FROM rookie runner to international trail star in a decade is the inspiring and remarkable story of Damian Hall.

This weekend (Sunday March 14) will mark the anniversary of when Hall, who lives in Box and represents Corsham Running Club, made his competitive debut in the Bath half marathon.

In a normal world, Hall would have been on the start line in Great Pulteney Street to celebrate that anniversary, but the coronavirus pandemic has seen this year’s event put back to September 5.

But it will still be a poignant moment for Hall as he reflects on how a former kick-about footballer was transformed into a record-breaking long-distance trail runner with a Great Britain vest in his collection.

“To be honest looking back the decision to run the Bath half in 2011 was life-changing for me,” said Hall.

“I was a fairly-active kind of guy already as I played 5-a-side football and really enjoyed hiking and walking at weekends but I still felt pretty unfit nonetheless.

“I knew the Bath half was a big local event and I had plenty of friends who did it, so I decided to sign up and have a go.

“I was also 35 at the time so I guess it was a classic mid-life crisis moment!”

Hall’s preparation didn’t amount to more than two or three runs a week so his debut time of 1 hour 40 minutes was very respectable.

“On the day, standing in Great Pulteney Street, I couldn’t believe the size of the field, the crowds, the bands and the general atmosphere,” added Hall.

“It was a fantastic experience and I remember thinking to myself ‘I love this’. It was tough but also very satisfying and afterwards I felt like I wanted to do more.”

Little did Hall or anyone else know 10 years ago that his career would take off when he switched to racing ultra distance trail races, a branch of the sport that has exploded in the past decade.

While he was a late-starter Hall was clearly a man in the right place, at the right time.

“I think the move to racing ultras was partly due to my background as a trekker happy to walk all day or even several days in the hills, said Hall

“Anyway, five years after that Bath half I made my Great Britain debut at the World Trail Running Championships, it was just crazy.

“I have since set seven Fastest Known Times (as records are described in ultra trail running) and competed in global events like the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc).

“It has also become my job as I am now earning my living as a full-time coach.”

Admittedly Hall’s tale is an unusual one; not every 30 something man or woman taking up running later in life will enjoy the level of success he has done. But as Hall likes to point out, his story proves it is never too late to take up a sport.

“I was pretty useless at football although I enjoyed it, so it has been nice to find a sport later in life,” said Hall.

“Running has given me enjoyment, success and happiness; it has affected my whole life. I eat better, sleep better and I am a lot healthier.”

As an endorsement for the sport it doesn’t get much better than that.