‘In the Pen’ is our series of interviews with runners who inspire the Lonely Goat Running Club community. We’ve spoken with elite athletes, authors, podcasters, CEOs, coaches, and adventurers. For this edition, we hear from record-breaking ultra trail runner, author, and coach, Damian Hall.
Supported by Inov-8, Damian is one of the great characters of the British ultra trail running scene. He’s finished 5th in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, represented Great Britain internationally, set a fastest known time for completing the 268 mile Pennine Way, and uses his running to highlight the climate and ecological emergency we’re facing.
In 2021, Damian’s book, In It for the Long Run: Breaking records and getting FKT, was published, chronicling the Pennine Way run and sharing autobiographical insights.
We’re grateful to Damian for taking the time to answer our ‘In the pen’ interview questions and share his experience with The Herd…
Why do you run?
That is a difficult one to answer. I suppose it does make me feel happier, healthier, fitter – if that’s not almost quoting a Radiohead song.
I just feel better. I think I’m a better person if I go running.
What motivates you?
That post run feeling. Even on average run days I’m motivated by knowing I will have a sort of afterglow. I believe it’s endorphins You get a hormone reaction, hopefully a runner’s high, and you just feel better for the rest of the day.
You often get a sense of satisfaction, especially if you run in the morning which I tend to do, and just feel a lot better for the rest of the day.
What are your top tips for beginner runners?
I coach a lot people and possibly the biggest mistake some of them make is their easy runs aren’t as easy as they could be.
There’s decades of study and coaching history behind the theory that most of our running should be easy, and it can make you faster.
Of course, ‘easy’ isn’t one particular pace because it’s different for everyone. It’s different on a different day, depending on how you feel and it’s different depending on the terrain. A conversational pace is a good way to describe it.
You get lots of lots of benefit from doing most of your running – perhaps 80% – easy. It’s also more enjoyable, so when you’re starting out it doesn’t feel as difficult.
Other advice is run in places you want to be in, if you can. Scientists talk about biophilia which is an innate desire to be in nature. Though it’s not awful to run on roads – and some of them are pretty – if you can run in great places you’re more likely to satisfy your innate desires and be happier.
What is your favourite place to run?
Snowdonia. It has the biggest mountains in England and Wales. Obviously Scotland has bigger mountains and is pretty scenic too, but it’s a long way to go for me.
I have had some really memorable times in Snowdonia. The Lake District is also wonderful, but Snowdonia has fewer visitors and I’ve gotten to know it better. It’s become a special place for me. With mountains, bogs, woods, rocks and big lakes, it’s just glorious.
Where would you like to run that you haven’t?
I’d like to run in Colorado at the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. I’d love to do it, but it’s very difficult to get into.
The land regulations are very different in America, so the races have to be a lot smaller. They only allow 140 people in and they give priority to people who have already done the race. You can enter a ballot, but so many people want to do it that it’s difficult to get into.
Do you have any funny running stories?
My mate ran into a cow.
It was during the Spine Race, we were both very tired, and it was dark.
What are your favourite running books?
I read Lizzy Hawker’s, Runner: A short story about a long run. I really like Adharanand Finn’s The Rise of the Ultra Runners. And Feet in the Clouds, by Richard Askwith is really good.
What did you used to do that you don’t do now?
I used to run in non-Inov-8 daps. Those were dark, dark times indeed.
What are the results you’re most proud of?
In my sport of ultra trail running, UTMB is the biggest race in the world each year. My best out there was fifth. I was pretty pleased with that.
Breaking the Pennine Way FKT record (fastest-known time) was more of a personal journey. It’s quite a domestic thing that doesn’t mean much to people outside of Britain, and it has since been beaten. I’d walked it and then had been thinking about running it for a long time. It was nine years of preparation in a way.
Who inspires you?
Clare Gallagher, Kilian Jornet, Dan Lawson, Charlotte Jalley.
They’re all people who’ve used running to further awareness of the climate and ecological emergency. Clare Gallagher is very outspoken in America and political over there. Kilian Jornet has launched a foundation is a strong leader in ultra trail running about being more responsible. Dan Lawson and Charlotte Jalley founded Rerun clothing, who are doing amazing things.
They really inspire me because they’re mixing running with the right political messages, I think.
Are you a parkrunner?
I’ve probably done three. It doesn’t always fit in with the family. We have been, and we’ll probably go again. I need to try and get my kids to go to parkrun juniors on Sunday.
Music or silence when running?
I listen to two football ones every week The Guardian’s ‘Football Weekly’ and ‘The Totally Football Show’. I listen to them religiously.
And then loads of running ones: ‘Some Work, All Play’, which is by David and Megan Roche; ‘Talk Ultra’; ‘Everything Endurance’; ‘Trail Runner Nation’; and ‘The Way of the Runner’ with Adharanand Finn.
I’m quite enjoying the ‘Pillars’ podcast and I sometimes listen to ‘Desert Island Discs’.
Yeah, I’m a podcast junkie.
What do you like about running on your own?
You can run at your own pace, with your own thoughts, to your own paces. But I do like running with other people as well, sometimes.
How can people follow you?
Thank you Damian!
We hope you enjoyed our chat with Damian Hall.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next ‘In the Pen‘ interview, coming soon…
ps… Lonely Goat Running Club members can get 15% off Inov-8 products using Goat Codes