Monthly Archives: March 2012

The book has arrived… and is coming soon to a bookshop near you!

 

 

It’s here! It’s arrived! I’ve got it in my hands! I have become an author, with a new book just ready and waiting to hit the world on April 2 (kind of glad, it’s not the day before).

But best of all, my publishers Summersdale have done an absolutely superb job of it.

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I’m going to make an exception for this one – partly because I have read it so many times I am not quite ready to read it again yet.

Keep On Running http://www.summersdale.com/book/2/569/keep-on-running/, the story of my love of marathon-running and all the pain and pleasure it has brought me, looks and feels great.

The little package was waiting for me when I got back from work on Friday; I knew what it was from the postmark; I opened it with a little trepidation, just wondering what that crucial first impression (by which we judge everything these days) was going to be.

Out the book tumbled – and what a relief. I loved it. A relief indeed because I had never been totally convinced by the cover. But I am now. Leaving aside the words inside, it looks terrific – a complete vindication of the design that Summersdale came up with.

The cover – and I love the colour scheme – sums up precisely the kind of semi-serious, funny and upbeat book I was intending. If I saw it on a shelf, I’d definitely want to read it (and I can say that because the look is Summersdale’s, not mine).

With publication day – or “pub day” as Summersdale far more suggestively call it – just a couple of weeks away, I feel I am entering the home straight in the best possible hands, the final few miles of a journey which began several years ago.

I was convinced I was a gruesome-crime writer and had chatted to the lovely Peter Lovesey about a very gruesome murder mystery I’d written which languishes still unpublished.

Peter, for some years now a Chichester resident, is the creator of the terrific Peter Diamond Bath detective series (http://peterlovesey.com/), and he gave me every encouragement in my own efforts .

But more importantly he suggested I write about the marathons I was regularly running – a suggestion which initially didn’t appeal. Or rather, a suggestion which needed to take root first. It lodged in the back of my mind, and it was a couple of years later that I was ready to do the deed.

It was October 2010; I was on the plane on the way back from the Mallorca Marathon, and Peter’s idea just wouldn’t leave me alone. The flight passed in a flash. By the time we touched down, the book was written in my mind. A couple of weeks later, it was ready on the computer.

Or so I thought.

I approached Summersdale Publishers in Chichester (the city where I work), and they were instantly encouraging and quickly agreed to take on the project.

But Jennifer, my first editor there, broke it to me gently that the book wasn’t there yet. I had written five ways to lash up a marathon, followed by five ways to get it right. It was funny, she said, but the disasters would see the readers dropping by the roadside before they ever reached the successes.

Jennifer encouraged a chronological approach, and that was the moment the book clicked.

Abbie then took on the editing – and proved a godsend. She’s got the loveliest, sweetest, most encouraging personality, but behind it is the surest of instincts, and I knew from the start that whatever she suggested I could trust in implicitly.

Not too many people are allowed to point out where it’s my anorak, and not me, speaking – but Abbie did so, to the huge benefit of the book. Between them, Jennifer and Abbie urged me to tone down the endless stats. I hope the final product now feels more much human.

And then it was over to copy-editor Ray, to whom my debt runs deep. The trouble with slipping in the odd idiocy is that you (or at least, I) don’t notice it. Ray does. Each and every one. No, kilometres don’t (and can’t) “inch up”; there’s a big difference between “mitigate” and “militate”; and you can’t say that Rome is “clearly polluted” given that pollution by definition is always going to be at least a bit murky.

After that it was back to Abbie for the joint process of picking the photographs which now grace the inside of the front and back cover – again, an important element. Again, I hope that they stress this isn’t a pompous “how to do it” book. No, it’s a friendly, light-hearted look at the experience of marathon-running itself, how it feels, why we push ourselves, why we enjoy it even when we are hating it.

