Neil Smith

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

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update three.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update three.

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.


Once again the Spine race demonstrates that sometimes, despite all the training, the preparation and the knowledge shit can still just happen. The sad news for all of us watching here in Ireland is that Eoin Keith is out of the race. It transpires that the fall he took on the first day fractured one of his ribs. This would explain the unusually delicate look he had on his face and makes his attempt to catch the leaders all the more impressive.

The good Irish news of course is that Carol Morgan is still storming away in the women’s race. Her thirty mile lead from yesterday has been extended to about fifty miles and so long as she avoids accidents, meteors and acts of God she is looking good to be the first woman over the line with less than sixty miles still to cover. Helene Dumais in second place has a fantastic record and certainly looks in great shape but surely has just a bit too much to do to catch up at this point.
After passing Eoin, Tom Hollins has moved up to the leaders and Tom, Pavel and Eugeni now have the finish firmly in mind. It is possible that all three will finish together but much more likely that one of them will try to grind the others down. None of them have had a lot of rest. The going is soft and slow and it is difficult to predict who has the most in reserve for a breakaway. Possibly this might all be decided by a three way fist fight in Kirk Yetholm but it would be unlikely that nobody will try something or make a move over the next 32 miles.

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Yesterday I mentioned and promptly cursed Bruce Ballagher who was the then "Lantern Rouge" . He had to pull out not long afterward. Sorry Bruce. At the risk of skewing the fate of Gerard Bareham and Phil Clarke I wish you both the best in the miles to come. Well done so far guys.
Is this the warmest Spine race ever. I can't get over the contrast between this year and last. Or even Saturday and today. It seems odd to see so little snow.


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