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Part of our newest educational series: Training for Trail Running
Uphill Athlete has long coached and supported trail runners, but we are dedicating even more time and attention to this ever growing sport. Along with this podcast, we are also launching a Trail Running Training Group in June 2023 led by coaches Alexa Hasman, Brian Passenti and Alyssa Clark. We are revamping our training plans and have many experienced trail running coaches available for 1:1 coaching.
Alyssa welcomes Damian Hall, a trail running legend and environmental activist. They discuss various topics such as racing schedules, reducing waste in everyday life, nutrition while out for a day in the hills, and environmental changes affecting races. The conversation delves into balancing individual actions with advocating for systemic change to address climate crisis issues impacting mountain athletes. The episode concludes with contact information for Green Runners and encouragement to continue working toward solutions that reduce waste and promote sustainability in sports.
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Alyssa Clark 00:00
Welcome to the uphill athlete podcast. Our mission is to elevate inspire all mountain athletes through education and celebration. My name is Alyssa Clark and I will be your host today, we are thrilled to welcome trailrunning legend environmental activist Damian Hall onto the podcast. Damian has a wide variety of racing experiences, and success from a spine race course record to put on way fkT and a fifth place finish at UTMB. He’s also a coach, journalist and author of two books, including we can’t run away from this, which examines the impact of running and racing on the climate crisis. Damien, thanks for being on the podcast.
Damian Hall 00:47
Hi, thank you. Thank you so much for having me. And thank you for that lovely introduction.
Alyssa Clark 00:52
Oh, of course, well, I have to little caveat, I mess up the timezone as happens with across so I have to be extra nice. Also, I did not realize that you had such a strong journalism writing background, which is really cool to see. That’s kind of what my background is, as well.
Damian Hall 01:10
Oh, yeah. That’s sort of I’ve sort of swapped out of it. Now I’ve sort of gone from Yeah, gone from being a journalist to a, to an athlete. And but in the early days, that was really helpful, partly, partly to get free entries to big expensive races. Like, as you will know, like, the fee for writing the story often never even matches the kind of the time away, or the or the travel costs, maybe. But you get, you know, a free entry to, you know, a big race. But also it I think back now, it really helped me make sure I finished them because sometimes it meant there’d be no story. Unless, unless, it was a, you know, a success. Especially one magazine I wrote for they wanted essentially some sort of success story, you know. So so it may be quite it put a bit of extra pressure on me to sort of, yeah, come home with a story, which I do think helped me a bit earlier.
Alyssa Clark 02:02
Oh, that’s so funny. I hadn’t thought of that together. I guess there’s only so many. Well, I gave it my best shot, and it didn’t work out stories that they want! So yeah, how did you get your start in Ultra running? And then also what? Really, you’re so much of a leader in and champion of the environmental movement? How did that become such an integral part of your messaging and your mission in the trail running world?
Damian Hall 02:29
Well, gosh, yeah, that’s a lot. That’s a lot. I’ll try. I’ll try. I’ll try. Sorry, that’s a lot. A lot. I suppose I’ve been running ultra marathons for what is it? 11 years, I wasn’t really much of a runner. Before that. I really enjoyed what you guys call soccer. But I was also a sort of long distance hiker. A trekker, and I did a bit of mountaineering. So I love being I suppose, big days out in, you know, in lumpy places, near mountains, or in around mountains. I loved that. I just didn’t realize there were many sports, you know, in those areas, I suppose I was aware of skiing, but never really got the opportunity to do that much. But then, it was actually, yeah, 2011, I signed up for a half marathon. Was feeling a bit unfit and just just loved it and then realize, you know, may as well try and marathon just curious about what that felt like, you know, was that possible for me? And then was actually a magazine that sent me on my first ultra marathon because I was nagging them to take a story from me about this new thing I’d found, which was amazing and life changing, called running. And they said, Okay, we’ll send you on an ultramarathon. And I was a bit like, oh, you know, oh, you know, what’s that? But obviously, it was painful, etc. and had all the highs and lows you’d expect but just loved it. And by the end, I thought, this is for me, I want to do more of these. And I suppose over the following years got got quite carried away. To the extent
Alyssa Clark 03:55
as we all do.
Damian Hall 03:58
Yes. I mean, four years later, I said the GB trail running team at the age of, I think 40 I think so that yeah, I really I really got into I just loved it. I had a coach quite early. And then I suppose yeah, along the along around then I did get a bit of an obsession with UTMB, did it four years at a row sort of improving each time. And that was my that was my big. That was my obsession. And then I sort of, yeah, moved on a bit. And yeah, 2020 Lockdown year was was actually pretty exciting here. We had a lot of FKT’s happening in Britain.
Unknown Speaker 04:38
Alyssa Clark 04:38
It was it was it was incredible to watch. We actually had John on the podcast and he said, Oh, if you ever want to gain a lot of traction in the UK podcast scene, just put the two of us on. They love it.
