Neil Smith

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

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update one.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update one.

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.


The 2017 Montane Spine Race is now underway. As is traditional the weather is cold, crap and snowy.

In the build up there was a fair bit of chatter about the strength of the field and some more high profile athletes in the field compared to previous years. The early feedback though seems to be that experience counts. The first and so far only three runners to pass the first checkpoint are Pavel Paloncy, Eoin Keith and Eugeni Rossello Sole. Previous competitors, previous winners and probably all pretty determined to stamp on the metaphorical fingers of any challengers. 

Given that the course runs the length of the Pennine Way at 268 miles it is certainly premature to suggest that the current leaders have it all stitched up but it’s a bloody encouraging start for them all the same. Up to date tracking and occasional video updates are available at This is billed as "Britain's most brutal" race but if they ever feel the need for a new slogan then the "Come on if you think you're hard enough race" would fit nicely on a (XL) T-shirt.  Best of luck to every competitor you have my utmost respect.

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