#149 – No pain, no gain – The Spine Race 2014

Malham sunrise – “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning!”

Malham sunrise – “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning!”

Fifty years ago, the UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson said, “a week is a long time in politics”.  In The Spine Race, a week feels like a lifetime.  For the uninitiated, ‘The Spine’ is “Britain’s most brutal race. The longest, coldest and most demanding mountain marathon in Britain. 268 miles of ice, snow, cold and savage winds”.  And that’s on a good day!

Occasionally the suns shines!

Occasionally the suns shines!

 The race follows the route of The Pennine Way, and has to be completed within seven days.  The Spine 2013 will be remembered for the savage blizzard that hit the race on the last night – for those who suffered in 2014, the abiding memory will probably be the rain and the mud.

The Mud Road!

The Mud Road!

Each January for the past three years I’ve been part of The Spine Race, on the ‘Mountain & Medics’ Support Team.  The grit and determination of the competitors has to be seen to be believed, and the attrition rate is high.

Doctor ‘Kat’ on duty at Greg’s Hut near Cross Fell

Doctor ‘Kat’ on duty at Greg’s Hut near Cross Fell

Greg’s Hut at 700 metres altitude

Greg’s Hut at 700 metres altitude

Inside Greg’s Hut – a warm welcome assured

Inside Greg’s Hut – a warm welcome assured

My main job is with my old mate John Bamber, manning the high bothy in the Northern Pennines known as Greg’s Hut – it isn’t a checkpoint as such, just a place where the runners can briefly escape the wild conditions outside.  When all the survivors have passed through Greg’s, we leapfrog forward to the road crossing at Byrness on the Scottish border.

The Byrness road crossing

The Byrness road crossing

Byrness hospitality

Byrness hospitality

To get the full flavour of the event, read a superb account by competitor Allan Rumbles, then learn how to survive the trip by reading an excellent account by fellow Support Team member Stu Westfield.  Having done that, enjoy the following photos of the 2014 event then go to the Spine Race website and sign up for 2015!

Where it all starts

Where it all starts

Edale in Derbyshire

Edale in Derbyshire

Checkpoint 1.5 at Malham

Checkpoint 1.5 at Malham

Inside checkpoint 1.5 ….

Inside checkpoint 1.5 ….

…. with site manager John keeping everything under control

…. with site manager John keeping everything under control

Sometimes dark ….

Sometimes dark ….

…. sometimes not!

…. sometimes not!

Sometimes cold ….

Sometimes cold ….

 …. sometimes even colder!

…. sometimes even colder!

And after the toughest 268 miles of your life, one of these!

And after the toughest 268 miles of your life, one of these!

Text © Paul Shorrock – Images © John Bamber and others (Images may be reproduced, though a donation to ‘Borders Search and Rescue’ is requested)

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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15 Responses to #149 – No pain, no gain – The Spine Race 2014

  1. I can honestly say you’re never gonna catch me doing that! Do the poor old walkers have to use that sea of mud the vehicles have made? It looks disgusting – I don’t mind a bit of mud but that’s way over boot-top level! ugh! It would all pour down inside!

    • Most of the competitors use trail or hill running shoes, which are just about trashed by the end of the week! The worst aspect of the mud though, was the demoralising effect of trying to keep up a good pace in conditions like that.

  2. If I was 10 years younger I would have a go (honestly)…are you up for it this year Paul?

    • Hahaha … I’ve seriously considered trying the shorter challenger event (108 miles from Edale to Hawes) but then reality steps in – thankfully!!

  3. LensScaper says:

    Just read the account by Allan. I’ve run a few marathons but they are child’s play compared to this beast. Glad everyone survived the ordeal.

    • This event is getting a reputation for chewing up and spitting out high class athletes, but it’s do-able – one of the back markers finished just within the cut-off time, but he looked as though he could have carried on for another 50 miles without much trouble.

  4. lanceleuven says:

    It’s incredible what humans are prepared to do “Just for the hell of it”. Fair play to all those who took part, whether they made it or not. It sounds like a very daunting challenge indeed!

  5. WoW! What a challenge! I once had to step over a 1 inch deep mud-puddle. That was worth a metal IMO. (HaHa!!)

    • It’s madness! Our maritime climate means that we don’t get the extremes of temperature that you do, but a cold, wet, British winter is not a pleasant experience, especially in our upland areas.

  6. bobstrolz says:

    Great write-up and some great pictures Paul. I can honestly say that the Spine was an unforgettable experience. And thanks for the tea and noodles at Greg’s. Neil Bennett, no. 006.

  7. Pingback: The Beast that is The Spine | UltrarunninglifeUltrarunninglife

  8. Pingback: #178 – Spine Race – the Movie | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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