Run Wild, by Boff Whalley

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The Independent Culture

Raised as a Mormon in Burnley before going on to found an anarcho-punk band (Chumbawamba), Boff Whalley must be used to questioning accepted norms, and his target here is urban running in general and big-city marathons in particular.

Why put up with the regimented herding, traffic pollution and possible knee problems inherent in pounding along metalled roads, when by heading for the country runners can enjoy an infinite variety of terrain and scenery, he asks. Most people run marathons to feel a sense of achievement but find the actual experience far from pleasant, he argues. In his view there is much more enjoyment to be had off-track, not only physically but emotionally, as his approving quotations from back-to-nature writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson make clear.

None of these ideas are new, of course, as the author acknowledges: in recent years Christopher McDougall's classic Born to Run has explored the atavistic pleasures of running in the wilderness without the dubious aid of hi-tech trainers, while Richard Askwith's Feet in the Clouds celebrates Whalley's particular enthusiasm, fell running.

But this quirky, discursive and often amusing recollection of decades on the run around the world while playing in a band is a welcome addition to the genre, and by the end Whalley has made a highly persuasive case that his way, not the highway, is the only sensible path to take.

Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster, £8.99