Montane Spine Race – Day 1

Weather forecasts for the Montane Spine Race left little doubt, this year was going to be a tough and brutal slog.  Over 150 brave souls honoured the 50th year of the Pennine Way, by racing along the 268 and 108 mile non-stop national trail, as part of Britain’s most brutal ultra race.
The Montane Spine Race Trophies

The forecast was for gale force winds, driving rain, sleet, snow and everything in between.  Ultra racers in Britain aren’t put off by a “little” weather and the 108mile Challenger Race began with 60 competitors lining up at the Edale start line for the 06:41 off.

Watch the video of the start of the race here

Montane Athlete and defending 2013 Champion, Marcus Scotney set a blistering pace taking an early and commanding lead. However, disaster struck for the race favorite, as he unfortunately suffered an ankle injury and had to drop out at Snake Pass, but only after fighting through biting cold wind and rain for over an hour in order to reach the exit point on the main road. Highlighting an importance of the pre-race ritual of the Spine Race (and most other ultra races):  the strict and much maligned kit check, as the isolated stretches of exposed terrain along the race, mean quality clothing and equipment are essential for all the racers own safety in case of any injuries or severe weather conditions.

Marcus Scotney at Snake Pass
Heading into the 2nd day the Spine Challenger was being led by Edward Catmur over Janson Heath in 2nd and Lee Walker in 3rdposition with 9 DNF’s so far. Given the severe weather conditions and forecast of possible sleet and snow over parts of the route, the course record (29hrs 01mins set by Marcus Scotney in 2014) looks an impossibility, with just finishing the race at Hawes being an impressive feat for the Challengers this year.
Now to the the main 268 mile Spine Race, which had a weather delay as the conditions meant the race organisers put the safety of the “Spiners” first and held the race start back for two hours. The race did eventually get underway at 11:30am.  By the end of the first day, nearly half of the 91 starters had already gone through the first controlled checkpoint at Hebden Bridge, approx 42 miles in, as of the time of writing this piece (23:00hrs). Last year’s winner Pavel Paloncy was out in front, with a cluster of 4 runners vying for 2nd place not far behind him and only 9 drop outs.  The question is will Pavel beat, or even come close to, his incredible 2014 time of 110h 45mins.
One thing for sure is that there will be many spectators sat glued to their screens at home, chasing little orange markers around the online GPS race tracker (http://spine.opentracking.co.uk/) as the Spine Challenger and the Spine Race unfolds over the next 7 days.

More reports to follow during the race.

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