Ian Mortimer


What was new in 2019?

27 November 2019
Running and writing... and running and writing...

Life is pretty much head-down each day on The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain, which I am aiming to finish in March, ready for publication in the autumn of 2020. Loving it. But it does take up almost all my time now. Otherwise, I get to cook, eat, sleep, add to my record collection and run. Yes, the running is still going reasonably well. Having said that, it is not without its frustrations. At the start of the month I ran the Bideford 10-miler, aiming to record an official time better than my previous best of 73:26. Most frustratingly, I ran 73:27. Curses! And then at the Gloucester 10K last weekend I set about trying to beat both my eldest son Alexander (who is coming up 21) and my personal best of 43:25, which was set in appalling weather conditions at this year's Exmouth 10K. It should have been a walk in the park - or at least, a run in the park - but guess what? I ran 43:26. Twice in one month, one second off my target. And Alexander beat me by 24 seconds. Oh well. I had a great weekend with him nonetheless. We even managed to stumble into a fifteenth-century galleried inn in Gloucester, with its galleries intact! I had no idea it was there. According to its listing, it's the best-preserved example of its type. I was a very happy historian that evening.



21 October 2019
Medieval Blues

In a few days time it will be the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, which is the centrepiece of the action in my experimental year-in-the-life book about Henry V, 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory. In order to mark the occasion I thought I'd put up a free version of a light-hearted scurrilous song I wrote in 2015 on the 500th anniversary of the battle, which I recorded in 2017. It is called 'Medieval Blues'. Eldest son Alexander is on bass, I'm singing and playing guitar. (If you want to hear more of my songs, there's an album available... click here.)

20 October 2019

End of last week I went to Lavenham to give a couple of talks to the Martin Randall Travel symposium entitled 'Medieval England: politics, power and culture'. Good fun. Met up with several old friends and made some new ones. The titles of my presentations were 'Medieval Horizons: the cultural and psychological expansion of the medieval world' and 'Who was the 'rightful' heir to the throne in the fifteenth century?' Both seemed to go down well. The former will be worked up into a short book next year; the latter will (I hope) be published as one of a selection of my keynote lectures. Another perk was hearing some moving 12th- & 13th-century music in the magnificent fifteenth-century church; another was seeing the town's rather wonderful timber-framed Guildhall again.

13 October 2019
Great West Run

Today was the Great West Run, a half marathon in and around Exeter. (I described the 2017 run in Why Running Matters.) Today I set off with my eldest son, Alexander; my brother, Robbie; my nephew, Tom and friend Ginny Thomas. It was a great occasion, perfect conditions. Took it steady for once - and ran well - so much so that I was not in agony at the end. For the seocnd time in a month I managed to beat my eldest son in a long race. This doesn't happen very often; nor does it fool me into thinking I can take him on over 5K any more (he's about a minute faster than me at parkruns these days). But today I ran 1:38:31 and he was more than two minutes slower. Tom was not far behind him, in his very first competitive half marathon. Ginny did a PB too. And Robbie was only a whisker off his target time. Here we are below - a happy group of runners at a great event, which always feels like a big party.

6 October 2019
15th anniversary parkrun

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of the first Bushy Park Time Trial, the original parkrun, which took place on the first Saturday in October 2004. Sophie and I plus our youngest son, Oliver, travelled up to London to take part. We gathered with 1,835 other runners to celebrate the occasion and, as we were waiting at the start, we were fortunate enough to meet the man who started it all, Paul Sinton-Hewitt. In Why Running Matters I talk about him as having the remarkable ablity to inspire other people to be inspirational themselves - a sort of exponential form of encouragement that carries on repeating. In getting so many millions of people running regularly, he must have saved more lives than anyone else around today. As I was with him, people were coming up and thanking him for helping them recover from health problems or improving their mental health. I was proud to shake his hand. He also kindly posed with us for the photo below, taken by Sophie.

When we did the run, Oliver did his third-best 5K ever and I did my second-best, finishing 126th in 20:10. That time equates to an age grade of 74.3%, which is the highest I have ever registered. To celebrate that too, I have put up five chapters that were cut from Why Running Matters, which also should satisfy those who ask me what didn't make it into the final version of the book. You can download them as a pdf from here.

