In 2009, adventurer Ben Fogle and former Olympic rower James Cracknell raced across Antarctica to the South Pole. The BBC documentary ‘On Thin Ice’ showed them recruiting a third team member, Dr Ed Coats, to complete their team. But if you read their book, also called ‘On Thin Ice’ you’d only find Fogle and Cracknell’s story. Dr Ed is nowhere to be found!
While the documentary shows he wasn’t lost in the Antartic, that he was as much part of the team as the others, the book focuses on the ‘stars’ – and loses something from it.
Big adventures are rarely achieved alone. Ed Stafford, the first man to walk the length of the Amazon, and a man who can claim to have achieved it alone, makes very clear in his book that he couldn’t have done it without the help of a guide who joined him shortly after starting. And he spends just as long talking about their friendship as he does about his own achievement.
That’s why I think I found The Mountains Are Calling a struggle. It was all about the runner, all about ‘me’. And also why I found There Is No Map In Hell a far better book.
Steve Birkenshaw is a fell runner. He holds the record for completing the Wainwrights – a run across all 100+ Lake District mountain fells. This book charts his race with a brief background on his running career before a detailed review of his record breaking run.
Unlike other books he also has other people involved write about what they saw or what they did to help. By adding the perspectives of his wife, support crew, nurse (for some graphic description of his feet!) and support runners he’s able to show the such records are not achieved alone and that they couldn’t be achieved without teamwork. And, while he might be running, he could only run because of what other people were doing for him – whether running with him, guiding him when his mind couldn’t grasp where he was going, to preparing support stops, logistics, food or just being there to urge him on.
You can buy it here: Amazon.