Why we go to the hills… and how to join us

Some years ago I was running in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District. As I descended a mountain called High Street, I passed a walker. He shook his head. ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ he shouted incredulously into the breeze. I smiled. Encumbered by boots and bag, I wondered the same: How…

The unpredictable art of running blogging

I have been blogging for some years. I was a writer and journalist first. My original purpose was to support the publication of my first book, Heights of Madness, and my second and third books thereafter. Over time, heightsofmadness.com graduated into a running blog – a blog that last week pleasingly surpassed 50,000 visits. Writing…

The Bob Graham Round: as seen from the water-carrier’s corner

High above, the jagged, dark silhouette of Blencathra decorated an oppressive sky. There were no stars. An incessant rain pounded the car roof. We fretted. Marc and Nayth (and their water-carriers) had left Moot Hall at midnight. Time was winning. Blundering off Skiddaw, the fivesome had been bamboozled by what is elemental in daylight. Time…

Fell running and the Langdale Horseshoe: leaving behind the contrived world

There was no warning. I had hurtled downhill off the rough roof of Thunacar Knott and as I approached Martcrag Moor, the ground, previously solid, became liquid. Wooomph! I began to disappear. Calves gone. Knees gone. Thighs gone. Waist gone. Gasping, a thousand thoughts a moment, body flailing forward, legs scrambling for traction. Swimming, wriggling,…

The travails of a soft southerner in the Lake District

It had all started rather well. I was running in fifth place in the Lowther Trail Run, ticking along nicely. I could not believe my luck. Despite not having raced for three months, with much of that time lost to injury, I was climbing well, descending reasonably and moving purposefully on trail. Entering mile six…

Losing my innocence on Wainwrights’ fells

It was a late-October day in 2003 when I climbed my first Wainwright fell. Not that I knew at the time. Not that I cared. I was among a group of five university friends, who – without the benefit of a map – had crawled up the side of Lingmell. I forged ahead and summited alone, unwittingly…

The madness of the ultra distance runner

‘Busy weekend?’ the Friday conversation goes. ‘I’m going to Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf at New Malden on Saturday, then, on Sunday, I’ll run…’ ‘How far?’ Sharp intake of breath. ‘Forty…’ ‘Miles?’ ‘Yes.’ I’ve had this conversation many times over the years. Or certainly words to this effect, as this will be my first visit to Jurassic Encounter…

Pendle Fell Race 2013 – race report

It is the taking part that counts, isn’t it? Discounting the Box Hill Fell Race, it has been a while since I have run a proper hill or fell race. It showed. I was 66th at today’s Pendle Fell Race in Lancashire, a long way back from the action at the front. I should not…

Finding the motivation to run

If I refused to run every time I did not feel like it, I would never run. Never is an exaggeration, of course, but finding the motivation to run is a constant challenge. Rarely more so than yesterday. I had been running 20 minutes since leaving Kirkstone Pass, the high level route linking Ambleside and…

Ultrarunning: eliminating the ‘poison’ of doubt

Not a day has elapsed since June 3, 2012, when I haven’t reflected on the events of those 24 hours: a successful Bob Graham Round, all 42 peaks, 66 miles and some 27,000ft of it. I am continually inspired by what happened that day, imbuing a (so far) life-long sense of if-I-can-do-the-Bob-Graham, I can do…

Mountain travel: why running trumps walking

I can’t remember the last time I went to the mountains to go for a walk. The idea is absurd. Why walk when you can run? As I descended (a running descent!) to the Nan Bield Pass in the Far Eastern Fells of the Lake District, a walker going up remarked: ‘I don’t know how…