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Mud Sweat & Gears By Ellie Bennett

Release date: 14th March, 2012
Publisher: Summersdale

List Price: £10.79
Our Price: £6.56
You Save: £4.23 (39%)
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Pubs are such wonderful institutions. They thrive by being warm, sociable, welcoming places where jokes are told, grievances aired, politics discussed and where outrageous plans are hatched.

In Mud Sweat and Gears, author Ellie Bennett, careering towards her fiftieth birthday, asks, "How many less than sensible ideas have been cooked in the pub after one too many beers?" The answer, of course, is 'millions'.

However, unlike 99% of folks who agree to participate in absurd projects when fuelled with a few beers, only to soberly withdraw the following day, Ms Bennett sees her positive, if slightly hesitant, response to an enormous challenge through. The result is a tale of an unusual sporting quest to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats, stopping en route at a number of fantastic-sounding pubs. In fact, the author helpfully supplies readers with an index of the 50 best pubs she and her good friend and co-cyclist Mick visit during the journey.

This is not a story which concerns itself with the mechanics of getting fit and undertaking hours of training before setting off to break well-established records. Far from it: in fact, within a few minutes of starting, the author's chain has fallen from her bike.

Instead, it's the type of sporting journey millions of ordinary people undertake every year, often with the intention of raising money for charity or another good cause. Though they had not initially planned to do so, our pair of intrepid riders opt to make the journey in aid of a local Alzheimer's charity, a decision which gives the book a further sense of purpose and makes it more meaningful for the millions or people who have done something similar.

Though Bennett prefers not to provide readers with constant updates on muscle pains and strains, she really gets into the swing when in travelogue mode. Her anecdotes and witty asides are long enough to make them interesting, frequently seasoning a story that could, in less accomplished hands, become a little repetitive.

Bennett avoids this and while purists may argue that this is not necessarily a sports book, it is a story underpinned by a mammoth sporting undertaking. Sport doesn't have to be about smashing world records and, as Bennett proves, it's the taking part that matters.


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