Damian Hall 04:52
Well, yeah, we became something of, I don’t know, a double x or bromance. I’d already met John a few times because he had, he actually lived quite near me. But obviously during lockdown, we couldn’t actually see each other. But because our races were canceled, he’d already told me he was going to go for the Pennine Way record. And I must admit, it had been on my mind for a long time, but I hadn’t had the courage if I’m honest. And I’ve always kind of thought, well, I’ll do this race first. And I don’t have time for it. But when I saw John had the courage to go for it, and then suddenly we have no races. I thought I’ll go for it too. And I actually always thought I’d go for it before him. But the dates didn’t work. And he ended up going first. And he broke the record that stood for 30 years. And I still feel a bit. Well, he had the last laugh, but yeah, he broke it. And then I went eight days later and broke his record, which still feels a bit a bit mean. But he had the last laugh, because the following year, he came back and he came back and broke it. And I have had to go at trying to re break it once. Last year. And that yeah, that didn’t. That was unsuccessful, let’s say. But yeah, that that there was a film made by our friends. It’s called Totally FKT. So yeah, we’ve had a lot of fun together, which is which is which is carried on and we’re quite, I don’t know, we’re very different characters, actually. But yeah, we’ve got a lot in common. I hope he still likes me. I think we’re good friends.
Alyssa Clark 06:16
Oh, he does, definitely.
Damian Hall 06:20
But yeah, he really shook the scene up a bit, actually, when he came over here. And you know, the things he was planning to, thinking of doing were just things none of us really had contemplated. Like his grand round idea was just epic, you know, and no one was considering that. And so yeah, we had a lot of fun. Yeah, 2020, 2021, etc. I suppose. Yeah. To get back to your question. My more environmentalism, I suppose came in more recently, probably from mid late 2019. We have a group over here. I don’t know how well they’re known in America, but they’re called extinction rebellion. They’ll have American sort of branches, I’m sure, but probably not as big. And they started doing these incredible protests in London and sort of stopping the traffic and, but they’re all dressed up in great fancy dress, and they’d be singing songs, and they have big pink boats, you know, in the middle of the street. And it was just so compelling. And it was so well organised, and you kind of thought they really know what they’re doing. And I hadn’t realized I suppose I hadn’t really realized, like a lot of people quite how urgent our global situation is, and quite how reluctant our government anyway, are to, you know, I suppose, stop subsidizing fossil fuels. For starters, you know, they’re not doing the things that the scientists are telling us we need to do really urgently. So, but even then, I couldn’t see how it related to running, I suppose. Still, you kind of saw polar bears in the Arctic, and you kind of thought, Well, I’m just running around in the fields and hills around here. It doesn’t, it’s not related. And then it was actually some friends of mine who had a little charity called Re-Run Clothing. And they were explaining that sort of, well, firstly, all the all the free race T shirts were a huge cost to the planet. And then they were finding, they set up a sort of, they tried to get new homes for all these T shirts that no one wanted that everyone had for free. And then they realized all the shoes were a massive problem as well, because we’re all sort of chucking shoes out too soon, brands are telling us threads of miles throwing them out. And that you know that that’s, well, it’s clearly a myth. And so they were sounding the alarm, saying there’s loads of unwanted kit as a huge waste crisis. And the actual crisis is before the kit gets to you, because because all our clothes, really submissions to be produced. And it just made me think I suppose. I mean, around that time, I started joining in protest, but it made me think, Okay, I’m an athlete, and I’m flying around the world for races. And I’m showing off my new kit on Instagram, and things like that, and just kind of thinking, Oh, I suppose learning as much as I could and realizing, I don’t know, that wasn’t, that wasn’t sitting well with me that they weren’t appropriate behaviors for me at that time. It’s taken some time to sort of work out where the key areas are to change and what’s realistic and what’s fair even. I mean, I fly a lot. Yeah, I fly a lot there. So I went three years without a flight. But I did take a flight this year. And that’s a whole, you know, that’s a hard debate to have. Because it’s it doesn’t seem fair that, you know, we should all stop flying, but we probably could all do it better. But yeah, and then more recently, I was encouraged to write this book. And then, almost exactly a year ago, actually, we launched me and some other friends, including Jasmine Paris, launched the green runners, which is Yeah, been a wild success. Actually, we’re approaching 1000 members all around the world. And that’s been really exciting and just feels I don’t know it’s quite scary, this climate breakdown stuff and yeah,
Alyssa Clark 09:59
Yeah, I totally agree.
Damian Hall 10:01
Yeah. But and if nothing else it well, there are lots of things that, you know, the green run is helping with, I think useful for but it’s also just feels comforting to know there are other people who are worried about this stuff who aren’t perfect, but they’re trying, you know, and you can get together if it’s having a chat and sharing concerns or sharing, sharing some new information or something. That’s been it’s been really good on lots of levels. And I know you’ve got a couple of organizations in America as well doing great things. But yeah, I just think running running is part of the problem and running is suffering from from climate breakdown. But but hopefully it can lead to, yeah, some good outcomes.
