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Okay, full disclaimer: I watched this film because Tim Roth is in it. Partly also because it’s about running and I love running, but mainly the Tim Roth thing. So to make it clear for any fellow Rothians – he’s not in it much at all!! Anyway onto the film itself…

Kevin Schuler (Graham Rogers) is an athlete in a high school team, coached by Coach Jared (Roth). Kevin’s girlfriend Ellie is also in the team and is Coach Jared’s daughter. When Ellie and several of Kevin’s team mates are killed in a roac accident, he turns to running to help him cope with his loss. He starts at a new school with the unconventional Coach K (Billy Crudup) who helps with Kevin’s running training.

Kevin finds himself trapped by memories of the past byt hoping to forge a new future and is torn between his life before the crash and his life after it.

If I’m honest, I was slightly disappointed by this film. Not just because Tim Roth’s involvement ended after about 15 minutes, but because I unfortunately don’t have much patience with teenage angst. While I totally understand that losing your girlfriend and best mates in a crash is far more than just normal teenage problems, Kevin was never really that likeable to me. I did like Coach K though and thought this was a great performance from Crudup. Overall, a perfectly passable way to pass an evening, but not the great running movie I had been expecting.

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I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages and when I finally got around to it I was not disappointed!

Saint Ralph aka The Miracle of Saint Ralph stars Adam Butcher as the titular character, a 14 year old boy at Catholic school in the 1950s, who has a mother desperately ill in hospital. When a nurse tells him that it will be a miracle if his mom recovers he decides that he will create the miracle that is needed by running and winning the Boston Marathon. One of his teachers, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott, one of my faves) offers to train him against the wishes of the strict headmaster Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent).

Considered to have absolutely no hope when he begins training, Ralph is determined to complete his mission and the local town starts to see his as an embodiment of their hopes and desires and everyone who initially laughed at the idea starts to support him. He also provides a new lease of life to Father Hibbert, who gave up some of his own athletic dreams when he joined the priesthood.

This is such a sweet film, with lots of humorous moments – although it isn’t really a comedy, and lots of poignant moments. All of the main cast are excellent, including Jennifer Tilly as the nurst who looks after Ralph’s mom, and by extension, Ralph himself. Campbell Scott is perfect as the slightly rebellious priest, and I defy anyone to watch this and not end the film with a smile on their face.

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As a schoolboy, Ben Smith was a victim of relentless and vicious bullying, which affected him so much that he attempted to take his own life twice. Carrying his experiences through to adulthood, he suffered from severe depression and a crushing inability to reveal his true self to others. His saviour was running.

So when Ben wanted to take on a challenge to raise awareness of bullying and also raise money for two anti-bullying charities, it was to running which he turned. The challenge he decided on was to run 401 marathons on 401 consecutive days. Yes, you read that correctly!

Selling his house and all his possessions to fund the project, Ben set out on his odyssey throughout the UK running a marathon every single day. It changed his life, but as news of his challenge grew, it also changed the lives of many others. People would turn out not just to support Ben, but also to run with him – sometimes the whole 26.2 miles, sometimes a portion of it. Several people ran their first ever marathon alongside him.

This books tells the remarkable story of the 401 challenge, and it’s an absorbing and inspirational read. Not so much a running book as a lesson that if you really want to achieve something – and you are prepared to work damned hard at it – you can and will do it. Rather than a day to day retelling, each chapters covers chunks of the time, and as well as Ben’s back story, which is told alongside the story of the marathons, there are contributions from his partner, family, friends and other people who ran with him or were inspired by him. This meant that as a reader we see Ben’s experiences through other people’s eyes, and see just what an effect it had on those around him.

It’s an honest account of the good times, but also the bad times – you simply cannot take on a challenge of that magnitude without it affecting you, and Ben is quite straightforward about the physical, mental and logistical issues which the challenge threw at him and his team. Ultimately though, this is always a story of hope, dedication and a little bit of craziness. Engaging throughout and thoroughly enjoyable whether or not you are a runner.

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In this memoir, Helen Croydon chronicles her journey from party girl to Team GB triathlete. When she realises that her typical social activities of parties, alcohol and shopping are not giving her fulfilment, Helen joins a running club in an attempt to find a new hobby and new friendships. She also ends up finding a love of endurance sport, and specifically triathlons – and an eventual goal of qualifying as a member of Team GB.

