Image of the cover of Road Runner: Surviving on the Urban Trails which shows a silhouette of a male running through a cityscape.
Credit: Callum Jacobs/Penhaligon Press

The blurb

Ultrarunner and founder of See More Running Tours, Callum Jacobs invites you on a wild running journey through the urban Badlands. In this exhilarating guide for recreational runners, discover how to navigate the mean streets, grab a free taco to fuel your long runs, and keep cool in the city heat. Follow tales of heart-pounding adventures, from jogs around the block to 100km city to city ultraruns, that’ll make you gasp for breath and laugh out loud. But it’s not just about the laughs – Road Runner weaves in psychology, economics, and philosophical insights, turning your runs into thought-provoking adventures for the mind as well as the body.

With a foreword by running legend Dean ‘Ultramarathon Man’ Karnazes, Road Runner is part travelogue, part psychogeography running tour, part meditation on the nature of life in the metropolis. Road Runner will inspire you to lace up your trainers and hit the urban trails.

About the author

Callum Jacobs is a ‘recreational’ ultrarunner, and the founder of See More Running Tours. He was born in Brighton, England and now lives in London, where he works as a psychology teacher (to make ends meet). He also writes short stories and may or may not have written a book about being a supply teacher!

What is the book about?

Despite coming to running relatively late, about 20 years ago, Callum quickly fell in love with it. In the book, he aims to showcase the beauty of running in urban environments, challenging the narrative dominated by trail running literature. This book is a celebration of on urban running, and its unique benefits, and begins by contrasting three very different runs: a run across an oddly deserted city to a park; a trail run in  Yosemite National Park, and a run around San Francisco.

The author puts forward a compelling argument for urban running, including:

  • Always having water (and a loo) accessible, and goes into helpful detail about where the best water sources and fountains are in London.
  • Free (e.g.) donut holes, and being able to stop for food en route, which saves having to carry your own (again lots of info for London dwellers on where the best food stops are for long runs).
  • Meeting interesting people and seeing interesting things
  • Always having an easy way to get back home

There are also interesting chapters on running the London Underground, running in Paris, the New York City Marathon, and ultrarunning.

My thoughts about the book

I was initially sceptical – a self-confessed trail runner – when picking up Callum’s book, but did eventually find myself convinced that running in the city could be just as enjoyable, in a different way. While author Callum appreciates the allure of trail running in picturesque landscapes, he wanted to use the opportunity of writing the book to highlight the beauty of city running, emphasizing its accessibility and the unique advantages it offers. Callum’s motivation for writing the book stemmed from a desire to balance the dominance of trail running literature and showcase the beauty of city running, which he discusses in more detail in my interview with him. I imagine running around London and Paris is very exciting, I wonder whether other urban runners in small towns feel the same about urban running though … Seriously though, cities and urban environments CAN inspire awe in the same way as we experience it in wild landscapes, with nature, and we had an interesting philosophical discussion about this when Callum came onto the UKRunChat podcast to chat all about his book.

You can listen to the episode here

I enjoyed the chapters about running the London Underground routes (over ground). Challenges like this have always fascinated me, and I enjoyed reading about how the author approached the navigational challenges, as well as the long distances involved in some of the lines.

I also enjoyed the chapter on ‘place hacking’: having clambered over a lot of fences myself, accessing countryside that has been enclosed, it was interesting to read about an urban runner’s experience of coming up against dead ends and finding secret gardens in the city, as well as what happens when this goes wrong!.

Running in an urban environment, you NEVER have to worry about muddy shoes or getting stuck in a bog, although there is a rather amusing incident involving wet concrete! Callum’s book beautifully combines the thrill of urban trail running with the unpredictability of city encounters, delivering a delightful blend of adventure and humour.

All in all, Road Runner is a great read which I really enjoyed. If you love running, and enjoy reading about the experiences of others, then I think you’ll enjoy this. It’s really funny in parts too – I’ll confess to snorting out loud a few times!

Buy the book here

This book, which was provided free of charge, was reviewed by Michelle Mortimer for UKRunChat.