Despite having few races to run in 2020, British fell runner Damian Hall has had quite the season. He kicked the year off with a fastest known time (FKT) for winter running on the 47-peak Paddy Buckley Round in Wales, and seven months later in July, he beat John Kelly‘s freshly-run record on the Pennine Way, a 431K trail through England. To complete a fell running trifecta, he set his third FKT of the year on October 15, running the 117K South Wales Traverse in a bit north of 14 hours.
Hall has risen through the ranks in the ultrarunning world in the past few years. In 2015, he came in 32nd at the famed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, France. A year later, he improved to 19th place. In 2017, he finished in 12th, just outside of a top-10 result, and finally, in 2018, he was the fifth runner across the line. This year, with few options to choose from due to COVID-19, he dedicated his fitness to running FKTs.
He ran his Paddy Buckley Round record in 21 hours, 30 minutes, just seven minutes quicker than the previous mark. This was in January, and the 47 peaks Hall had to summit were covered with snow. He also owns the FKT for the regular Paddy Buckley Round, which he ran in 2019 in 17 hours, 31 minutes. The route spans about 100K, and Hall had to climb more than 8,500m in the 21-hour run.
Good times in the Black Mountains, being chased by @theleeprocter, 50 miles into the South Wales Traverse
🎥@rogueruns@inov_8 #SWT #BlackMountains #recordbimble #stufflikethat pic.twitter.com/mEYUdHftSg
— Damian Hall (@Ultra_Damo) October 17, 2020
His run on the Pennine Way was even more publicized than the Paddy Buckley Round, mainly because he broke the FKT just nine days after Kelly set it. Before Kelly ran the route in 64 hours, 40 minutes, the Pennine Way FKT hadn’t been broken for 31 years, but Hall wasn’t interested in letting the new record go unbeaten for that long. A little over a week after Kelly’s run, Hall posted a time of 61 hours, 34 minutes to smash the FKT.
Finally, Hall continued his stellar season with the South Wales Traverse. As was the case with his Paddy Buckley Round earlier in the year, he barely beat the existing record. Going into the run, he had to better Irish runner Dan Doherty’s 2017 time of 14 hours, 18 minutes, and he just managed to grab the record. It should be noted that Doherty’s run was completely self-supported, whereas Hall had a small crew to help him out during the run, but both men’s times are extremely impressive.
There’s always time for sandwiches!
Well done @Ultra_Damo on setting a new South Wales Traverse record (14hrs 13mins).
— Lee Procter (@theleeprocter) October 17, 2020
After the run, Hall posted to Instagram, writing, “Of the six running fastest known times I’ve set, last week’s South Wales Traverse was the most stressful. I was always only ever a handful of minutes on either side of the record, and usually behind it … It was the shortest, time-wise, that I’ve done. But also, [Doherty’s] record was a stout one.” Hall hasn’t posted anything announcing his plans for the rest of 2020, but even if he decides to take it easy for the next couple of months, he’s had a tremendous year.