Strengths: Well-written, by a journo who knows how to express himself.
Weaknesses: I found the structure a bit annoying.
Overall: An excellent and passionate running book, by a guy like you or me who discovered new challenges in the hills, and decided to explore the history of the sport.
Askwith realised that fell-running is under-documented, and decided to write a highly readable history of the sport. To make it more palatable, he's interleaved chapters in the history with a description of the fell running calendar.
This is its weakness. I found the alternating pace and font-style a little artificial.
But this is a minor complaint. It's a superb history of a tradition that might well have been forgotten, had Askwith not decided to make it sexy and fascinating.
I should mention that I have never run a fell-race or cross-country in my life. This is why I loved the book. It's opened up a new world for me.
If you're a plodding road runner like me, you will really enjoy this book.
Overall: Taylor writes well. He's an established, professional 'humourist', and knows which buttons to press.
I have 2 main problems with this book.
First, the humour is relentless. It's like eating a plateful of meat with no veg. Or a big block of chocolate without any ice cream or fruity filling or sauce. The first few bites are fantastic, then it all starts to seem unbalanced. Too much of a good thing. It gets kinda tedious. Where is the insight? The humour could have been immensely more effective if the excellent wit was delivered in flashes, sandwiched between some the odd serious observation. Taylor writes well, and should be capable of mixing it up a little to relieve the formulaic same-iness. His New York marathon happens just a few weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center, yet he barely mentions it.
Second, and in some ways more serious, the guy is a total fraud. The entire joke rests on his insistence that he's a crap runner. He plods around the nation, anxiously trying to work out what this running lark is all about, panting out his frustration and his oft-confessed uselessness. But hang on..... he writes about his first race along the Thames, and how he's hilariously overtaken by OAPs and people in wheelchairs or whatever. But then he mentions in passing that he is running 7 minute miles. He does the New York marathon in 3 hours something (sorry, don't have the exact time in front of me). The man is a very decent amateur runner, but he needs us to believe he's a crap runner to make the joke work.
A frothy airport-departure-lounge read, but I just found these things annoying.