It was great to open the first box of paperback copies of ‘All or nothing at all’ recently. It looks absolutely grand, and will be published on 15th July 2021.
It is now available to pre-order. Please use your local independent bookseller, who should be able to arrange a pre-order for you. It is already available to re-order directly from Sam Read Bookseller, with the added bonus of them all being signed copies, by my own hand. The pre-order page is at: https://www.samreadbooks.co.uk/product/AllOrNothing/1015
For more information about the book, click the image above (for some cover quotes), or go to my Sandstone Press page.
NB: Hardback copies are likely to be increasingly difficult to get hold of, but a quick check shows several shops and online services still having copies (eg The Big A). I have 5 hardback copies which I am happy to post out (signed if required).
With the next stage of relaxing the Covid lockdown (in England) most bookshops will be re-opening to customers on Monday 12 April. One thing this does mean is that if you haven’t had a chance to have a look at our photographic book ‘Fell and mountain running: through the eye of a lens’ then you can if you visit one of these four brilliant shops:
Do take a look at the book if you get a chance. I am sure you will be delighted with the range and quality of Pete Hartley’s mountain photography. The book can be bought in any of those shops, and can be ordered online from them all, or direct from this link (which has more details of the book itself, plus a review of it from Athletics Weekly).
You can, of course, also get any of my other four fell running books at any of those shops, and also many other good bookshops.
A great in depth review of ‘All or Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland’ has just appeared in the latest Fellrunner magazine. The reviewer concluded that, “it is a fascinating book and also an important book that may over time become recognised as a classic book, not just about the life of a great, and possibly the greatest, fell runner, but that life as lived in the Borrowdale valley”. I’ll take that.
Do have a look at the full 2-page review, which is probably best read by clicking individually on the three scanned images below.
All four of my books can be bought online (at a discount) at Bookshop.
Pete wanted to publish this book before he passed away, but his cancer was far more advanced than he ever wanted to accept. It has been my wish to do it for him at some stage, but had I not had a chance meeting with Steve in November 2019, followed by the announcement of lockdown in March, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened for quite some time. Denise Park
The meeting was because I was looking for a couple of photos for my fourth book (‘All or Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland’). I travelled up to Clitheroe and looked through part of Pete’s huge archive of photos, finding a couple that fit the bill, which Denise was happy for me to include. Just talking casually afterwards Denise mentioned Pete’s book idea. Somehow we came away from our first ever meeting having agreed to collaborate on the book.
Steve agreed to select the images for the book, but before Steve received his ‘digital selection’, I searched though approximately 60,000 images which were on a variety of hard drives, cd’s, memory sticks, slides, negatives, computers and boxes of printed images! Whilst Pete had them all catalogued in his head – I’m sure you will appreciate the enormity of the task.
We soon agreed on some chapter headings and Denise started sending files over by Dropbox in the New Year. To cut a long story short, Covid-19 changed everyone’s situation and we both had a bit of time to work on it. I pitched the idea to a couple of publishers, but neither were interested, thinking it ‘not a seller’. So, we decided to self-publish, and tried a couple of printers for quotes. The second were excellent, and very helpful. They are based in The Lakes, and have the print job set to run in the EU, giving a slightly better lead time.
As I was making decisions about which photos to include I was also writing some contexualising text, and tweaking the captions (mostly from Pete’s file data). I was also working up a rough layout plan to see how many pages it would be for print quote purposes. Having finalised the content and draft layout with Denise, and having had someone proof-read the draft, it is now being laid out professionally by a graphic designer who is also in The Lakes.
We have set up a system for taking pre-orders, as there is a strong possibility of it not being delivered from the printers prior to Christmas. This will allow people to still be able to gift the book.
Once pre-ordered, digital gift vouchers will be made available so you can still give that ideal Christmas present.
The book is hardback, full colour and 200 pages. It is available to pre-order for £25 by emailing your details to: firstname.lastname@example.org
When I saw George Foster had done an brilliant time to record the second fastest Bob Graham Round (BGR) to Kilian Jornet, and had taken 9 minutes off Billy Bland’s 1982 time of 13-53, I was intrigued to know how he had done it, and where in fact he had made that time within the round. I decided to dig into it a bit and see what I could find. [Update: Title and intro edited]
The BGR is nominally broken into 5 legs, with a road crossing where support can be received (if required) at the junction of each of the legs. Knowing that Billy Bland had stopped for a total of 21-minutes at these 4 road crossings on his round, I formed a hypothesis that George could have gained his 9 minutes on Billy all within that 21-minute window. Having access to a full set of splits for both Billy and George’s rounds allowed me to test that hypothesis.
LEG SPLITS: In both cases the split times have been recorded for each leg, and also broken down into each summit to summit sub-section of the route, and for the stops at the road changeovers. This allows one to see the mode of approach of both athletes with regard to stopping en route, and in fact in running the event. A quite remarkable picture emerges.
