Damian Hall in action during his 2020 Pennine Way run. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Damian Hall in action during his 2020 Pennine Way run. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The battle for the record for running the Pennine Way has resumed, with Damian Hall hoofing it south along the country’s oldest national trail.

Hall set off from Kirk Yetholm at 8am on Wednesday in a bid to retake the title from John Kelly.

The challenge is a resumption of the ping-pong exchange of fastest-known times for the men, with Hall improving Kelly’s record in July 2020, set just eight days after he had set it. The following year, Kelly returned to the Pennine Way, running the 261 miles in 2 days 10hrs 4mins 53secs, three-and-a-half hours faster than Hall.

The founder of the Green Runners, Hall admits it will be a tough challenge to reclaim the record. He has dubbed his attempt Bog Wars Episode IV: the (Hot) Tea Drinker Strikes Back.

Hall’s friendly rivalry with Kelly over the Pennine Way record has continued over the past two years, with both setting fastest times for other long-distance challenges, Hall for Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk and Kelly for the complete round of the Wainwright fells.

Hall’s retirement from the Montane Spine Race in January this year rankles too. “That’s the main reason to return in truth,” he told his main sponsors inov-8. “There are some stiles near Alston I need some strong words with. I feel good, but these things are about so many more things than physical condition. It’s going to be really, really tough.

“I’m not a data analyst. I’m a daydreamer. And it seems to me there’s about a 98.5 per cent chance I’ll be unsuccessful. But I’ll be trying to keep that 1.5 alive. Or at least hopefully keep you entertained over the next three days.”

A committed environmental campaigner, Hall is using the challenge to raise money for, and awareness of Greenpeace and has set up a JustGiving page for donations.

The 46-year-old athlete said: “I know more than anyone how hard it will be to beat John’s time. I’ll need to channel all my inner Ted Lasso. My tactic is different to the Tea Dodger’s [Kelly’s], so I’ll likely be behind his record a lot of the time.

“I’m pretty stressed out about our climate and ecological emergency and while this run will emit more CO2e – primarily from vehicles involved – I hope any fundraising and spreading awareness will make that worthwhile.”

Damian Hall’s Pennine Way progress can be followed online via the Open Tracking website.

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