So, as you can see, along the way, it’s all been a deliciously-collaborative process – not least in the help I have had from my fellow marathon-runner and father-in-law Michael who read the first drafts and firmly but very constructively pointed me away from many of the pitfalls I was falling into. This book is about marathon-running, but my hope is that it is marathon-running viewed from a very much wider perspective. Michael’s comments very helpfully pointed me in that direction.

And so here we are then.

My wife Fiona has very nearly finished reading the book, and believe me, it’s a strange experience to glance at the person lying in bed next to you and see them reading a book you have written. You lie there waiting for the laughs and suppressing all the “did you like that bit?” questions.

And the good news is that she is loving it – even though she’s read it almost as many times as I have.

I hadn’t realised that a book would involve the support and input of so many people; but, then again, anything that’s worth doing in life is inevitably something that brings people together.

And in the preparation of Keep On Running, I have been blessed with the very best team possible. The A team. There are no mid-packers here. We are front-runners one and all, and I hope you will join us when the book comes out.

Make a date with Keep On Running on April 2.

Available post free at £6.56 from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Keep-Running-Highs-Marathon-Addict/dp/1849532362/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331985958&sr=1-1

Also available at £7.04 post free worldwide from The Book Depository:

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Keep-on-Running-Phil-Hewitt/9781849532365

Published by Summersdale:

http://www.summersdale.com/book/2/569/keep-on-running/

 

 

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Making the most of your marathon debut as marathon season starts to blossom

April sees the launch of the marathon season, with big days coming up in London and Brighton, plus further afield in Paris Milan, Vienna and Madrid. From April onwards, there are dozens of marathons across Europe to enjoy.

For those contemplating their first-ever attack on those fabled 26.2 miles, Phil Hewitt, author of Keep On Running, offers ten top tips to make sure you get the most out of your day.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the course. You don’t have to be heading out there into the great unknown. A little bit of research in advance can pay rich dividends. In New York, it was great to know that even when you reach Central Park, you’ve still got the best part of three miles to go. Lack of preparation had the opposite effect on my first London marathon. I thought I was home when I first saw Big Ben. Far from it. Three miles far from it, in fact. It was an awful moment – and so easily avoided.
  2. Get organised the day before. Don’t be afraid to be a bit anoraky. Make a list. Lay your kit out. Check it is all there. You absolutely don’t want to be fretting about the details come marathon morning.
  3. And for similar reasons, get to the start early. Don’t heap extra pressure on yourself by leaving it all to the last minute. Get there in good time and start to focus. Be early and mentally get yourself in the zone.
  4. Enjoy the start. Soak up the atmosphere. Chat to your fellow runners. There are countless tales to be told and stories to swap as you wait for the off – and they all can be part of your preparation. Marathon-runners are naturally friendly, chatty people. Make the most of that fact, and you will really start to feel that you are part of something special. Wallow in the camaraderie that will be there on the day.
  5. But keep warm as you wait. Take something along that you can discard a minute or two before the gun goes off. Once you’re running, generally the less you’re wearing the better; but you really don’t want to be starting off cold.
  6. Drink early and drink often. Your biggest enemy – in fact, your only enemy – out there on the course is dehydration. It is crucial to stay ahead of it. I always carry a bottle, especially in those early stages. Drink every three or four minutes. Remember if you start to feel thirsty, then it may already be too late. Don’t ever let yourself reach that point. It’s also a good idea to throw in a few strategically-placed sports gels. Remember, though, that these very often need to be washed down – otherwise they just sit on your stomach. They are quite thick and sticky, so a sip of gel followed by a sip of water and spin it out over half a mile, maybe three or four times during the race. But remember: if you’ve never used a gel before, a marathon is certainly not the place to try one out.
  7. Don’t set off too quickly. In my early marathons, I used to fret about the inevitable bunching you get at the start when 36,000 people simultaneously start running. But it really isn’t a cause for concern. Heavy-crowding can be your friend, reining you back when your first instinct might be to hare off. Do that, and you could well burn out way before the finish. Your best approach is to recognise that you are in it for the long run. You should therefore slip into that long run gently.
  8. 26.2 miles is a hell of a long way, so break it up in your mind to make it manageable. My own tactic is to find significance for every single mile number along the way. Mile one leaves a nice round 25; mile two is the first even number (yes, it can be as basic as that); mile six leaves a round 20; mile seven sees the remainder dip below 20 for the first time; and so on and so on. Or just count up in fives. But do something. Don’t ever think about the race distance in its entirety. That might just be a little off-putting!
  9. Be alive to your surroundings. Look for the landmarks, look forward to the landmarks, enjoy the crowd, interact with the crowd. Make sure you’ve got your name written clearly on your vest. As you tire, a great game to play is to decide which person in the crowd you are going to make shout out your name. Fix them, plead with your eyes and they will always respond. And it makes such a difference.
  10. Look forward to that moment of crossing the line. Focus on the feelings you will have, and those feelings will get your there. It’s like having your Oscar-acceptance speech at the ready. Focus on the elation that is coming your way. Nothing else will combine exhilaration and exhaustion in so magical a mix. Make sure you’re ready to savour your great moment of glory.

