The concept of fell running is simple: a long-distance race that includes running up and down several tall mountains. Though rarely making the sports pages, it is a mass-participation sport in areas like the Lake District and Snowdonia – indeed, race organisers turn competitors away so that fragile mountain uplands are not irrevocably damaged by thundering feet. Fixtures like the annual Ben Nevis and Snowdon races, or the Borrowdale and Wasdale fell runs in the Lakeland valleys (20-mile-plus marathons), have remained local events attended by the whole community – the runners back at work the next day shearing sheep. Now, Richard Askwith explores the world of fell-running in the only legitimate way: by donning his Ron Hill vest and studded shoes and spending a season running as many of the great fell races as he can, from Borrowdale to Ben Nevis: an arduous schedule that tests the very limits of one's stamina and courage. Along the way he also meets the greats of fell-running – like the remarkable Joss Naylor, who to celebrate his fiftieth birthday ran all 214 major Lakeland fells in a single week; Billy Bland, the combative Borrowdale man whose astounding records still stand for many of the top races; and Bill Teasdale, a hero of the sport's earlier, professional days, whom he tracks down to his tiny cottage in the northern Lakes. And ultimately Askwith's obsession drives him to attempt the ultimate challenge: the Bob Graham Round – a non-stop circuit of 42 of the Lake District's highest peaks to be completed within 24 hours.
This is a portrait of one of the few sports to have remained utterly true to its roots – in which the point is not fame or fortune but to run the ancient, wild landscape, and to be a hero, if at all, within one's own valley.