Feet in the Clouds Reviews



  • I think the review before it does show the insular nature of the sport though.

    It does seem to be very much a case of "no-one likes us, we don't care".

    I mean, doing the BGR, no-one takes any notice, other than similarly committed nutters. Askwith bangs on about how fit these guys are, but it's a sport with limited appeal (he notes the only place you can spectate is the start/ finish), and it seems to be "ageing".

    Fair enough, accomplishments are for your own satisfaction, but there's something of a hollow ring to doing something like the BGR (if you ask me), since it can't really be shared with people outside the fell running community - no-one would really know what you'd done!

    "I've just done the Bob Graham Round"
    "Fantastic - is that when you drink a single out of all the bottles behind the bar?"
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    B, I think to be fair, running generally is a sport with limited appeal. Say the letters "FLM" to anyone outside the running fraternity and no-one will have a clue what you're talking about - although most people will have heard of the London Marathon. They won't necessarily know how far it is though, nor that all marathons are the same length!

    So in that sense, there's something of a hollow ring to doing something like a half marathon - in my experience my finishing time and/or sense of achievement doesn't resonate with anyone other than other runners.

    "I've just done the Turkey Trot"
    "That'll teach you not to overeat on Christmas Day"
  • Ah - but what's the road-running equivalent of doing the Bob Graham Round? Not the Turkey Trot methinks.

    Although admittedly you do make a fair point. Was thinking about this over lunch. It's harder to share the sense of achievement for solo pursuits with other people because they wonder why you do it. Whereas for team pursuits there is the social aspect, so although you have no pretensions to being world beaters, you can still take it seriously. And of course, you have others to share it with.

    Yes, it's hard to share your running achievements with non-runners, but perhaps fell-running suffers even more because it has a narrower constituency and is limited to relatively few parts of the country.

    Although an achievement like swimming the Channel doesn't need explaining I guess, it has an instant cachet.

    I guess teh thing that bugs me is that once you've achieved something, what do you do afterwards? And if you achieve something greater, does it devalue your prior achievement? And is that taking it too seriously, in which case would you still get satisfaction if you weren't so keen?
  • although to be fair the letters "FLM" are only used on this website because the tab would have been too long had they written the whole thing!

    serious point, i never get why people would want to 'share their running achievements' with other people. i mean, if somebody comes up to you and said they knitted a great jumper, spotted a great train or collected an absolutely brilliant stamp, you would probably want to get out of there as soon as you could. so why would anybody else want to hear about your hobby?
  • Exactly, Andy. The bits of Feet in the Clouds which send me to sleep were his own personal bits. About as interesting to me as my training would be to him.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    Actually, Candy, I think you're probably right. In terms of geekiness running is right up there with stamp-collecting and train-spotting (well, maybe not RIGHT up there ...) But I only have to start talking about training in front of family and friends and their eyes glaze over.

    Which is fair enough. All hobbies are only interesting to the person obsessed by them and others with the same obsession. To everyone else they're just boring/geeky.

    Hence the popularity of these forums, where running geeks everywhere can share their dreams, hopes and fears.

  • It's nice to get some sort of recognition that you've done something not all of the population can do.

    Doesn't take much effort to spot a great train.

    Maybe my ego is running away with me, but it's sometimes nice to be asked what race I've done recently. It's not as if I give a boring race report, and I do wait until asked.

    I don't print my own "Ewok Gazette".

    "Read all about it! Ewok's mate starts race and gets to the end of it! Shocker, stunna, cor blimey mate, what a sizzla!"
  • Christ, I'd never talk about my training - that bores ME, let alone everyone else!
  • Some readers of running books are runners (first) who like to read.

    Other readers of running books are readers (first) who like to run.

    This explains most of the stuff above. It explains why friends of mine who are competitive runners thought the Paula Radcliffe book was "brilliant", while I found it horribly tedious. It also explains why I found Julie Welch's book on the London Marathon, "26.2", the best running book I've ever read, while those same competitive running mates found it "basic" and "boring".

    I liked Feet In The Clouds because it did for me what all good books do. It took me out of myself and transported me somewhere else, and allowed me to peer into something that's normally invisible to me. It doesn't matter that I don't do fell-running; it doesn't matter that I'm not a northerner. It was an insight into something beyond my normal experience, and for me, that isn't a reason to dislike the book, it's a reason to cherish it.

