Neil Smith

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update four.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update four.

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.


So we have a podium. Although by the look of the first three finishers it would want to be one with pretty low steps. Tom Hollins indeed finished and promptly fell asleep like a baby. As well he might. He was chased in by Pavel about 90 minutes later and Eugeni followed nearly an hour after that. 

A lovely sight to see was Eoin Keith walking out along the trail to encourage Tom and shake his hand as he approached Kirk Yetholm. As a newcomer to longer distance runs I have been delighted and impressed by the friendliness, generosity and support given by more experienced competitors to stumbling bumblies like myself and this was just another example of this generosity of spirit. The camaraderie was evident throughout and to see the three guys sitting around at the end having a beer and a chat was great. No diva moments, no hassles. Just a bunch of people who appreciate what the others have just gone through. The sight of Pavel in his pants may also start a new trend in pubs after races. Or perhaps not. 

The next two finishers; Johan Steene of Sweden and Britain's John Knapp are just a couple of miles from the finish as I type and following just a few miles behind them are Paul Nelson and the leading lady, Carol Morgan. Early on in the race I wondered if Carol would be able to maintain the chunky lead that she had over Helene Dumais. The answer was; no she couldn't maintain it. Instead she stretched it beyond anyone’s expectation and perhaps beyond belief. The thirty mile lead after day one became fifty by the end of day two and as she passes the final checkpoint at Hut 2 her lead over Helene stands at an incredible 78 miles. This is a dominant performance against a class runner who is no slouch in this arena. Well done indeed. 

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Most of the rest of the field are crowded in between the Alston and Bellingham checkpoints and for some the fear is that time will just pass too quickly between now and Saturday morning.  A special shout out to number 63 Richard Keefe. His friend Jane Stephens is crewing for him and left a message on last night's post. Thanks for commenting Jane. It's always great to get feedback especially from someone involved directly in the event. Thanks in fact to everyone who has commented or liked these posts I definitely appreciate it. Gerard Bareham and Phil Clarke who were yesterday's back markers have not only avoided the curse of Neil they have moved ahead of the Irish runner Brian Harman. Good luck Brian. The next fourteen or so competitors are moving roughly together at 166 miles covered.  

What do I take from the day? At all levels on this race competitors still look out for each other. Well done again to everyone.

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