The notoriously challenging Montane Spine Race returns today (Saturday 14 January) with runners setting out to traverse the entirety of the Pennine Way, widely recognised as one of the most demanding national trails in Britain. Conditions for the 260 competitors are likely to be extremely tough; they are likely to encounter deep snow, ice, gale force winds and rain.
Run for the first time in January 2012, the event saw just three participants complete the 268 mile, 7 day course - joint winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson, closely followed by Mark Caldwell. Since then, the Spine Race has established a reputation as one of the toughest on the calendar has attracted competitors from around the world.
The event is now split into three races: the non-stop, original 268-mile race from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, a 108-mile challenger, and Spine MRT Challenge – the same as the Spine Challenger but specifically for Mountain Rescue personnel from England, Wales and the Scottish Borders.
The trail crosses some of the most beautiful and at times difficult terrain found in England, including the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviots, finishing at the Scottish Borders.
Race directors Scott Gilmour and Phil Hayday-Brown spoke of their motivation in designing an event as tough as the Spine Race: “The Montane Spine Race was born out of a desire to test not just ultra racing skills, but expedition skills. We watched as the ultra-distance race trend grew and grew and wanted to take that challenge to a whole different level, so we took an iconic trail route, added the usual demands of non-stop ultra distance racing and set it in winter to give it real ferocity and bite."
On its appeal, they added: “We knew that it would attract a much more hardcore type of athlete – those who are tough, self-sufficient, mentally resilient and able to function on limited sleep, who are physically at the top of their game and able to grapple with the full intensity of British winter. All the usual rules go out of the window and it comes down to survival. The Montane Spine Race is unique.”