She knows Nepal and has been incredibly supportive in getting the word out about the Annapurna100 and about the country’s trail running potential (see below: Moire and Nepal). But knowing the author is as much a disadvantage as anything else. What if I don’t like the book? I wouldn’t want to look like a sell-out to the audience of trailrunningnepal.org, wouldn’t I? Now, I’ve read my share of running books, from Tim Noakes Lore of running, to Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, from Dean Karnazas’ Ultramarathon man, To Haruki Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running, and many, many more. Yes, I like armchair running, but, unfortunately, much of what I’ve consumed wasn’t really recommendable (the above are, with one exception, though I leave it up to you to figure that one out). So I was apprehensive when I started Moire’s book to say the least, but my worries were unwarranted. Quite the opposite, you should all read this book! This is unlike anything else I’ve ever read about running, with the exception maybe of Murakami, although his self is so different from Moire’s that the stories are totally different. The closest equivalent I’ve ever come across is a book about cycling, by Dutch novelist, cyclist and chess master Tim Krabbe, The Rider, and that’s an absolute classic, I can assure you. Now back to Mud, Sweat and Tears.
It’s the brute honesty in the detailed description of her running experience, which is the defining feature of this book. It hits you in the face, it’s confusing, incomprehensible and utterly recognizable at the same time. It’s one exceptional woman’s journey, and she’s a very particular cookie, pigheadedly driven, fiercely competitive, deeply emotional but analytical to the bone, athletically gifted to use an understatement, everything but your average runner like you (probably) and me (for sure), and despite this the story seems universal. There’s lots of suffering in the book (without the usual boring no pain no gain message), there is very little of the usual new-agey feel good kind of stuff, there is lots of experience that you and I wouldn’t dream of seeking, and still the book inspires as nothing else to go out and run mountains. To best describe what Moire’s journey was about I have to borrow a simile I recently came across: her running was not a metaphor for life, but life was the metaphor for her running. She took the running to its extreme of seemingly obliterating everything else, but in that intensity lay the discovery of lots that matters. From the mundane but not so easily learned skills required to excel in running and orienteering, to the much more difficult business of living and loving. If that sounds new agey, so be it.
Anyway, I think the main reason to read the story is that it tells you more about what makes for trail and mountain running’s attraction than nearly all other books about the sport. But apart from that (yes, there is more), for those of us not from the windswept, wet and cold isles off the Northwestern European coast, it introduces you to a running culture as fascinating as that of the Tarahumara, the Japanese running monks, and those other ‘Others’ that have become so popular recently in (armchair) running circles. My eyes had been opened some time ago already by coming across Richard Askwith’ Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession, but as an introduction to this very particular ethic of running, so different from what most of us consider normal, Moire’s book is more telling (Askwith is the perfect next read if you want to know all about this particular approach to running). This is not the place to delve into this, but I guarantee you that reading Mud, Sweat and Tears is certainly going to broaden your perspective on the activity of running, also if you consider yourself already a trail and/or mountain running buff.
As a last tribute to Moire’s story I want to announce that it inspired me to consider designing the equivalent of a Wicklow Round like challenge in Nepal. The Kathmandu Valley rim might have the potential of being a similar cleanser of our doors of perception, a similar all consuming objective that holds the promise of showing us what matters. If that inspiration actually materializes in a route (no promises) you’ll be the first to hear about it on this site.
To get the Moire’s book: www.smashwords.com/books/view/65468
Moire and Nepal
Her first run on our trails: http://moireosullivan.com/2010/03/24/ridge-running-in-kathmandu-valley/
A week later she runs the Annapurna70 and wins it. http://moireosullivan.com/2010/04/03/4th-annapurna-71k-trail-ultra-nepal/
She does does the Langtang-Gosainkund-Helkambu trek as a run: http://moireosullivan.com/2010/10/20/7-day-mountain-running-holiday-to-langtang-mountains/
And she says farewell to Nepal by joining us on a recce of the Annapurna route for 2011