Your running tracks
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Rob Deering has been listening - really listening - to music his whole life, but it was only in his mid-thirties, when he was already a successful Comedian, Husband, Father-of-two and recovering Fat Bloke that he found running.
In this collection of vividly conjured and amusingly told memories, Rob looks at the moments and the places where his life changed and - as he became more and more obsessed with getting his trainers on and getting out there - the part that music played in the process. Imagine Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running spliced with Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs - but in Rob’s distinctive voice - and you’ll have an idea what Running Tracks is all about.
This is first and foremost a defence of running listening to music - pretty much everybody out there does it, but it’s still regularly dismissed by ‘proper’ runners. Rob’s adventures in running have spanned four continents, over a dozen marathons and raising over £100,000 for Parkinson’s UK - not to mention a thousand trots through the parks and along the pavements of whatever city comedy takes him to of a weekend - and he’s never without his trusty little headphones, and his ever-growing, wide-ranging, carefully chosen personal playlist.
What makes the perfect running tune, and why is that sometimes exactly the opposite of what you need to hear? What’s the difference between marathon training in Hong Kong and hungover plodding in Southampton? How can a muddy path, a relentless downpour and a song from a kids’ movie lead to a transcendental experience?
It’s all in here, as Rob unpacks the surprise moments thrown up by this hugely popular, nearly perfect, sometimes preposterous activity. Running Tracks is always fun but powerful too, as the meditative state of a musical run connects the dots between youth and - whisper it - middle-age, being a child and being a parent, grief, and falling over in poo.
Rob’s beloved late father Barney had Parkinson’s, and the fund-raising continues; when it is published, Rob will donate 50% of his share of profits from sales of this book to Parkinson’s UK.
- A high quality, first-edition, paperback book.
- Based around 26.2 runs.
- Approximately 256 pages, and 52,000 words.
- Tons of amazing and exclusive pledge levels!
*Book designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and may differ from final design.
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Your running tracks
Rob DeeringRob Deering is a comedian, musician, presenter, quizzer and runner.
Born in London, Rob has lived in Oxfordshire, Birmingham and Edinburgh. He worked as a Theatre Director, workshop presenter, composer and musician before becoming a stand-up at the turn of the century. Since then he has played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe many times, toured several shows nationally, and performed throughout the world. He’s a sought-after headliner on the stand-up circuit, and his late-night music comedy pop quiz Beat This is a festival institution.
Rob co-hosts the podcast Running Commentary with fellow stand-up comedian/ runner Paul Tonkinson, and has run 14 marathons and raised over £100k for Parkinson’s UK since tying his trainers on for the first time in 2008. He is a regular contributor to The Steve Lamacq Show (BBC Radio 6 Music) and one of the hosts of The Comedy Club (BBC Radio 4 Extra).
He has appeared on Pointless Celebrities (BBC One) and Celebrity Eggheads (BBC Two) and won Celebrity Mastermind (BBC One) and a special comedian’s edition of The Weakest Link – he’s the only person ever to have done so without getting a question wrong. Other credits include Strictly: It Takes Two (BBC Two), Comedy Rocks With Jason Manford (ITV) and Celebrity Juice (ITV2).
He lives with his family in North London.
The Quays to the City - Manchester, Spring 2009
One of the ways running changed my life was almost entirely geographical.
As a jobbing club comedian, particularly in the first ten years of my career - the first ten years of this century - my life rotated around weekend visits to UK cities. I got very used to heading out of my flat, and later my house, on Thursday lunchtime and rolling back in some time Sunday, after three nights of performing one or two shows a night.
Sometimes I wouldn’t be away at the weekend - I’d be working in London, or doing one-night shows in a variety of places - but other times I’d be away for longer, stringing together five, eight, ten nights of gigs around the country.
A visited a great slate of cities - Manchester, Southampton, Glasgow, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Bath, Leicester, Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham, Newcastle, Birmingham and more - but it was a finite list; within a couple of years I’d been to all these places several times, and knew them well. Or if I didn’t know them well, I knew all the bits that suited me - good record shops, independent cinemas, places where you could get a good cocktail - not to mention where the Wagamama and the Sainsbury’s Local were.
Sometimes I would fill the daytimes - the Fridays and Saturdays - with work. I might’ve been writing an Edinburgh Fringe show, or exchanging long production emails, or sorting out money stuff; as the musical element of my set got more complicated, I’d often book a band rehearsal room, just for me on my own. Back then, simply finding a good internet connection used to keep us travelling folk pretty busy. As Christmas approached - with more shows and longer stays away, as all the parties came to the clubs - I’d gleefully shop and wrap for days on end, arriving in, say, Birmingham as myself, and leaving laden with tempting-looking gifts like a mufti Santa.
I like some of these cities more than others, of course, but I kind of love them all, because for the time I’m there, I’m home. And back then, for all the writing, working and shopping, the daytimes ultimately featured a lot of time in cafés, cinemas and hotel rooms - all of which I’m good at. I know how I like my coffee. I know not to go to the cinema on Saturday afternoon, when the talkers go. And in my hotel, I don’t moulder; when I arrive, I unpack - neatly. When I wake up, I get up, get dressed and make my bed.