Alyssa Clark 10:43
Absolutely. You’ve touched on a lot of things that I want to expand upon. But no, it’s a Yeah, it. There’s a lot of existential crisis that I feel thinking about all these things. So I’m glad that you’re voicing them. And it, there is so much that we can do. And I guess, building off of that, when we are building a racing schedule, when we’re figuring out our travel impact, how do a) you go about deciding what races are important to you how you’re going to get there and b) what do you recommend for other athletes? Because it’s something I think about a lot. I mean, there is kind of the carbon offsetting of paying extra money when you’re flying. But is that enough? You know, how do you go about travel and racing schedules?
Damian Hall 11:32
Yeah, it’s a great question and a great dilemma. I think, firstly, I’m reluctant to sort of point point fingers or be too preachy about it. And like I say, I took a flight this year, I flew to flew to America and back. So that’s a huge, a huge amount of emissions. But what I what I’ve come up with, after speaking to some other people in sustainability, including as a professor over here, Mike Berners, Lee, who’s quite influential here, he’s done a great book, by the way, called How, how bad are bananas? Which is worth a look. We came up with like a three point checklist, really, I suppose it’s, first of all, ask yourself, how important is it? How important is that event? Whether it’s a race or anything in your life? You know, how important is it to be there? Obviously, a wedding are similar that, you know, that, to me, that’s, you know, so important to be there. In most cases. You know, do you need to be there, then the next question is, what’s the best way you could travel? What’s the lowest carbon way? You could realistically travel there? Because I mean, yeah, we can all we can all, you know, sail or walk, but it might take us quite that fair, fair to Yeah, to expect that in every scenario, but were realistic, what can we do better. And there’s a hierarchy of of different travel, obviously, flying is the worst and running is the best. But actually, I didn’t realize till more recently, say a car sharing a car with four people actually is, is about as good as a train journey. And that’s pretty low carbon and actually so car sharing, or lift sharing is actually a pretty good way to travel. Obviously better if it’s electric but that’s still rare. And then the third question is, if you’re going to make the trip, how can you make more out of the trip? What how can you maximize the trip? Is it staying longer? Is it combining it with some work somehow or visit to a friend like for example, when Jasmine Paris flew out to the Barkley marathons recently she was able to visit her brother in New York sort of thing so that shares the the emissions makes it a more worthwhile journey. So those are the three the three questions for me how important is it what’s the best way you can realistic travel? How can you make the most from the trip. So yeah, beyond that, I wouldn’t be too fingerpointing about other people and and yeah, I flew this year I decided one event was so important that to me, and yeah, you get some people think that’s fine. And some people think it’s not fine. And you sort of can’t can’t please everyone.
Alyssa Clark 14:05
Can’t please everyone.
Damian Hall 14:08
But I feel like I’ve made other I suppose the other sacrifices elsewhere in my life, I’ve turned away a lot of a lot of very exciting race trips, and so on. And yeah, made other I’ve gone gone full, annoying vegan, for example, that doesn’t make it okay to fly around the world, but I have reduced my own footprint where I can. And then really, I do think I imagine we’ll get to this maybe later but I jumped the shark a bit. And to me, pushing for system change is more important than your own personal footprint. Because yeah, if you’re if you’re I don’t know if you’re cutting down on red meat, but a coal mine opens up down the road. That was much worse than you having a sausage. So yeah, that pushing, trying to think of the bigger picture, I suppose joining organizations and trying to improve things, nudging brands. To me that’s more important. That’s where I’d urge people to concentrate.
Alyssa Clark 14:59
oh, that’s what That’s really helpful to have that breakdown of just thinking about it. Because the answer might be yes, this is very important to me. And here’s how I’m going to do it. But yeah, I mean, I, my husband and I, so we lived in Italy for a couple of years, and we’re big mountain people, you very much see the impact on the glaciers, and it’s really terrifying. And so we both went plant based, I had been previously off and on in 2020, and, but then you kind of start really looking into the details of it and start to wonder, you know, how much it is an individual making an impact, because we truly, we only can do like, if everyone didn’t care, then nothing would change. Like, you know, there’s a circular argument, but how do you go about working on policy and also making the changes of being vegan, etc?
Damian Hall 15:51
Yeah, I think it’s a great question. It’s right at the heart of what should we do? You know, if we care what what what is it we do? Do we do we make sure we do our recycling? Or do we hit the streets and protest? I’ve thought about this a lot. And it’s kind of what I’ve debated in my book a bit as well. And and also what the green run is sort of about. And we came up with basically kind of four pillars. It’s kind of how you how you move to how you travel, how you kit up, because I kit can be can be a big part of the problem. So it’s sort of I suppose buying less and making it last longer, where possible. How you how you fuel? Because yeah, you know, we need to globally reduce meat, dairy consumption, surprisingly big cost of the planet. But then the fourth pillar, to me is the most important one is how you speak up. And one of my favorite climate scientists, actually, I think she’s based in America but she’s Canadian Professor Katharine Hayhoe, she says, talking about it is the most the most important thing we can do. Now, to me, that doesn’t mean hey, we have a chat about it. So we’ve done enough. But to me, it implies it’s yeah, it’s nudging for bigger change. So I honestly don’t care if someone flies five times a year. If they join in a climate protest, I mean, I love them for that. I think that’s the most important thing to do, join in a protest or use their platform, especially with athletes. I was shown a bit of research recently, actually by, well, there’s a group over there called the Eco Athletes, who I joined recently, they showed me some research that sports people are the most influential people of our time, which was both kind of terrifying, but also hugely empowering in that. I mean, they probably didn’t mean trail runners, they probably meant, I suppose. Yeah. You know, the top the top sports?