The following two tables show the accumulated running time for each leg for both runners, and the breakdown of the stoppage times at the changeovers. In the first table the columns show: the leg number, Billy’s cumulative time for running that leg, George’s cumulative time for running that leg, and the difference between the two (-ve is Billy faster, +ve is George faster). Note the stoppage time is NOT included in any of the legs, but accounted for separately (in Table 2).
|Leg number||Billy’s time||George’s time||Difference|
In this table the times at each changeover and the differences are shown.
|Changeover||Billy’s stop time||George’s stop time||Difference|
So, there you have it. According to the splits – Billy ran faster on legs 1 and 5, George ran faster on legs 2 and 4, and on leg 3 (the longest) they took exactly the same amount of time. The cumulative effect is that they both had an exactly equal running time of 13-32. Furthermore, George had two stops longer than Billy, and Billy two longer than George. But crucially George gained that vital 9 minutes overall on account of his whistling through Honister with a mere 1-minute stoppage time.
It might be of interest to revisit Billy’s round to see what that 13-minute stop at Honister was about. Here is how he told it to me when researching ‘All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland’*:
Billy adds: ‘Martin was there on Kirk Fell and I heard him or Joss say, “he is gonna get under 14 hours”. I don’t know whether I was supposed to hear, but I did, and subconsciously we must have just picked up the pace a little. Then coming off Grey Knotts I just ran out of petrol and had to sit down. I was looking at Honister a few hundred yards away and I needed to be down there, but I had gone all dizzy. Changing the pace is definitely something you shouldn’t do, because you will bring on a bad patch. We then spent 13 minutes at Honister sorting me out. I refuelled and off we went again.’
SUMMIT SPLITS: Another way of comparing the two runs is to analyse the individual summit splits. Given that it has already been established that they were both travelling at the same average speed when on the move, it comes as no surprise that of the 43 splits (42 summits plus the run-in to the Moot Hall) that they have a very even spread of fastest splits between them. Billy was fastest over 17 summits and on the long run in to the Moot Hall, whilst George was fastest over 17 summits, and on 8 they were equal. Table 1 (above) shows that the two legs with most difference were Leg 1 with Billy running 7 mins faster, and Leg 4 with George also running 7 minutes faster. These may be explained by a) Billy seeming to start very fast, such that we was faster on all three summits of the leg and the run down to Threlkeld; and b) by Billy having a bad time on the early part of Leg 4, losing a lot of time over Yewbarrow and Red Pike (this was where he had the famous ‘Naylor shake’ from Joss to (allegedly) sort him out of his what might loosely be termed ‘lethargy’. This is how I described the shake situation in the book:
Billy took the story up. ‘Yep, Joss was there too and you [Martin] went to Sail Pass. I got to the top of Yewbarrow and Joss says, “I’ll just give your legs a shake out”. This has become known as the Naylor Shake, which you may have heard about. It is supposed to shake the lactic acid out. There was nowt wrong with my legs, but he wanted to do it anyway!’ You need to imagine Billy Bland lying on his back with his legs in the air for Joss to give them a good shakeout.
The other three legs (2, 3 and 5) were all evenly split and show very little deviation from the average pace for either of them, and also a pretty even distribution of fastest summits between them.
VIRTUAL RACE-OFF: Another way of looking at it is to imagine that they were racing directly against each other. Setting up a virtual race-off with both setting off at the same time gives this resulting ding-dong battle. Billy would be virtually ahead right through to Bowfell, then George would take over to Scafell, Billy slipping ahead till Red Pike (George overtaking him somewhere between Yewbarrow and Red Pike), and George staying ahead all the way to the finish, apart from Billy sneaking ahead for one summit (Brandreth) before losing time on his ‘bonk’ going into Honister.
All of that takes no account of Billy’s stops on the way round (within the legs) – or indeed the time he spent sitting on his arse looking at Honister from the descent of Grey Knotts (see above). Billy claims that he:
‘also met various people on the route, Pete Parkins at Ore Gap, and I remember having sandwiches and coffee with him. Not for a long time, just a minute or so. That was the manner that it was done in. Not like now when people think they can’t stop, I don’t go for that at all.’
I don’t know about George, just noting how Billy went about his BGR. There are also imponderables like the differences in weather conditions, and the change in paths (arguably) making navigation easier. But I do hope you can see why I suggest that George actual ran no faster than Billy.
NOTE: All of this is a bit of fun and no way am I taking anything away from George’s fantastic achievement, which I hope he will be writing up some time soon for us to get his view of the his day on the fells.