26 September 2019
Rodrigo y Gabriela

I do love the Mexican guitar duo. I just had to go and see them in Bath, when visiting on a research trip. Their music is so energetic, exciting and tuneful: a little bit traditional, a little bit exotic and wholly unique. And they perform with such passion. It was the third time I've seen them in concert and this was the best. I did like the touch of having cameras attached to the necks of the guitars so we could see just how quickly and precisely their hands moved.

23 September 2019

A wonderful day yesterday. Run in the morning with my eldest son; lunch with my wife at Shoals, a seafood restaurant overlooking the sea near Brixham; and drinks with a few friends at home in the evening. The fact I was 52 this year was reason to pause for thought: after all, Shakespeare died on his 52nd birthday and that makes any writer consider what he has achieved at 52. I survived the day - although as you can see from the picture, I nearly went the same way as the Bard.

15 September 2019
The Great Bristol Half Marathon

I drove to Bristol with Alfie Fell - friend of the family and running comrade - to meet up with my eldest son Alexander and run the Bristol Half Marathon. I was hoping to run under 100 minutes, which I did three times earlier this year, but even before the race, I knew I was not fit enough to be able to sustain 4:40 per km (7:30 per mile) on the hot day it was turning out to be. But it was wonderful to see people we've run with before, like Matt and Robyn Ellis, who used to run the Toulouse parkrun in the south of France, and Kate Matheson, who is about to set off on a full Iron Man in Spain in a few weeks, and Craig Butler, who runs with us at Exmouth parkrun. Everyone in fine fettle.

When the race began, the fast crew set off first. Alexander dropped back to join me in the white wave, where I'd been placed (by accident, I think). We started off happily, chatting to each other, doing a steady 4:40 per km. We ran up under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and turned, completing the first 7km in 33 minutes exactly. Which was fine - only I felt a little too tired. Alexander started inching ahead. For the next 2km I kept pulling him back in, putting on a little speed to close the gap each time one developed, but I was rapidly losing my edge. At 9km I let him go. But he never quite ran away from me as I expected. As I slowed, so did he. At 15km, he was still only 100m ahead; I could see him. At that point we were weaving in and out of the Bristol streets, which is the tiresome part of the course, and I could see that he was slowing. I thought to myself, 'In Torbay in June, you had to close up on him half a mile in the space of three miles; you can close this gap now. Just hang on in there, Ian'. And so I did. It was gruelling, but I caught up with him at about 18km (11 miles) and overtook. He looked done in. 'Go on, Dad, I can't run any faster,' he said sportingly as I went past, barely able to put one foot in front of the other I was so tired. And once ahead, I just had to keep going. My body was into the zone of tearful rebellion, just begging me to stop. I did think I might pass out at one point, as I felt myself swaying from side to side. But I kept it together and finished upright, in a time of 1:42:54. Not my worst this year. Alfie did an amazing 1:17:47 - knocking 15 minutes of his previous best, in April (Taunton) and Matt Ellis did 1:13, which is astonishing for a man in his forties. Hats off to them! But what a day. The first time I have beaten my twenty-one-year-old son in a race since February 2018.

7 September 2019
Oliver's 150th parkrun and the Fifteenth-Century Conference

Two things to report. First, I was very proud today to see my youngest son set off on his 150th parkrun at Exeter. How many sixteen-year-old boys have already got to that milestone, I wonder? Not many. Certainly he shows far more dedication than I did at his age, when staying in bed was my priority on a Saturday morning. Well done, Oliver! The second thing is that I have been attending the Fifteenth-Century Conference at the University of Exeter over the last few days. Two particular highlights for me were Dr John Goodall's illustrated lecture on Perpendicular architecture in St Nicholas's Priory, which I was privileged to chair; and Professor Malcolm Vale's final talk to the conference, in which he talked about the 'political nostalgia' in the 1460s and 1470s, when the English started looking back to the 'glory days' in France of Henry V's reign. Very thought-provoking and inspiring. A doubly good weekend.