Alyssa Clark 17:38
No we’re – It’s us, it’s us.
Damian Hall 17:42
Well, who knows? But But, yeah, we have, you know, we have a platform and we have, and also, if you’re a trail runner, you probably already care about the outdoors, you would hope so. So we’ve got a huge group of people who who care about the right things. If we can galvanize and use that community, and you do see it happening already. I like to think of the green runners, but over there, you’ve got runners for public lands, isn’t it and protect our winters? And organizations like that? I would honestly say yeah, if you if you feel you have to fly five times a year, I don’t hate you for it. Please, please join in. Please join in the, you know, the more broader bigger picture stuff. That’s where we can make a difference. Over here, I don’t know, if it works the same there. But you know, I encourage people to email their MP about like, you know, about issues. Join in protests, civil disobedience. Ask, especially if you’re a sponsored athlete, or if you’ve got a preferred brand, ask that brand, what they’re doing, you know, you can do it politely, but firmly, you know, what is it? You know, it’s important that you guys show you’re, you know, reducing your footprint overall, what are you doing about it? Even your sports nutrition? You know, you’re especially if you’re a regular customer, or your you know, they’re your favorite brand? You know, just check in with them. Are you doing all you can, guys? Running events can have a huge, huge amount of emissions. Actually, in my book, it was quite terrifying, say a Big City marathon could have the same emissions as giving birth to 30 people and their entire lifetimes. Over 30 Actually, for the really big ones.
Alyssa Clark 19:09
Damian Hall 19:10
So that was terrifying. Yeah. And most of that, I mean, what’s good and bad is most of that would come from travel, especially if flights are involved. So it did come back to the flying. But yeah, most events could do better. In Britain, anyway, there’s a lot of concentration on I suppose reducing plastic waste, reducing t shirt waste, which is which is great, but they’re not the big, they’re not the biggest factors. It’s it’s the travel. I was just giving a talk at the London Marathon recently, actually. And yeah, I mean, they do some things well, but they’re not – we call it the elephant in the room – They’re not considering the elephant in the room of limiting perhaps international, you know, runners, which sounds a bit unfair, but it’s kind of where we are. So
Alyssa Clark 19:55
there’s Yeah, yeah, I mean, there’s also so there are so many options, say if you were to use the states, for example, you know, we have Chicago, we have New York, we have Boston. There are there is a lot of amazing races to have happen here. But yeah, that wow, that puts it into perspective.
Damian Hall 20:14
Yeah. And that was partly think of all you can’t even have these events anymore that how can you justify that, but then then you look back, and you remember how inspiring these events can be, how life changing, even for someone watching, it might change their life. It might save a life, you know, so. But they could probably all be done better. But what I don’t like I’ve been a bit. I’ve been a bit sort of what’s the word? I haven’t been very outspoken about this yet. But what I don’t like is things like the Abbotts World Marathon majors, where I think it’s six marathons around the world, but they’re trying to add more. They’re trying to add places in China, places in Australia. And then people are encouraged to sort of complete the set. Now it’s alright. I want to be a bit careful, because I’ve done I’ve done marathon disabler I’ve, I’ve flown a fair bit in my life, I’m well into my 40s I’ve seen a lot of the world, I’m very lucky. So I don’t want to say other people shouldn’t see the world. That doesn’t seem fair. But I don’t love these new global and UTMB are doing very similar, you know, creating a global system series where,
Alyssa Clark 21:13
Damian Hall 21:14
There’s pressure to make sure you you know, yeah, almost, to qualify for certain races, some in some scenarios, you have to travel abroad, you may well be flying. I don’t think that’s great. Yeah, I don’t think that really fits with our time. But I say yeah, with the caveat that, you know, I in the past, I’m lucky, I’ve seen a lot in the world. So I don’t I don’t want to I don’t want to lay a guilt trip on individuals for that. But I don’t think those. Those organizations could be doing better, or what are they doing about? You know, what can they do better to, to make less impact there, I suppose.
Alyssa Clark 21:48
Yeah, no, I think it’s a great point where maybe yeah just less incentivization of you have to complete the circle or, you know, just start looking at maybe putting more effort into what’s around you and making that more visible, rather than trying to look outwards. Yeah, it’s tough, because I mean, I’ve traveled quite a bit and it’s so enriching, I mean, it changes your life, to see other cultures to see other places to understand, in many ways that understanding that you get from seeing other areas is also what makes you more steadfast and trying to save what’s here. But yeah, it’s it’s hard.