But when I started running, I took my relationship with these places to the next level. Before I’d really done one, I imagined the optimum outdoor run was down country lanes through the English countryside. Of course not; I’m a city boy, raised playing in the parks, and walking with my grandparents along the canal towpaths, of West London. Now each of these cities I was already friends with opened up their loveliest outdoor spaces to me. Sometimes they weren’t that lovely, or at least, not exactly Venice - but if, for example, you follow the canal towpaths East of Birmingham, right to and under Spaghetti Junction, on a sunny morning, it’s beautiful. Water, wildlife, greenery, blue skies and fresh air; even the thundering M6 overhead gives you a frisson of pleasure in having taken the road less travelled by.
Manchester was one of the first cities I used to tour to in this way; in the early 2000s I would go up on Tuesday to do XS Malarkey at bar XS in Fallowfield, then stay right through till Sunday doing the often fairly rambunctious Frog & Bucket. So when I started getting booked for weekends at the mighty, legendary Comedy Store I already knew where all the city-centre cinemas and the 24-hour shops were; the new experiences began with nice hotels, but almost immediately headed out behind them, along Manchester’s superb waterways. Those stovepipe-hatted Victorian businessmen may not have known how to respect the human rights of textile workers, but they sure could lay out a running route.
These days the Comedy Store put us up in a really nice hotel right by the old Hacienda, and I like to run out of town along the Bridgewater Canal to the big shiny excitements of Salford’s Media City and back. When I first went up for them they used another nice place, just a couple of streets over, which backed on to what I thought was another canal, but was actually the River Irwell, factored and engineered into the fabric of the city as it burgeoned in the nineteenth century.
It too snakes out towards Media City, and was my original route. Suddenly, from 2008, I was doing something completely new, in completely new places, through these old, familiar spots; I remember finding what was - I didn’t realise at the time - quite a sketchy riverside path and heading right past my hotel room window on the opposite bank, literally thinking ‘woah; who have I become?’
It was an inauspicious beginning for what would become a favourite run in a favourite running city; it was raining, and there’s a stretch of the river there which is a bit of a hinterland - redeveloped, by the look of it, in the eighties, but perhaps forgotten a little as the tram flew over it to the newer museums, theatres and TV studios of Salford Quays. I ran along mossy pavements under old, moon-like street lights towards locked gates, gaps in the pavement opening up to show pipes and wires below… it was a ‘this can’t be right?’ route, and as it rained harder, I had to give up the riverside and run across some scrubland to pick up a dusty little road that led to a dead end. Away from a dead end in this case. Thank goodness for that little road - handy for me, as it would doubtless have been for, say, a couple of Mafiosi looking for a handy spot to lob a corpse in a shallow grave. Maybe that’s what happened to the big and very dead bird I nearly tripped over.
Although there would have been witnesses. As I felt more and more of a lycra-clad fool, trying to keep running as I scrambled up a bank in the middle of nowhere, brambles scratching at my legs, I looked up at a tram trundling past on the overhead line, full of Mancunians doubtless on the way to work - it was first thing on a Friday - staring back through the windows at me blankly, like a jury. The verdict: idiot.
I kept running. The path by the river began again, still sketchy and murder-friendly, but leafier now. Then, close to Old Trafford, the path opened up into a wide pavement, the water spreading out on my right towards new, silvery buildings and fancy bridges ahead. There were swans! And in the distance, a person or two - looking more dog-walky than homicidal. Media City was more like the Emerald City for me that day. I ran through it, past the building where, a couple of years later, I would win Mastermind without getting any of my specialist-subject questions wrong.
Did I shoehorn that in?
On the return route, I found the good way; I crossed over the Throstle Bridge and came back along the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, loving my run now; loving the whole thing, in spite of the early trouble. I chuckled as a ridiculously appropriate song came on in my headphones - the fantastic ‘Thieves Like Us’ by New Order. Expansive and filmic, I had fallen in love with it listening to their singles album Substance - on cassette - more than twenty years before. I remembered seeing shots of Manchester set to it on a South Bank Show about the band, before I’d ever visited the place. Now I was living it - as the chunky, mid-speed drum machine and the shimmery synths took their time building up to Peter Hook’s enormous bass slide in the extended introduction, I was the video, striding through this fantastic city’s history, from the twenty-first-century architectural adventure of Media City, through the quintessential Victorian engineering of the bridges, tunnels and locks of Deansgate, towards the Hacienda, the iconic club this very band had helped to build. Well - the car park where it used to be. As Bernard Sumner sang the deceptively glib, satisfyingly gnomic lyrics of love found and lost, for me I knew the song was about my relationship with Manchester. I didn’t know then how much I would fall in love with running there, but it all began that rainy day.
All that, plus I did one of my earliest Tweets that day; one of the first to be well-received, anyway:
’Ah, a morning run along the banks of the Irwell; how nice to be-EWWW!! DEAD GOOSE DEAD GOOSE!!!’19th May 2020 Half way!
Well, this last couple of weeks have been really wonderful. Everyone who has pledged so far - so many, lovely generous people! - has given me joy, and that's fed back into writing Running Tracks, which I'm loving more than ever.
I'm around half way through writing now, and I'm hoping to be half-way funded this week too - so, a pretty special time, all in all.
Oh, and it's not just…
These people are helping to fund Running Tracks.