13 August 2019
Dartington International Festival of Music

I was completely blown away last night. The first reason was because Alfred Brendel was giving a lecture on playing Mozart. What? Alfred Brendel? THE Alfred Brendel? The pianist on the first solo-piano LP I ever bought, Schubert's Impromptus, in 1987? Which he recorded in 1969, when I was two? Wow. Still perceptive and insightful even in his late eighties. While many of the technicalities went over my head, he said a number of things that made me think. He started off by making a distinction between the limited capacity of an individual's character and the seemingly unending musical scope of the man of genius. In Mozart's case you have to agree, at least on the face of things, as in his day-to-day life he seems quite limited, and no great money-maker or mover and shaker. Everything was in his music. Yet, as the talk went on, I increasingly felt that all Mozart's music was an expression of his character. (Is all great art fundamentally an expression of character?) How then to make sense of the seemingly limited character if, when expressed musically or artistically, it is capable of so many things? I was left feeling how little any of us can really know of a person's character - unless we live with them, day in, day out, for many years. Another interesting point was the observation that 'Mozart can say anything - but he never says too much - to which Brendel added, 'I have found this a very rare attribute, especially among the truly great composers'. Isn't interesting to hear the idea that the truly great - Mozart excepted - suffer from a common fault?

Later we listened to Mozart's sonata in G, K379, played by Thomas Gould and Florian Mitrea. Brilliant. I loved it. But Thomas Gould's playing of the Bach Partita no. 2 that followed swept me away. It was played with such passion, confidence and excitement that I could not believe it. A phrase that Brendel had used to describe one of Mozart's piano concertos - 'the controlled but breathless exuberance of being alive' - seemed totally applicable to this performance too. Unusually it was performed with Schumann's piano accompaniment to the famous last movement, the Chaconne/Ciaconna, which both Sophie and I thought very effective. The violinist himself refers to it on twitter as 'bizarre' but I thought it added power and a dark backdrop to the introspective fury of the violin. We both enjoyed the Schumann sonata that followed as well, although it seemed to lack depth by comparison with the amazing Bach we had just witnessed. Drove home listening to Thomas Gould's version of the Goldberg Variations transcribed for strings. So excited by the music. A wonderful evening. I am already looking forward to next year's festival.

9 August 2019

I spent a week with the family on Guernsey, where my sister-in-law lives. Never been there before, so this stay - a short holiday - was very interesting. Never really thought much before about the practicalities of island life, either in the present or historically. Some strange moments, such as going into Vale Church and seeing a nineteenth-century brass monument erected by the Oxford-educated English rector to the memory of his son, who died in Digby asylum near Exeter, which I know well (it is now high-quality flats). But the inscription was in French. Almost all the street names were in French, and all the house names, and many of the public monuments. Except that it was not straightforward French - it was more like the Anglo-Norman I read in medieval documents. I don't normally think about these remnants of the duchy of Normandy having such a long-lasting legacy. Also I was struck by how much military building there was - from the loop hole towers built to defend the island in 1774-79 to the many German fortifications from the last World War.

Of course, the island being mostly flat - especially in the north part, where we were staying - it is great for running. There is even a parkrun! My eldest son (Alexander) and my wife (Sophie) joined me in running it; Oliver walked around, as he had forgotten to pack his running shoes. My daughter Elizabeth remained steadfastly true to form and did not run with us. Beautiful views, very friendly crowd. Alexander and I started off in front - but were soon overhauled by better runners. He finished eighth, I fourteenth. Great fun was had by all.

15 July 2019
Two Tunnels races, Bath

It was a great day at Relish Running's 'Two Tunnels' races yesterday, in Bath. I ran the half marathon and Oliver ran the 10K. He did a personal best over that distance, despite the heat. It was so refreshing to run into the cool tunnels and feel the breeze. And I loved the eerie violin music that they play halfway through the mile-long tunnel. But I found it very tough in the second half; I'm still not fit enough to do myself justice.

My eldest son Alexander ran with us, albeit unofficially, as he failed to book a place in time. I think that, what with the excitement of the British Grand Prix, the amazing men's final at Wimbledon and the utterly extraordinary last overs of the Cricket World Cup, it was a great day for sport all round, and will prove to be memorable for many years. Indeed, it was only back home, as I was just going to bed, that I realised that I had not checked the result of my half marathon. It turns out I camne 74th out of 314, in a time of 1:45:11. That's a slight improvement for me, slowly getting better after the various injuries that have restricted my running since March. But still six or seven minutes slower than I was running earlier in the year. There are lessons there - in terms of patience, fortitude, determination and never giving up. The same qualities that we saw writ large in the Wimbledon and Lords showdowns. Never give in! I'll get back to 1:38 one day.

