Since its inception in 2012, which saw 11 entrants and only three finishers, The Spine Race has enjoyed a hard-earned reputation as a truly epic challenge and a true test of racers physical resilience and mental fortitude.
It is widely regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance races. Last years’ Spine was a momentous occasion. Jasmine Paris smashed the course record by some 12 hours and became the first female winner, sending shockwaves beyond the world of ultra-endurance.
Scott Gilmour, Montane Spine Race Organiser, said: “Jasmin Paris won the race and drew the eyes of the world by demolishing the existing course record. There was heartbreak for one returning champion which turned into elation for another. There were selfless acts of kindness between runners that epitomise the community spirit around this event. We are looking forward to see what stories we can add to the race’s – and ultra-running’s – history this year.”
However, fame has not tainted or diluted ‘Britain’s Most Brutal’ footrace, and this Sunday sees it return in its trademark uncompromising fashion. It is still a non-stop 268-mile winter ultra-marathon encompassing the entire length of the Pennine Way. Racers are self supported, and aid stations remain few and far between.
Debbie Martin-Consani, Montane Athlete, 2019 Spine Race Competitor, said: “I’ve always been an avid follower of the race - dot watching is the nation’s favourite pastime around mid-January. Yet, here I am packing and unpacking, repacking and checking the weather forecast 53 times a day. For me it’s the UK’s ultimate test of human endurance. The route is fairly hostile and remote and underfoot conditions are unforgiving to say the least. Throw in January’s unpredictable weather, over 16 hours of darkness per day and self-navigation and it’s sure to be the best holiday ever. Right?”
To finish, the 163 competitors will need to be resourceful, competent in a wide range of skill sets and confident in their fitness to endure the challenging conditions and terrain of winter in Northern England. Jasmine Paris’ record stands at 83 hours 12 minutes, in a race with 50 per cent DNF’s, time will tell how insurmountable this record is.
Matt Hickman, Montane Global Marketing Manager, said: “The Spine Race has become the poster child for human endurance, and rightly so. It is truly in a class of its own amongst ultra-endurance events, everything about the environment challenges competitors to their absolute limit.”
Alongside the main Spine Race there is also the Spine Challenger, which is shorter at 108 miles, but no less brutal. Sharing the start, exactly the same route, the Challenger and MRT both finish at Hardraw. Completing the complement of races is the Spine MRT Challenge – the same course as the Challenger but specifically for active members of Mountain Rescue Teams.
Amongst those toeing the line at 8am on Sunday, January 12, in the wind and rain stand the athletes of Team Montane, keen to challenge themselves against the course and Jasmine’s record. To dot-watch, their progress through the race can be followed here.