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Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,437 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Exploring the world of fell-running—to run the ancient, wild landscape and stay a hero within one’s own valley—this portrait of one of the few sports to have remained implacably amateur and utterly true to its roots details the passionate ambitions of those who participate in one of the oldest extreme sports. With personal narrative by one of the participants of fell-runni ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 25th 2005 by Aurum Press (first published May 29th 2004)
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 ·  1,437 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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Dec 02, 2011 rated it liked it
A bit like a fell race I needed stamina and a determined nature to get through this book. Did I enjoy it? Yes. But I found it difficult to absorb the frequent lists of names, places and finishing times. Having said that it was interesting. Perhaps as I have visited and loved many of the places mentioned... or because I used to run myself... or because as the child of a competing runner I know what the 'race' scene is like. Whatever the reason I'd only recommend this book to anyone with an intere ...more
Ellen Horner
Jul 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
A history of fell running... through the male gaze. Askwith speaks openly (throughout!) about his irritation of being being overtaken by women in his own races and it took him 290 pages to muster up the energy to talk about a female fell runner in any depth. Even then he had to open the chapter describing how beautiful she (Helene Diamantides) is. Lots of detail about the hardiness of prominent fell runners of the 80s .. but it would be interesting had the author used his interviews with them to ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I could make some really lame puns here about how I fell asleep every time I tried to read this book, or how the only thing that kept me reading was the hope that the author fell off a mountain at the end, but I won't. That kind of childish humor fell out of favor with me a long time ago. ...more
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it
I liked this book s much I am now consideirng trying the sport for myself ;)
This was a really pleasant read. I knew nothing at all about fell running before this. Particulary interesting were the chapters about individual "legendary" fell runners, descriptions of actual races run by the author, and the chapter about the infuriating former professional vs. amateur distinctions. While the lists of fell running race results and race winners couldn't possibly be interesting to anyone except a niche audience, the rest of the book was quite good. It did convince me that I nev ...more
Damon Wright
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! Never read a sporting book I liked before. If I wasn't passionate about fell running before I am now! This book is one of those where you have to keep reading the good bits out to other people in the room with you! Amazingly the whole book is back to back good bits, so I might have some luck in making everyone else read it too. ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really shouldn't read books like this - they give me bad ideas! ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: for-book-club
1.5 stars. I suppose if fell-running is your bag, then this book would be incredibly interesting, exciting and a cornerstone of sports writing. If it isn't, then reading it will be as exhausting as running the BG in 24 hours. ...more
Wendi Lau
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, running
Richard Askwith’s book can help you explain to your loved ones the lure of running in nature. Beckoned away from our clean, smooth, safe life, we risk sprained ankles, soggy shoes, unmentionable chafing, and dirt…everywhere—all while focusing on 1-2 yards ahead to avoid holes, roots, and dog/pig/mongoose poop.

View? What view? Oh, yeah! Look at that ---aughhhh!

The author captures the self-doubt, fear, stubbornness, and mind-numbing forward momentum fell and trail runners experience. If you ever
Ewan Wilson
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
as a runner I enjoyed this but bloody hell some amount of superfluous detail and hero worship. I know hill running is hard and the guys who win races are extreme bastards but some of this book is bordering on the arse sucking. glad he did the Bob Graham in the end though - sounds pretty tough. this book could have benefited from being about 100 pages shorter and providing more race experience stories than history. I did enjoy this but there were a few moments on the train where I thought we do n ...more
Moira McPartlin
Inspirational. Makes me want to take up hill running again.
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
It appears that there are a bunch of old-timers in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland that call mountains 'fells' and run races on them. Who'd have thunk it? Not me.

But so there are. After reading Born to Run, I thought the Leadville Trail 100 ultramarathon was the height in human idiocy. You go out in the morning, run all day and through the night, ascend to the top of a mountain and down again. For a belt buckle.

