Damian Hall breaks Winter Paddy Buckley record running unsupported, fuelled by Vegan brownies

A little over a week ago Damian Hall set the new winter record for the Paddy Buckley round in North Wales. Featuring 47 summits, with over 100 kms of running and over 7500 meters of climbing, its a challenge for many to complete it in the allotted 24 hours.

Damian went one step further, establishing a new time of 17 hours and 31 minutes, but in doing so, taking a different approach for the established norm.

There were no support runners, no resupplies and he caught the bus from his home in the Cotswolds. Gels were traded for brownies and he could only utilise what he brought to the mountain.

Some would say Damian’s going green, others may argue his jumping on the bandwagon. What I perceive Damian to be doing is being aware of his actions, in age where we are all too used to jumping in the car or purchasing a premade solution. I myself can vouch for being one of those people, my race this weekend saw me drive from Milton Keynes to Aber falls and back in a day, I consumed bought in products on the mountain out of convenience, the impact caused for my four hours of fun was pretty major. Multiply this over the year and you can see what we are doing and this only on race days…. take it account training, day to day living, commuting to work… it all adds up.

I reached out to Damo with some questions about his round that I thought would shed some light on his decisions that led to his actions. A good listen, for those who want to find out a little more about Damian’s approach to training and racing in 2020 is the podcast episode of Dirt Church Radio he was on recently.

Ironically, I was listening to this on the way to said race at the weekendIMG_4812Image credit – inov-8.com/Lee Procter

First off – Your brownies. Homemade? How many were sacrificed to the running gods?

Hmm, at least 1kg. I filled a tub with as many as I could squash in, ate most of them and finished the last one today as it happens. It was mouldy though, the last one. They were vegan. Cos I’m trying to be trendy, like.

Have you been using whole foods (no gels/energy products) for a while in training? Is this something you plan to continue through the season?

A little bit in training, certainly the brownies. I’m pretty lucky with food in that I seem to be able to knock back most things. I also ate salty trail mix, chocolate (with recyclable wrappers), bananas and penny sweets from my local Post Office. I’m going to try to continue it, but I’m realistic too. I may need some gels at times. When you race abroad, too, it can be so much harder to find exactly what you’re after. So I’ll do my best. But don’t jump on me if I don’t quite manage it (please)!WhatsApp Image 2020-01-30 at 03.36.18Image credit – inov-8.com/Lee Procter

We see you training in the Brecon Beacons a lot. Utilising public transport to get to Snowdonia requires more planning and reduces your flexibility. How much extra time did it take to get the start than driving? Were you conscious of your total running time in order to get a return home?

I’m aiming for my racing and training to be carbon neutral this year, which means less travel and more domestic races and some carbon offsetting if I have to drive. Getting buses and trains to Snowdonia had quite a big impact on my Winter Paddy Buckley Round Record as it meant I pretty much had to start from Llanberis (or Capel Curig) and more significantly I couldn’t do food stashes like I did for my summer record. But that was all good. I enjoyed the extra challenge of that. And fell asleep one my way home na missed a bus stop.

Why unsupported?

That seemed fun. And I haven’t got any friends.

Being unsupported leaves you needing to carry more kit for those what ifs and to keep moving. Did you weigh your bag before your round? Was this incorporated into your training to familiarise yourself with the additional weight and to offset the onset of fatigue?

I’m not sure what my bag weighed to be honest, probably more than 2kg, at the start. It did slow me down, but not a huge amount – so did the wind and snow, too. I didn’t do lots of training with it, but I’ve done races like MDS and the Spine in the past, so it’s not alien to me. But I’d rather travel lighter and be faster.

Image credit – inov-8.com/Lee Procter

On a recent post you mentioned the conditions may have not been as challenging ie true winter conditions when compared to Jim Mann’s. Given the poor winters we have experienced lately and their unpredictability for providing snow one week (if lucky) then 10 degrees the next, did this impact your decisions for logistics, fuel and approach?

I wanted a winter adventure. So I might not have gone if there hadn’t been snow on the ground. At the same time, you want to be safe, so I wouldn’t have gone if the forecast was too extreme either. I had forecasts of –8˚C wind chill. I didn’t want it any more unpleasant than that really. It was feisty at times. But ultimately the balance was good in that it felt like a winter adventure – I got buffeted by winds, bum-slid down descents on snow, went groin-deep into frozen bogs – but still have my external bits left working largely as before.

Now the summer and winter Paddy Buckley round record holder, do you have any further goals for to achieve in the Welsh mountains?

Well, I’m doing UTS50 in June, which looks fun. Otherwise, I don’t know. I do love it there. They’re my nearest big mountains. I’m thinking on it…IMG_4775Image credit – inov-8.com/Lee Procter

2020 is the start of carbon neutral training and racing for you, do you have any simple words of advice for anyone reading who wants to take their first steps but envisages it will be too complex or require major lifestyle changes to achieve.

I think the key is to not try to put too much of a label on it. If you want to, just try and reduce your footprint, make small changes – to your diet, travel, at home – and see how you get on. We can all do our bit, but I think systemic changes need to happen at a political level. That’s much more important. And really freakin urgent.

Tomax Technology – you’ve recently announced them as a sponsor. How would you sum them up in 30 words? They aren’t the standard gear/apparel sponsor.

I feel very lucky they’ve jumped on board, alongside inov-8, to support me. They believe in the circular economy, so repairing hardware rather than binning it. And they want to get their workforce fit. So I’ll be helping there too. Looking forward to it. Thanks Tomax! How many wordIMG_4816Image credit – inov-8.com/Lee Procter

Thank you to Damian from taking some time out for this, if there is anyone you’d like to hear more from this year, please let me know in the comments box or email jamesmackeddie@live.co.uk.

You can find out more about Damian HERE