* Book details (inc ‘View Inside’): ‘All or Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland [Sandstone Press, 2020]
It was great to be on BBC Radio Cumbria last week. Being interviewed by Helen Millican on her show gave me the chance to talk about my Billy Bland book. Her deft prompting allowed me to waffle on about the gestation of the book, the research, and the writing of it.
Just before I was on, Helen played a short clip of a conversation with Billy Bland she had that week up in Borrowdale, in which he was as entertaining as usual. He explained how he didn’t want to do the book, but never quite got round to saying ‘no’ to the idea, being convinced by wife Ann to go with it.
You can listen to that Billy Bland interview here: https://youtu.be/h000OUx9yw4
I was on after Helen had played ‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen. I didn’t realise at the time how appropriate a track it was – as ‘All or nothing at all’ (the title of the book) is a classic Springsteen track. Furthermore all the chapter titles in the book are Springsteen song titles too. In the interview I hope I was able to put Billy’s running in context with the rest of his life, all lived in the Borrowdale valley.
You can listen to the interview with me here: https://youtu.be/W_bsTru8POk
Over the three days before the book’s publication there is an ‘All or nothing at all’ Blog Tour. Visit the blogs via the links below to find out more about the book and it’s author, and also more about it’s subject and the content of the book. Two blogs will be released on each day of the tour.
On Mon 17 August there are two stops on the tour:
Having seen an advance copy, Paul Foster [@longrunuk] takes us through the process, asking me about the idea, research and writing, and then publication and promotion. It gives a unique insight the stages that I went through to produce this book. See: https://www.longrun.co.uk/articles/all-or-nothing-at-all
Dave Middlemas [@meanwoodrambler] has lived in Borrowdale and takes a look at the changes that in the book Billy Bland highlights that have happened in Borrowdale during his life, which has all been spent living in that valley. See: https://meanwoodrambler.com/?p=4242
On Tue 18 August there are two stops on the tour:
In an instructive piece on his blog, Ed Price highlights what a critical friend is, how important they can be, and how he reacted to being asked to be my critical friend for this book. See: https://medium.com/@edprice/learning-how-to-read-the-trail-8e43431d27dd
Runner and blogger Jeff McCarthy did a probing interview with me, in question and answer format, about: myself, Billy Bland and some of the things that are in the book. See: http://runeatrepeat.co.uk/steve-chilton-interview-on-billy-bland-book-and-bob-graham-round/
On Wed 19 August there are two stops on the tour:
I turned the tables on Boff Whalley and interviewed him, about: getting into fell running, discovering the BGR, and how he suddenly had Billy Bland pacing him on the last leg of his own round. See: http://boffwhalley.com/blog.php
Finally, Ben Mounsey’s blog carries a short edited extract from the book on Billy Bland’s training, what he did, and didn’t do, and some reflections from Ben. See: https://benmounsey.net/2020/08/19/all-or-nothing-at-all/
‘All or nothing at all’ will be published on Thursday 20th August and can be obtained from all good bookshops and online at Amazon. Look out for the live and interactive book launch, on Thursday 20 Aug at 6-30pm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVbuEUURETE&feature=youtu.be
About the book
All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland. Sandstone Press. Format: Hardback. ISBN: 9781913207229. Publication Date: 20/08/2020 RRP: £19.99
All or Nothing At All is the life story of Billy Bland, fellrunner extraordinaire and holder of many records including that of the Bob Graham Round until it was broken by the foreword author of this book, Kilian Jornet. It is also the story of Borrowdale in the English Lake District, describing its people, their character and their lifestyle, into which fellrunning is unmistakably woven.
About the author
Steve Chilton is a runner and coach with considerable experience of fell running. He is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA). He formerly worked at Middlesex University as Lead Academic Developer. He has written three other books: It’s a Hill, Get Over It; The Round: In Bob Graham’s footsteps; and Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. He has written for The Fellrunner, Compass Sport, Like the Wind and Cumbria magazines.
The other day I had a long chat with Boff Whalley, as he is providing one of the stops on the Blog Tour next week to celebrate the launch of my book ‘All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland’. His blog post that results from the chat will cover, amongst other things, the Bob Graham Round (and having Billy Bland as a surprise pacer on his own). Here we cover some of Boff’s recent writing output – for book and stage. As he has much more interesting things to say than I have it is in a series of questions, which he answered willingly. So, here goes, (my words/links in italics):
Photo is a tease for Boff’s Book Blog Tour post – see above
Do you have a writing scheme/schedule/routine?
I do. For songwriting I have to know what it is for. I don’t just walk round with a notepad in my pocket and come up with inspiration. I have to have a subject or a reason to do it. But with writing writing (with books and that) I just find it really difficult to find the time.
Have you been trying to write in lockdown?