But it ain't shucks to the feats these Brits get up to. They've been doing it a
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
Richard Askwith introduces us to not only fell running, but also fell runners, fell races and long-distance challenges, and the remarkable story of fell-running history – all interwoven with details of the contemporary fell-running year as it passes month by month. Also interwoven is Askwith's struggle, to complete the 72-miles and 48-peaks of the Bob Graham Round (of Lakeland fells) in under 24h, much of which is in his head.

He tells us about Ernest Dalzell, whose 12m 59.8s record in the Burnsa
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm glad I read this, but it was also very frustrating. At his best Richard Askwith is entertaining and informative. At his worst he is repetitious and some of this book reads like a list. Was is frustrating as that he is not a social commentator. While he touches on issues such as gender, class, incomers, the south / north divide, he doesn't explore these issues. He also presents contradictory fears - that fell running will die out, that it will become too popular, that no one who didn't spend ...more
Jun 24, 2008 is currently reading it
Inspired by the endorphins and sense of accomplishment of hiking solo in the mountains in Scotland, I picked up this book on fell-running (racing up and down mountains at distances beyond "trail running") to read about the next level of adventurousness. (Truth be told, though Scotland was inspiring and I want to do more hiking there, fell-running is probably far beyond my level of adventurousness!) The writing is great, spirited and quick, an easy fun read. ...more
Grim-Anal King
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a runner and peak bagger I've always had an interest in fell running but have never been in the right place at the right time to stumble into competition. An engaging overview of the sport which might seem more inspiring if I weren't sitting here with tendonitis pondering how to eke out more than one run and a decent hike a week without my leg getting worse.... ...more
Graham Smith
Obsessed with fell running? Yes... but with statistics, named races, and places? I am a fell runner but it just did not inspire me to get out and run. Why not? It didn't deliver on why most people run the fells or trails; the beauty of nature. Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain, although not a book about running, I found far more inspiring! ...more
Thomas Brown
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very very enjoyable and will likely inspire most runners to take to the hills and run more in the countryside. The key reason, for me, for it being such a good read is that the book covers three focuses- (some) history and key figures of fell running, coverage of some results over the year, and the authors own experiences going from novice to relatively experienced, particularly with his Bob Graham round attempts.

Askwith has a writing style that flows, very easy and enjoyable to read- naturally
Stephen Redwood
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
You're unlikely to read this book unless you are a) into the pain and suffering of endurance sports, b) into running and c) know a bit about english geography. Fell running, as it's known in the UK, is mountain running. Not just the hills, dales and trails enjoyed by your regular runner, but mountains that combine all types of rough terrain and weather conditions - and, by the way, more often than not there are no trails, thus requiring good navigational skills too. This is a delightful book abo ...more
Sophy H
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: outdoor-nature
Richard Askwith does an excellent job here of describing the obsessional and perhaps addictive nature of fell running.

Having got into running with a group myself some years back, and experiencing the atmospheric nature of participating in 5k, 10k then eventually a half marathon; I always asked myself what was it that then made some of the women in my all-female running group go on to run marathons, multiple marathons, ultras, and endurance triathlons, whilst I struggled and puffed around a half
Emma Sommerville
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book in a lot of ways, even though it wasn't the most exciting read at times. There's plenty of books I haven't finished but something kept me going right to the end of this book. It was interesting to follow the author's own running journey and learn about the history of fell running, however unless already familiar with fell running, the various people and races mentioned start to become a bit of a blur pretty quickly. The 'scenes from a fell running year' chapters become ...more
Stephen Davies
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Insightful and inspirational recount of the events within a year in fell running, intermingled with Askwiths personal account of attempting the Bob Graham Round of the Lake district, juxtaposed with history of a very British sport, its hero's and champions, and the incredible tales of feats and achievements of some of the toughest most resilient athletes on the planet.

This clever interactivity and contrast, between the professional records of races and racers, and Askwiths own self confessed obs
David Taylor
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in running, fell-walking, endurance sports, or even the obsessive nature of people drawn to things like fell-running, this book is fascinating.

