He took up running later in life, running his first half marathon aged 35. Attributing it to a midlife crisis, Damian spent the next years reaching astonishing heights in the sport. By 2021 he had seven records and FKTs (Fastest Known Times). He’s represented Great Britain at the Trail World Championships.
Wins include the 142 mile Ice Ultra, and Ultimate Trails 55k (twice) and the 51 mile Ultra Tour Monte Rosa.
Competing at the most prestigious international events he’s taken 29th at Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and then returned to take 19th, 12th and 5th. He’s taken 13th at the 142 mile Marathon des Sables.
He is a UK Athletics running coach and a widely published journalist who contributes regularly to magazines such as Women’s Running, Runner’s World and Trail Running Magazine.
His attempt to break into the top 10 at the UTMB, probably the most competitive 100-mile race in the world, was made into a film – Underdog.
Damian recognizes that we all face ecological challenges, and this led him to a vegan diet.
“Over the past years I’ve felt very troubled by the ecological and climate emergency and what can I do about it” he says. “I couldn’t really think of anything so I’ve tried to make my running carbon negative.”
“I’ve worked with a company called ‘Our Carbon’, who analysed my lifestyle and there’s a little bit of offsetting. But it’s things like giving up dairy and animal products, cutting down on travel. Being more responsible as an athlete in lots of ways, such as on social media promoting consumption and so on.
“I broke three records last year and they are important but they are not the most important thing. For each of those records I did them without animal products fuelling me. Also without creating any plastic waste, which is much more difficult actually. Plus picking up litter as I went which my team helped me to do.”
Damian was referring to his 2020 FKTs at South Wales Traverse (73 miles), the 260 mile Pennine Way and the 61 mile Paddy Buckley Round Winter.
Fuelling the records
Damian’s been known to fuel his distance running with vegan brownies which he credits his wife for. He’s also got a soft spot for avocado and hummus sandwiches
“Now I didn’t actually prepare them; I was struggling to get food in and one of my pacers, Jason Millwood, offered me a sandwich and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is heaven! This is rocket fuel! I need more of these.’ I then think I pretty much just ate those for the next 24 hours.”
He also eats Outdoor Provision bars and Supernatural Fuel pouches, which are both vegan with waste-free packaging. There’s also banana and nut butter sandwiches, vegan pizzas, chips, rice puddings, porridge, fruit and soups. And don’t forget the Precision Hydration gels, cola and ginger ale.
It seems that Damian’s goals are less about achievements in running than using his running to make an impact of the way we treat environmental issues.
“I just really feel strongly that times running out. It’s just really quite alarming. Mostly it’s alarming that politicians and some big businesses aren’t acting quickly enough. We’re really starting to struggle and run out of time.
“And this is a bit naff really, but I just think, what will my kids think of us? And their kids. We mostly know what’s happening in the world, and we’re not doing enough. We’re not acting quickly enough and what are people going to think of us.”