The WHWrace still haunts me and nearly a year on and I still have not found my footing again. While volunteering at the Spine Race I met Matt and Ellie Green, the husband and wife Summit Fever Team that most of you will know as the daily Spine Race movie makers! I feel really proud to have some of my footage in their ENDURANCE movie – do watch it, that race was history making stuff! With the Devil o’ the Highlands only 2months away, 42miles of the West Highland Way and the entire section that mentally broke me, I jumped at the opportunity to review UNDERDOG for Summit, maybe it could inspire me back to the trail??
What is UTMB?
A single stage 170km high altitude mountain race around Mount Blanc with a 46hr30 time limit. This race draws in every mountain runner, from the amateurs like myself (yes I have kept track of my points to see if I could enter!) right up to the ultra elites like Killian Jornet.
Who is Damian Hall?
Damian is an amateur runner sponsored by Inov8 and known widely for his writing as a journalist, in particular for his long distance fastest known time (FKT) attempts, notably the south west coast path and recently the Cape Wrath along with Beth Pascal. For runners like myself, Damian is no underdog! However, in comparison his rivals the underdog he is!
Right from the start you are emotionally invested in Damian’s attempt, an instantly likeable ego-free character with a stereotypical English knack for self-deprecation and a love of tea. Even though I knew the outcome of this race, I could not help but feel concern on hearing his Top 10 mantra. A goal not wholly within his control, one we have called the audacious goal in teams I have competed with. What really stood out for me in this film is how well it portrays the personal sacrifices required to achieve the audacious goal. Sentiments and missed experiences voiced by Damian are all too familiar – missed weddings, out before dawn, telling yourself that you train to win in harder conditions than you will race as no one else, will while soaked to the skin. To the outsider, missing a significant birthday or wedding may sound horrendously selfish, but as an athlete you know it is what you do EVERY day and not on a single day that counts. And vice versa, it is what you don’t do on a single day that can leave holes in your preparation, when you have invested so much you answer every single decision with the question – will this help me win? Throughout the film Damian embodies this underdog mindset with an ever hungry determination.
As expected from Ellie and Matt, beautiful cinematography, hair-raising soundtracks, a well captured story in a unique race and on logistically difficult terrain. Thoroughly recommend for the long distance racers out there and for anyone wanting a sneak-peak into the life of a fell running underdog no longer.