Published on April 14, 2015
Runner may seem like a reductive book title; Lizzy Hawker is many things not least of which is a phenomenal athlete with world records and gold medals, including Commonwealth Championships 24-hours and IAU 100km World Championships, on her CV. But oddly, given here obvious modesty – which never comes across as forced self-effacement – to define her (or allow her to define herself) simply as a ‘runner’ seems permissible.
The book’s full title Runner: A Short Story About a Long Run is perhaps a little more misleading being neither particularly short, at 266 pages, or about any one single ‘long run.’ Poetic licence which allows us to speculate that the long run in question is her life. And what a life…
Divided into three sections the first, A Journey of Discovery, broadly covers the first-hand account of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc but is interspersed with accounts of early marathons (London, Snowdon), endurance efforts (The Bob Graham Round, UK 100km Championships) and character-defining exploits with the British Antarctic Survey. It’s in these early days that Hawker finds herself shaped by both experience and slow realisation that she ‘possessed an uncommon endurance’. Her description of the UTMB – which incidentally she comfortably won somewhat by accident – is incredibly vivid and immediate; if you have never run it, you feel as though you are and if you have tackled the UTMB, you’ll be right back on those high mountain trails.
The second part of Runner, A Journey of Exploration, broadly covers the remarkable run from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu, whilst part three, A Journey of Rediscovery and Realisation, is a more meditative reflection, in part on injury (‘I hadn’t envisaged that to stand still would need more courage that to race.’)
At the outset Hawker tells her readers that whilst some books are written to teach, inform, impart knowledge or simply to entertain she has no such ambitions. In which case she has inadvertently done all this and more besides in the same way that she almost inadvertently came to be one of the world’s greatest endurance athletes. Perhaps of all the words Hawker has written in Runner our favourite is the simple dedication at the beginning: ‘This is for you.’ It really is for us, for any of us who love running, love life and love that, ‘the world was before us and full of infinite possibility.’
Runner is beautifully written and as packed with pure inspiration (and possibility) as any book ever written on the subject, destined to become a classic of the genre.
Runner (ISBN-10: 1781311471) by Lizzy Hawker is published by Aurum Press, RRP £12.99 paperback, currently £8.64 Kindle – available from Amazon.co.uk