Damian Hall 22:29
Yeah, that’s very true. And even, you’re one of my other favorite climate scientists, Mike Berners Lee, who I’ve already mentioned, I’ve read a couple of his books. And one of them, he does say travel is one of the greatest things we can do. And I, you know, I’m a parent, I want my kids to travel, because I think it’ll make them better people, you know, and especially seeing other cultures seeing how lucky we are in the West, especially. But yeah, we may have to travel a little bit less or a little bit smarter. But then again, governments can do so much to improve that, you know, they’ve just cut domestic tax tax on domestic flights in Britain, for example, to make them cheaper, you know, and that’s, that’s exactly the opposite of what, what we need to do. And our trains are really expensive, you know, and it’s like, it’s like, well, that that’s the exact opposite way around. So that’s what makes me angry, especially when individuals and other other top athletes actually email message me and sort of say, I really want to travel more sustainably to this race. But look, it’s 300 quid to do it the right way. And 50 quid to do you know, to, to fly. And like, how can like, and they, you know, so that’s not that’s how fair honest is it? So? Yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s what I mean by system change. Getting those things changed, I suppose.
Alyssa Clark 23:44
Absolutely. So let’s go into more kind of talked a little bit of bigger picture. But how do you look at your actual, you’ve talked a bit about kit, about nutrition? How do you think about reducing waste in your everyday, in what we use because so much of it is, you know, use it for a little bit, and then it rips it tears or something or single use, nutrition. How do you go about, yeah, the kind of the smaller picture, things we can do every day?
Damian Hall 24:20
Yeah. And this, I find this stuff pretty interesting, because I think the obvious thing is that we see a lot of plastic waste on the floor. On the trails, sometimes. On the hills. And a lot of our sports nutrition comes in plastic packaging. Some of it can be recycled, often often gels can’t be, although hopefully that’s changing a little. And we we can be it can be tempting to think that’s that’s the worst thing. It’s the plastic waste. And often it’s not actually that, for example, like food waste overall, is a far bigger problem globally. And actually, most of that food waste happens in our homes, because obviously the supermarket’s don’t, you know, they don’t want, if they’re losing money if they’re doing that, so a lot of that happens in our homes. And I guess, yeah, some of that is fairly self explanatory to sort of fix, as in, you know, maybe buy bit less or just, you know, go through the fridge and make sure there’s nothing just about to go out of date that type of stuff, or, or cook smaller portions or that sort of thing. Yeah, I don’t think we need to sort of labor the point on that one. But yeah, food waste is a huge thing. And then I think the thing that upset me the most actually, when I was researching the book is actually our kit, or sorry, you guys call it gear, don’t your gear.
Alyssa Clark 25:40
Kit or gear! Yeah.
Damian Hall 25:43
And actually, there’s a lot of pain and impact caused in its creation, usually, so. And I, yeah, I won’t depress people too much. But I didn’t even know about like forever chemicals, and micro, micro. It’s not just micro plastics, or even cotton T shirts, micro fibers, sorry. So it’s not just polyester. And I don’t know, if you guys aware of that, there’s a whole kind of crisis around every time we wash, our clothes, and microfibers are released into waterways. And they’re definitely bad for wildlife. We’re not totally sure if they’re bad for us, but there’s a pretty good chance they are. And they’re clogging up the oceans, etc. So our kit is, can be quite bad. And then toxic dyes, some in the cotton industry, there’s still child labor and slave labor at times, things like that. So it’s it’s pretty upsetting. Really, the answer, I think, for us as individuals is kind of, can we do we really need all that kit? Can we buy a bit less? Can we make it last longer? And that’s that’s something I’ve been trying to do. And I suppose as a as a sponsored athlete I’ve been, there’s a lot less, hey, look at my new kit going on. And I suppose I push back on my and my sponsor innovate quite a lot and kind of said, well, what are you doing about this? And I found for them, and I think yeah, I mean, I think they’ve been pretty responsive. Some of this stuff does take some time. And some of it’s very complicated, such as the micro, the whole microfiber thing is a huge trouble in the whole industry, the whole clothing world, like they’re trying to figure that out. They’re trying to do that better. It’s not an easy fix. But yeah, kit can be a huge waste. But then again, you’ll have more impact, probably by saying to a race. Actually, I don’t want the t shirt. And, you know, do you need to give out these free T shirts all the time every year, you know. And we have a group called a friend of mine founded a group called Trees, not T’s. I think they are over there.
Alyssa Clark 27:50
Yeah, they are. They’re awesome.
Damian Hall 27:52
Yeah. No, they’re doing really well really, really sort of exploding. Yeah, just giving, it’s a free thing that any race can sign up to giving people the option of, you know, planting a tree instead of taking a t shirt. So, yeah, I think actually, the t shirt waste is one of the most horrific things in a way it sounds, you know, a t shirt sounds quite innocent, but you know, collect if there are 1000s of wasted ones. It’s, it’s quite bad. So they’re probably the areas that troubled me.
Alyssa Clark 28:21
Yeah, it was just about actually brought up to me. Do you? Have you done any research on race metals?