    Maybe it's BECAUSE I've never run a fell race, and would never even consider doing the Bob Graham Round, that I'm interested in reading why it's a big deal for others.
  • Please be nice to me if I just make a couple of points in defence of my review, and in the process probably upset a whole other group of forumites.

    I wasn't having a go at your review Barnsleyrunner - it was a balanced review. It was the less balanced reviews that belittled country life and it's colourful characters that got me riled. By all means people have the right to say what they think about the book, but they don't need to be offensive.

    I am not a fell-runner, but I run off-road as I love the countryside. My intention was to suggest that the reason some people maybe didn't like the book is that you really do need more of an interest in the countryside than just the odd tour of your local park. Fine if that's their thing, but then why buy a book about fell-running and then moan that you didn't enjoy it?

    Finally, yes I know that reading a book 3 times is a bit obsessive! In my defence, I'm a student so have an awful lot of spare time on my hands and very little money to spend on it!
  • I'll add my bit that I thought the whole book was excellent, and pretty much the best running book I've read. Most runners can't write, and even with a ghost writer fail to put together a readable book (my hero the sainted one included!).

    And if you're still there Barnsley, I would like to read about your training, if you can write it in a suitably engaging fashion - heroic struggle, triumph in adversity, blisters bigger than an open cast mine etc... ;-)
  • t'chip butty on't way oooam in t'evening after t'training
  • I haven't had time to read this thread, but just to add my bit about the book.

    I really enjoyed it. I expect one of the reasons is I love off road running and felt I could relate to much of it. I'm not a fell runner, but I have done the odd short fell race and appreciate the nature of fell running.

    I think the book was well written and easy to understand, although a little repetitive in places and maybe a little too much hero worship-like you have to be someone real special to be a fell runner. In my opinion not so, just someone who loves the outdoor wild nature of multi terrain running.
  • As I said, my problem was with the self-absorbption of the author in his own `struggle' (which to be fair I think most people could achieve if they put their mind to it), not the bits about fell runners and fell running history, which I found very interesting.

    Having said that, some of us go in for self absorbption (see most daily threads) but you can read about it for free, not at £10 a pop:-)
  • maybe one day I'll pick it up and finish it.

    Could be worse...he could be a triathlete...now that would be dull and self-obsessed.
  • "Self-absorbtion" is one of those annoying phrases we use when we want to be dismissive of someone. When we want to be nice, we say "dedication" instead.

    I think it's a given that Askwith is immersed in his subject. Otherwise, why write a book about it? All I can say is that I found the book to be written with true passion, and yes, sometimes, a sense of awe, but that it never seemed incongruous or hagiographic. The respect seems well deserved when you learn about the largely unacknowledged feats of some of these legendary runners. As for his own goals and achievements, I didn't feel they were over-written at all. Admittedly I'm a hopeless plodder, but the author's treatment of his own ambitions were surely just a reflection of how dedicated and obsessive you have to be to achieve these gruelling targets.

    Have to disagree with BR that most people could achieve these things. I certainl couldn't. That said, BR says "if they put their mind to it", which ironically, is what Askwith is accused of doing here. He did put his mind to it, hence the "self-absorbtion". The poor guy can't win!

    People aren't wrong to dislike this book. It really just depends on what sort of running writing presses your buttons. As I mentioned before, plenty of people liked the Paula "autobiography" -- easily the dullest running book I've read so far.
  • lol I love the BR school of thinking..

    I'm pretty sure that 90% of people can do / qualify for ther chosen aims if they want to.

    Doesn;t distract from this being boring as (expletive)
  • RC - from the first few pages I disliked the tone of the book - the guy came across as a journalist choosing a challenge so he'd have a book to write, rather than someone writing about a hobby they already have a passion about. Even though some running books are dull, as you mention, at least they arise out of having accomplished something first for the sake of the sport, rather than someone taking mental or actual notes all the time to put into a book.

    I genuinely found I couldn't face the rest of the book and gave up on it about halfway. And I'm not the sort of person who gives up on things easily.
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    By the way, BR and RC - you're both wrong. The correct spelling is "self-absorption".
  • quote - Fine if that's their thing, but then why buy a book about fell-running and then moan that you didn't enjoy it?
    Surely I'm entitled to buy any book and read about anything I choose.

