Running: The Autobiography, by Ronnie O'Sullivan

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The Independent Culture

While Chigwell's finest snooker player has five World Championships and scores of other tournament wins to his name, his life has undeniably had its ups and downs.

By the age of 10, when he was already knocking in 100 breaks, he was travelling the amateur circuit; at 17, a year after he had turned professional, his adored dad was sentenced to 18 years for murder; later on his mother, having taken over running the family porn business, was also jailed, for tax evasion; and he subsequently fought a long, bitter and costly legal battle with his former wife for access to their two children.

So it is hardly a surprise his career has been punctuated by wild fluctuations in form, spells in rehab for drink and drug abuse, and lengthy withdrawals from the game.

And yet here he is at 38, an age when most modern players are past their best, celebrating back-to-back world titles and promising more to come. What is his secret?

Running has played a major part in his salvation, he says; not jogging, but serious training and racing – he is good enough to run 10km in under 35 minutes.

This ghost-written autobiography has been somewhat self-consciously constructed around this part of his life, each chapter subheading containing a nugget from his athletic exploits.

However, O'Sullivan's candid assessments of his snooker opponents and revelations about his out-of-control binges, visits to Sex Anonymous and searches for enlightenment are what will catch the headlines.

Having at one point embraced Islam he then rejected it, saying, with doubtless unintentional hilarity: "I tried Christianity for about three months, but that didn't do the trick either."

O'Sullivan comes across as a fragile but likeable person, and his account earns full marks for honesty – fewer for succinctness: we are told certain facts, such as when his dad saw him on the telly it was like getting a prison visit, more than needed. O'Sullivan claims he might write a novel. If he does, he deserves a stricter editor.

Published in hardback by Orion, £18.99