Unknown Speaker 28:26
Damian Hall 28:27
Actually I couldn’t find I couldn’t find any. But they’re seen as, yeah, potentially very wasteful as well. But yeah, couldn’t find it. There was lots of clothing, especially T shirts and jeans as lots of lots of research. And Poly yeah, polyester materials and stuff. But yeah, and a lot of the race medals are made in China, which isn’t, you know, isn’t in itself a sin. But But yeah, there’s probably some travel involved there. But yeah, some races here. They do some recycled ones or wooden ones. That’s a more sustainable material, obviously. And then it’s a similar thing of do I need a metal, you know, and I think it’s some some scenarios and you know, when I did we were talking about dragons back before we came on air, weren’t we and I’ve got a dragons back t shirt, which I’m proud of, and I wear it. But the point is, if you’re using it, that’s okay. And I did, I did take a medal from from torgiano and the spine race, and there’ll be precious to me, but I don’t need a medal for a local 10k. But I think it feels like it trail running anyway. And then Britain, that message is getting out and people are responding. And in some cases it’s going to just you know, it’s going to make the race cheaper or, you know, less, hopefully less hassle for race organizer, possibly in the longer term. But yeah, that’s another thing that we maybe don’t need. Yeah.
Alyssa Clark 29:45
Yeah, unfortunately. I mean, at least Yeah, and there’s some metals that I have that mean a lot to me, but they’re probably the least useful of all of the things I mean, a t shirt at least you could wear if if it’s one that you wear but a metal it’s like I don’t go walking around with my medal all the time. Maybe I should start but yeah, so. So when you’re out for a day in the hills, what do you do? How does your nutrition look? How do you set it up so you are reducing waste and usage in that regard.
Damian Hall 30:21
Well, so to step it step back a bit, I did a including that pen on way run when I broke John’s record back in 2020, I tried to do it plastic waste free. I was also I wasn’t sort of fully plant based then but I did the the attempt plant as a plant, you know, with plant based nutrition. But that was so much easier than the plastic to try and try not to have any plastic waste was really hard. And I was doing things like you know, I only found one company that would make you know, I was gonna say crisps, I think you call them chips, a big bag of chips, salt and vinegar chips I love and but there’s only one company I could found who made like biodegradable packets, but then I drove I drove like half an hour or more to find them, to get them. So actually that was counterproductive because the the emissions from my car, from a single person journey to get these crisp packets that might biodegrade out, you know, who knows how long that would take? You know, that was kind of pointless, not? Yeah, kind of pointless it really, because the emissions from the car will probably be worse for the planet. And I tried, I tried, I tried really hard to, but then so much of our fruit and vegetables. Although I must say sometimes fruit in a plastic packaging will mean that fruit will ripen later, and therefore is less likely to be wasted. So the plastic stuff isn’t always as straightforward as we would like. And actually a paper bag can be worse than a plastic bag is usually more emissions to create it in the first place. And then often they you know, if they get wet or that they don’t last, then then it’s kind of a waste as well. So I mean, plastic is a problem when we throw it away. If we keep using it, it’s actually can be really, it’s a really good material. But we’ve just got used to chucking things out haven’t we, and so much of our food just comes in plastic packaging that isn’t much use to us. Yeah, I’m getting a bit. It’s quite.
Alyssa Clark 32:10
No, you’re good!
Damian Hall 32:12
So I had a big experiment. This is like a three day run, you know, of trying to do it plastic free, I’d say I 98% achieved it. I think once or twice like someone on the hill gave me you know, gave me a snack that was from plastic packaging when I was sort of, you know, half awake and didn’t realize till afterwards. But in terms of trying to do that every day, it’s it’s pretty much impossible. I mean, I must admit, I stopped working with one sponsor, because they were a gel company. And I just didn’t think they were taking it seriously. I didn’t feel comfortable promoting them. But gels are very difficult because they’re a sort of a lliquid, it’s very hard at the moment, there’s not a viable as far as I know, but but there are some companies now that you send the packaging back to them. And and they’ll take care of it. So that’s something that’s some progress, but they need to do, like you need to get loads together to be able to do it. They just can’t be five at a time or something. I think you need hundreds or 1000s. So what am I doing to reduce waste on a daily level? I mean, I actually from my research, it actually looked like going going plant based was actually a bigger reduction. Yeah, a bigger reduction of your emissions than than some plastic packaging, which is still a problem. But actually with most food, the packaging and the transport actually is actually quite a small element usually of the overall footprint of food. So So local beef, for example. It’s it’s a bit of a myth that local food is better for the environment. So like beef from down the road is still far worse than for us anyway, like tomatoes from Spain. I can I can send people to a website. The best website for all this stuff is called ourworldindata.org. And that’s an Oxford University for your research into sort of global food. I found it pretty interesting. And it pretty much yeah, so pretty much turned me vegan. Because it is it is the meat and the dairy that are the problem globally, the biggest problem. So there to me, that’s the area to concentrate on. And yeah, it’s impossible to live without creating plastic waste, I think or, or takes a huge unreasonable effort, I suppose. So, again, that’s where as individuals, we can do so much in our actions and we need to sort of, I suppose, hassle and bother and nag companies to do to do better, I think.