Keep on Running: The Highs and Lows of a Marathon Addict is published by Summersdale on April 2 2012 (£8.99; ISBN: 9781849532365) – http://www.summersdale.com/book/2/569/keep-on-running/

Phil, arts editor for Sussex Newspapers, has completed 26 marathons in conditions ranging from blistering heat to snow and ice, in locations from Berlin to New York, sets a cracking pace in a light-hearted account of his adventures on the road. This story of an ordinary guy’s addiction to running marathons looks at the highs and lows, the motivation that keeps you going when your body is crying out to stop, and tries to answer the ultimate question, ‘Why do you do it?’

Phil’s marathons include London, Amsterdam, Rome, Dublin, Mallorca, Brighton, Portsmouth Coastline, La Rochelle and Tokyo.

A great day in Tokyo, one of the world’s great cities

Marathons need to offer you stimulation; they also need to offer you great support if you are going to last the course.

Tokyo offered both in abundance last Sunday – a day which saw Tokyo take every single runner to its incredibly-generous heart.

Tokyo was my 26th time running a 26.2-mile race, and I did it on February 26. The Japanese love number games like that, and it certainly felt like the stars were aligning in my favour.

Within moments of arriving in the city, I knew that it was going to be right up there among the very best experiences a marathon can give you, rivalling Paris and New York for the sheer thrill of it all.

But, as the dust settles, my abiding memory is going to be the sheer kindness of the people who lined the route and welcomed us home at the end of it all.

As we collected our bags in the huge conference centre which serves as the race base and the race finish, every single one of the volunteers in the luggage retrieval area was standing there applauding  us- when they weren’t scurrying off to find our bags with the maximum efficiency.

Consider the fact that the finishers were finishing across a four-hour time span. That’s four hours that the volunteers stood there clapping.

Their smiles never wavered. But nor were those smiles fixed. Those volunteers – and how lovely to see their faces – were enjoying our moment of triumph every bit as much as we were.

And the great thing was that it was a moment typical of the entire day. The Japanese people really are extraordinarily giving. They smile all the time, and a smile counts for so much when you feel you are on your last legs. I lapped up that generosity over a last three miles in which I happily admit I seriously struggled.

A 12-hour flight and a nine-hour time zone shift weren’t exactly the best preparation two days before. As I stood at that start line, my body was telling me that it was ten past midnight.

And I stood there shivering. Just three days later, Tokyo was blanketed in snow. On marathon morning, it was already perishingly cold.

Thank heavens for all the warmth that was to follow. Warmth from the crowd, that is. They applauded, they shouted, they willed you on and they got you there.

Everything about the day was superb, most particularly the organisation – absolutely crucial if a marathon is going to be remotely enjoyable.

