You’ll all be needing inspiration now that the long summer days are coming, so I recommend that you take time to read Manny Gorman’s “The Corbett Round”, recently published by the great man.
A couple of years ago when Manny delivered his talk on this epic 2009 Corbett adventure, I was gutted to be working 6,000 miles away in the Orient. The ensuing rave reviews weaved their way swiftly along the Silk Road making me even more peeved to have missed out. Ever since, I’ve been gagging to read his story. I’m not disappointed!
The history of Westies is a tale of journeys. Our early attempts at the West Highland Way Relay followed by the Struthers’ Extravaganzas in the 80’s and 90’s and the more recent mega-mental epics of Upson, Campbell and Gorman encapsulate everything that makes us the greatest small-to-medium running club in the west end of Glasgow…nay, the World. Sure, plenty of clubs are full of runners who love the great outdoors. There may even be clubs with fitter, and possibly even more mental, athletes (although The Gormanator would surely have something to say about that). But, as soon as someone organises a senseless stunt involving long days in the mountains, open to endless possibilities for logistical cock-ups and the chance to laugh at the insanity of it all, it’s like a Westies dog whistle…we all come running out to play. Of such events are Westies legends made. It’s what makes us special!
The Corbett Round took in 2,600 miles and 420,000 feet of climbing, a magnificent sail down the west coast and an AC/DC concert, all in 70 days. However, as Manny says, it was never about numbers or records, it was all about the journey, or more fittingly, the Highway to Hell. The book brings out the best in Manny and he tells the story fluently and with his usual gusto. There is no pretension and as you read you can imagine hearing his Kirkintilloch twang (fortunately, visualizing his face was more tricky). It’s an emotional roller coaster all the way. When Manny’s peed off and you happen to be around, you’ll know all about it, such as when you haven’t delivered his favourite fell shoes to the appointed place at the scheduled hour. Everyone accepts the abuse with equanimity, knowing that he will make up for it later. The no-holds-barred approach also leads to hilarious vignettes. Manny’s altercation with a “cretin” of a Galloway fermer, advising him to get back to the “Colostomy Home for the Moronic” is superb. It’s all the better knowing that Manny has previous when it comes to abusing country cretins, as I witnessed, with equal amusement, some time ago on the West Highland Way Relay route near Ballat. To be fair, Manny is equally generous to all his supporters and what a magnificent bunch they are. They not only include fellow runners but sailors, brewers, doctors, family, local friends and others he met along the way, who all rallied forth correctly anticipating that it was going to be packed full of incident. The inclusion of blogs from this motley bunch of hangers-on helps to break up the narrative and bring an alternative perspective on Manny’s version of events.
Then of course, there is the amazing Brenda, praised highly throughout the book. Her support, though always typically understated, was crucial throughout.
The best bits of the book are when things go wrong, as they inevitably do. You get the feeling that Manny secretly enjoys when his world is falling apart and he can have a good whinge. And we all benefit from his description of these calamities. These often brought me out in a rush of serious envy, wishing I had been there… preferably spectating from the comfort of his campervan.
I had the privilege of playing a minor part during the most dramatic day, when after surviving a lightning storm on Arkle and Fionaven, Brenda called to let Manny know that she’d had “a wee incident” (a clear example of her ability to understate). I was amazed at Manny’s recollection of the detail; he remembered things that I had forgotten and it brought a lump in my throat recalling Manny’s emotions as the seriousness of the situation unfolded.
So, it’s a rollicking good read, at times funny, sad, poetic, profane, painful and picturesque (the photos tell their own story). If you need a reminder as to why you joined this slightly odd, dysfunctional but magnificent club, email Manny and buy your copy now. Don’t be stingy and borrow it from your pals, buy your own. You won’t regret this small investment that will inspire you for the rest of your running life.