As a runner who loves competing in half marathons and marathons (I say “loves competing;” in truth I mean I love it after I’ve done it), I was looking forward to reading this book and the first half of it definitely delivered. I myself have been toying with the idea of joining a running club, having always preferred to run solo, and so I enjoyed reading about her experiences in that regard. However, the second half of the book was taken up a lot by her experiences of improving her cycling – I have zero interest in cycling so found this part less engaging. The title of the book led me to believe that it would feature the running quite heavily, although I may have been a bit naive in that respect.

What I did like was that the author openly talked about her struggles with training, her sadness at finding it harder to create lasting friendships than she had expected or hoped, and the sheer exhilaration at discovering what you are capable of if you push yourself.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would recommend to people with an interest in endurance sport, and especially anyone with an interest in triathlon.

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Abby Rogers is on a health kick. She’s been on them before but never really taken them seriously and they’ve never lasted very long. But when she meets Oliver (Doctor Dishy) who is a member of the local running club along with her best friend, she is suddenly motivated to take up running.

I listened to this book while out running, so the subject was highly appropriate! A large part of the storyline is Abby’s decision to run a half marathon – motivated by a far more serious reason than just her obsession with Doctor Dishy – and her efforts to get in shape for it. However, there is a lot more going on too – her web design business with her kooky employees, her friendship with best pal Jess and her initial grudging friendship with fellow runner Tom, who she meets after accidentally driving her car into him and his motorbike at the start of the story!

It’s chick-lit, which is a very hit-and-miss genre for me. And true, it’s completely and utterly predictable – I knew exactly who would end up with who, and the ‘twists’ in the story were signposted ages beforehand, but nonetheless the story is told with so much wit and good humour that I could forgive all of that and just enjoy the ride.

A few words of praise for the narrator Emma Gregory too – I truly believe that some books are better to read, and some are better to listen to. Gregory’s narration made this fall into the latter category for me – she was superb, capturing the funny moments and the more poignant moments perfectly.

Overall, a great listen, and I would definitely consider listening to more audiobooks by Jane Costello – particularly if narrated by Emma Gregory.

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Several thousand asteroids hit the UK and Britain is decimated. In the fallout, Ed Hill is separation from him wife and two children and he knows that his only chance of survival is to span the 550 miles that divides them. But with cities in ruins and no transport, he will have to run the distance. Together with a small group of survivors, Ed sets out on his long journey, with no idea of whether or not they will be successful…

On paper this book ticked all the right boxes for me – it’s post apocalyptic, it’s a dystopian novel (one of my favourite genres) and it’s set in the UK. And in many ways, it is a good read. Certainly it’s pacey and exciting – the story has twists and turns and it ket me interested,,,but for all that, I never really felt able to lose myself in it. I think the main reason is that I was not able to connect to the characters. It’s narrated by Ed himself, a lazy husband, giving the minimum amount of effort to his marriage and the raising of his children. He loves his family but he can’t be bothered to put himself out in any way for them. Only when he is faced with losing them forever does he realise how much they really mean to him. The other characters on his journey are basically a bunch of stereotypes, who we never really get to know beyond surface level and for that reason I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.

I did enjoy reading about the people they met on their journey – some good, some bad, some helpful, others with evil intentions, and the resourcefulness that Ed and his companions had to summon up in order to get out of certain situations. Overall though, while I can’t say that I actively dislike the book, I can’t say that it ever really struck much of a chord with me.

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In the first part of this funny, moving and frank memoir, Alexandra Heminsley discusses how and why she started running, and – more importantly – how and why she continued to run, despite occasional setbacks and bouts of self-doubt.  She talks about how it brought her closer to family members, and made her feel better about herself, and along the way describes some of the races she has participated in.

The second part of the book is given over to hints and advice to other runners, or people who are thinking of taking up running, whether as a casual hobby, or a serious enthusiast.  The book also talks about the history of women’s running (and boy, did that chapter open my eyes; after reading about the journey that Joan Benoit Samuelson took to become the first female Olympic marathon winner, I watched some of the footage on YouTube, and was filled with admiration and tears).

While Heminsley’s own story is very entertaining and inspiring, the second section of the book is very useful to new runners, offering tips on buying running trainers and equipment, and what you will need if you take part in a big race.  It also highlights injuries that can be caused or aggravated by running, and the best ways to deal with them, and debunks many myths surrounding running.

As a fellow runner, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and identified with many of the feelings that the author described.  Heminsley is very engaging and relatable, and also very funny.  I don’t think you would have to be a runner to appreciate this book, but I am pretty sure that after reading it you would want to pull on your trainers and go for a trot around the block.

I would recommend this book for everyone, but particularly people with even just a passing interest in running.

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