Neil Smith

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Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update two.

Reports on the Montane Spine Race 2017. Update two.


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.


Catching up on the Spine Race again tonight although in all honesty I have basically been catching up on it throughout the day. 

This years leaders have been going hell for leather in a way that makes this seem like some kind of slow motion, full contact, hard work, mountainside chess. The first three took off like bats out of hell. The pace and a fall seemed to be a bit hard on last years winner Eoin Keith. He arrived at the checkpoint behind Pavel Paloncy and Eugeni Rossolo Sole and frankly on the video he looked half dead. I genuinely thought that his race might be over and done with at that point. He decided to get a couple of hours kip and some food. During this time he was passed by Tom Hollins who had moved a couple of miles away from the chasing pack and had been running the last umpteen hours on his own. Incredibly once Eoin woke up he quickly closed the gap on Tom and started catching the two leaders who seem to be resting at the Alston checkpoint. Now moving more slowly Eoin is making up some lost ground with Tom on his heels. Who knows what the morning will bring. 

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Carol Morgan from Ireland looks to be cruising the womens race and now has a lead of over fifty kilometres. her times put her well up in the top ten overall. Obviously a lot can happen in the next hundred and thirty miles but if she stays out of trouble she is looking good for an excellent performance.
Thirty three athletes have retired at this point and the current last man standing is Bruce Ballagher who has covered about 95 miles. At first, in the context of the top group this passed me by but the more I thought about it the more impressive it is that so many even make it to the start line. Mentally it is so tough to cover a hundred miles on foot over rough, hilly terrain in crappy weather and still not even be near the half way point.
As someone who has (very) gingerly dipped a toe in longer than marathon distance running; this race along with the Spartathlon, the Yukon Ultra, the 6633, Badrock and a few others on the calendar is one that I absolutely know is never going to see my name on the start list and so I stand utterly in awe of everyone who puts themselves through this challenge. Even although your friends and family all think that you are a shower of mad bastards I at least am impressed. Well done folks.
Track the runners in real time on the spine website here http://map.opentracking.co.uk/spinerace17/map.htm
Roll on tomorrow.


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