Runner Damian Hall is The Underdog. A 42-year-old journalist and father-of-two living in the flat-lands of southern England, he went to this year’s Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) – the biggest trail running race in the world – hoping to fulfil a dream of finishing in the top-10. Racing against the sport’s best professional athletes, some of whom were half his age and train at altitude in the mountains, Damian knew the odds were stacked against him.
Over the 105 brutal mountain miles that followed, he went toe-to-toe with the likes of Jim Walmsley, Kilian Jornet and Zach Miller. And while the race – which includes a mammoth 10,000m of elevation gain through France, Italy and Switzerland – didn’t play out as many expected, Damian stayed strong, benefiting from the carnage ahead of him and ultimately running the race of his life.
The most famous prize in trail running was taken by deserving Frenchman Xavier Thevenard, for whom it was a third victory celebration on the spectator-packed streets of Chamonix. But behind him… well this was the year of the underdogs.
Summit Fever Media began filming Damian’s story 12 months prior to the UTMB. From his home in the Cotswolds to the race in Chamonix, via the Lake District and many other places in between, they followed his progress throughout the year and were there on the UTMB finish line to capture the story’s incredible conclusion.
Watch the film trailer to Underdog below here in this blog post. The full film is due to have it’s premiere at Kendal Mountain Festival in November. It’s date for general release is November 19th – visit this page and subscribe for more details.
Damian Hall’s top secrets to ultra-running race success
Ultra-distance running races, especially 100 milers, are eating contests, and it may not look like it but I’m a greedy runner. I stuff my face with nuts, chocolate, cheese, 33Shake chia gels and gallons of salty noodle soup. Later in the race I became more reliant on liquid calories. It’s best to drip-feed, every half hour minimum. Nom, nom, nom.
Pacing is critical to your performance and level of enjoyment. In this sport, the tortoise beats the hare. But of course we all want to be the fastest tortoise. With all the excitement early on, it’s hard to start at a sensible pace. But those who slow the least during the race are those who will do the best. Don’t be an idiot in the first half…
3. Be ready to suffer
… And don’t be a wimp in the second half. No matter how good your kit, how thorough your training, how vast your experience, an ultra-running race miler will involve a visit to the hurt locker. Be mentally prepared for that. It never always gets worse and it’s good to think now about why you’re doing the race: what’s your motivation?
4. Be happy
But while you’re hurting, try to, er, be happy. Studies show smiles help you with the miles. High-five the kids. Swap grins – and remember to thank – with volunteers. Enjoy the ride. Remember, you paid good money for all this (suffering). Might as well enjoy it, eh?
5. Think of the finish
Admittedly it may be different in the small hours, but the finish lines (especially UTMB) are effing amazing. Imagine the London Marathon finish, but just for you. It’s better than that.
Damian Hall’s UTMB running kit
Damian wore the new TERRAULTRA G 260 shoes with graphene-grip and a prototype vest pack which will launch in 2019. The TERRAULTRA G 260 is the first-ever sports shoe to utilise graphene, the world’s strongest material. By infusing graphene into the rubber, it makes the outsole 50% harder wearing without compromising on the sticky grip that trail runners crave. Damian said: “The shoes were superb and I had no foot issues at all. They gripped on pretty much everything and were great.”
When wet and wild weather swept across the mountains during the UTMB, Damian reached inside his pack for the STORMSHELL jacket, which is designed for super-protective, lightweight racing.