There is no map in hell – book review

There is no map in hell
by Steve Birkinshaw

I first saw this book when I was supporting Andy & Sarah on their Hardmoors 200. My friend Peter Wilkie was reading it while he waited for his runner at Ravenscar checkpoint. I asked him what it was like and he said he was loving it and I would enjoy it.

A few days later the book arrived by post! Thanks Peter. I have been looking forward to reading it as I decided to save it for our holiday to Indonesia. I wasn’t quite sure about the title and having read the book I’m still not sure! But that is the only negative thing to say!


For those who haven’t heard of Steve he is an elite fell/ultra runner who has won lots of top quality races including multi-stage races like Dragon’s Back.

The main part of the book is about his successful record of running all 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District. He ran faster than the record set by Jos Naylor in 1984. Steve ran it in 7 days and 1 hour.

The book is divided into four sections.

Part 1 I have always run
These chapters help to get to know Steve before he took on the Wainwright challenge. I knew a little about him but after reading these chapters I had a lot better understanding.

Steve has done all the main rounds in England, Scotland and Wales as well as winning the Lakeland 100 and Dragon’s Back. Plus he had a couple of goes at the Lake District 24hr record where he learnt a lot for the main challenge.

Part 2 Considering the challenge
Like all challenges of this nature there is so much preparation to do both physically and logistically and these chapters help the reader to get a glimpse into what goes into an attempt like this.

Steve has a full time job so all the training and preparation is done outside of work hours which makes it even more amazing.

Part 3 Taking on the Wainwrights
This is the heart of the book and each chapter is a day of the challenge. Steve writes in a very honest and at time matter of fact way about how he was feeling. Obviously there are going to be highs and lows and the chapters record those moments really well.

I was surprised that he had struggles almost from day 1 but how he overcame those and kept going makes compelling reading.

I would imagine the majority of us could never even run at his pace for one day let alone seven but the thing that encouraged me was that he goes through the same battles that I have but at a different pace!

There is so much to learn from the way he got through the tough times and was able to keep moving. From day 3 he was suffering from really bad blisters but was able to deal with them and keep on going to the end.

I also enjoyed the sections from those around him including his wife and kids, support runners and logistic team. It made me realise that this record attempt was far from certain right until the last day.

Part 4 The Aftermath
The final few chapters were about how he recovered from the challenge and he reflected on the achievement.

I really enjoyed the book and would fully recommend it to anyone who loves a challenge! We can all identify with Steve’s struggles even if we can’t quite grasp running that fast for that long!!



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