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,…

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…

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…

Ultra running: the art of futility

On a particularly hot day in the summer of 2014, I ran between the summits of London’s 12 Inner London boroughs. Starting from Hammersmith and Fulham, moving clockwise to the Isle of Dogs, going as far east as Greenwich, and then west to Wimbledon Common, I travelled 41 miles, venturing no higher than 134 metres…

Donnie Campbell: a record-breaking winter Ramsay’s Round

Donnie Campbell has been running for 20 hours. He is shrouded in the darkness of a Scottish night in December. He is climbing Aonach Beag, the seventh highest mountain in Britain. As he ascends, a wall of snow, glistening in the glow of a headtorch, rears above his head. The microspikes that might have eased…

Glen Coe Skyline: the enormity in numbers

With time and energy lacking today, this is the best I can muster: a personal story of the wonderful enormity of the Glen Coe Skyline in numbers. A longer article will be published in the Scotsman in due course. 5896 calories burnt (so says Strava) 4800 metres of ascent 4800 metres of descent 1150-metre highest…

Running. What’s the point? Strava, of course.

Iain Whiteside was running. What was Whiteside thinking about when he was running? Strava, of course. ‘I realised I had spent the previous 30 minutes thinking about what I was going to name this run,’ he admitted. Whiteside stopped running. He was on Braid Hill in Edinburgh. Inspiration came to him: ‘At a standstill on…

A lesson for us all

There is something instinctive in human nature for the amateur to celebrate the professional. Radcliffe. Rudisha. Kimetto. We watch in awe as the extraordinary achieve the extraordinary. But there is something more extraordinary than this: the ordinary achieving the extraordinary. That is not to say that Colin Dear is ordinary. Ordinary humans do not run…

Running the summits of the Inner London boroughs

Doctor Andrew Murray is at it again. Not content with running from Scotland to Morocco, galloping up Mount Kilimanjaro or jogging to the North Pole, he has this week announced that he is going to run the 10 highest Scottish mountains in one day. This is why: ‘We are doing this because we had a…

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…

Conti Lightning Run 2014

The premise of the Conti Lightning Run is simple: teams of one, two or five must run as many 10k laps of a course around Catton Park in 12 hours. The individual or pair or quintet who run the furthest are the winners. I was part of a Men’s Running team that won this year’s…