Way back in August, when Sir Bradley Wiggins was plain old ‘Wiggo’, I put a post out about looking for someone to write a running book for me. There was a flurry of interest – mostly along the lines ‘what would you like me to write for you?’, which sort of missed the point. And then silence. Not the silence of keyboards being thwacked, heads being scratched. More the ‘oh, look it’s series 4 of Spiral, I’ll write a proposal in the morning kind of silence’. Writing’s a tricky business – it takes a lot of time. On your own. It’s not at all like running. Well, maybe a bit.
More months passed. Then we found out that Mrs H was pregnant, I went to New York, Richie McCaw came over and signed my book (before we beat them – who could forget that). In other words – there were distractions.
Around the same time an athlete, whose name is not yet up there with Mo Farah, happened to turn in an astonishing performance at the Spartathlon to put her on the podium – the first time any female runner has achieved this. And when she got home, she started writing a book. ‘Well, I never’, as the Fat Control might have said.
It is difficult to put Lizzy Hawker on the spectrum of British athletes. There is no such title as ‘world number one female ultra-runner’, and to say that she is the best ultra-distance runner this country has ever produced neither puts in perspective the trail-blazing quality of what she has done, nor how limited in public awareness and sponsorship this sport is at the moment. That said, running through New York with a friend of mine I mentioned the book, ‘what the Lizzy Hawker?’ Enough said.
And now, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the sound of her story being written down. Perched up in the Alps, between training sessions, she is writing the story that took her from someone who had run a marathon or two, onto 100-kilometre races and multiple winner of the UTMB. Not bad for someone who started life in Upminster, has never had a coach and did most of her early running while finishing her PhD. It promises to be sensational and inspirational in equal measure.
So, the year began on a good note, and now comes the hard work. The running book market has become increasingly crowded in recent years – a sign, for sure, that there is an appetite to be sated. But where Lizzy’s story is unique is not only in the journey, and that she is telling it from the inside, but – mostly importantly – as a female writer. Alex Hemmingsley’s Running Like a Girl, out next month, is the only book that I can think of that appeals directly to a female audience, and Alex would be the first to admit she’s not cut from the same cloth as Lizzy.
So, all of you out there who got in touch – and you know who you are – the bar has been set, the gauntlet thrown down – but my door is open and you know where I am.