Changed by lunch with Beatle Paul

PUBLISHED: 10:33 22 February 2007 | UPDATED: 15:01 12 May 2010

Andy Blackford: “Not a book for hardcore runners.” - 2207DW22

Andy Blackford: “Not a book for hardcore runners.” - 2207DW22

A former smoker who turned his life around after a business meeting with Paul McCartney has written a humorous book about his devotion to running – the sport he says saved his life. Running on Empty by Andy Blackford of Litlington is a compilation of anec

A former smoker who turned his life around after a business meeting with Paul McCartney has written a humorous book about his devotion to running - the sport he says saved his life.

Running on Empty by Andy Blackford of Litlington is a compilation of anecdotal columns commissioned by Runner's World magazine.

The book, which has references to Litlington and the surrounding area, records Andy's battles with injury, his experimentation with diets, and his participation in long distance runs across the world.

Andy, 56, said: "It's not a book for hardcore runners. Running is about the last thing the book is about."

Andy admits he had a 'wild time' in his 20s, and was even voted the least likely person to reach 30 when he was 21 and studying at Oxford University.

He said: "At the time I was a guitarist in Spreadeagle, Genesis' support band, and thought 30 was miles away and didn't take any notice. I was a lunatic. But it suddenly dawned on me in my late 20s."

There was one incident which made Andy give up smoking.

"I was a junior member of a music publisher's when I took Paul McCartney out for lunch. I kept yawning which wasn't the best thing to do in that situation, but I later found out it was caused by a respiratory problem and I decided to stop smoking."

Since then Andy has not had another cigarette.

"I replaced the smoking with something incompatible - swimming and running."

Ever since Andy stubbed out his last cigarette, about 30 years ago, he has run marathons in New York, Penang, and Greenland, and has taken part in long distance running through the Amazonian rainforest, the Himalayas, the USA, and across the Sahara.

He said: "I've never really enjoyed running, but it was important for my wellbeing.

"I think running is a good metaphor for life. It's a mixture of exhilaration, profound depression, proving yourself, and holding back old age. Sport has a symbolic importance in people's lives."

Andy says he will stop running after receiving treatment on his hip. Instead he has decided to do long distance walking.

"It seems attractive," he said. "When I ran in places such as the Amazon and the Himalayas you couldn't look around at the scenery as much as you wanted, in case you stepped on a snake or fell over a cliff.

"But with long-distance walking you can admire the scenery at your own pace."

The former Royston Runner also hopes to walk to the North Pole next year with a friend, and take part in the Coast to Coast Trail, which will take him to Cumbria, the Lake District, and Yorkshire.

He will also continue to write for Runner's World.

He said: "I usually write the columns the night before they are due in, or five o'clock in the morning on deadline day.

"I've always done it like that, but I think you do it better that way.

"There's nothing like raw fear to make you alert!"

- Running on Empty is available for £7.99 at www.sportsbooks.ltd.uk

It will also be available from amazon.co.uk from March 15.

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