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Walking, Running and Outdoors

Running High:

The First Continuous Traverse of the 303 Mountains of Britain and Ireland

 

About this book:

  • ISBN: 9781904524151

  • Published 2004

  • Price £16.99 + postage

  • 273 pages

  • Illustrated with 21 maps, 22 colour photographs and 45 black & white photographs

About the Author:
Hugh Symonds was voted Runner of the Year in 1990, is an international fell runner and three times winner of the classic Yorkshire Three Peaks Race. He has trekked in Iceland and the Himalayas, and competed in the USA, Italy, Switzerland and France as well as at home. When not runing and fund-raising, Hugh teaches mathematics at Sedbergh School in the Yorkshire Dales.

About the Book:

* THE STORY OF AN EPIC RUN
* 2000 miles in 97 days * half a million feet of mountain
* 277 Scottish Munros * 4 English tops * 15 Welsh peaks * 7 Irish summits
* A SPUR TO ALL MUNRO-BAGGERS
* A FASCINATING HUMAN ACCOUNT, IN DIARY FORM, NOT ONLY BY HUGH BUT ALSO BY HIS WIFE PAULINE AND THE CHILDREN
* THE FIRST CONTINUOUS TRAVERSE OF THE 3000 FOOT MOUNTAINS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND

Reviews:
IN 1990 HUGH Symonds completed an amazing run, the continuous traverse on foot, including the distances between them, of all the 3,000 foot peaks in Great Britain. Having achieved this in the staggeringly short time of 83 days, when his target had been a hundred, he decided to add the Irish tops to the list and still finished in 97 days, raising a considerable sum of money for Intermediate Technology along the way. His account of this epic was first published in 1991 but, because of commercial complications, getting hold of a copy of the book was like finding snow in August.
However, he was persuaded by Hayloft Publishing that, despite the passage of time, his work was worth re-printing and so, with a few of the appendices updated, it has duly re-appeared.
So much for the basic facts about the book but the feature that makes it such a gripping read is that it is far, far from being a straightforward blow-by-blow recounting of the course of those 97 days - it is instead, whether Hugh intended it or not, a fascinating look into the psychology of an athlete at the height of his powers driving himself with awesome single-mindedness deeper and deeper into the challenge he has set himself.
For those people interested in the motivation behind people who are capable of pushing themselves way beyond normal limits it makes a riveting read.
I have here a confession to make - I started the book with serious misgivings because it appeared from the contents page and the initial map that this was to be another book about the Munros and I have never been able to summon the slightest enthusiasm for Munro-bagging, not because I don't like Scotland, quite the contrary, but because so many of the Munros are shapeless, fairly uninteresting lumps which happen to be over 3,000 feet and there seem so many better mountains on which to spend all-too-infrequent trips north.
However, not only did I soon discover that Hugh himself tended to share this view of certain mountains but that, strangely enough, the details of the mountains, although skillfully and evocatively described, occupied a surprisingly small percentage of the book; they were but a part of the elements against which Hugh had set himself, together with the weather, distance, logistics and the fundamental issues of fitness, injury, nutrition and fatigue.
To overcome all these required the development of a singleness of purpose which necessitated the exclusion of nearly all other considerations and it is the depiction of this development from the first steps up Ben Hope to the realisation that he has the reserves and the fitness and the stamina to complete the task if only he can shut everything else out which gives the book the fascination.
The contrasts between Hugh's accounts and the entries from his wife Pauline's diary serve to accentuate this increasing fixation all the more. She devotedly spent the time while Hugh was on the hills in driving their camper van all over Scotland to pre-arranged meeting points, looking after and educating their three young children (I wonder how they recall the experience fourteen years on?) dealing with an incessantly demanding pile of dirty clothing and ensuring that when Hugh returned that he had food, rest and the moral support needed to enable him to carry on.
It must have been a monumental task in itself and was at times obviously very wearing, but all the time I was reading her busy, people-inhabited entries I was aware of the solitary figure outside them driving himself on through the frequently dreadful conditions towards his self-imposed goal.
It is the same with the other characters who feature in the book - a veritable 'who's who' of the fell-running world appear in a variety of essential supporting roles, either on the hills or otherwise, and while I am sure Hugh fully appreciated and acknowledged their contributions and has an affable and friendly relationship with them, they do not appear as fully-drawn characters in their own right. It is as though the task in hand demanded a cold-eyed appraisal of all the factors contained within it, each bit to fulfil its own function - food, sleep, clothing, companions, etc - nothing to be overlooked but nothing to be over-emphasised.
If this implies that there is a coldness to the book it is not so; the degree of passion and commitment Hugh devoted to his project is very evident but to make the project succeed demanded that this be controlled and organised to an extreme extent and, had he not been able to achieve this control, it is clear that he felt he would not have performed as he did.
It is very much a book about a single obsession and a tracing of the development of the single-minded qualities needed to bring that obsession to a satisfactory conclusion. This particular obsession finds its expression through fell-running and hence the book will have appeal to readers of this magazine, after all at one time of another most of us have visions of ourselves battling against insuperable odds, but it could have been set in any field of endeavour because it is about the man behind the detail must deeds rather than about the deeds themselves and therefore, apart from the fact that no-one else has even had the temerity to try to repeat the exploit, it doesn't mater at all that the run took place fourteen years ago. He could have done it last week and it wouldn't have made any difference to the immediacy of the atmosphere of the book. Try it and see - I found it fascinating.
Fellrunner Magazine, June 2004

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