In any endurance sport, you push yourself to the limit. You can do so only when you have total confidence in the organisation underpinning it all. It takes a special skill and a huge amount of planning to get 36,000 runners underway without mishap; Tokyo, a young marathon in only its sixth year, rose to that challenge admirably.

I didn’t do a great time, but I had a great time. 3 hours 46 minutes is 26 minutes off my best, but as a marathon experience, Tokyo was right up there with the very best, comfortably rivalling New York. The Tokyo Marathon Foundation’s dearest wish is that the race one day might nestle alongside the world marathon majors (New York, London, Berlin etc), and there is every reason to believe that it will do so before too much longer.

Any marathon runners out there should seriously consider Tokyo next year for the complete marathon experience. It is exotic, constantly exhilarating and a total thrill. But it is also brilliantly organised. Marathon-runners need to be able to trust in the event they are running in, and from the moment you register for this one, you sense that you are in the very best hands.

Tokyo is a newish marathon, but for organisation, it is streets ahead of some of its vastly more established European counterparts. Marathons really do give you the most incredible highs, as I explain in my new book Keep On Running, which will be published by Summersdale on April 2. Tokyo takes those highs to levels I’ve never experienced before.

The fascination of the very best marathons is the way that they reflect their city. Tokyo’s is at the top of the tree in that respect. You start off amid Tokyo’s skyscrapers and then run through the wonderfully-colourful, neon-lit night club district before skirting the Imperial Palace, so rich in history. You then pass by a gorgeous shrine and Tokyo’s very own version of the Eiffel Tower before heading off into the high-end shopping district where all the world’s major labels sit side by side for my very favourite kind of shopping – the kind where you zoom past without stopping.

After that it is into the ancient heart of the city for a glimpse of the Gate Of Thunder which leads on into the city’s most historic areas. After that you cross a succession of thigh-busting bridges before approaching the finish.

But alongside all those great permanent features, you’ve also got the sheer spirit of the day, traditional Japanese dancers, Japanese choirs, Japanese drummers, Japanese brass bands, Japanese children’s bands, all lining the route. It’s like running through a culture and history lesson unfurling before your eyes to give you a glorious insight into this vibrant, confident and above all likeable country.

It’s nearly a year now since the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan. I was running as part of a select band of journalists from around the world, invited to Tokyo to experience at first hand that Tokyo is up and running again and back on its feet – as indeed were we. But whereas my feet now ache like hell, Tokyo’s are ready to run forever.

Marathon-running is one of life’s great privileges and pleasures. But today I feel humbled and honoured to have been part of the Tokyo Marathon, a wonderful event in a truly-wonderful country.

The great thing is that it is a marathon on the up, one which is confident and strong, but one which is clearly going to be even more so as the years go by. There is huge enthusiasm for running in Japan, and that enthusiasm is the driving force behind the marathon itself, ensuring that we all had not just a great day, but also a safe day.

The organisers are desperate to see the marathon’s profile soar, and there is every reason to believe that it will do. The marathon is increasing its number of charity runners, adding an important new element to the day. It is also increasing its number of international runners, a factor which will increasingly put it on the world marathon map.

I’ve now run marathons in nine different countries and in five different capitals; Tokyo is one to cherish. There are plenty of marathons that get lots of things right; very, very few that get absolutely everything right. Take a bow, Tokyo.

I am sitting here going gooey-eyed at the thought of all those thousands of sweet little kiddies holding out all sorts of delicacies along the way, and towards the end I ate my fill as tiredness and the cold took their toll on me.

But the strange thing was that those gorgeously-smiling children reacted as if you were doing them a favour by choosing their delicacy to grab. Quite the contrary. It was Tokyo which did its runners a great favour last Sunday – and I will relive forever the moment that my Tokyo Marathon medal was placed around my neck. Moments don’t come sweeter than that.