Damian Hall has triumphantly returned to win the 2023 Montane Winter Spine Race in a time of 84 hrs 36mins 24seconds, crossing the finish line with Jack Scott. The pair finished miles ahead of the rest of the field on the 268-mile race along the length of the Pennine Way. At one stage Scott looked like he might be able to challenge Hall's lead, but due to a navigation error overnight picked up a 48-minute time penalty, a margin that proved hard to gain back.
This year had an exciting line-up, particularly in the men's Spine Race, with previous winners racing alongside an array of other big names. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated battle was the one that we got a glimpse of last year, between Damian Hall and Kim Collison. In 2022 this was sadly curtailed by them both having to withdraw from the race, albeit at different points, but this year it was clear that both Damian and Kim were keen to repeat that head-to-head, and this time go the distance. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, as Kim - who holds the Lakeland 24hr and Scottish Munro 24hr Record - had to with withdraw at Tan Hill.
The weather for the Spine Race itself has, for the most part, been relatively benign, with cold, snowy, but relatively stable conditions (so far). Ironically it was the shorter events - the Sprint and Challenger South - which received the brunt of the worst weather, starting on Saturday in the middle of a raging storm. Those competing were battered with 70mph wind, heavy rain and slushy snow (I should know - I was there!).
In the Challenger South, Rory Harris put in a dominant performance throughout, with an unassailable lead from start to finish, completing the 108 mile course in a time of 26:25:30. Rupert and Joshua Lee (aka. 'the twins' - who aren't actually twins (they're brothers - and just look alike) finished several hours after in 2nd, with a time of 30:28:36. In the women's race Sarah Hodgson had a strong run, finishing well ahead of the rest of the field in a time of 33:26:44. Alice Kershaw came in 2nd (37:40:50) and Catherine Hill finished 3rd (48:07:45).
Men's Challenger South
Rory Harris - 26:25:30
Rupert and Joshua Lee - 30:28:36
Women's Challenger South
Sarah Hodgson - 33:26:55
Alice Kershaw - 37:40:50
Catherine Hill - 48:07:45
The Challenger South MRT is deserving of an extra special mention, not least because of the active involvement that Mountain Rescue Teams play in the race, offering support (and hot drinks) to competitors as they pass though. This year it was won by the power couple of Mike Bottomley (34:42:59) and Steph Dwyer (36:59:44).
In the Sprint, records were broken by each of the first three finishers, who all finished ahead of the previous record; however, it was Jon Shield who finished in 1st in a remarkable time of 8:10:22 beating the previous record of 10:03:03 which was set by Jonathan Price. In the women's race Louise Venables put in a commanding performance, finishing almost an hour ahead of 2nd place, with a time of 11:39:21.
Jon Shield - 8:10:22
Hamish Waring - 9:06:14
Andrew Morley - 9:39:53
Louise Venables - 11:39:21
Kim Kennedy - 12:47:34
Julie Taylor - 13:47:52
Finally, as if that weren't enough, there's the Spine Challenger North. This 160 mile race is a very definite step-up from the Challenger South, not just in terms of distance, but also its terrain, taking in the most challenging stretch of the Pennine Way over Cross Fell and the Cheviots. This was won by the duo of Tim Bradley and Brian Hutchinson, who crossed the finish line together in a time of 61:13:59.
Results are still unfolding, so this article will be updated once a few more people finish - particularly in the Spine Race and the Challenger North.