There exist a few books that "have" to be read in the same way that some ultras "have" to be run. Feet in the Clouds by Richard Asquith is one such book, one of a handful of books that every runner seems to have read. I am ashamed of myself for taking so long to finally start reading it, similarly I am ashamed to say that my first visit to the lakes in Cumbria was just this weekend.
I really enjoyed reading most of this. The early parts than deal with the authors early attempts at the Bob Graham Round I found myself chuckling through as it was very close to home. A boy from London trying to take on some of the spectacular hills of the Lake District by throwing gear and science at it. Sports drinks and fancy shoes and maps. It struck me like he had missed the point as to what it was do run on those fells, not that I really know. Reminded me of several discussions on my clubs forum in the winter that would start something like "I've noticed it's snowing outside. Obviously I can't just go and run in the snow but I have a spreadsheet to stick to so don't know what to do. Is there a piece of kit I can buy that will just make the snow go away?"
The Bob Graham Round is a legendary fell run in the UK. It's not a race but a route of 42 fells that the eponymous B&B owner decided to run on his 42nd birthday. Since that running in 1932 a few thousand UK runners have made it their mission to complete it. Some do and some don't. The preparation and training is all consuming though.
Most of the book is concerned with the fell running scene and profiles of some of it's most talented runners. I glazed over the politics and admin of the running clubs and organisations up north but loved the portraits of some of the fells heros. Joss Naylor and Billy Bland are legendary on the fells. There are so many others, some who came down from the hills to compete in road marathon racing, some of them doing very well indeed. You wonder how many olympic class athletes there were in the Lake District who just could not be bothered with running 26.2 on a road.
Askwith is not one of these super athletes but takes on the challenge anyway. The account of his own personal efforts and failures makes great reading for those who want to make an attempt at this.
I recommend going to the lakes though, it is beautiful but really hard terrain.