7 July 2019
Moretonhampstead flag festival

Every year Moretonhampstead has a flag festival. Every household that takes part has its own flag - most of them representing some aspect of the house or its occupier - in a colourful celebration of local artistic spirit and endeavour. It's a real delight to see the flags each summer flapping away merrily. This is Cross Street, with my house towards the end, on the right.

Our flag is based around the coat of arms of the Periam family, who owned the house in the sixteenth century. As their arms included three lion's heads and we have three Burmese cats (one of whom thinks he is a lion), it seemed appropriate.

6 July 2019
Exeter Riverside parkrun

For those readers of Why Running Matters who want to keep up with the athletic shenanigans of the Mortimer family, Saturday saw Oliver complete his fiftieth Exeter Riverside parkrun. Alexander and I joined him in running - Alexander came 31st, I 44th, Oliver 133rd - but we all joined together in celebrating his achievement. At sixteen, I'm so impressed that he has perservered and done 142 parkruns already.

4 July 2019
Not something you see every day

I walked along to the Cooperative supermarket in Moreton this evening to see a tranditional knifegrinder working outside the shop.

I was so impressed just by the sight of him I went home to fetch an old axe to be sharpened. His name is Cathal O'Neill - but he is French, travelling around the British Isles, sharpening old metal wherever he goes.

1 July 2019
Bach, a half marathon, medieval Dartmoor, and TTG Regency Britain

The last couple of weeks have been busy. On Friday 21 June, I was proud to be able to present the great cellist Raphael Wallfisch playing all six of Bach's cello suites in the parish church. This was such a special occasion. It had taken some months to arrange, and over that period of time I had listened to a lot of Raphael's performances and bought several CDs, so finally meeting the man after becoming acquainted with his music was a privilege. And he is such an interesting and kind man, I greatly enjoyed his company. Then the performance itself was wonderful. As the concert went on past dusk, the light faded and only the lights of my two candelabra lit Raphael as he performed the final suite (having played them in the order 1, 2, 3, 6, 4 and 5).

I was heartened to receive so many thank yous and plaudits for arranging this concert. Most of the effort is worry - so many things can go wrong, quite apart from the financial risk - but it was most definitely worth it. This morning I even received a letter of thanks from someone who did not know me and who had simply addressed their envelope 'Ian Mortimer, Music in Moretonhampstead, Moretonhampstead'. I'd often wondered whether a letter addressed simply 'Ian Mortimer, Moretonhampstead, Devon' would reach me - and it turns out it doesn't even need the county name. There, no one can ever claim to have lost touch with me now!

Two days later it was the day of the Torbay Half Marathon, an event I've done for the last four years now. This year, like last, my eldest son Alexander was running with me. We started off side by side, and indeed ran together for the first 3km but then his pace seemed too fast for me. I'd only been running again for a month since a stress fracture (my third in three years) had taken me out for ten weeks, and I was unfit. So off he disappeared into the distance - at one point he was 4:30 ahead of me. But at the three-quarter-way turn, I realised he was slowing up and only about 600m ahead. Although I was exhausted, I heaved myself forward with a little more purpose than I had previously managed, and started to close the gap. So the picture below shows me as I sprinted towards the finish line...

... and this picture shows why I am running so hard - you can just see me coming in, in the white shirt, two places behind Alexander (no. 440), and just six seconds slower.

On Saturday 29 June, after running Parke parkrun with my other son, Oliver (and beating him, in revenge for him beating me at Exmouth two weeks ago!), I headed down to Parke again for the conference to celebrate the launch of Moor Medieval: exploring Dartmoor in the Middle Ages, produced by a team of volunteers and edited by David Stone and Richard Sandover. An excellent resource, and I was very flattered to have been asked to write the foreword for it. It really is a mine of information for anyone who is interested in medieval Dartmoor. It just shows what a dedicated team of volunteers can achieve.

