DAMIAN Hall had no hesitation in declaring that his fifth place in the 2018 Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), a gruelling 171K race that loops through peaks and valleys around the intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland, as the best performance of his career, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

The Box-based member of Corsham Running Club has notched up some notable successes over the past few years on route to establishing himself as one of Britain’s premier ultra distance runners, but he admitted nothing can match the satisfaction of his first UTMB top 10 last weekend.

“I am just overwhelmed, it is amazing,” said Hall.

“I know it sounds like one of those clichés that footballers get criticised for when they say they are over the moon, but that is how I feel.

“Fifth place exceeded all my expectations. I know that I said I wanted a top-10 finish after coming 12th last year but the quality of the field this year was incredible and when I saw all the people from all around the world entered I thought that eighth would have been the very best I could have done.”

The UTMB is one of the Blue Riband events on the ultra circuit and attracts not just a world-class field but also huge media attention on the continent and big crowds over the weekend.

It was what prompted 42-year-old Hall to enter the race for the first time in 2015 when he valiantly came home in 33rd place more than five hours behind the winner.

On Sunday he completed the 170k run, which included 9,789m of climbing - the highest mountain in the world, Everest, is only 8,848 – in 22hrs 35mins 13secs with Frenchman Xavier Thevenard notching up win number three in 20hrs 44mins 16secs.

“I think I have improved around one-and-a-half hours every year and just got a lot better at racing the UTMB,” said Hall.

“I also spent three days with some other runners reccing the course five weeks ago and over the weekend the weather was perfect – typical British conditions.

“I think I have also approached this year’s race as professionally as I possible could have and tried my best to become a full-time athlete.”

Modestly, Hall admitted that he was helped by a number of the highly-fancied runners failing to finish the race as they went off too hard and burnt themselves out but then that is one of the key skills of ultra racing so he deserves even more plaudits for judging his race to perfection – and keeping his nerve.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself saying I wanted to make the top ten and while it sounded like a good idea at the time I was feeling very nervous and apprehensive two or three days before the race when I am normally really relaxed,” explained Hall.

"So the day before the race I watched the Chariots of Fire film for the first time and that got me going again and when the race started I was incredibly excited.”

Incredibly Hall’s fifth place – which also him second in the veterans over 40s age group – was the best performance by a British runner since Jez Bragg won it in 2010. But that is not a goal Hall will be chasing in the future.

“I think it is definitely time to move on and I won’t be doing it next year,” said Hall.

“This result has been four years in the making and has been the highlight of my career without doubt.”