The Montane Spine Race, one of the country's most gruelling races, finished over the weekend. 260 runners from 22 countries spent most of the past week running up the Pennine Way. The route is 268 miles long and is notorious around this time of year for horrendous weather and freezing conditions. Perhaps one of the toughest aspects of the race is that any sleep eats into your overall time. With 13,135m of ascent and a time limit of one week, the route is not for the faint-hearted.
The challengers started in Edale in extremely tough conditions, heading into snow and high winds almost immediately on Kinder Scout. It was also very boggy underfoot making footcare slightly harder. The men's race had three previous winners competing; Pavel Paloncý (CZE), Eugeni Roselló Solé (ESP) and Eoin Keith (IRL), who also holds the course record. It made for exciting dot watching on the live tracker, as they were continually catching up with each other. In the women's field Carol Morgan from Ireland took an early lead, with Helene Dumais from Canada hot on her heels.
Eoin Keith valiantly struggled on in third with a fractured rib from day 1 until he retired on day 4, when he was overtaken by Brit Tom Hollins. After this he described how all motivation had left him once he realised he could not finish on the podium. Throughout the race, Tom Hollins' aim was consistent - he focussed on his own race and wanted a sub-100 hour time. At this point on day 4 Pavel Paloncý and Eugeni Roselló were running together at the front of the field.
Tom managed to catch Pavel and Eugeni after setting a very fast pace along Hadrian's Wall and they ran together for a short amount of time, testing each other's pace. Tom had taken the lead by the penultimate checkpoint and arrived at Byrness alone. He had planned to sleep here, but decided to head out quickly to gain a pschological advantage over the others. Pavel and Eugeni arrived at the same checkpoint completely exhausted, with niggling injuries and had 30 minutes sleep before the Cheviots.
In the Cheviots, Pavel pulled away from Eugeni, whilst Tom slowed down to walking pace - presumably due to the lack of sleep after deviating from his initial plan. Talking about the previous nights antics with the other two he said 'I broke all my own rules of running... I kept falling again and again and again. A couple of times I fell over and stayed there long enough that I nearly went to sleep.' He fell over several times, nearly falling into sleep. Despite this, Tom held his lead and arrived at Kirk Yetholm in first place with a time of 99 hours and 25 minutes.
Pavel finished shortly after with a time of 100 hours and 54 minutes. Eugeni had been injured since Byrness and had requested a medic to meet him at the finish, which he arrived at in 101 hours and 46 minutes. He had also made a navigational error over the Cheviots, meaning he had climbed an extra 700m.
Carol Morgan ran a sensational race, breaking the women's record with a time of 109 hours and 54 minutes and finishing in joint sixth overall. She smashed the previous record by an incredible 43 hours! Before the race she had four targets: “One, to finish. Two, to be first woman. Three, to be top 10 overall. And four, to finish in under four and a half days – which I didn't quite do.” The battle for second place was tight and Helene Dumais (CAN) was only about 3.5km ahead of Yvonne Lehnert (GER) at the Alston checkpoint, southwest of Carlisle. Ultimately, Helene finished in second with a time of 153 hours and 31 minutes.
The Spine Race is sponsored by: Montane