The Big Rounds Book Review

When we heard that the publisher, Cicerone, was publishing a book about the three big rounds – the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay – we were excited to say the least. Doing just one of these rounds can be a project which takes several years and a lot of poring over maps, recces and finding the best lines, not to mention literal blood, sweat and tears. Desk research has traditionally involved reading lengthy blogs from those who’ve done it (or tried and failed), so a book with route descriptions and helpful guidance sounded interesting.

Big Rounds book cover
Big Rounds cover

The design of the book is a reasonably big format, with lots of beautiful illustrations, so it will be a nice addition to your coffee table, or ‘running literature shelf’. However, it will lead to one inevitable question from visitors who spot it: ‘ooh, are you doing a round?’. But fear not, this book isn’t just aimed at runners wanting to do timed rounds; it’s also designed for runners or walkers wanting to explore these stunning routes bit by bit. There are some great suggestions for day-long adventures in the hills, not just 24 hour grizz fests.

The book starts with some general information about the rounds and the mountaincraft and kit you need and the environmental considerations you have to keep in mind. This is all really important stuff because these aren’t routes to be taken lightly. Weather is obviously a big issue, good navigation skills are needed (particularly when the weather is bad) and, well, they’re just very hard. And the book orders the rounds in terms of difficulty.

First up is the Bob Graham Round and the author, David Lintern, talks the reader through each leg. He gives different route options, describes the terrain and the features and he gives facts and tips throughout. All the while the descriptions are illustrated with beautiful photographs which will make you want to get out there on the route. The route description is followed by a ‘practicalities’ section which gives information on aspects such as where to fill up on water, variations on the route to allow you to break it into sections, and logistics and rules for completing a timed round. There’s then a really interesting section on the history of the round, and an entertaining runner’s account of completing ‘this masochistic endeavour’.

The Paddy Buckley is next and the content follows the same format – a beautifully described and illustrated route guide, a practicalities section, a description of the history and a fascinating runner’s account from Sue Walsh. Six cups of tea (one after the other) was her hydration strategy. Then, it’s the toughest one of all, the Charlie Ramsay Round. It follows the same format too, though the photos get slightly more awe-inspiring. The runner’s story from this section is from a certain Jasmin Paris and it’s a description of her record-breaking run (a mind-blowing 16 hours and 13 minutes).

The final section of the book is called ‘people of the rounds’ and this was my favourite part of the book. It has interviews with icons of the rounds, including Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay themselves, plus Jim Mann, Nicky Spinks and Helene Whitaker. This section is full of interesting snippets. One piece of Jim Mann’s advice is that you need to get ‘fell-hard’ for a winter round, ‘I sometimes go looking for bad weather just to challenge myself’. That probably comes as no surprise to anybody who’s met Jim at a race. He puts into context what it takes to do a winter round and it will make you question whether you’ve got what it takes to do that (or if you should even consider it).

Whether you’re considering a round, or it’s just a distant dream, this book will help you appreciate everything that’s required, while giving you some inspiration. It has great practical suggestions for taking on a round, really interesting background on the history of the rounds and just loads of information if you’re looking for some hilly days out running in the Lakes, Wales or Scotland. It’s a beautiful book about three iconic routes, brought to life by the images and the stories of the contributors.

Header image from book’s cover, copyright Cicerone.

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