Neil Smith

4 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update five.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update five.

The Spine race is an event run every January from Edale at the Southern end of the Pennine Way to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders. Officially the distance is two hundred and sixty eight miles but detours, navigation errors and route choice can extend this. January was chosen as the month because the weather along the course is most likely to be awful, the days are very short and the ground conditions underfoot are at their most "challenging". All of the competitors are fitted with GPS tracking devices and this allows lots of armchair athletes like myself to keep tabs on friends as they progress along the course. Over the years this "Dotwatching" has become more popular and the Spine Race tracking site can be a busy place. On a whim I started publishing nightly updates on the event for some friends who had a real job and life and couldn't spend all day staring at a screen. I posted these on my Facebook page and shared them to a couple of ultrarunning groups on Facebook; Raw Ultra and Ultrarunning Community. To my surprise and delight these became quite popular with the Dotwatching community and the feedback, comments and banter where great. I am publishing the posts in full here and taking advantage of the opportunity to add some pictures and tidy up a couple of typos as I go. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

In common with other multitasking Dotwatchers this is being typed as I watch the digital representations of David Dixon and Neil Rutherford plod the last, wonderful ten miles over the Cheviots to the finish. Behind them Tomas Zapata Tarifa and the rest of the field down perhaps as far as Rafael Ma Argote Enriquez have a chance of covering anything from twenty two to thirty five miles overnight if all goes well and they get a good run at the last. 

Earlier in the day the Frenchman Thierry Corbarieu took a very late, wrong turn as he closed in on the finish. The race organisers, family and support crew managed to contact him and put him right before he ended up wandering all the way to the city of Edinburgh. I’d say he muttered a few choice Gallic phrases at the time but well done to him for his endeavours and the extra wee bit distance is probably good for him. Today’s only retirement is the Japanese racer Shingo Inoue wearing number 58. To have travelled so far to get here and then traverse so much of the trail before pulling out must be terribly disappointing for him but having covered over 217 miles he could hardly be accused of not giving it a bloody good go. It is delightful to see that yesterday’s back marker Brian Harman from Ireland has moved up through the field and is no longer bringing up the rear. That honour is now in the possession of Britain’s Peter Gold who has covered 197 miles so far. Other newly familiar names such as Phil Clarke, Gerard Bareham and Allan Rumbles are all making “steady as she goes” progress. It would seem unlikely that another competitor will be retiring at this stage for anything less than two broken legs and a gunshot wound. For the people who don’t make the finish it will mean a lot just to still be standing when the whistle goes. The clock is now ticking down the last few hours until 8.35 am tomorrow morning. In order to continue until then athletes have to reach the Byrness checkpoint by just after half past midnight tonight. For some, indeed most of the entrants in this event the morning will see them short of their goal and the eventual roll call of those touching the Kirk Yetholm Hotel wall will probably number little more than another ten or so hardy souls. 


I would like personally and hopefully on behalf of those who read this to offer my thanks, support and appreciation to all those out there who stood on the start line last weekend knowing that they had bugger all chance of winning and only a slim one of making the finish line. The result of this race would change little if there were only ten or so “Racing Snakes” going for it and we would all be highly impressed by the talent and dedication of these top end runners. However the SPECTACLE of the race would be hugely diminished without the large number of Ordinary Joes with whom we can identify. They have been giving their bodies a thrashing and pushing themselves beyond what they had previously thought possible. Because of these folks “Dotwatcher” has become an actual word and the reason for so many Dotwatchers staying glued to their screens is that we care about the normal guys out there. We may admire and respect the top class guys, and we do but we care more about the strugglers because we know that we would be struggling too.

Leaders may be important but leaders are nothing without followers.

Thanks for reading I hope you enjoy the finale. 

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Neil Smith

4 years ago #3

Thanks Donna -Luisa. It's an idea I first used in one of those endless LI discussions about leadership in business and politics. After reading for a while it occurred to me that all the chat was about the figureheads at the top rather than the large number of people who actually made stuff happen. I think it applies well to sport also.

Neil Smith

4 years ago #2

Thanks Pascal. It was great fun to do and there is a gap now that it is over but my god this race has seriously inspired me to get the finger out and get involved in some similar events.

Pascal Derrien

4 years ago #1

great race report :-)

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