inov-8 ambassador Damian Hall has set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, breaking the previous record that had stood undefeated for the last ten years.
Damian ran over 61 miles – across some of Wales’ most remote mountain tops, climbing 47 peaks and ascending over 28,000ft (equivalent to climbing Mount Everest, sea to summit) – in 17hrs 31mins. He took 11 minutes off the previous record, set by Tim Higginbottom in 2009.
Q: What made you decide to go for the Paddy Buckley Round record?
It was a combination of things. To complete the trilogy of the Big Three 24-hour rounds (Paddy Buckley, Bob Graham and Charlie Ramsay rounds), I did my own Paddy Buckley Round in March, with my mate Charlie Sproson. However, the weather hampered us and we didn’t get round in under 24 hours. Technically the Paddy has no time limit, but I still wanted a sub-24-hour completion, so it was unfinished business.
I also just so happened to support three people’s attempts on it in the last 10 months, including Nicky Spinks’s Double, and I realised both my legs and head had accidentally come to know the round well. I’d also run 60 miles three times already this year, so fitness wouldn’t be too far off, and it was approaching the best time for rounds. Though I still don’t consider myself a fell runner, I was all out of excuses not to have a pop at it. Plus, I’ve really fallen for the Paddy, the least celebrated, probably the trickiest and certainly the quirkiest of the Big Three.
Q: You did four of the five legs unsupported (something allowed on the Paddy which differs to the more well-known Bob Graham Round). How did you manage the logistics?
Well, if you’ve got a support team of one, there are very few logistics to deal with! In truth I couldn’t decide whether to cobble together a team of supporters to carry my sandwiches, like proper fell runners tend to do, which should make you quicker but seemed like a big logistical headache to me. Or, to just have a simple, solo bimble, no pressure or hassle, and see what came of it – which seemed much more appealing. In the end I mentioned it to two people and one of them couldn’t make it. Local speedster Michael Corrales (Dark Peak) was a huge help to me. I arrived at the start of the fifth leg around 25 minutes behind the record. Thanks to his brilliant bullying, we made up just enough time on that final section. It was pretty exciting and I definitely wouldn’t have done it without him.
Q: You’ve described the Paddy as the quirkier of the three classic rounds. What makes it such a special challenge?
There’s no time limit. There’s no official start point (which in a way makes things trickier as you have a key decision to make). The round’s namesake has never completed it. Talking of names, two mountains have the same one (remember that if you ever try and meet someone on the Paddy). There’s no website for it. More perhaps than the other rounds, it has some – what shall we call them? – erm, subtler summits. Which can again make things tricky. The weather seems more fickle in Snowdonia too. The Paddy just seems to catch people out more.
Q: Paul Tierney got ice lollies delivered by 4-wheeler on his Wainwrights record run, Nicky Spinks had you chasing her around with cold noodles in a bag on her Double Paddy Buckley Round – do you have any highlights of your round?
Paul did what?! The friggin showboater. Yeah, it would have been good to have Nicky following me around for a change, with a big bag of macaroons and Tunnock’s. I was lucky to have some fantastic weather – just what I was waiting for. The early morning was beautiful and the golden gloaming on the Snowdon section helped make a memorable day all the more so. I celebrated with a chocolate eclair and half a bottle of local ale, before falling asleep. Oh, and naturally I got a parking ticket for my efforts. Didn’t care though.
Q: Were there any low points and if so, how did you get through them?
When you start to lose the time cushion you’ve carefully built up over several hours, that can be pretty frustrating. But I’d envisioned that scenario and reminded myself it was just a fun day out really. I also got dehydrated for a bit, which affected my climbing power. But no, otherwise it was a really special day in the hills. Sorry to be boring.
Q: Did you train specifically for the round, and what tips would you give to someone who would like to train for it?
I trained specifically, but by accident. With those three supports and my own Paddy, I had inadvertently prepared myself pretty well for it. After that, I did one more visit to Snowdonia the week before, to run a section at record pace. On my regular runs in the Brecon Beacons I also went off-trail more and sought out the longest, roughest climbs. My training tip is: power-hiking.
Q: Nutrition is key and I am sure this includes more than just Tunnock’s bars! What is your strategy, both on the hill, in the days leading up to the run and in the days that follow?
On the hill, it’s whatever will go in really, so a combination of chocolate, salty crisps, brioche rolls (with nut butter, banana and chocolate spread), while Mountain Fuel’s Feel Good bars (tasty flapjacks that magically stay moist) and Jellies were both excellent. Beforehand I usually try and have simple carbs – I think my 3am breakfast was a banana and a pain au raisin. Afterwards it was chocolate milk and ale. I was going to clarify ‘not at the same time’, but I probably was swigging them simultaneously. I’m a classy guy.
Q: How important is recovery to you?
It may not look like it, but I’m very respectful of recovery. I find the better your training is, the quicker the recovery usually is. My legs returned to me pretty fast, though my energy and resting heart rate haven’t quite returned to normal yet. But with Paddy done and the Lakeland Trails 55k now in the bag, I have an eye on the Eiger Ultra Trail on July 20.
Q: We spotted you wore the MUDCLAW G 260s?
With a combination of trails, wet grass, bog and rock, the MUDCLAW G 260 was the obvious choice. But when you’re on your feet for 17 hours plus, it’s no good having the right grip if you get foot problems. But I had non-whatsoever. The shoe was outstanding.
Q: You wore the RACE ULTRA PRO 5 vest for the Paddy, what made you choose this pack?
I love the pocket options, the soft flasks, the overall fit, adjustability and comfort. I love putting on a running pack/vest, because it invariably means the start of a mini adventure somewhere lumpy.
Q: And your trademark racing red base layer – why always red?
Haha. You’re always trying to get me to elaborate on that! For now let’s just say – and I’ve looked into this an alarming amount – have you noticed what colour the three most successful football teams in England wear? Then you have to consider whether or not that’s a coincidence… (For the record, I’m undecided – the theory doesn’t translate so well to international football – but I won’t discount it totally).
Q: What other kit did you use and why?
I wore Merino Sock Mid, for a little extra toe cushioning. 5” Trail Short, which were comfy and light. A Base Elite Long Sleeve, which was breathable and wicked away my honking odours well. And a wrag, which I love for their versatility and ability to cover up my ever-growing forehead.