365 days of hill running wisdom: January

Day 1: A rousing start to 2018 from : ‘I found my feet again, tripping easily across loose rock 3,000 feet high, feeling closer to sky than sea. This body wasn’t stretching and pulling any more, it was singing its place on earth. Look at me, Ma! On top of the world!’


Day 2: epitomises grit as she attempts the Wicklow Round: ‘My body is crying surrender, my mind is pleading clemency, but somehow, somewhere an inner spirit keeps fighting and telling me to soldier on.’


Day 3: Prolific Scottish hill racer Alan Smith tells it like it is: ‘I can’t get roads into my head.’


Day 4: One of the ways ‘you know you’re a hill runner’, according to : ‘You’ve urinated against more trees than a Jack Russell and had more open-air dumps than Bear Grylls.’ You know you’re a fell runner when…

Day 5: runs and ruminates: ‘Running has at different times and in different ways provided an alternative for many things in my life: for alcohol, for dancing, sex, brainstorming, meditation, counselling, religion, confession, even adventure.’ Why I Run

Day 6: @thepianorunner explains why hill running is her perfect ‘fit’: ‘I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There are no feelings of discomfort, no seeds of doubt or worry – only wholeness, happiness.’ The Piano Runner

Day 7: On the first timed ascent of Ben Nevis (1895): ‘Strength of muscle and physical endurance are qualities which seldom fail to call forth admiration; but when employed in foolhardy and dangerous exploits, their possessor is surely acting in opposition to the laws of nature.’

Ben Race 2010 by Roger Wild

Day 8: on her double Bob Graham Round, in ’s Run Forever: ‘I’m probably going to push my body to a stage where it just goes enough is enough, and I will sit down on the floor. I just want to know what I can do.’

Day 9: You have been warned! The blurb of the : ‘The nature of the challenge is very severe and there is a risk of serious injury or death whilst participating in this event.’ Entries open today.

Day 10: The great Mark Hartell on hill running: ‘For me at least, the philosophy is that you have to know pain to appreciate pleasure, you have to experience disappointment to fully cherish success, and so you have to spend a little time in “hell” to recognise your own “heaven”.’

Day 11: The Carnethy 5, cinematically described by . ‘The start line is something to behold – 500 runners like extras from Braveheart lined up for battle, fittingly at the site of the Battle of Roslin.’ Race entry closes on Saturday.

Day 12: A copy of the original route description given to runners in the first Bens of Jura Fell Race. There is a common theme: ‘Steep.’

Day 13: Suse Coon in the 1986 book Race You to the Top: ‘No matter how many times you challenge a hill, you’ll never conquer him. He will never submit to your will, compromise for your weaknesses or even condescend to acknowledge your small success.’

Day 14: on the Trigger, the ‘epic’ Marsden to Edale fell race: ‘You know something isn’t quite right when mountain rescue are manning the (stream) crossing, and have another member further downstream with a lifebuoy.’

Day 15: Suse Coon elaborates: ‘Any slight scar that you might inflict on his surface will be regenerated in, at worst, a season. Your efforts and struggles, accidents and childlike tantrums, are of no concern whatsoever in his lifescale.’

Day 16: Spare a thought for those racing on the third day of the : ‘Potentially fatal hypothermia is a regular DNF cause. Grown men cry. Bones get broken. Some ‘Spiners’ have discovered trench foot isn’t just something that happened in France during World War I.’

Day 17: The bonk, by Manny Gorman: ‘It creeps up quietly on you from behind, then whangs you over the back of the head with a sledge-hammer, laying your gutted corpse bare to the hill.’ Running the Corbetts


Day 18: ‘It is almost as if mountain beauty has a dual personality; a kind of Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy which is essential to its very existence. The reality of mountain beauty derives from both the serene and the awesome.’ Andrew Dempster on the juxtaposition of mountains.

Day 19: Stillness and solitude – Tom Phillips on a winter Ramsay’s Round in 2012: ‘Apart from the very occasional sound of running water, and ptarmigan and grouse, the silence had been total, just the sound of footsteps on a snowy landscape.’


Day 20: Sam Pearce of on the 182 ‘suicide steps’ in today’s Box Hill Fell Race: ‘The muddiest, slipperiest, most uneven, steepest, quad-busting wooden-fronted pain makers the south-east has to offer.’ Illustration, drawn yesterday, by .

Day 21: on the challenge of the hills: ‘I’m finding it tough, am I? It’s supposed to be tough. If I can’t handle it, I should bugger off back to London where I came from.’

Day 22: ‘Mental instability, vital to good descending, is an ability shared by most people attracted to the sport. Any natural talent is usually developed further by reduced sensory input…’ Matey Jockland parodying in the Art of Descending.


Day 23: L.G. Shadbolt on his traverse of the Cuillin ridge on Skye in 1911: ‘To enjoy to the full the aesthetic side of mountaineering, the true appreciation of which is, to my mind, only reached in conjunction with sustained physical effort to the limit of one’s powers.’

Day 24: Verse, from Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, that echoes through the centuries: ‘Are not the mountains, waves and skies, / a part of me and of my soul, as I of them?’

Day 25: Robert Burns was no hill runner, but he loved the high places of his homeland: ‘Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, / The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.’

Day 26: Smith, the protagonist of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, got it: ‘There’s not one thought or word or picture of anything in my head while I’m going down. I’m empty, as empty as I was before I was born.’

Day 27: ‘Fell running is an illness. The great thing is, you don’t have to get over it.’ Wise words from .

Day 28: Hugh Symonds in Running High: ‘My first mountain, Ben Hope, was out of sight. The clearing of the clouds had been like an awakening; a realisation that now, 12 days into the journey, I had travelled beyond the horizon.’

Day 29: on the fear that stalks hill runners: ‘He is always looking back because he is tortured by one thought… he is running up a hill when he sees a little plump man coming up behind.’ John Burns

Day 30: on the riddle of night-time navigation: ‘In the dark, surrounded by misty rain, your headtorch beam bounces back from the moisture in the air; you’re lucky if you can see the ground at your feet, let alone follow the path through the rocks.’ Not the Bob Graham

Day 31: Davy Duncan, Scotland’s most prolific hill racer: ‘I’m occasionally asked after a race, ‘did you enjoy that?’ I have to answer ‘no’, but I’m glad I did it, and will probably still be doing it as long as I have legs that can run.’

Follow the tweets at @MuirJonny.

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