Alyssa Clark 34:26
Definitely. Yeah, I think that’s yeah, I will link that website in the show notes. Because it’s, it’s, I would not have guessed because there is so much movement of, you know, buying local, etc. It’s so much more helpful. So I think that that sounds like a really great place to get a more clear picture of what actually is happening.
Damian Hall 34:46
Yeah, I mean, local isn’t always bad. Usually, usually it’s good or bad. It’s just, I could see how someone would think beef down the road was better than some tomatoes that came from a long way away, but often it’s actually the other way around, which Yeah, it sort of was eye opening to me anyway. That really Yeah. Yeah. That that I think typifies what demonstrates what the what the real problem is globally, anyway.
Alyssa Clark 35:12
Absolutely. So thank you. I mean, we’re already seeing it happen this year, multiple times. There was a race, one of the UTMB races in Colorado was actually changed because of flooding. They couldn’t run the 100k. And so we’re seeing a lot of races being impacted by environmental changes, disasters, like, abnormalities. What are your thoughts on this in terms of? Is this absolutely the future? How do we change it? What’s your kind of perspective? Should we be racing less? You know, what? Well, how do you see this fitting in? That’s a terribly worded question. But hopefully, you understand where I’m going.
Damian Hall 36:00
Well, yeah, I mean, because I’ve been interested in this for a couple of years, I am sort of collecting in my head, at least, you know, a list of races that have been affected or, you know, or competitions that have been affected. One of the obvious ones is the Tokyo Olympics, the the marathon wasn’t held in Tokyo, because that would have been too hot. And in fact, that that Olympic Games had athletes asking for extra timeouts, they even left venues in wheelchairs because of the heat. There are there examples. Well, the worst example is that terrible tragedy in China a year ago or two years ago when over 20 runners died from very extreme change in the weather. Now, you know, some people say we’ve always had extreme weather. But yeah, various studies are showing that hugely, more likely, because of climate breakdown. I’ve had a race canceled, yeah. Like the day before I was on the way to it and got a text saying was canceled because they’d had a storm and they couldn’t prepare infrastructure. Down in Australia, actually it, yeah, the same storm. Actually, I was gonna do the spine race. This is two years, a year and a half ago. And actually, they had to, we couldn’t run all the route because of there were lots of trees that had been made unsafe, because of the same storm, and we had to get a lift in a car. Now I actually I actually did left out the race before that, but But yeah, we had to run like 200 miles, get a lift in a car for 10 miles and then carry on running like, I mean, that kind of made a mockery of our sport, especially getting lift in the car, which didn’t help. Although I don’t know what else they could have done. But in Australia and New Zealand recently, we’ve seen two races that have been yes storms have wrecked the trails, and it’s turned more or less into, you know, a flat road race. You know, so it is really affecting our sport, and more globally running even Sebastian Coe, I don’t know if he’s well known in America, but he’s head of head of athletics. And he sort of in a flippant comment, recently said he doesn’t know if the marathon will be part of the Olympics, you know, in the future. Now, that was a bit of an unguarded flippant comment, but it shows running is really being affected. And yeah, too hot to run a — Australian runners, it’s to simply too hot to run over in America, you have much more of a wildfire issue than we have. And the air pollution globally, is just ridiculous, like, nearly every city. Well, yeah, I don’t I don’t exaggerate this. But yeah, hit the WHO recommended guidelines for air pollution. Most cities in the world don’t don’t meet that and runners breath in. You know, we breathe in deeply that all the time. So we are being affected, possibly more than more than some people. Other sports are being affected to especially sort of mountaineering and Mountain Sports, skiing, winter sports, for obvious reasons. Climbing, mountaineering; places aren’t safe, because it’s not as – yeah it’s warmer, so that the rocks are being loosened their tumbling down. It is affecting sports globally. I forgot what the question was really, but it’s a problem!
Alyssa Clark 39:04
I guess solutions maybe that we can or what do you foresee as our trajectory? Do you see it as we’re just going to keep plugging away? Keep pushing, keep thinking that we can make these things happen and adjusting? Or do you think eventually this is going to catch on have enough movement where we start reducing the races? We started reducing or limiting the amount of people that say can climb Everest? How do you project I guess?
Damian Hall 39:33
Gosh, yeah, what a great question. I don’t know if I really have… But what what I hope is that so so various bits of research show sort of, we’re much more likely to act when when I suppose the things that affect us are affected, you know, are affected. It’s difficult when it’s the, you know, you see image of polar bears, and their ice is melting and you kind of think, oh, that’s sad, but I don’t know any polar bears. Whereas when it’s your own races, you know your own experiences your own treasured experiences that have been affected. Hopefully that means people who maybe before hadn’t realized what was happening, they can see now, you know, things are really happening now climate breakdown is now it’s not something that’s going to happen. It’s happening now. And again, we were the hottest ever. Yeah, hottest ever day ever recorded here in Britain last year. I guess I hope that will galvanize more people. And then I suppose the question, the next question is what you know, what do we do we care, but we don’t know what to do is what is what I hear quite a lot. I think. Yeah, it’s back to that sort of nudging for system change. Voting as well. I think I missed out last time, although we don’t get to vote all that often. But yeah, I mean, I was where they were just protests in London over the weekend, the green runners are part of that. I would say it’s got to be it’s gotta be, it’s got to be that it’s got to be sort of getting getting to the streets or, but also in your own local running club, you know, your local running race, what could be improved. But the act of improving something isn’t just that so maybe slight reduction of emissions, that influences people and sends a message as well, and then hopefully gets more people on board. And then. Yeah, I mean, that’s, I hope. Yeah, that’s a great question, what things can look like? I mean, I’m guessing there are some races that will be affected forever, that may not even, you know, may not even be able to exist, how they how they were? I guess that’s the reality, to be honest.