What happened is that I have been thinking of writing a book about Gary Devine. It has been on the cards for about two years. I had kind of shelved it as it wasn’t really going anywhere. But when lockdown happened I instantly thought – this is the time to do it. But I hadn’t taken into account home schooling. I have got a ten-year-old and it is just crazy trying to write a book whilst you are responsible for stopping a child from spending all day at a screen! You know, re-learning primary school maths and all that. And doing projects too. Once I am in that space, I presume it is the same for you, I love it. I could sit and write all day if I had the chance.
[STEVE] I find I have to have something to start me off – having talked to someone else, or read something. I hit the task in random patterns. I certainly don’t write logically through a manuscript.
Are you writing what might be seen as a standard biography or trying to write through Gary’s eyes?
A lot of it is quite novelistic, in the sense that I didn’t want it to be just a biography. I am not very good at writing those kind of things. I am not good at the journalism part of everything. I have had lots of discussions with Gary about this. Basically, I said, we will sit down and go through everything, and I can keep asking you lots of questions about facts here and there. Essentially, I want to write this so that it is an exciting story. Not just about running, I want it to be about punk rock, and about the 1980s, and squatting in Leeds and getting iced by the police.
Did you know him before running?
Yes. I knew him vaguely. I knew him from the punk scene and had seen him about. When I went to watch my first fell race, he won it. It clicked and I suddenly thought, yeh that is that guy. I have known him since then.
What band or music did he play?
He was in a band called Pagan Idols. They were absolutely awful. I am sure he would agree with me. They were lovely people and they had really good hearts. They really meant it, and were very loud and extreme.
At this point I checked: Is it OK to mention the book?
I am kinda assuming that no-one is else is gonna write on that subject.
Have you got a publisher?
Yeh. Great Northern Books are publishing it.
At this point we digressed somewhat, which led to an interesting story
I originally planned to write a book about Joss Naylor, but Keith Richardson got there first. Did you know Joss worked at BNFL for a while? An ambassador even, you might call it nowadays.
I think they [BNFL] were very good at keeping the local community happy. They employed loads of people who barely did any work. So, it kept people from complaining about things. It had a nickname, what was it? Something like a ghost job. It meant you turned up and didn’t do anything.
What do you think of the whole GPS tracker/Strava thing?
Steve Bottomley from Pudsey & Bramley was talking about Strava when it first started. He used to wait at the bottom of a hill on his bike and as soon as a lorry came along get in its slipstream and get a good time. Life is too short for that sort of antics. In the early days of GPS trackers for football clubs one manager found that he gave them to his players to show how much training they were doing on their own. He found some of them were attaching the trackers to their dogs.
You have been working on a project called ‘These hills are ours’. What is it?
An 85-mile run from Lancaster down to Kinder Scout was part of the backbone of the story we are telling. It is to do with land rights and land ownership. It is the history of land ownership as told from the standpoint of runners.
Is it a stage show?
It is a theatre thing but not playing characters. It is two of us presenting these ideas and with songs and discussion and things like that. Bits of film even. It gave me an excuse to write a set of 8 or 9 songs about fell running, which I have never done before. Well there was an album about sport on which there are two fell running songs. It was a delight to write these new ones. I really enjoyed it. We had 40-odd dates pencilled in for March to June and they all disappeared with lockdown.
The idea reminds me of Ewan McColl and the ‘Shoals of herring’ song series
Yeh – the radio ballads. They were brilliant. When I first discovered those I thought they were brilliant and I was inspired by them. This is similar. The songs I have written tell the story of different aspects of running and how you feel on certain things – races, and different aspects.
Is your co-creator (Daniel Bye) a songwriter or what?
He is a theatre maker and performance artist. He is a writer as well. But he is also an obsessive runner. Part of the reason we thought we might do a show about it all was because as we talked about it we realised that I have old-fashioned traditionalist attitude to a lot of things about running, whereas he is Mr Heartrate Monitor GPS Watch Strava Segment. He knows the whole thing and that is his world. I so like to wind him up. I bought a sundial watch which I wear when I meet him. The joke is I am playing Billy Bland and he is Kilian Jornet. Our two characters meet with running in the middle.
Link to Daniel’s blog about it: http://www.danielbye.co.uk/these-hills-are-ours.html
Finally, what is your fitness and commitment to running just now.
Just enjoying running at the moment. I am 60 next year so I need to get fit for that. Jack Maitland used to run his age in one go every year on his birthday. Once you get to about 60 it is getting hard. He used to do it over the weekend, so over the weekend when he was 30 he ran 30 miles and drank 30 pints on the Fri-Sun. Just madness.
PS: Just for the record, in lockdown I have been working (intermittently) on three books. One on the Ordnance Survey, one on photography, and one on fell running.
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.
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: https://samread1887.square.site/product/AllOrNothing/1015
Need to show the strength of interest in the book, which on reading an advance copy Adharanand Finn described thus:
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: https://owter.co/collections/running?aff=7