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…

The preciousness of time in high places

‘A trip, a slide, a tumble – how slender is our attachment to life, but how precious its gift when we are in the mountains.’ I often think of the words of Martin Moran. They refer, starkly, to death, but they also provide an eloquent summary of what it means to go to the mountains….

A question of how: running the Ring of Fire

‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it,’ sang Ella Fitzgerald in the late 1930s (and, much later, repeated by a collaboration of Fun Boy Three and Bananarama), with the chorus ending resoundingly: ‘And that’s what gets results.’ There is a metaphor for life – and for running around in the…

‘Hit the thing hard!’

A white-shirted runner tiptoes across the welter of rubble littering a Welsh mountainside. He reaches for the concrete of a summit triangulation pillar, slapping the top with both palms. The clock stops: four hours, 19 minutes, 56 seconds. The year is 1988; the runner is Colin Donnelly – an athlete at the peak of his physical powers….