Mountain running ranks up there as one of the toughest sports. Having the ability and athleticism to race up and down Britain’s highest peaks takes stamina, peak fitness and years of specialised training. So how did a teenage punk rocker from Yorkshire, seemingly existing on a diet of cider, parties and loud music, become the British Champion fell runner? The history of mountain running is peppered with legendary feats and characters, ultra-hard men and women who can run seemingly non-stop over our highest and toughest peaks and skylines.
Flicking through the black-and-white photographs telling the story of these past champions of the sport you’re struck by how wiry, super-fit and disciplined they look. Then, from nowhere, along comes Gary Devine. A maverick who jogged onto the scene sporting spiky dyed pink hair and a tatty running vest, hungover from the previous night’s party, smiling and joking at the start line as he wiped the sleep out of his eyes – before showing everyone a muddy pair of heels and running off to win.
This is the fascinating story of how an unlikely and eccentric runner became, against all expectations, the British Champion. It’s a tale that focuses on the races that made up Devine’s victorious 1990 season, while opening out to understand how the unruly, fearless ethos at the heart of punk could chime perfectly with the spirited, gutsy and dauntless root of mountain running; how the elements of surprise and daring are central to both. It’s a near-perfect underdog narrative, a drama that traces one boy’s life from ordinary schoolkid to extraordinary winner – all against a backdrop of alcohol, fights, arrests and extreme guitar noise.
Following Devine from his roots as a punk rock convert to his years racing alongside the world’s elite mountain runners, this is both a tale of implausible triumph to match that of comic book hero Alf Tupper and at the same time a compelling narrative of how running – like life – can be a wonderful and unexpected adventure.
Great Northern Books Ltd
2021 September 6
Paperback; 198 x 128mm