How Damian Hall prepared to break the 268-mile Pennine Way record, and then went and did it.
I didn’t used to be big on preparation. Which is why all my school exam results are bobbins. When it came to running, too, initially I was more of a lob some Mudclaws in the boot and hit the road type person. But then Nicky Spinks started letting me hang around with her a bit, and I saw how incredibly thoroughly she prepared for things. And she habitually breaks fell running records. So I started preparing better. After all, the preparation stage is very much part of the challenge – and enjoyable too; pouring over maps, faffing over kit, testing out lots of different nosh. When it comes to the moment of pressing start on my Suunto, 75 per cent of the adventure is already done.
For my run on the 268-mile Pennine Way (the run itself was 260 miles, avoiding some minor detours) in July I prepared more thoroughly than I’ve ever prepared for anything. Including my wedding.
In fact, my preparation started nine years ago, when I hiked the Pennine Way as I wrote a guidebook for it. And the important thing was – partly because I’d been abroad for most of the previous decade and was seeing Britain with fresh eyes – I fell in love with it. The wind-whipped heather moorland, those peaty groughs and bogs, the testing lumps and bumps, the bleak remoteness, and the history too. It’s England’s oldest National Trail and links to the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout in 1932, a wonderful piece of civil disobedience which led to changes in the law that freed up private land for us common folk to roam on. It feels salient today, when civil disobedience may be the best way to help save our planet from politicians unburdened by ethics.