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Totally FKT

Updated: Jun 10

Totally FKT by Summit Fever Media follows two ultra runners, John Kelly and Damian Hall, as they attempt to break the Pennine Way FKT (fastest known time). This record has stood for over 30 years and is the stuff of legends... will they break it? Or will they just break? Tune in to find out!


TOTALLY FKT is an incredible, jaw-dropping documentary by Summit Fever Media that shows John Kelly and Damian Hall pushed to their absolute limits of endurance.

We spoke with Matt and Ellie Green of Summit Fever Media to get an idea of the method behind the madness, and how you film a project that just doesn't stop moving...

Endurance runner John Kelly striding across the Pennine Way in an attempt to break the FKT record in the film Totally FKT.
John Kelly

In your experience of filming ultra-runners, what stands out for you about this film?

I think in this particular instance for us, it was the historical significance of what John and Damian were trying to achieve in the world of endurance running. There are not many records that have withstood record-breaking attempts for so many years. Mike Hartley set the Pennine Way record back in 1989, and there have been many failed attempts to break it since then.

I think Martin Stone has it spot on when he says that Mike's record along the Pennine Way had become something of legend, and then Damian compounds this by explaining that Mike wasn't just slogging it out on the Pennine Way, he is and was an incredibly talented runner, representing GB at the track 100k, and he was very, very fast - a world class athlete - so that record was a gold standard in endurance running to the point that there was doubt it could even be beaten.

The other stand-out thing for us was the amount of support along the way, with even non-ultra-running people just coming out of their houses to watch, cheer on, and support them. The camaraderie you find in ultra running seemed more heightened and poignant this time for all involved, because it came just after the first lockdown. Restrictions of sorts were still in place and all races had been cancelled for the year, so it was a real opportunity for members of the running community to get behind a common goal - getting these two runners to the finish line. It felt so good to be back out in the hills, running along with friends.

On ‘set', do you find you get involved in what’s going on, or are you trying to stay in the background?

It can depend, and it's a balance - get too involved and you can forget that our main aim is to be there to document, or get too bogged down in trying to help and you can end up being a nuisance! On the other side, it's important to build up a relationship with all the folk involved. We want people to feel comfortable around us and we want to tell their stories as well.

People often ask us if it is hard not to get too involved when someone is in pain or suffering, and why is it that we carry on filming in these situations? When there is a serious situation on the trail, the best thing for us to do is to stand back and film what is happening unless we're told otherwise. The support crews have so much experience with issues that arise in ultra running so it is best to let the experts do their job.

We always chat to the athlete before we start a filming project about this, and go through hypothetical problematic situations and what they would be comfortable with us filming, and how they would be happy with us filming it. Obviously if there was no one there and there was an emergency, we would always dive in and forget the cameras - but there does tend to be quite a bit of suffering in ultra running as a given!

Ultrarunner and author of the Pennine Way walking guide, Damian Hall, runs along the trail in his attempt to achieve the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for the route.
Damian Hall

What’s the biggest challenge as filmmakers following these athletes on their projects?

Sleep! That, and making sure you have enough B-roll (backdrop) footage. The athletes don't stop and they move so quickly, so you never know when the drama is going to happen!

On the whole, we knew that in this case, both Damian and John would probably be fine for the first 100 miles, and it's after this that things have the potential to go off the rails which tends to make for the most interesting footage. So getting enough rest early on to see us through the rest of the attempt was important, especially as we're on the roads driving a lot, we need to make sure we're safe.

The other challenge is getting the B-roll, which is so easy to forget about! But if you don't have it, it makes a huge difference to the final edit. It's almost too easy to get carried away just filming the two runners and forget about the backdrop! We're a small crew - three of us filming this time - so it's always all hands on deck filming the main show, without masses of resources to bank landscapes and extra scene-setting content.

Are you ever concerned that your presence as filmmakers puts extra pressure on the runner?

Not any more, really. I think there is so much media around athletes and record attempts now that it has become almost normal to see someone filming something like this. We tend to try and read the situation as we go along; if we feel that our presence at a particular moment in time is causing consternation and stress then we back away and give the athlete space.

The only time we were worried was when we were filming Damian during his UTMB attempt to break into the Top 10. He had put so much into this and had sacrificed so much, and he did admit that having us there did put extra pressure on him - but good or bad? Who knows?! Probably best to ask him on this one, but he did come 5th... ;)

Which runners or which FKTs do you think will be in the spotlight in 2021?

Well I think we can safely say the Pennine Way will have a bit more action this year! It'll be interesting to see what Jack Scott gets up to - he broke Mike Hartley's record on the Southern Upland Way quite quietly last year. It'll also be interesting to see what Sabrina Verjee and Beth Pascall get up to.

What are your hopes and ambitions as adventure filmmakers for this year?

Keep learning and keep growing. Totally FKT was a bit of a turning point for us as it was a film that we had time to work on and really give it the respect we felt Mike Hartley and his community deserved, mainly due to lockdown and other filming jobs being cancelled. We hope people enjoy watching it but we feel proud that we did the best we could.

This is something we want to take forward this year and develop - delving much more into the background and history of the stories we tell - and giving stories time to breathe, focusing on the human elements and the different characters and aiming to produce work that is more rounded - and humorous - I think we all need a bit more humour this year!

John Kelly navigates tricky clinks and grykes on the limestone of the Pennine Way as he attempts the Fastest Known Time for the famous UK National Trail.

About Summit Fever Media

Summit Fever Media produces award-winning adventure and environmental films, specialising in remote location filming. It was co-founded in 2012 by Matt and Ellie Green, providing event coverage, promotional content for the outdoor industry and documentary films.

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In 1972 Alan Heaton ran the Pennine Way in 4 days, 5 hours and 10 minutes with Mick Meath. Alan became my partner in the KIMM many years later when he was a spritely 60 years of age and I was a mere 40. He was still like a mountain goat and made my running style look like a donkey! A true legend !

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