Tag Archive | Billy Bland

Billy biography is in paperback

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).

Pysiological testing of athletes

I have written a short article with some thoughts on testing of athletes, particularly with regard to older athletes and issues around that aspect. It was prompted by a desire to get a leading Veteran athlete into a lab and have them tested – both as a measure of their base physiology and also to hopefully use the data to help their current training.

The full article, entitled ‘Some thoughts on physiological testing of athletes’, is available to read – as a PDF file/download.

Postscript (from Yannick Bianchini, in response to the article): In physiology, there are 3 factors useful in predicting performance. One’s VMA/VO2max is one. Then endurance (time capable of sustaining an effort), and finally running economy. In that last factor, you can include mental ability, like you said in the article. Adding to that mental ability, the fact of being capable of turning negative into positive, and keeping a very low RPE (rated of perceived exertion) is nowadays beginning to be almost the most important aspect in endurance sports. The best example is Eliud Kipchoge, who did not have the best physiological results when they were testing and choosing runners for the Nike project. But he had the most potential mentally, that’s why he was chosen. [Thanks for the comment, Yannick]

NB: Thanks to Jim Johnston for sending me an interesting article entitled ‘Maximal Aerobic Capacity Testing of Older Adults: A Critical Review’, which gives some interesting background to the topic. It is quite an academic piece so I have not included it here, but can send it on to anyone who is interested – just ping me.

Yay! Bookshops re-opening

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:

Bookends (Keswick and Carlisle), Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere), Fred Holdsworth (Ambleside) and Pete Bland Sports (Kendal).

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.

Blog 2020: most visited pages and most downloaded content

It seems a good time to review this blog from the weird year that was 2020. As it happens, I did the normal number of blog posts over the year, almost three per month.Two other stats: referals came from Facebook at a 5:1 ratio over Twitter (which surprised me, except that Twitter is one account, whereas I can post notifications in a number of FB Groups). Visitor’s came from 75 different countries, with USA and Ireland being distant second and third places behind the UK.

MOST VISITED PAGES

The third most visited page on the blog was actually one from March 2019. It was on some of the shenanigans from the professional fell racing scene, and included an interview I did with Pete Bland. I guess people had searched it out when he sadly passed away towards the end of 2020. It can be accessed here:

The second most visit page was one from January 2020, where I did a little gentle analysis of the completions from the previous year on the Bob Graham Round. It shows the continuing interest in the BGR since Kilian Jornet set the new record in 2018. The post can be accessed here:

The most visited page was from October 2020, and again was BGR connected. It was some analysis of the splits from George Foster’s round (the third fastest ever) against those of Billy Bland, which made fascinating reading (well I thought so!). It can be accessed here:

MOST DOWNLOADED CONTENT

The most downloaded content was an article I co-wrote with Steve Birkinshaw for the Fellrunner way back in 2018. It was a case study of four athletes who had suffered CFS in varying degrees of seriousness, and how they came back from it, or didn’t. It can be accessed here [PDF file].

The second most popular content on the blog was a profile of fell runner and top marathoner Dave Cannon, again an article I wrote for Fellrunner, way back in 2017 (so no idea why that was so popular, but it was downloaded over 250 times). It can be accessed here [PDF file].

The third most downloaded piece was an article I wrote for Compass Sport magazine on Kim Collison’s Winter BGR record, which was published in early 2020. It can be accessed here [PDF file].

NB: Most of my writing can be accessed through the links on the CV page on this blog: https://itsahill.wordpress.com/curriculum-vitae/.

The Fellrunner has in depth review of ‘All or Nothing at All’

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.

Photo book in tribute to Pete Hartley: some background

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.

A couple of quotes from the back cover

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: dp@deniseparkphysio.co.uk

George Foster and Billy Bland: two great BGR times. Some thoughts on their splits

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]

Photo: http://www.fellicionado.com/

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 numberBilly’s timeGeorge’s timeDifference
12-132-20-7
22-412-39+2
33-433-430
43-093-02+7
51-461-48-2
TOTAL13-3213-320

In this table the times at each changeover and the differences are shown.

ChangeoverBilly’s stop timeGeorge’s stop timeDifference
Threlkeld30+3
Dunmail Raise35-2
Wasdale26-4
Honister131+12
TOTAL2112+9 minutes

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]

Interviewed on Radio Cumbria

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.

Presenting Billy with a copy of the book recently

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

For more info on my biography of Billy see this previous blog (inc the Zoom launch), and for more on all my books see my Sandstone Press page.

Boff and Steve – on writing, lockdown and other stuff

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):

honisterclimbdalehead (Boff)

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.

Thesehillsareours

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.

Writing: some runner profiles

A few more medium length reads for lockdown time. This lot are profiles of some of the most interesting members of the fell-running pantheon. Some great characters in there. The articles are from my blog (usually as PDF downloads), and all were published at various times in The Fellrunner magazine. Click the highlighted name/links to read. Hope you find something to enjoy.

Jack Maitland – latterly on coaching team for the Brownlee brothers
Hugh Symonds – author of brilliant running book ‘Running High’
Malcolm Patterson – until recently coach/mentor at Scottish Athletics
Dave Cannon – marathoner and elite athlete link for London Marathon
Pete Bland – former pro racer, and founder of Pete Bland Sports
Colin Donnelly – quirky character who has been at the top for ages
Kim Collison – holder of the record for the fastest winter Bob Graham
Billy Bland – a teaser piece for upcoming book about this real legend

PS: All three of my running books are also available from this link (all currently reduced).
The Billy Bland book can be pre-ordered: https://samread1887.square.site/product/AllOrNothing/1015