Book review: The Big Rounds by David Lintern

In The Big Rounds: Running and walking the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay Rounds, David Lintern writes: ‘Hard lines dividing walking and running are a relatively modern notion, and have more to do with commerce and marketing than what goes on when people really start to find their feet in the mountains.’

This, for me, encapsulates what this book is all about. We live in a time when our outdoor pursuits are increasingly specialised. It might be tempting to classify these three mountain challenges – the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsey Rounds – as ultrarunning, but this book takes a more inclusive approach. It will be valuable for backpackers interested in these routes over multiple days as well as runners looking to complete one of the Rounds in 24 hours or less. ‘Long-distance routes,’ the author writes in the preface, ‘are not the province of hill runners only.’

Considered three of the world’s toughest long-distance mountain running challenges, the routes described in this book, one in England, one in Wales, and another in Scotland, collectively take in 113 summits, more than 25,000m of ascent, and almost 300km. Each Round represents a challenge of such magnitude that careful planning and preparation will be required – that’s the case if you’re walking, and doubly so if running.

David Lintern’s book provides a wealth of valuable information to help you plan your own Rounds, from clear overview maps to route insights gained the proper way, from repeated forays on the ground. But the book doesn’t handhold the reader, and there is no option of GPX file downloads. The ethos of the Rounds – and of hill running in general, to an extent backpacking too – is all about doing your own planning, growing your own experience, making the route your own. The Big Rounds stays true to that philosophy while filling in many of the blanks, providing information of value to both walkers and runners about water sources, rough suggested itineraries, conditions underfoot, possible places to camp, and much more. The photography is splendid too (as you’d hope from a Highland-based photo guide).

This is more than a guidebook, though. By far the most interesting parts of this book are about the stories, people and histories of the Rounds. I had no idea that these three routes were linked so closely, not just in theme but through the people involved in them. The Rounds inspired each other as their stories spread and runners pondered if the same philosophy – that of a continuous multi-summit traverse over the best and highest mountains, requiring skill, patience and toughness – could be applied to a new area. That said, despite the strong links that David Lintern has illuminated so well, each Round retains its own unique character. Each has different rules, too.

For me, the detailed interviews really make this book sing. As a guidebook to three of Britain’s most remarkable mountain challenges, The Big Rounds is both competent and effective, written by someone with passion and deep knowledge of the subject. In bringing together such a diverse range of voices connected with these routes, from their origins to the present day, the author has added a whole new layer of context that can’t fail to get the aspirant walker or runner fired up about the challenge ahead – and gems of wisdom about the Rounds are to be found here too. But despite the huge range of practical information provided, the book leaves room for you to own your experience. I think this is the sign of a well-crafted guidebook.

In the words of Charlie Ramsay, ‘If you want success, then you must prepare.’

The Big Rounds: Running and walking the Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Charlie Ramsay Rounds by David Lintern is published by Cicerone Press (£18.95)

Visit the author’s website at davidlintern.com

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.