’s by his publisher, there were many similarities in style and feel of the two events. Both were held in the Lake District in fairly intimate venues, and were great successes, as I hope the following descriptions will show.

My launch:
The Skiddaw Hotel, Keswick on Saturday 18 Feb 2017

runninghardlaunchThe venue was originally going to be the Moot Hall (which I had used for the launch of The Round) but it turned out to be unavailable, which was a bonus in the end as the audience probably wouldn’t have fitted in there! The room in the Skiddaw Hotel as very good, with projection facilities, and sound amplification (which we abandoned as it distorted badly). Being in a hotel we weren’t able to provide food or drinks, which I had brought in before at the Moot Hall, but that turned out to not be an issue. Several attendees availed themselves of the nearby bar, and I had a coffee and a glass of water.

I wanted it to be a free event, but we had the support of local bookshop Bookends, who advised me to sell tickets, which we agreed on being a nominal £2 cost. They provided two staff who bought in a load of copies of the book (and some of my other two books). The agreement was that I would get the entry fees and they would keep the money from book sales. This meant that the fees and the money from the publisher paid for the room hire, with just enough over to buy the first round in the pub afterwards!

The venue worked well, having plenty of space. Although we pretty much filled all the chairs they had others to bring out if required. There was plenty of room at the front for anyone who was going to speak, and best of all was that we had it booked for two hours which gave time and space for networking before and after the event, and crucially plenty of space for selling books, which we also did before and after the event. There was also plenty of space for personalised signing of books, which I did mostly by wandering around letting people catch me for autographs.

smallsteveThe tone of the event was set by my long standing friend (and mountain marathon and climbing partner) Mike Cambray, who introduced me, with some Shakespeare thrown in. He also organised a lovely gesture of getting attendees to sign a card with their thoughts at the end of the event, which I cherish greatly. For myself, I talked about the book, and read a couple of passages from it (the first time in 3 launches that I have chosen to do that). I was very fortunate to be able to get both the main protagonists from the book to be there and they both had the floor at different times to say a few words. The one mistake I made was not prompting people during the event that there be a chance for questions later on, as that part of the event never really got off the ground. But it was a great event, and particularly nice to chat with some of the top fell runners who had taken the time out to attend the launch.

* My publisher (Sandstone Press) is in the far north of Scotland, so it was not really practical for them to arrange and attend the launch. They did provide part-funding for the event.

Steve Birkinshaw’s launch:
Wilf’s café, Staveley, Thursday 18 May 2017

SteveBlaunchThe venue was the fantastic Wilf’s café (in Staveley), which was even more intimate than my hotel one, and we were well packed in. Wilf’s had provided good snacks, and wine or soft drinks were also available. On the train on my way up that afternoon I had daydreamt about a pint or two from the next door Hawkshead Brewery, but sadly they weren’t involved.

Two staffers from Sheffield-based publisher Vertebrate were there to coordinate the event and sell books. They had chosen to make tickets available online for £6, and achieved a full house of enthusiastic attendees. The venue worked well, with the food and drink (and mingling) in one room and the talks in another, which suffered from having an annoyingly loud air con system, which couldn’t seem to be quietened.

Steve was introduced by race organiser Shane Ohly, who set the set scene well, before handing over to Steve, who told some stories about the lead-up to the Wainwrights attempt, with really great slides to illustrate his discourse. At two points he handed over to his attempt coordinator, and then to his wife Emma, who gave their perspectives on what it was like to see Steve suffering so much during the 6 days. Steve then took questions, which produced an interesting range, from food, through sleep, to where the book title had come from.

It was good to meet a couple of friends from the fell running scene and to hear about the Wainwrights event and its after effects on Steve himself, and also to chat with the Vertebrate crew about their business and publishing ethos. For more about the launch event see this Vertebrate blog.

For more on my launch – and the secondary launch later on in London see:
The Keswick launch, Videos from the Keswick launch and London launch.

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]

World Coal Carrying Champs

This Easter Monday saw the holding of the 52nd World Coal Carrying Champs (http://www.gawthorpemaypole.org.uk/). Each year men and women race the streets of Gawthorpe carrying huge sacks of coal. The event consists of Men’s, Women’s and Children’s races. Men carry 50kg (8 stone) of coal and women 20kg. Races start from the Royal Oak public house, Owl Lane, Ossett and continue for a distance of 1012 metres to the finish line at the Maypole Green in Gawthorpe village (your time is recorded when your sack of coal hits the village green).

The fastest time this year was 4 minutes and 31 seconds by Andrew Corrigan, and the record for the event is 4 min 6 secs by David Jones from 1991. Now think about that for a moment. If you ever train on a track for speedwork you will probably do 1000m reps at some point. The athletes (and they are of a very good standard) that I coach will routinely do a session of 5 x 1000m (just short of the length of the coal race) and complete them in anything from 2-50 to 3-40. The record holder would not be far off the back of my group. They might look a bit out of place at the track, and certainly wouldn’t be able to complete the set of 5 reps at that pace.

This all came to mind because I mentioned the event in ‘It’s a hill, get over it’, suggesting that way back the event used to be held in conjunction with the Kendal Gathering Gala Sports. I mentioned it as I noted that it was won on one occasion by a fell runner – professional ‘guides’ racer Steve Parsons. Just recently I had a polite email about the book, commenting on this statement, that went:

“Just one minor mistake I noticed. In one of the early chapters (on guides races), the athlete who also won the coal carrying championship was not Steve Parsons, but Reuben Parsons. How do I know? It’s my dad. He was the World Coal Carrying Champion in 1972/3. After milking 100 cows in the morning, he rode over the Pennines from Cumbria on his motorbike, to Gawthorpe. Won the 1 mile uphill course, carrying a hundredweight of coal and then got back in time to milk the cows in the evening. He did hold the course record, until the course/route was changed. As a guides racer, he never won Grasmere, but did win Ambleside. He used to tell me that he could run all the way to the top of the Ambleside course, but he used to get full of nerves at Grasmere and never ran well there, (his best was a 4th).”