Last, those very patient people looking forward to The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain can rest assured that it is on the way, albeit at the speed that coral grows. And it is throwing up various surprises. One, which I am not including in the book, concerns the speed of information. We all know about Lieutenant Lapenotière riding for thirty-seven hours from Falmouth to London with news of the battle - but it came as a surprise to me to realise that, when he arrived, Londoners had known about the victory for the past five days. I've written a note about this here.

16 June 2019
Father's Day

Yesterday, at Exmouth parkrun, my youngest child Oliver finished ahead of me for the first time ever. It prompted me to write a piece in the style of a chapter from Why Running Matters about the meaning of the run for him, for me, and for fathers everywhere. It is available here.

9 June 2019

What have I been up to? I've been running again, after ten weeks out for a stress fracture, doing the odd parkrun and preparing to enter the Torbay Half Marathon without embrassing myself too much. I've been working hard on chapters five and six of The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain, albeit in a somewhat constrained form in my library, while my study is being redecorated (in orange, green and gold!). I recently went to the first Greenway Literary Festival at Greenway in South Devon, the house that was Agatha Christie's summer home, where I was interviewed by Gary Calland of the National Trust. My eldest son Alexander has been editing the second album of my songs, 'Autumn Songs', which we'll make available later this year. My younger cherubs have been undergoing A-levels and GCSEs, so I've been doing a lot of encouraging and extra cooking while they concentrate on their revision. Such is life in the Mortimer household. My next talk will be for the Devon History Society about my house, Mearsdon, on Wednesday, and that will be my last public historical speech until the autumn. My priority now is the Regency book, which should occupy me fully from now on until it is done.

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A fascinating day at the Greenway Literary Festival. Ian Mortimer, author of the ‘Time Traveller Guides’ chatted about his new novel ‘Outcasts of Time’ and how he goes about breathing life into the past. Dr Nick Snashall, aka Nicola Ford, shared her love of archaeology and intrigued us with extracts from her crime novels ‘The Hidden Bones’ and ‘The Lost Shrine’. To finish the day we got hands on at a book binding class with Claire Gladstone and tried the art of calligraphy with Jo Turner. #greenwayliteraryfestival #nationaltrust #greenway #ianmortimer #timetravellersguide #outcastsoftime #nicolaford #thehiddenbones #thelostshrine #bookbinding #calligraphy #bookfestival

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19 May 2019
Ludlow Castle round chapel re-opening

Ludlow Castle has a rare Norman round chapel that almost certainly dates from the twelfth century. For years it has been a ruin - open to the sky. The current owner, Lord Powis, has recently put a roof back on the building, stabilising it and securing it for future generations. Today was the great re-opening, with the ribbon being cut by Lady Powis. I was fortunate enough to be invited and thus met up with the president of the Mortimer History Society, Dr Paul Dryburgh of the National Archives, who did his PhD on Roger Mortimer, first earl of March (1287-1330), who was also the subject of my first biography, The Greatest Traitor. Here are Paul and me pictured in front of the east solar wing of Ludlow Castle, which was probably built by Roger Mortimer.

19 May 2019
Mortimer History Society conference

Yesterday in Leominster Priory I delivered a paper to the Mortimer History Society annual conference on the genealogy of the twelfth-century Mortimer family of Wigmore, and the possibly related family that comprised the Mortimers of Attleborough, Richard's Castle and Bec, plus a third family, the Mortimers of Wilsthorpe. (The video of my talk can be viewed here.) It was good to catch up with old friends and new ones. A particular pleasure was finally to meet Kathryn Warner (the creator of the Edward II blog), thirteen years after we started corresponding by email. Here are all the speakers, from left to right: myself, Kathryn Warner, Dr Paul Dryburgh, Philip Hume, Dr Emma Cavell and Dr Andrew Spencer.

18 May 2019
Interview about running and lifestyle

Grant Milestone, who has started up a running and minimalism blog, interviewed me recently. It's one of the most revealing interviews I'd done, in some ways, because it touches on personal matters. It went live today - you can download it here.

11 May 2019
Wonderful day!

What a great day. Sun shining in the southwest - which is itself a delight, nothing to take for granted - and so headed off with youngest son, Oliver, to do Parke parkrun and talk about Why Running Matters. I have only just started running again after two months off to recover from a stress fracture, and so was slow. The mud didn't help. But it was great to see Oliver coming in just behind me, only a few seconds slower. Looking forward to the day when he catches up and goes past, like his older brother.

