Simon & Schuster, £14.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop
Run Wild, By Boff Whalley
From anarchist pop star to free runner: a musical maverick celebrates sport without sponsors
Having run a couple of marathons, back when they were still a novelty, and before some twisted sadist forced the words "fun" and "run" into an unnatural union, I can attest that they are pure pain. That endorphin thing never happened to me; I never felt good, never felt light-footed. It was all about getting to the finish, preferably in a time that wasn't a total embarrassment. Boff Whalley would be horrified.
Whalley spent 30 years in the anarchist band Chumbawamba until they called it a day earlier this month. The band, they said in their farewell statement, "was our vehicle for pointing at the naked emperors". For the purposes of this inspirational book, the unclothed monarch is the cast-of-thousands city marathon, 26 miles and 385 yards of tarmac and asphalt - "drinks stations, digital timing and computerised results"; a "cultural colossus", a "corporate leviathan".
Whalley's passion is for fells and forests, streams and screes and snowdrifts. He even likes running in the rain. He simply can't understand the impulse to be herded, "our willingness to collaborate in our own confinement". He's the runner's Thoreau, anxious to point out that the city marathon "dislocates us from the earth we're running on".
He craves "the utterly human quest for the wild, natural, joyful rub of life's friction" – and he's not talking about runner's nipple. Running is only a metaphor for life, he says, if that metaphor incorporates the detours, the winding ways, the getting lost and finding your way again, having had a far better time than on the straight and narrow.
Perhaps the key passage is about how all our naturally exuberant playfulness has been educated out of us. Run Wild is essentially a passionate plea for that insidious process to be resisted at every turn. Raised as a Mormon, Whalley is no stranger to proselytising – he recalls days spent tramping door to door with his family round his native Burnley attempting to bring the lapsed back into the fold. Now, he's not afraid to indulge in a spot of tub-thumping as he tries to drag the running community off the streets and back to nature.
The book is beset by a certain self-righteousness. He chides the novelist Haruki Murakami, who in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running admitted to listening to music on his headphones.
By the end, I confess I felt slightly preached-to. But that probably says more about me than about this heartfelt book, which is, in the end, a joyful celebration of life.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 JK Rowling horrified by Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis's raunchy photoshoot
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 The ten most unequal developed countries in the world
- 4 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 5 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Mad Men, TV review: Perfect harmony? Not quite, but an enlightening finale for Don Draper
Love, Cannes film review: Visceral brilliance sets Gasper Noé drama apart from standard porn
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Labour leadership: Battle lines are drawn as members battle over party's ideology at first hustings of the contest