Author Interview: Damian Hall, In It for the Long Run
- Tuesday 4 May 2021
Damian Hall is a record-breaking ultrarunner, a UK Athletics running coach and a widely published journalist. His latest book, In It for the Long Run, tells the story of how he prepared for over nine years to achieve the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the 261-mile Pennine Way in July 2020, running Britain’s oldest National Trail in two days and seventeen hours. During this interview, Damian gives us an insight into what it took to achieve this record-breaking goal, why he thinks running is so addictive, why he wanted his attempt to be carbon negative and what we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint.
Back on the Paddy, this time solo and chasing the winter record © inov-8.com - Lee Procter
First of all, congratulations on breaking the FKT record for the 261-mile Pennine Way run this past summer! How did you work towards that goal and what did it feel like when you achieved it?
Thank you! It felt pretty amazing to be honest. But a lot of people helped, it was a huge team effort so I feel a lot of gratitude too. I'd been thinking about it for four years, and planning deliberately for four months, so a lot went into it. You could say it started nine years before when I first hiked it ...
How important was it for you that your attempt be carbon negative?
Introducing some of my values to the adventure just made it more meaningful, more important, so it mattered more when things got difficult. Those values felt more important, to me at least, than the outcome of the run itself.
What made you decide to move on from marathons to ultra-running FKTs which you have called an ‘impossible-sounding endurance challenge’?
It was a happy accident really. I was badgering a magazine editor to let me write about my new-found love of running and he called my bluff and sent me on my first ultra, in 2012. But I was gravitating that way anyway. I've always been attracted to endurance, such as Scott of the Antarctic and even back to reading The Lord of the Rings as a kid.
Wall-bothering in Kirk Yetholm © inov-8.com – Dave MacFarlane
What advice would you give to people who want to start running marathons or even ultra-running long-distances like yourself?
Do it. It could be life changing (it has been for me).
What do you like most about the Pennine Way?
The history and its connection to the Mass Trespass of 1932, a really important piece of civil disobedience, which helped changed laws so we could go rambling in the hills. That feels salient again today.
What is it about running that got you so ‘addicted’ to it?
There is a hormonal reaction, endorphins or the runner's high, which is pretty good. But also, it is time in spent in nature, which we inherently need, a way to travel, a way to explore, a way to get muddy and sweaty. What else is there worth doing!?
Finishing the 2017 UTMB race © Andy Jackson
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic, with its indoor restrictions and the closure of gyms, has encouraged people to get out and run more for exercise?
It has definitely seemed that way, which is wonderful!
What is your next goal? Are there any other FKTs you would like to achieve?
Hee-hee. Yes, I have another planned for late May ...
You’re really passionate about our climate and ecological emergency and you take real steps to be more sustainable which is amazing! What would you advise your readers to do to try and reduce their carbon footprint?
The three big ones are travel, diet and energy. It's really easy to switch to a renewable energy supplier, such as Ecotricity, online, in just a few minutes and it may even be cheaper. When it comes to diet, as a world we have to consume less meat and dairy (but that doesn't mean we have to all turn vegan necessarily, though I've found that really fun). The worst aspect of travel is flying, and again lockdowns have helped show us perhaps we could all do less of that too. However, it should be governments and corporations who are leading on this, and most of them aren't. Scientists say we need to cut global emissions by forty-five per cent this decade and we're nowhere close. The best thing people can do is political rather than personal; hassle your MP, join in with protests, be vocal about it in person and online.