Shortlisted for the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize for nature writing, this book celebrates running for the sheer thrill of it…


“Sometimes I wonder what non-runners daydream about. For me, most reveries lead to running. I may not start there; I may not finish there. But there’s usually a stage when I realise that, in my mind’s eye, I’ve been running.

“Even when the window through which I’m gazing belongs to an urban office, my notional self will skip unthinkingly over jostling traffic jams and pavements, escaping to unexplored parks, rivers and open spaces – irrespective of the fact that I’m principally thinking about something else. But I notice it most when I’m looking at the passing countryside from car to train. No matter what else is in my head, something will grab my eye: an empty field; an inviting path; a soft green roll of rural landscape glimpsed through the trees. And my drifting mind begins to sense the familiar rhythym, the patient reeling in of each slope and turn, the thrill of discovery as each new corner is turned or summit crested; the bright release of the downhill dash…

“Then I remember that there is no actual runner doing this. And I wonder why not.”

Richard Askwith wanted more. Not convinced running had to be all about pounding pavements and buying fancy kit, he looked for ways to liberate himself. His solution: running because he’s being (voluntarily) chased by a pack of bloodhounds, running to get hopelessly, enjoyably lost, running fast for the sheer thrill of it.

Running as nature intended.

An opponent of the commercialisation of running, Askwith offers a welcome alternative, with practical tips (learned the hard way) on how to both start and keep running naturally – from thawing frozen toes to avoiding a stampede when crossing a field of cows. Running Free is about getting back to basics of why we love to run.

Running Free is published by Yellow Jersey Press and is available here. You can also read about other offerings in our book section.