John Kelly’s Grand Round – a triumph of imagination

In April 2017, John Kelly became the fifteenth person to complete the Barkley Marathons. I remember watching him approach the yellow gate that marks the finish, a torn plastic bag draped around his torso offering meagre protection against the roughness of this unforgiving corner of Tennessee. But that wasn’t the story. In the same race,…

On the hills there is only one legal currency: FREEDOM

The year is 1992. John Major is the Prime Minister, Wayne’s World is released, Microsoft is at 3.1 stage. Boff Whalley is a guitarist in the alternative band Chumbawumba – the group’s best known song, Tubthumping won’t be released for another five years – and a fell runner in the north of England. He is…

Of mountains and mattering

The Mountains are Calling came into the world a year ago today. Thank you to everyone who has bought the book, said kind things about it, and for not identifying any gross errors. Has it been successful? The book has sold well and been well received. It was long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book…

The Mountains are Calling – paperback published today

First there was the hardback and an ebook, then an audiobook, and today marks the paperback arrival of The Mountains are Calling. Little, in truth, has changed from the words of the original hardback. Graham Nash, somehow, managed to run Ramsay’s Round twice in the relatively short period after my copy deadline, taking his tally…

Carnethy 5 post-mortem: I was there

In the climactic scene of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kate soliloquises on the nature of submission to a greater will – in this case, her husband. But now I see our lances are but straws, Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare. The words came to me as I strained up that…

The absurdly wonderful Carnethy 5

Every year, for 48 years, an absurdly wonderful thing has happened in a ragged field of sheep off the A702 close to Edinburgh. Every year, a group of hill runners assemble, facing the two highest peaks of the Pentlands, Scald Law and Carnethy Hill. The pipes fall silent, runners are brought to their marks, and,…

This is not madness; we are the lucky ones

‘Mr Muir!’ It was a colleague at school, hence the formal ‘Mr’ as pupils loitered nearby. ‘I’ve been reading your book,’ she said ominously, and then, her tone rising: ‘You’re mad.’ Another colleague chipped in: ‘You know he’s mad.’ ‘Running down hills at night?’ the first went on, shaking her head. I stumbled into a…

What Deirdrie (and her friends) teach us about hill running

Three years ago today, on another winter solstice, I was running on Dun Rig, the highest point of a moorland horseshoe above Peebles. The summit was buried in swirling mist, cuffed by an enraged wind. Meagrely dressed, I rapidly became very cold. Disorientated and shaking on unfamiliar hills, I looked around anxiously, peering into the…

Lessons from Kendal

There are things I know and things, from time to time, I need to remember I know. Speaking about my book, The Mountains are Calling, at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival, I was reminded of the latter: those precious things I must remember I know. There are far more important things than running up and…

The fall and rise of the hill runner

Some years ago I was running in the Caerketton Hill Race, an eyeballs-out, up-and-down charge starting and finishing at Hillend, the north-eastern terminus of the Pentland Hills. I was descending the steepest section of hillside – a pathless slope of ankle-deep vegetation, dripping wet from afternoon rain. A woman catapulted by, almost clipping my left…

My favourite race – or something like that

I am running down a hill. I am running down a hill in Scotland. I am running down a hill while holding the hand of my squealing, skipping two-year-old daughter. I am running down a hill while wincing from a dull, groaning pain in my right ankle. I am running down a hill in jeans…

The 2018 Glen Coe Skyline: The One When Scotland Won

As the years go by, like Friends, the Glen Coe Skyline has an episodic quality to it. First, in 2015, there was The (Very Successful) Pilot. Then, a year later, The One With the Obstacle Racer, before 2017’s The One When Kilian Came to Scotland. This year could have been similarly titled – perhaps The…