Neil Smith

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

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update seven.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update seven.

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.

After one hundred and fifty nine hours, 56 minutes and ten seconds, Irish Spiner Patrick Rodgers arrived at the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm and the 2017 episode of the Spine race reality show was over. For those of us who have followed the exploits of friends and strangers over the last week it was a bittersweet moment. This was the end of our vicarious shared adventure. For the racers themselves who can say what range of emotions are washing around as everybody starts the trek from the Scottish borders back to that surreal place we call “Real life”. For most of these people though real life will be a slightly different place from here on in. Having gone through this everything else will be viewed in a slightly different context and the joy of life will surely be enhanced. A few will probably feel a bit of a comedown in the next few days as the simple, joyful routine of eat, sleep, beast yourself and repeat fades to a more complex daily routine.

This was a Spine race of records: more female finishers, more finishers, fastest woman ever, warmest weather and probably most beer drunk at the end. Although no records have been kept of the latter except perhaps by the barman and he is saying nothing.

The race was won by a man who had failed to finish in every training event he had entered for practice leading up to this. Second place went to a man with a record of entered four, won twice, second twice and in third was a bloke who runs like a demon, just sometimes in the wrong direction. Eoin Keith, the local favourite in my neck of the woods here in County Wicklow managed to fracture a rib on the first day and so must look on and think about what might have been but he will be back competing again and one of my moments of the race was when he walked out along the trail to offer a handshake and his congratulations to Tom Hollins as the new champion approached the finish. 

In the women’s race Carol Morgan set a whole new level of achievement for anyone who follows in her footsteps. Taking a place in the overall top ten she slashed the previous female record by 43 hours. That would be like running the 100 metres in six seconds or pulling of a marathon in an hour and twenty minutes. The difference between the old and new is staggering.


For many of us though the drama was at the back end of the field and we triumphed and suffered along with all of our new favourite “Dots”. 

To the ones who dropped out early. To the ones who narrowly missed the cut off point at Byrness and to the ones who came through it to the end to finish, all the way to Patrick Rodgers I say “Thank you and well done from all of us”. It has been a hell of a week. I would like to offer a huge thank you also to the, surprisingly large number of people who have been reading these updates. It was started for reasons I couldn't even begin to explain to myself and the reaction has been amazing. Thanks for liking the episodes and for all the comments. Au revoir. See you at the same time, same place next year.

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

More articles from Neil Smith

View blog
4 days ago · 4 min. reading time

Political violence.

The murder of the English politician David Amess h ...

2 weeks ago · 3 min. reading time

Down but not out in Paris. Part one

‘Vous voulez laver les vassailles?’ · ‘Oui.’ · ‘Ma ...

3 weeks ago · 4 min. reading time

On the road again

I enjoy writing. It’s not the torture that some ex ...