Back home, changed and headed off with my wife, Sophie, to Fowey in Cornwall to prepare for a talk in the evening. Which is always a pleasure because I love seafood and a trip to Sam's Diner is a must. The scallops were good to start with but the bouillabaisse was heavenly. Already looking forward to my next visit.

Then going for a walk around Fowey in the sun, stopping for coffee and enjoying the views before heading over to Tywardreath to talk in the Methodist Chapel there about life in medieval England. On the way, just outside Fowey, there is the Tristan Stone - a standing stone with an ancient carved text marking the burial place of Drustan, son of Mark Cumnomorus, legendary king of Cornwall. And you can't just drive past a sixth-century monument and not stop to pay it some respect.

There is a great romance about Tywardreath, which was where there once was a significant monastery, founded in the eleventh century, probably just down the hill from the church. Much to my delight, the churchyard was beautifully let go to nature, seemingly neglected, with an earthy, magical atmosphere.

The talk - one of my A to Z overviews of life in a different time - was great fun and well-received. Quite a few copies of my last novel, The Outcasts of Time were sold by the Waterstones desk there, and signed by yours truly. And our hosts were kind enough to invite Sophie and myself to the pub afterwards, rounding off a wonderful day. One of those days when you think that, yes, that's why I became a writer.

10 May 2019
Great concert with John Doyle

One of my passions is music and every so often I invite a great performer to play in Moretonhampstead and give a concert in the nearby medieval church. (The building has great acoustic qualities as it was built in 1450 to be a soundbox for the singing of masses - and, since we never had any resident aristocracy, the building has remained free from additions that would have disturbed the acoustics.) Previously we've been entertained by folk greats such as Martin Simpson, Martin Carthy and Nancy Kerr, as well as classical and medieval performers. Last night it was a real privilege to host the incredible Irish guitarist John Doyle, currently over here on tour from the USA. What a nice guy! And what an amazing guitarist.

For these concerts I use two large candelabra, which create a special atmosphere in the medieval building. As it gets darker, the feeling just gets warmer and more wonderful. You end up forgettng that it's the modern world and just watch an artist performing in a golden, timeless place: a poetic centre.

3 April 2019
Deeply honoured

Anyone who cares about parkrun will know that it was founded by a far-sighted man called Paul Sinton-Hewitt. I am greatly in his debt for the weekly activity, for the bonding it has given me with my sons and many friends, and for the wisdom and ideas that have flowed from running, all of which I have tried to condense into Why Running Matters. So you can imagine how thrilled I was yesterday - and how honoured I felt - when I saw a tweet below from him saying my book was 'fabulous'.

2 April 2019
Why Historians Should Write Fiction - in Portuguese

In 2011, I wrote an essay entitled 'Why historians should write fiction' for Past and Future: the magazine of the Institute of Historical Research. This was to accompany a conference run by the Institute of Historical Research. It has now been translated into Portuguese by Pedro Toniazzo Terres and is available to read in that language here.

23 March 2019
Torbay parkrun #118

This stress fracture is stopping me running at present, which is most vexing. But it doesn't prevent me from volunteering. So I wrote the run report for today's run at Torbay Velopark parkrun. The version on their website is awkwardly displayed, so if you want to read it with a better layout, follow this link.

Just to remind readers here in Devon, I am giving out three free, signed copies of my new book, Why Running Matters, at Exmouth parkrun on 6 April 2019. You don't have to run the 5K. Just come along and look for me (wearing a shirt with the cover on the chest). Alternatively, if you want your own copy signed, bring it along.

