Neil Smith

4 years ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update six.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update six.ER

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 guillotine came down at 12.35 and unfortunately there were a few racers who didn't make the cut. Brian Harman, Robert Splaton, Gerard Bareham, Clare Holdcroft , Phil Clarke, Peter Gold, Michael Frenz and Garth reader all ended up on the wrong side of the cut. The race organisers used the tag line #Harshbutfair when announcing the impending moment and although there are some very disappointed racers out there ruing their luck or mentally replaying navigation and rest decisions it is something that was always part of the deal when they signed up. Each and every single one of them though can hold their heads high and know that they were a gnat’s hair away from going all the way in an incredibly tough event. Well done to you all.


Saturday has seen a steady stream of finishers through the day including Helene Dumais, the second lady home. Some are in fine fettle and others somewhat less exuberant but all have achieved their goal of reaching the Border Hotel in Kirk Yetholm and are hopefully enjoying a celebratory pint or perhaps two. John Stocker is the most recent man to arrive, just a couple of minutes before Helene and these two were preceded by many others including Joon Kait Yeo from Singapore, Brits Gary Walton, Mike Prince and Chris Lowry. The Spanish athlete Josep Maria Cabanas Coma finished just after 2pm a bit behind a trio of his compatriots. This is obviously a nation which takes its ultrarunning seriously. I can’t mention everyone by name as there are so many but whoever you are I hope you come to reflect and enjoy this incredible experience and understand that you provided us armchair enthusiasts with quite the spectacle.

As I type Jim Tinnion has just crossed the line and Harsharn Gill, Jonathan Zeffert and Richard Leahy are in a group poised to finish in just a few short miles.

Is this the Spine race with the most finishers ever? Clearly the understandable shortening of last year’s race had a huge effect on the number of finishers and the original event only had eleven competitors but in terms of numbers and percentage of the field to finish is 2017 a record? If anyone out there has the answer I would love to know and I am sure I am not alone in this.

At the tail of the field Patrick Rogers has covered 247.9 miles. Just ahead are Allan Rumbles, Paul Reeve and the American Tim Puetz. The exciting thing is that every single sore, tired and utterly fed up body out there now can make it to the finish by 8.35 tomorrow morning barring accident or major navigation error.

Talking of error I made a major blooper in last night’s post when I subtracted a day from the racers. For whatever reason ,I managed to think that 12.45pm was just after midnight and that today was Sunday. My apologies for that, and my thanks to Jane Stephens for bringing it to my attention. By this time next year I hope to have mastered the mysteries of both the 12 hour clock and the Gregorian calendar.

All the best to the remaining competitors and now it is time to get back to watching some dots.

Thanks for reading.

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john fahad

8 months ago #1

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