    The fact is, I bought this book because it had recieved great reviews on this site and elsewhere but unfortunately it's not for me and I didn't find it 'truly inspirational' 'wonderful' or any of the other adjectives so freely thrown about. Others did, fantastic. That is art - some people like some things and others, others.

    Oh, and a negative review is not a moan!
  • mojo jojo quote:

    "My intention was to suggest that the reason some people maybe didn't like the book is that you really do need more of an interest in the countryside than just the odd tour of your local park. Fine if that's their thing, but then why buy a book about fell-running and then moan that you didn't enjoy it?"

    Don't think that stands up to any reasoned analysis.

    Keen to widen my perspective on running (and, dare I say, just to find out if it might be something I could have a go at), I picked the book up.

    I'm hardly Bill Oddie/ John Craven or whomever with an ear of corn in my gob, up to my knees in sheep, but I didn't realise city boys weren't allowed to mess in country matters (ie farming). This harks back to what I said about the insular nature of fell-running!

    I started off quite liking the book, but I found the profiles of the runners repetitive and wearying in the end. As a total outsider to the sport, I think there's certainly nothing wrong with Askwith detailing his entry into it (interesting for those who would follow in his footsteps after reading), but the book as a whole is way too padded out.

    It does seem to polarise opinion, there's no middle ground. I do worry about people who were engrossed in the pro vs amateur saga!
  • I mean, how can you know that you'd find a book boring before you actually read it, especially if it was on a subject you knew nothing about?
  • Forgive my spelling mistake, Minks. I was `tired and emotional' at the time:-)

    As a matter of interest, are there any other books on fell running people would recommend?

    Also, is Richard Askwith still doing fell races or has he moved onto his next `project' now?
  • WAsn't he Robin Askwith who did those dodgy window-cleaning films in the seventies?
  • You're confusing him with the Prime Minister at the outbreak of WW1.
  • Robin or Richard? Which herbert am I confusing them with?
  • If they were related would they be on Askwith the Family with Robert Robinson?
  • I'm sorry, I haven't a clue. :-)
  • BR - thanks for expanding on why you disliked it. Fair enough, we are all different people with different thresholds and sensibilities. I agree absolutely that Askwith came across as a journo (he is a journo of course) looking for something to write about, but this didn't offend me. Many, perhaps most books start life like this. The acid test for me personally is not the motivation, but whether they succeed in moving me. In theory, given her eminence, Radcliffe's book should have knocked me for six, but didn't, because her ghost writer was as inept as she is talented.

    You're right - Askwith did adopt a "tone" that was noticeable. For reasons that are bound up in our different characters, the tone worked for me, but not for you. No value judgement here.

    One other thing that did occur was whether your superior running ability / determination or whatever, made you resent him, for articulating what you already know; whereas for me, he is so remote from my experience that I can't help but find his story fascinating.

    You said something else that was interesting:

    "Even though some running books are dull... at least they arise out of having accomplished something first for the sake of the sport, rather than someone taking mental or actual notes all the time to put into a book."

    That's another difference. I'm not that bothered about achievement 'per se'. In fact, I think this might be it. I'm more interested in the journey than the destination. You are more goal-driven. You're a competitive runner, while I'm a plodder who knows his place -- at the back of the field, happy to observe what's going on.

    I guess this translates into the way we assess running writing.

    It comes down to this distinction that's been mentioned before -- runners who discover writing; and writers who discover running. I much prefer the latter. I suspect you like the former.

    As they used to say in Moss Side: "It's allowed".
  • A very well articlutaed post there RC.

    My favourite running books of all time are the Ron Hill autobiographies and the Bill Adcocks `Road to Athens'. Neither of them are particularly well written (or badly written for that matter, but they don't set out to amuse and entertain) but they encapsulate the struggle and determination to get the very best out of yourself, with the pitfalls of going too far on occasions.

    These are the type of books were they got out and ran hard, then at the end of their career thought they might have something worthwhile to write about whic others might want to read.

    For me too much of the FITC book was not about running; it was about Mr Askwith. The best bits (which I admit were very interesting) were when he was interviewing the top fell runners.
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