A new book exploring the sport of hill running in Scotland is published this week. The Mountains are Calling: Running in the High Places of Scotland is the work of Jonny Muir, Edinburgh-based writer and runner.
The Mountains are Calling opens by recounting the world’s first hill race in the 11th century Highlands, before charting the history, tradition and culture of a sport that Muir describes as a ‘beautiful madness’.
While many hill running books have revered the exploits of fell running in England, typically centred around the Lake District and the Bob Graham Round, Muir examines the sport in Scotland, celebrating both the landscape and the people who are drawn to hills and mountains.
Muir’s narrative is interspersed with numerous interviews with athletes who have played a part in the story of hill running in Scotland, from modern day champions Finlay Wild and Jasmin Paris, to some of the legends of the sport, notably Angela Mudge and Colin Donnelly.
He also gives an insight into the obsessional nature of the sport, the dangers of running in the Scottish mountains, and imagines the future role of hill running in the 21st century.
The Mountains are Calling goes on to highlight the formidable challenge of Ramsay’s Round, a 60-mile loop linking 23 Munros in the Lochaber area, a challenge which marks its 40-year anniversary in 2018. Muir celebrates the pioneers who first travelled long distances on foot in the Scottish mountains, as well as those who followed in the footmarks of Ramsay’s Round creator, Charlie Ramsay.
While Ramsay’s Round demands extraordinary endurance, Muir finds that the round epitomises the wider spirit of hill running in Scotland – a sport underpinned by simplicity and tradition, and largely untainted by commercialism. His conclusion is uplifting: it is the role of hills and mountains to offer inspiration – an inspiration (or a ‘call’, as Muir puts it) that all of us, not just runners, find irresistible.
The Mountains are Calling: Running in the High Places of Scotland (Sandstone Press) is published on May 17.