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Running Free: A runner’s journey back to nature By Richard Askwith

Release date: 28th March, 2014
Publisher: Yellow Jersey

List Price: £16.99
Our Price: £13.99
You Save: £3 (17%)
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Though it may not appear that way to passing pedestrians, the breathless urban runner, face contorted in apparent pain, forehead aglow with perspiration, is actually experiencing a deeply satisfying form of innocent pleasure.

In Running Free, his unerringly-observed follow up to Feet In The Clouds, author Richard Askwith asserts that this daily fix of joy needn’t cost the earth. It is, he maintains, possible to enjoy running without spending a fortune on equipment, kit, supplements or on what he calls ‘Big Running’, the heavily-commercialised, big city marathons and Great Run series.

Nor, he believes, is there any need to spend extraordinary sums of money on gym membership when you can be out in the open, nature either hitting you in the face or coaxing you along by adding some glorious warmth. “Why,” he asks, “pay to run when you can run for free?”

This sentence sums the motive behind Running Free perfectly.

Dismayed by the over-development of a running industry now worth more than twice the global football sector (£16.5 billion a year according to figures quoted here), Askwith considers why people run in the first place. There are our initial goals – time, weight loss and distance, coupled with the overwhelming sense of satisfaction achieved by rejecting the opportunity to slump in front of the box and get some exercise instead.

Having satisfied his own initial targets, Askwith seeks to enhance the sense of pleasure provided by running and tackle the fresh challenges offered by nature, be they in the form of mud, bogs, thistles or roots. Not necessarily hazards he’s likely to encounter on the streets of London where he works.

Accordingly, Running Free becomes part diary of regular runs through the Northamptonshire countryside and part examination of the challenges faced when running without limits where, Askwith says, with undisguised joy, there are “so many possible sources of discomfort.”

This might sound like the diary of a sadistic runner, but it isn’t. Instead, Askwith presents an inspirational celebration of why we run, liberally laced with observations which conjure images ( he describes “grey funnels of rain” and talks of “snow settling noiselessly on farmland”) of what runners can capture when they get outdoors and face nature head-on.

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