This message was from Johnny Parsons, who used to run for Pudsey and Bramley and now lives in Lima (Peru). He sent a follow-up email that corrected his earlier one, saying: “Spoke to my dad today, it was 1970 & 1971. I got it wrong with the course change, it was actually a weight change; dropping from a hundredweight to 50kg (~2lbs difference). Dad practised by running up & down the farm lane with a hundredweight of animal feed in a sack. He is a lot shorter, stockier & stronger than me. I’m a lanky 6’4″ with a glass back, so I never tried the coal race, but a lot of fellrunners have.”

The Gawthorpe event website carries the following history of the event: ‘At the century-old Beehive Inn situated in Gawthorpe the following incident took place one day in 1963. Reggie Sedgewick and one Amos Clapham, a local coal merchant and current president of the Maypole Committee, were enjoying some well-earned liquid refreshment whilst stood at the bar lost in their own thoughts. When in bursts one Lewis Hartley in a somewhat exuberant mood. On seeing the other two he said to Reggie, ”Ba gum lad tha’ looks buggered!” slapping Reggie heartily on the back. Whether because of the force of the blow or because of the words that accompanied it, Reggie was just a little put out. ‘’Ah’m as fit as thee’’ he told Lewis, ‘’an’ if tha’ dun’t believe me gerra a bagga coil on thi back an ‘ah’ll get one on mine an ‘ah’ll race thee to t’ top o’ t’ wood !’’ (Coil, let me explain is Yorkshire speak for coal). While Lewis digested the implications of this challenge a Mr. Fred Hirst, Secretary of the Gawthorpe Maypole Committee (and not a man to let a good idea go to waste) raised a cautioning hand.” ‘Owd on a minute,’’ said Fred and there was something in his voice that made them all listen. ‘Aven’t we been looking fer some’at to do on Easter Monday? If we’re gonna ‘ave a race let’s ‘ave it then. Let’s ‘ave a coil race from Barracks t’ Maypole.’’(The Barracks being the more common name given by the locals to The Royal Oak Public House)’

This raised some doubts in my mine as to whether I had got it wrong. In a search for more info I contacted Kenny Stuart, as he had been running on the pro scene in this era. He replied that he, “has a newspaper article  from 1978 which states Steve Parsons won the coal carrying race [at Kendal]. He was a guides racer from Halifax who came to work in Cumbria in hotels. and was coached by Harry Harper.” At the same time I contacted another former pro racer, Mark Mclincy, as he knows his history of this aspect of the sport. He confirmed some details of the Kendal Gathering Gala Sports, including the fact that it included a fell race from Kendal to Benson Knott and back. He also gave me the contact details for Johnny Morgan, who organised the Kendal Gala Sports back in the day.

Last night I spoke to Johnny Morgan (who is in his 80s) and he confirmed that the Gawthorpe event was the original event, which started in 1964. Morgan finished second in the event one year, and fancied setting up something similar. So, he instigated another event at the Kendal Gala in 1972, which didn’t last so long. It was over 880 yards, on grass, again with a hundredweight of coal. Morgan remembers Steve Parsons also winning the Benson Knott fell race at the Gala, and also that there used to be big bank holiday Galas at Penrith and Keswick. He also told a story of one event not being able to obtain coal sacks. so they used grain sacks instead, which was all very well until one sack sprung a leak and the athlete left a train of grain as they progressed – his sack getting lighter as he went.

The discourse concluded with a further comment from Johnny Parsons in Peru: ‘My Dad isn’t aware of the other race, nor of Steve Parsons. He’d heard of the Gawthorpe race and so started training for it (as it didn’t clash with any guides races). The Gawthorpe (to Ossett, deepest, darkest West Yorkshire) race was an uphill mile, carrying a hundredweight of coal. Shortly after he won it, the course was changed. I saw a report of the race from this year and it is considerably shorter.’ Then surprisingly, he commented that: ‘Obviously the Cumbria race would have been much closer as my Dad lived and worked in Levens, near Kendal (South Lakes), but as he’d never heard of it, he went across the Pennines instead.’

A little further research brought out the fact that Johnny Morgan was a pretty good runner himself, and he also instigated the Kendal Winter League, which started in 1972 with the Benson Knott fell race, a cross country event in Kendal, and a road race at Burneside; and which is now much expanded and a major series of local races. There is a profile of Johnny Morgan on the Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show website.

So, there we have it, two (and more) competing events. The Gawthorpe event was the original and now boasts the ‘World title’. Anyone reading this with memories, or stories, of these events is welcome to share them as a comment. Meanwhile, have a look at the video from this year’s Gawthorpe event.

 

On tour – Running Hard in Sheffield and the Lakes

The talk at Ecclesall Library in Sheffield Libraries’ Multi Story Festival on April 6th seemed to go well, plenty of interaction and interesting questions (and a good few books sold). The photos show the audience, and myself answering questions and signing books. [For other book talks/events see here] I also called in at the excellent Outside shop in Hathersage and signed copies of my books there.

We went on to the Lakes for a spot of relaxing, and Wainwright bagging (below on Holme Fell), before going to Fred Holdsworth (Ambleside), Sam Read (Grasmere, left) and Bookends (Keswick) to sign their stock of books. It was gratifying to see that all three shops were stocking all three of my books, and say that Running Hard is selling well.

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.