18 March 2019
Bath half marathon

I did the Bath Half. It wasn't easy, with a femoral diaphysis stress fracture, but I did it. Why put myself through that much pain? First, I was running with my eldest son, Alexander, and that is always a joy. Second, I hadn't run any great distance for two weeks and I was missing it, feeling my strength slip away. Third, I was still smarting over the way the Bath Half made me suffer in 2017, when I went off too fast and regretted it for the second half of the race (as described in Why Running Matters. But mostly it was because I had said I would. My resolution to do ten half marathons this year took priority over the fear I'd worsen the damage. In the end, painwise, it was much like Bideford - agony for the first two miles, painful for the next five, and then a repetitive dull ache for the rest of the race. But this time, unlike Bideford, I was unfit. No hope of running fast. I ended up doing 1:44:01, seventeen seconds slower than two years ago. But it was a great occasion, a marvellous celebration of running. And Alexander did his best half marathon to date. The family came to watch me finish, and Sophie and I stayed in the basement apartment of Jane Austen's house in Sydney Place, which I found very moving. The intimate spaces of historical writers I admire (like Byron's Newstead Abbey, and Wordsworth's Dove Cottage) are wonderful - when you can be alone there. Actually to stay there was special indeed.

To remind local readers here in Devon, I am giving out three free, signed copies of the newly released Why Running Matters at the next two parkruns I attend. These will be Torbay Velopark on 23 March 2019, and Exmouth on 6 April 2019. You don't have to run the 5K. Just come along and look for me (wearing a shirt with the cover on the chest). Alternatively, if you want your own copy signed, bring it along. I will make sure I have a pen.

14 March 2019
Why Running Matters - Published Today!

Publication day has finally arrived, in the UK at least. The ebook, paperback and audiobook of Why Running Matters: Lessons in Life, Pain and Exhilaration - from 5K to the Marathon are all published today. Hooray! It feels like it's been a long time in the making - I started this project with a run on New Year's Eve 2016.

To mark the occasion, and to get some feedback, I am going to give out three free, signed copies at each of the next three parkruns I attend. These will be:

You don't have to run the 5K. Just come along and look for me (wearing a shirt with the cover on the chest) and ask for a copy of the book - and promise me you'll write an honest review on amazon.co.uk. Alternatively, if you just want your own copy signed, bring it along to one of those events and ask. I will make sure I have a pen.

8 March 2019
Free Weekly Timed

Vassos Alexander very kindly said some great things about Why Running Matters this week and had me on his podcast, Free Weekly Timed, to talk about the book.

4 March 2019
Bideford Half Marathon

Okay, so how did Brighton leave me? Unable to walk. It was a really stupid thing to do, to run a half marathon on a suspected stress fracture, in terms of maintaining fitness. But somehow I could not stop myself. And I knew afterwards that, even though I could not walk without feeling I was bashing a bruise, I was going to run in Bideford too. I was apprehensive, but as I said to my friend Bob Small, 'I'll give myself a 20 percent chance of finishing but a 100 percent chance of starting - that's pretty much all you can do with anything in life'. So I drove the two of us to Barnstaple in the rain to do the 25th Bideford half marathon.

I like the above picture. It looks like I'm doing well, ahead of all those people. Actually they're all about to overtake me. I finished 251st out of 1266. It wsn't easy. Normally running on an injury gets less painful after about 2-3 miles. This time my femur hurt for the first 7 miles and then came back with a vengeance after 10, and only subsided when the exhaustion took over at the start of the 12th mile. But at the end of the day, I did it. I could barely walk afterwards - no way could I run - but my time was another personal best: 1:38:42. Slowly we improve, little by little, inch by inch. Well, by four seconds in this case.

The best bit, though, was the prize giving, and watching Bob pick up the prize for the fastest over-seventy-year-old. The organisers were most impressed with his 1:51:20, and were gracious enough to say so. No other gentleman of such distinction was under two hours.


Here I am on Bideford's famous bridge, approaching the finish, with about 400m to go. And relief and bananas just awaiting me...

25 February 2019
Brighton Half Marathon

A week ago I went for a long run and came back with what I suspected was another stress fracture, in my right femur. I was not going to let the mere suspicion of an injury put me off, however. Indeed, I was going to run all the harder in the Brighton Half Marathon just in case my suspicions were well founded and I had to take some time out. So yesterday I went for a new personal best time in the Brighton sunshine. Came home in 1:38:46, after running 21.33km (Strava reckoned I did the half-marathon distance in 1:37:48). You can see the effort on my face in the closing stages in the picture below. My younger brother Robbie ran with me, albeit a little slower, and our youngest brother David declared afterwards 'Robbie looked like he was out for a walk in the park but, Ian, you looked like a bull was standing on your balls'.

