A fell (from Old Norse fjall, "mountain") is a word used to refer to mountains, or certain types of mountainous landscape, in Scandinavia, the Isle of Man, and parts of England. - Wikipedia
Feet In The Clouds: A Story Of Fell Running And Obsession by Richard Askwith was first published back in 2004 but it wasn't until recently when my sister recommended the book to me that I read it.
Although I'm a runner I'm not a fell runner. On the rare occasions I've been fortunate enough to spend time hiking in the mountains I've seen the odd fell runner now and again and wondered with amazement how the heck they managed to run up the mountain when it's taken me all my effort just to walk up it. I therefore approached reading about this intriguing yet little known sport as a complete outsider.
Fortunately journalist and amateur fell runner Richard Askwith did an excellent job of writing an informative and inspiring introduction to the sport of fell running. Askwith structured the book by switching between a running calendar diary, history including in-depth profiles of the sports unsung heroes and his own attempts in becoming a member of a very exclusive club, runners to have completed the Bob Graham Round.
Great things are done when men and mountains meet; and, though not one Briton in a hundred has any inkling that the great kings of their fells ever existed, the heroics of the greatest are as glorious as anything in sport's history. - Richard AskwithIt's difficult to argue against Askwith when considering the likes of Bob Graham who in 1932 set the record for the number of Lakeland fells traversed by completing the 42 fell circuit, including a number of 900 metre peaks, in less than 24 hours. The Bob Graham Round is now a standard fell-runner's test-piece with over 1500 people having completed it by the end of 2009. The fastest round was achieved in 1982 by Billy Bland in a staggering time of 13h53m. In 1997 Mark Hartnell extended the Round record by traversing 77 peaks in a mind blowing 23h47m. For me these super human demonstrations of endurance can be put on par with any achievements other endurance sports such as cycling or triathlon have to offer.
Askwith's reoccurring theme of the running calendar diary looks at many events taking place every month in a typical season, both in the UK and abroad, throughout the entire year. The diary also humorously describes Askwith's own training and racing exploits on the fells including the build up to and subsequent multiple attempts at completing the Bob Graham Round.
For me though the most interesting themes of the book focus are Askwith's extensively researched history of Fell racing in Britain and the many colourful characters to have made up the little known fell racing scene of the past 100 or so years. The reader is treated to an insight into the lives of these characters and the driving force behind their success. At the same time Askwith recounts stories about many of the classic races to have taken place over the years featuring local hard men and women including Billy Bland, Joss Naylor, Bill Teasdale, Kenny Stuart and Helene Diamantides who became imortalised in ultra distance racing folklore when she won, with her partner Martin Stone, the 350km long Dragon's Back over Wales' entire mountainous spine. She and Stone achieved this in a time of 38h38m.
I could go on recounting many more amazing stories of athletic prowess to feature in the book, this was just a little taster. If I have wet your appetite to learn more about fell running then I really do recommend you get hold of this easily available book. You won't be disappointed!
Feet In The Clouds: A Story Of Fell Running And Obsession by Richard Askwith is published by Aurum.