Running Free review – a year in the Northamptonshire countryside

Couch potatoes and immovable lazybones might react in horror to Richard Askwith’s third book, an account of a year’s running through the Northamptonshire countryside, but those of a more active or curious disposition ought to race to the shops and savour his idiosyncratic, enjoyable tale. After his earlier acclaimed books about fell running and rural England, Askwith combines the two in his autobiographical tale of how his unfocused lifestyle was given shape and purpose by a running hobby that gradually turned into a near-obsession. It’s a serious book, but never po-faced. An account of how he used to be voluntarily chased through the countryside by bloodhounds in all weathers verges on the farcical, and Askwith is sensible enough to understand that not all of his more sedentary readers will necessarily understand the thrill of what he describes, so his evocative descriptions of powering through the wild, unfettered landscape go a long way to making it feel vivid. At the end he writes “each life is a journey: and in each runner’s life there is a journey within a journey”. This particular journey is never less than compelling.

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