But just in case I should congratulate myself too much on a new best time, the local newspaper printed a picture that reminds me I was beaten by a man dressed as a banana.

10 February 2019
Why Running Matters

The webpages for my forthcoming book about the meaning of running, Why Running Matters: Lessons in Life, Pain and Exhilaration - from 5K to the Marathon, are now live (mostly). Are you one of the 599 parkrun helpers acknowledged in the back? You can check by the 'look inside' feature on amazon.co.uk.

9 February 2019
Exeter Half Marathon

Success! I improved my personal best for the half marathon today by almost one and a half minutes. I recorded 1:39:00 for the Exeter Half Marathon - the official results are here - but that was from the whistle and I started at the very back of the crowd of about 300 runners, so I actually finished in about 1:38:50. Very pleased with that. Did it in my new running shirt too, with the cover of Why Running Matters on the front...

...and the covers of sixteen other books of mine on the back.

I've got to say, it was hard work. When I returned home, I checked on Garmin Connect and saw that no less than 83 percent of my race was run in zone 5 (over 90% of maximum heart rate).

4 February 2019
The snow has gone

I know I should not speak too soon, especially after the late snow falls last year, but I was so pleased to find the sun out today, and to realise that the overnight rain had washed away almost all that was left of the recent snow, that I just had to go out for a good long walk. I went up to Cranbrook Castle with a camera, and took pictures of the best preserved portion of the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort.

And this is the view looking north east, towards the general direction of Exeter, on the way down.
Oh, and why not - here's a picture of Moreton, from the lane at Brinning. (My house is to the right, near the church.)

3 February 2019
Resolutions for 2019.

It's now less than six weeks until the publication of Why Running Matters. In that book I resolved to run forty-five parkruns and five half marathons in the year I turned fifty (2017) and to write about the meaning of them all. Now, I'm not intending to do that again, but it seems a bit of a shame not to set myself a new goal. So this year's running resolution is to run ten half marathons, hoping that by the end of the year I should have clocked under 100 minutes (1:40:00) for at least one of them. (My fastest to date is 1:40:25 at last year's Great West Run.) The ten I'm planning to do are: Exeter (9 February), Brighton (24 February), Bideford (3 March), Bath (17 March), Taunton (7 April), Plymouth (19 May), Torbay (23 June), Two Tunnels (Bath, 14 July), Bristol (15 September) and the Great West Run (13 October). With that in mind, I set out for my final long training run today in Exeter, along the canalside path, where there was no snow or ice, and did a fast ten miles. Very pleasingly, I managed to set a new personal best for the distance, 1:13:26. At that speed, I should be able to run a half marathon in similar circumstances in about 1:37:30. So, here's crossing fingers for next Saturday, and running Exeter's City Community half marathon in less than 100 minutes.

My other New Year's Resolution is to finish the text of The Time Traveller's Guide to Regency Britain. This book is behind schedule, for a number of reasons. But chapter three is now done and chapter four underway, and I am enjoying working with the textures of the history: the contrasts of wealth and poverty, of forward thinking and resistance to change, the traditions and the innovations.

24 January 2019
Why I hope The Favourite does not win ten Oscars.

As a historian, the lack of historical veracity in this film depressed me. So I felt I should explain in a note - if only to reach out to other like-minded souls. You'll find it on my Notes and Essays page.

22 January 2019
Audiobook Recording finished

I finished recording the audiobook of Why Running Matters yesterday. It's the first book of mine that I've read completely - previously I had only done the last chapter of Centuries of Change - and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I had a brilliant, very patient producer in Lucie McNeil; and the studio, Chatterbox, is a great place, very romantically situated in the remains of an old mine, Wheal Kitty, on the cliffs above St Agnes, on the North Cornish coast; but the best thing was the actual reading. When I look at my words on the page, I see just black and white, but in reading them aloud - in giving them pace and emphasis, tone and expression - it's as if I am turning them into colour.

8 January 2019
Why Running Matters

I see that Summersdale have released the cover for my forthcoming book about running, Why Running Matters. Publication of the paperback is due for 14 March 2019. Recording the audiobook should begin shortly - but I currently have a cold, so it's been set back a bit.

What was new in other years