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UTMB top-10 quest by Damian Hall chronicled in new film

The British ultrarunner's story is inspiring when you consider what he was up against at UTMB


As anyone who follows trail running now knows, Damian Hall‘s quest to be among the top 10 finishers at UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc) ended in a triumphant fifth-place finish over Labour Day weekend. A new film documenting his fourth attempt racing UTMB will soon be out, and the British trail gear company Inov-8 has just tweeted the trailer. (Hall is sponsored by Inov-8, and wore the new graphene shoes during the race.) Appropriately enough, the film is titled Underdog.

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Here’s how Hall describes his dilemma: “My name’s Damian. I’m British. I’m 42. I live in the Cotswolds. I’m an outdoor journalist. I’m having a mid-life crisis, and that means I like to run ultramarathons, and I’ve got a UTMB problem….

“It’s got 10,000 metres of climb–Everest is eight-and-a-half thousand metres. To be top 10 at UTMB–that, to me, is the dream. The runners I’m against are mostly full-time, they’re younger than me, a lot of them live and train in the mountains. Realistically the pedigree of the other runners… it’s unlikely, most people would say. So I just want to give my best effort. I do want to be in the top 10. There are lots of things against me. But it gives me an underdog spirit.”

In fact, Hall finished 12th last year, his best result thus far, so it wasn’t entirely a stretch for him to finish in the top 10. Except that he was facing an unbelievably stacked field, with superstars like Kilian Jornet, Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller and Xavier Thévenard also racing, as well as other highly accomplished ultrarunners like Tim Tollefson and Alex Nichols

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But anything can happen, and usually does, in a 100-mile race through the Alps. Thévenard emerged victorious after Jornet, Walmsley, Miller, Tollefson and Nichols all DNF’d due to various combinations of injury, bad weather and bad luck, allowing other runners to move up. Robert Hajnal of Romania finished second, Jordi Gamito of Spain third, and Hallvard Schjølberg of Norway fourth. 

And being over 40 turned out to be an advantage, with all three female podium finishers and Schjølberg sharing that distinction with Hall.

The film is expected to be released shortly.