Alyssa Clark 41:37
Yeah, now we’re seeing I mean, races that were previously in one month are now in another month, or they are, there’s changes to the course. Yeah, it I think it’s already happening. I’m just yeah, it’s just always that question of like, when is it going to be enough to really get people’s attention?
Damian Hall 41:56
Alyssa Clark 41:56
Hopefully, we’re close. Or we’re there?
Damian Hall 42:00
Yeah, I hope so.
Alyssa Clark 42:05
Well, I appreciate though, you sharing this. And I think that it’s such an important part of this community, because most everyone here is a mountain athlete or aspiring mountain athlete. And that I think, is where we are seeing so many impacts, so many changes. And if we want our sports to continue, if we want to be able to go to the places we love, we have to be aware of what’s going on and be actively working towards a solution, or many solutions.
Damian Hall 42:41
I would say, yeah, I totally agree. I would say what seems to hold some people back is that fear of not being perfect, or have been calling being called a hypocrite. But the fact is, we’re all hypocrites. Because, you know, our everyday emissions our everyday life, even our food and our clothing, there were emissions released in the production of it. So we can’t move almost for emitting on some level. Now, sometimes there are improvements we can make. But to me, that’s not the most important thing. Like, if no one speaks up, then what happens, nothing happens. So we’ve got to almost embrace the word hypocrite, I actually have it on some of my social media bios, and I do get called a hypocrite. But I just, you know, I’ve got kids and in what, in 20 or 30 years, they’re gonna say to me, Dad, you know, back then when, you know, when it was still possible to stop all this, you know, what did you do? And why didn’t everyone Stop it? You know, and that kind of haunts me. We’ve got a chance now, but it’s, it’s kind of right now that we, that we need to change things and governments just aren’t asking, you know, just aren’t acting. So we need to Yeah, I mean, we almost need to go straight to the source risk of sounding like I’m not I’m not advocating for another charge on Capitol Hill as such, but but or at least not in that style that’s happened to you guys. But yeah, we I think it’s that urgent and that desperate that we really need to make a noise and make sure that politicians you know, realize you know, that we demand we demand action now. Yeah, yeah, I can’t think what else really.
Alyssa Clark 44:13
I agree. So if people want to connect with you or see what you’re doing – Well they probably don’t now now they can hear what a depressing, boring – No, I mean, I’m inspired again to continue to do the best that I can and keep working for change. So I’m sure others are as well. What is the best way to contact you or contact the green runners or see how they can make an impact in their own country? Do you have any things you can share?
Damian Hall 44:47
Oh well we’d absolutely love anyone who’s listening or and grab a friend and come and join the green runners? That would be amazing. And we are kind of we are global. There’s nothing necessarily geographical about us. It’s just in dollars, it’d be $3 or $4 to join, and that gets a badge, a cloth badge sent out that you can attach to. We decided not to make T shirts. That seemed a bit a bit contradictory. But you get sent a badge, so the money goes, yeah, for the badge, and I think a little bit towards the upkeep of the website. But yeah, the badges. Yeah, stick it on, or stick it on your pack, or your T shirt or your or your head headware. We’re fast approaching it was our birthday. We’re fast approaching 1000 members. We’re in many, many countries now. Yeah, please, please come and join us just thegreenrunners.com. And all we ask is people make a pledge to improve on one of our four pillars. And you know, that’s totally up to you. And we no one’s expecting perfection from anyone. It’s just improving. But really, to me, the key one is speaking out. And that could be could be on social media. Could be to your friends could be could be in interviews like this. All of that. Yeah. That all matters and counts, I think.
Alyssa Clark 46:05
I agree. Well, thank you so much, Damien, for sharing about this and digging into tougher questions. And also, I think it’s so hard because of, yeah, exactly the hypocrite side of things where people are so afraid to make a mistake or to be called out for something and just tell those people to shut up like the people that are that are criticizing you because you’re doing more and caring more by saying something and doing something so.
Damian Hall 46:34
Well, thank you, but it’s important. Yeah, I mean, you’re giving me a platform and you guys I know you guys are sympathetic and but yeah, just keep keeping banging on about the message and spreading it is just yeah, really important, I think.
Alyssa Clark 46:46
Absolutely. Well, thank you for listening to the Apple athlete podcast. You can rate, review and subscribe anywhere you listen to podcasts. And it’s not just one but a community. We are Uphill Athlete.