Run Wild is equal parts advocacy and eclecticism. Author Boff Whalley is passionate about finding places to run that are off the beaten track, whether that be hills, fells, parks, river banks or towpaths. He’s evangelical about getting out there and enjoying what nature has to offer, whether you’re starting from a city base or can get out into the wilderness.
The book is made up of random thoughts on running, covering Boff’s childhood in Burnley to life in a band and brief pop stardom (he was a founding member of the band Chumbawumba) and all points in between. I’ll admit that, as an academic whose brain screams out for structure, I found the higgledy-piggledy nature of the book (his description, not mine) hard to get to grips with at first.
Suddenly, though, it all fell in to place. This is just like running, I thought. The way your brain shifts around from place to place until you’ve found a rhythm and you find yourself following a completely unexpected train of thought. Once I’d let go of the need for structure – a metaphor for wild running if ever there was one I suppose – the book’s shifts from Lancashire Mormons to Coleridge to obesity statistics made sense.
Although the book starts with a critical overview of the New York City Marathon and with his bemused reflections on the corporatization of running, he’s not criticizing people who participate in city races. What bothers him is that we get channelled into organized runs at the expense of seeking out wilderness and green spaces. I think there’s probably a balance to be struck for most of us. City running can be a nightmare (read my thoughts on the horrors of running in Buenos Aires here!) but, for me, it also gives us chance to see the places we live and visit with fresh eyes.
That said, like most runners, I always seek out the green where possible. I run by the canal, chat to the ducks (yes, really – they like it!) and say hello to strangers. Most of us can’t get to run really wild much of the time. Boff’s enthusiasm is infectious, though. After I return from running the West Highland Way (um, which I think will be fairly wild), I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled and my feet primed for wild runs closer to home.
Run Wild is available from Amazon and through other booksellers.