“Underdog” follows UTMB® addict Damian Hall on his quest to try and break into the top 10 male podium finishers.
Having improved in the 2 years preceding this, it became an ambition and obsession of Damo’s to do everything within his power to try and achieve that top 10.
For anyone that knows UTMB® this is no mean feat at all. It is literally full of the very best ultra runners in the world. E.g. Kilian Jornet, Jim Walmsley, Zach Miller and Tim Tollefson, Ryan Sanders, and Spain’s three-time Trail World Champion and Olympian Luis Alberto Hernando. They are all full-time runners, all younger and all faster. The race itself is crosses through France, Italy, Switzerland as it traverses 171 km with 10,040 metres of ascent! – the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.
I was asked to review this film, having interviewed Damo a few years ago. Underdog documents Damo’s training which is absolutely relentless! Runs in absolutely sopping Brecon Beacons, up at 4am to run in the Lakes. This didn’t suprise me as I remember seeing a Strava session from him when he did 5 hill reps – up Snowden! He’s also open about the impact such dedication to this ambition has on his family and friends and you get the feeling this is his one shot at achieving top 10 for those reasons as much as his ability to put himself through such tough training while working full-time. You get the sense this all fuelled his determination. So getting drenched on fells, up at 4am and an Easyjet flight into France. It’s all glamour for Damo 🙂
Image credit: Summit Fever Media
Race day turns out to give him some confidence. Weather forecast is very British and he’s able to enjoy a cup of tea before heading to the start. His race strategy is to go at his own pace, knowing three runners will set the pace and another ten will be behind them, trying to stay with that insane pace. He knows several of them are likely to crash out and will hang back behind them until Courmayeur when for him the business end of the race really starts, 56 miles out. What pans out is a fantastic race of competitors racing against each other and themselves.
For anyone with even the slightest interest in hill running, in Ultras, in amazing feats of human endurance, this is a great little film. With the final stages approaching, Damo is in with a real chance of attaining that all-consuming top 10 place. Just “3 big hills of 900m or so” as his crew Nicky Spinks puts it! Here we witness Damo in the last stages: The Hunter. The Hunted. The constant duality of the final stages of the UTMB®.