It describes not only one man's participation in (his) painful detail, but also explores the famous fell-runners of the past and the development of the sport. Most of these were shepherds, like Joss Naylor, who simply ran because they enjoyed it and it came naturally to them, and these characters represent a lifestyle that has died ou
Nuralia Mazlan
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Is it me or the first few chapters are a slog to finish?

Fortunately, by mid-book I saw how the obsession played out. Trail runners, they are a different breed of human, I guess. From waking up at ungodly hours in the morning to thinking nothing of running up and down the mountain in one day...this is the reason the book can be such a slog at first.

It followed the thinking pattern of a trail runner's mind during a run. Start slow. Curse yourself first. Ask why you bother doing such long strenuous
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a great and very original book about a niche past-time. It has that rare quality of being able to draw in someone only loosely interested and convey the enthusiasm that the author has. My one criticism is that there is too much hyperbole - it seems like practically every race is the toughest and every 'character' with their own chapter the best. At the end of the day though it made me want to discover more about fell-running, which is surely the main point of the book. At first I thought ...more
Wade Z
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
An absolutely wonderful introduction to the art of running really fast on really big mountains. The enthusiasm of the author is infectious and has many times preceded my own (much shorter) runs. In addition, it just feels like the book overall shows the strongest asset that is needed for many successes - a formidable mind.

However, I do admit that a lot of the naming and mountain describing sometimes got a little incomprehensible; it's hard for a complete novice to understand which names are imp
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
While the book's subject of English fell-runners was interesting, the book couldn't hold my full attention till the very end. I enjoyed reading about author's own struggle (or more accurately: self-confessed obsession) to run a certain route under 24 hours. Also learning of how old school fell-runners in the 60's and 70's trained, or rather didn't train was highly interesting. Still the book seemed to fall apart when more and more names of current day runners and mountains and races were introdu ...more
Alistair Miller
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant book by Richard Askwith. I have been a recreational runner for several years and knew about trail running on countryside paths. What I didn't know anything about is fell running, up in the mountains. This is a fantastically engaging book that introduces you not only to the races and runners, but also to the mountains themselves. The races and feats described in this book are regularly extraordinary and are ones that deserve to be told. ...more
Apr 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, it gives a wonderful insight into a sport (fell running) and the people who participate. I never knew it existed and whilst it seems a crazy thing to do, the book itself was great. The author successfully intertwines the history and stories of fell running with his own experiences. I love good stories and I was hooked from the start. A really inspirational book. Highly recommend.
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for fell running aficionados! Also an interesting read if you are into endurance sports and unsung sporting heroes.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly the wonderful characters who have taken on the mountains over the years and had some astounding results.

Occasionally a bit stat heavy its ok to skip over the odd paragraph here and there if the stats don't really interest you so much.
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“But most fell-runners I know feel – and dislike – the sport’s pains. Those who persist see them as the price that must be paid for the compensatory pleasures. These include the scenery (doesn’t apply on days with zero visibility), the conversation (doesn’t apply on days when you can’t keep up), the joy of being outdoors in the wilderness (doesn’t apply in foul weather), the joy of making full use of your physical powers (doesn’t apply when you’re having an off-day), and the joy – which applies all the more when the other pleasures don’t – of it all being over, and of being able to share your relief with like-minded people.” 1 likes
“Does it ever bother him, I wonder, that all that effort – all those thousands of hours of merciless self-punishment – has brought him so little material reward? This is, after all, an age in which Britain counts its sporting millionaires by the score. ‘No,’ he says firmly. ‘Once you get big rewards, you get nastiness. This is a wonderful sport, with good sport in it. If someone fell in a race, you’d check they were all right, though you wouldn’t stop unless you absolutely had to – just as, if I fell, I wouldn’t want someone to lose their race because of me. But once there’s money, there’s trouble.” 0 likes
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