Tag Archive | Fellrunner

“I don’t much like the limelight”


The second part of my profile of Colin Donnelly appeared in the Summer/Autumn issue of The Fellrunner [with the first part in the Spring issue]. I would normally make available a downloadable PDF of the article, as is the author’s right. However, this time I have gone back to my original submission and this is available to read [as a PDF]. This is because there were a couple of issues with the production. Firstly, the new design of the magazine, whilst looking great to look at, is actually hard to read in parts. Secondly, I was not happy* with the way the material appeared after it had been chopped about when making it into the two parts. I fully understand it to be editorial perogative, but in doing so many parts were moved around and merged, which resulted in some bits being left out and some not making sense as the quotes were juxtaposed badly.

* I accept the Editor’s explanation of how this happened, and have happily submitted another piece for publication in the next issue, which is being put together right now.

NB: for another piece on Colin Donnelly’s long-running career, and comment on others with similar longevity, see: Long-running running champs.

Conversation with Billy Bland

wasatryerAs FRA members await the arrival of the Winter 2018 Fellrunner magazine I will just give a reminder of a piece I wrote for the Spring issue, entitled ‘I wasn’t the best by any means, but I was a tryer’. It is a report of an evening event organised by Due North Events in which Billy Bland and I shared a stage to take questions from a full house in the Skiddaw Hotel.

It was a fascinating evening and the four page report, in full, can be downloaded [PDF file].

“I don’t much like the limelight”

colin12It was a great gig at the Buxton Adventure Festival last week, where I interviewed hill runner Colin Donnelly in the second half of the evening, after we had been charmed and entertained by Judith Jepson’s account of her running career. Having audio recorded the talk, I have some great material, from which I plan to write a profile of Colin for a future edition of The Fellrunner. I will just share here two responses to questions I asked. I feel they give an insight into this fascinating, and I think under-rated, endurance runner. He has had an amazingly long career, still running well as he approaches 60, having won the Ben Nevis race as a teenager (photo below).

What would you say was your most satisfying performance? I loved all the big rounds I have done, the Bob Graham, Charlie Ramsay, Paddy Buckley, and South Wales Traverse. One year I heard of an ultra-race in Reunion, that was like running the Bob Graham, slightly more distance but the same amount of climbing. I did that race and it gave me an immense amount of satisfaction. I didn’t do particularly great.

BenNevissmallAnother one I was very pleased about, as I didn’t think I was going to finish it, was when I had a crack at doing the Scottish 4000s one year. I set off from Fort William and my dad was supporting me at the road sections. I got to Glen Feshie and I was limping badly. I was going to carry on anyway as I was ahead of the record schedule. I may not get the record, but I am going to finish it. I will crawl over that finish line if necessary. I got to the roads off Cairngorm and my dad was there. I had five miles or so down the road. He said, “well you have done all the 4000s now son. You are limping along and in real pain. Just finish here and we will be in the car and off.” I said, “dad, I am going down to Loch Morlich and I am going to touch that hostel door, whether I manage it within the 24 hours or not. I have come here to do it and I will.” And I did. But I suffered for that for quite a while afterwards. You have got to keep up your standards and do things properly.

How would you like to be remembered? Interesting. I am not really bothered about people remembering me at all. I don’t much like the limelight, even sitting here I am a bit uneasy.

I was just a guy that was good in his day and got a few records and did a few things, and that was that.

My youngest girl runs, and she was complaining that she didn’t do well in some cross-country race. I said, “it is not about how well you do, it is the taking part.” It is not about winning, and it is not about sitting back on the couch and saying, “I am 60 I am too old for all this”. It is about trying to explore your horizons, and never giving up.

That is the thing I would like to leave people with, it is about challenging yourself.

We also showed the video ‘re-enactment’ of Colin’s Welsh 3000m runIf you haven’t seen it you should, it is poetry in motion.

On the fells and marathons: Dave Cannon

cannonken“A fully trained athlete is on the verge of illness all the time. Someone once said this when asked how much training you should do: “it is a bit like blowing up a balloon. You blow, you blow a bit more and then POP, back to square one”.
Dave Cannon in a profile published in the Winter 2017 issue of Fellrunner.

This comes from a profile I wrote of him after I met him in 2017, when he was working as elite athlete coordinator for the London Marathon. He was British Fell Champion in 1972, and later moved to the marathon to run 2-11.

cannonroyleI had a long and fascinating chat with him at Marathon HQ, about his running, on the fells in particular, and also his marathon running days and work with elite marathoners, including coaching Kenny Stuart.

Cannon was known as a great descender on the fells, and gave this description of competing in the Whernside Junior race:

You have a wall to get over when descending. Well I was coming down so fast, I was not going to stop to climb it, so I took off a few yards from the wall, got one foot on top and over! There was a fell race follower watching the race at this point and he said to me afterwards that he had never seen anything like it before. I hadn’t the heart to tell him it hadn’t been intentional.

The full article can be read here [PDF link], and includes some great stories about his training and racing, together with him talking about being diagnosed with ME/CFS, which effectively finished his career.

Cannon is one of four case studies on CFS that are included in an article I wrote with Steve Birkinshaw, which was entitled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in elite athletes, and was also published in Fellrunner.

[Other profiles: Jack Maitland; Hugh Symonds and Malcolm Patterson]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

CFSsnapshotFollowing on from the interviews for my last book (‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’), I have been doing some research into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This resulted from talking through the issue with Kenny Stuart and Steve Birkinshaw, who have both suffered the debilitating effects of CFS, and ‘recovered’ to varying degrees. I floated the idea of writing something about it, and Steve agreed it would be good to talk to another couple of high profile runners we knew, and write up the four case studies resulting from this. The link below is the article Steve Birkinshaw and I wrote.

The case studies show both similarities and differences, and although drawing no particular conclusions, we feel the stories are worth hearing, and may strike a chord with some readers. There are also a couple of resource links, and a note of some more scientific research being done on the subject. Following the interest shown in the article I am now working with Dr Rebecca Robinson (a top fell runner and consultant in sports and exercise medicine) on writing a paper for a prominent medical journal on the topic.

A copy of the full original article (which was in the Summer 2017 issue of
The Fellrunner) may be viewed and downloaded here: [PDF of the article].

A future blog post will include a download of an article I wrote entitled “In Profile: Dave Cannon” (a former top fell runner and 2-11 marathoner), which was also recently published in The Fellrunner.

In profile: Malcolm Patterson

I asked Patterson what his greatest feat/race on the fells was. He came back with a list and an interesting perspective. ‘One of my childhood idols was the late Billy Bremner, captain of Leeds United FC who was ‘ard as nails. His motto was “You get nowt for coming second”. So it is ironic that whilst I was pleased with my race wins – such as Ben Lomond in 1987, or Dollar (in Scotland) in 1989, where I set a new course record – my best races were when I didn’t win.

Malcom Patterson reflected on his career in the fifth 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 most recent book, Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. In a long and fascinating discussion he gave me a window into his career and life, and with his approval I wrote a profile of him (with some great photos).

PattersonA copy of the full article (which was in the Spring 2017 issue of The Fellrunner) may be viewed here: [PDF of the article].

A future post will include a piece I wrote (with Steve Birkinshaw) on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which was also recently published in The Fellrunner.

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.